In “pointing out”:http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/11/guess_who_the_first_leader_of.php that it was Lenin, _not_ Darwin, who was the first leader of the Soviet Union, PZ Myers links to a piece on proselytizing evangelicals stirring up trouble in the US military. This time an “evangelical chaplain argues”:http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/11/30/105157/02/379/667800 that creationism is the solution to suicide in a PowerPoint presentation that was _mandatory_ for about a thousand Air Force personnel. The presentation is titled “A New Approach To Suicide Prevention: Developing Purpose-Driven Airmen”:http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/powerpoint/Lakenheath.ppt.htm and is based on the work of that odious ranch boss of Saddleback Church Rick Warren (who _The Economist_ has called “the next Billy Graham”:http://www.economist.com/world/unitedstates/displaystory.cfm?story_id=11920933 which is another shuddering thought).
The problem can be boiled down to this: _Ex vi termini_ evangelicals must spread their faith. This is in direct opposition of the “pastoral care” approach used in the military which abides by both the diverse religious environment and the separation of church and state. The population of evangelical chaplains has been increasing in recent years and the problem with it. In 2005 “NPR reported”:http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4772331 that “more than 60 percent of military chaplains are evangelicals.” _The New York Times_ “reported on”:http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/12/national/12chaplains.html?_r=1 the growing numbers of evangelical chaplains and the associated problems for military leadership. A recent paper published by The Strategic Studies Institute at the US Army War College has called the issue a “a growing ethical dilemma”:http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/Pubs/display-papers.cfm?q=351.
Though I would love to see a military (and a society in general) based entirely on reason, I know that is not realistic. I appreciate every soldier’s sacrifice to his country, regardless of his religiosity. I agree with Colonel James L. Cook, Professor and Head of the “Department of Philosophy at USAFA”:http://www.usafa.edu/df/dfpy/?catname=dean%20of%20faculty that “issue is not the _right of self-expression of the leader_ – the issue is the proper subordination of anything personal to the requirements for effective leadership.” The role of the chaplain is to console the soldier who maintains a personal religious belief system. It is a strictly a peripheral role in terms of the organizational goal of the military. For organizational and constitutional reasons the line labelled “proselytization” should be iron-clad and unbending. The military is for protecting the nation, not for increasing the god squad (by the way, isn’t that what “the other guy”:http://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/12/23/10251/691/341/425784 does?)
The aforementioned Col. Cook “related the following incident”:http://www.usafa.edu/isme/ISME07/Cook07.html which expresses my thoughts exactly:
bq. I had a cadet in class who once said to me, “I’m a Christian, and I believe witnessing to Christ is the most important thing I need to do in my life.” My response to her is the response I’d give to any officer who held similar views. I said, “I certainly respect your convictions. But if you sincerely mean that, I wonder whether you’re wearing the right kind of clothes. Why don’t you lose the uniform and pursue your vocation as an evangelist?”
To close I leave you with a general breakdown of religion in the US military. “In general, the armed forces show lower religious affiliation than the civilian population…” The table also shows there are more “atheists in foxholes”:http://www.atheistfoxholes.org than on the American street.
From America’s Military Population, Dec 2004.