Atheist Chaplains?

I stumbled across this recently, an article about possibly adding Atheist “Chaplains” to the military. 

Although I do think that an “Atheist Chaplin” is a little bit of an oxymoron, I think it’s a wonderful idea! Perhaps not to call them an “Atheist Chaplin”, since the whole idea of the Chaplin position is religiously focused, but to have a non-religous position to provide services to atheist service members, similar as those that the Chaplin provides. 

As an atheist myself I found the authors take on the issue to be very accurate. 

As of right now, if that young soldier dying in the field hospital, or that family receiving word of their loved one’s combat death, is atheist, there is no chaplain to represent them. Take myself for example; I am atheist, so is my husband. He is a soldier in the Army who has served three tours in Iraq. If something had happened to him over there, and I’m hurting, the last thing I want is some chaplain who would come and try to comfort me by telling me that he’s gone off to a better place that I don’t believe in. I don’t want to hear that God has taken him in his glory. I don’t believe that. So who will be there for those like me? No one.

And if my husband should be in the position of the dying soldier, the last thing he would want to hear a chaplain doing his best to comfort him with ideas that he doesn’t believe in. He would rather not have a chaplain with him at all. But as a service member, dying for his country, wouldn’t he deserve to have a kind heart there to help him deal with tough emotions without the shadow of religion standing between them?

What do you all think? I would be interested to hear a religious perspective on this issue


4 thoughts on “Atheist Chaplains?

  1. Well as a Christian myself, I believe that God is love BUT when you think about love; it is not forced upon people or at least it shouldn’t be. So I think that it would be good for athiests to have someone there. Maybe not called “chaplain” but someone they can talk to or get encouragement from. Because no matter what a person believes, we are all human and we all need love and someone to be there for us.

  2. I’m a Protestant and my husband is agnostic. I have found it incredibly frustrating, especially at our two, very small, overseas bases, that there is no support for non-standard-religious military members.

    If a Christian active-duty member needs to talk to someone without worry about it affecting their career, they can go talk to a Chaplain. But there is no similar service for atheist, agnostic, humanist, etc members. Their choice is to go to mental health or another form of counseling that could potentially cause problems for them in their place of work.

    We went through a really hard time, right after getting here with losing two young members of our squadron and he was in charge of coordinating getting the belongings back to the families of both young men. He definitely could have benefited from having someone to talk to about what he was dealing with emotionally. But seeing a counselor at the clinic would have gone on his record and caused him trouble at work.

    Which is my long-winded way of saying that I completely support the idea of a “atheist chaplaincy.”

    • I completely agree! A counselor is not the same as a Chaplain, so using them as a substitute is not comparable, which is what I think a lot of people feel the solution is.

  3. I love this idea! I’m agnostic and my husband is atheist, and he and I would absolutely detest the idea of a religious chaplain presiding over anything related to us, especially in our final moments. What a forward-thinking and realistic idea.

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