Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Republicans Claim Atheist Chaplains Would Tell Dead Soldiers Parents Their Child Is "Worm Food"

Last Wednesday New Jersey Democratic Rep. Rob Andrews offered an amendment to the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act. The purposed amendment would allow humanists or members of ethical culture groups such as Atheists and Secular Humanists to join the chaplain corps. Rep. Andrews reasoning was that if certain members of our military wanted to talk someone whom they related to about problems they were experiencing they could do so without having to seek a medical professional.

In other words if a soldier was having trouble with symptoms of let's say PTSD a Christian soldier could talk to a Christian, a Muslim soldier could talk to a Muslim, an Atheist soldier could talk to a Atheist and so on.

This sounded altogether reasonable and innocuous to me. Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee on the other hand saw the proposal as out right blasphemous.

Their reasoning was that atheists can't offer spiritual counseling and would in all likelihood offend dying soldiers and their families.

Republican Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) said of atheists: "They don't believe anything… I can't imagine an atheist accompanying a notification team as they go into some family's home to let them have the worst news of their life and this guy says, 'You know, that's it -- your son's just worms, I mean, worm food.'"

I am at a loss here. Who in their right mind thinks any person of any faith would say to a grieving family that their loved one was "worm food"? What kind of warped mind set would lead someone to conceive such a thought. Of course I ask this rhetorically.

It didn't end there….

Republican Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) claimed that "This I think would make a mockery of the chaplaincyThe last thing in the world we would want to see was a young soldier who may be dying and they're at a field hospital and the chaplain is standing over that person saying to them, 'If you die here, there is no hope for you in the future.'"

After reading this I could not help but laugh. The mere statement "If you die here, there is no hope for you in the future" is so hysterically inane I actually got the giggles until I remembered how pissed off and offended I was.

Rep. Adam Smith (Wash.), the top Democrat on the committee, responded that atheists and humanists do in fact have strong belief systems that they value just as much as Christians value theirs. In addition Smith pointed out that there are many atheists in our military, including the late NFL star Pat Tillman, who died in Afghanistan.

Smith offed this rebuttal to the Republicans previous statements: "To say that an atheist or a humanist doesn't believe anything is just ignorant. The response to the gentleman's amendment makes me feel all the more the necessity of it."

While I applaud Rep. Smith's courage in standing up against such bigotry I feel that, while correct, he didn't address the central stupidity and hypocrisy of the anti amendment argument. My wife on the other hand hit the nail on the head. As I shared the above with her she stunned me with her singular clarity on where the Republicans argument against the proposed amendment was wrong when she said to me "what do the Christian chaplains say to the parents of a fallen Jewish, Muslim, or Atheist child… 'sorry your son or daughter will burn in hell for eternity"…."

How perfectly summed up.

The amendment as of now appears to lack the votes needed to pass on the GOP-majority committee.

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