No atheists in foxholes? (from a former USAF officer, presently civilian stationed at Maxwell AFB)

The following letter was written by a MRFF supporter of several years who has served as a U.S. Air Force officer and is currently a civilian stationed at Maxwell Air Force Base
Lt Col Reyes,
Recently you wrote a commentary called “No athieists in foxholes” which was removed from the JBER website.  After reading the article I must say I was a little perturbed. As an Air Force veteran and an atheist I found it condescending (as is the phrase “no atheists in foxholes”).Now please don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the historical information regarding Father Cummings and the Hell Ships, though I admit I have not had time to read up on the veracity of the tale.  My undergraduate degree is in history–with a minor in religion, no less.  However, the article insinuates that when crises looms, humans automatically revert to something you call “faith”. Although I have not faced a wartime situation such as you describe in your article, I have had my share of bad times, near death experiences, and crushing defeats.  Yet at no point in my life has any of that prompted me to have “faith” in anything; I did not suddenly “believe” in a supernatural being or anything else because of the gravity of my situation.  And I do know plenty of other non-theists, agnostics, atheists, etc who have gone through worse than me and have not found God or any other thing because of it.Although in the military we are allowed to believe as we will, and we are permitted to openly acknowledge and even discuss our belief set, we must be careful in what manner this information is presented and to whom.  Can you imagine if an atheist O5 wrote an article on an official Air Force site entitled something such as “We stopped believing in mermaids, unicorns and fairies two centuries ago, isn’t time we stop believing in other imaginary creatures such as God, Buddah and Zoroaster”?  This would be immensely offensive to those who do believe in those particular faiths or beings.  The outcry would be enormous, no one’s beliefs should be officially and publically denounced on a government-sanctioned website.I fully respect your faith and your right to worship and believe as you do, I also support your right to your own opinions on religion and morality, and I definitely understand your role as a chaplain.  However, I do ask that you be more careful in the future not to denigrate those with different opinions and beliefs through official Air Force channels; instead, use a non-military, non-government website where you make it abundantly clear that you are not expressing the opinions of the Air Force and are not speaking in an official capacity as an Air Force officer.

Sincerely,

(name and job title withheld)

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    7 Comments

    1. Mitchell

      ”Now please don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the historical information regarding Father Cummings and the Hell Ships, though I admit I have not had time to read up on the veracity of the tale.” So you get the context in which he used it but you just couldn’t get past the EXTREME offensiveness of it. I have a question for you. Mr. Civilian what the hell are you doing reading a chaplains page anyway, if you are offended by religion? The man is not “denigrating” anyone. YOU are, as most do when they want to claim their rights have been violated, putting your feelings at this PERCEIVED offense above the feelings of others. Look you have the right to be offended just do it somewhere else and keep it to yourself. This man was not attacking you.

    2. Fred

      This complaint is just absurd. After reading this, I think the commentary should be entitled ‘Atheists are a$$ holes’. I thought atheists were supposed to be intellectual and open minded. And Colonel Duffy is the biggest wimp of all for demanding the commentary to be removed from the website.

    3. Gary Perris

      So tired of the Christian shet pushed down my throat.

    4. dbertrand

      To the Retired USAF Officer,
      Sir, I understand your comments completely, but I don’t feel that the Chaplain was being offensive to anyone. As a retired USAF SNCO, I held faith in my leadership, you included as I came up through the ranks that they knew what they were doing and that the USAFA or OTS trained you properly to get us through any situation. I held faith in my Instructors and the training I received (BMTS, NCOA, SNCOA etc…) during my time in service to be an effective Airman. I held faith in my fellow Airmen to help me when I needed it. As time progressed in the service I hope the Judgment, Training and Experience I learned over time benefited my Airmen. I hope that they held faith in me to get them through any situations, combat related or not during our time in service.

      As I read the article by Chaplain Lt Col Reyes I wonder what all the hoopla is about. What I saw in the writing was that of an Older Combat Veteran, Mr. Roy Bodine, retelling some of his experiences to a younger active duty Chaplain and Officer of how he endured and got through those tough times. From what I gathered from Bodine’s account is Father Cummings displayed his “faith” as he understood it, to help him and his fellow prisoners to get through their captivity. As the story continues, service members in the “Hell Ships” had various degrees of faith or none at all. Father Cummings may have been a commanding figure or not, but he demonstrated something to all those around him which may have caused many to have hope or faith that this guy can help us get through this situation.

      In reference to the Chaplain, I do not think he was trying to offend anyone. As an officer in his position, I believe he was trying to help the moral as well as encourage personnel at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson based on his Judgement, Training and Expeerience. I also think he was offering a chance for the Airmen and Soldiers of JBER to use some critical thought of their own and figure out what (religious based or not) gets them through adverse situations (combat related or not). The question I see raised based on the Chaplains article, is what do we as members of the US Armed Forces have faith in?

      Finally, was the Chaplain trying to be condescending to anyone? I don’t think so, he was just trying to do his job, and tell a story of a fellow veteran and help those currently in the service of their country whatever their belief/nonbelief system, nothing more, and nothing less.

    5. Dan

      This letter is a fine example of practicing semantic dishonesty. When someone preaches that reason only exists when faith is eradicated, they are preaching absurdity. Do these people ever sit in chairs? You can’t make yourself sit in a chair without applying both faith and reason.

    6. matsugirl

      I find it funny and ridiculous at how easy it is to offend atheists. The “No atheists in foxholes” is based on military history, has been around for decades and it is the truth!

      This “commentary” has nothing to do with respect, right to religion or that Reyes is a chaplain. It has do with atheists doing their best to eradicate religion–Period! Which is funny, because it takes a lot more faith to be an atheist. Atheists base their religion and their lives on the religious belief that there is nothing after death. Really? What assurances do atheists have that they will go into nothingness when they die? NONE! And yet, this is the religion atheists think they have the right to force on everyone.

      The USA has the constitutional right to freedom OF religion. Not freedom from religion. Even Chaplain Reyes has this freedom. Leave Reyes alone and let him do his job. If you don’t know what a Chaplain is–look it up!

    7. Al

      I call this roll reversal. What I mean by that is Atheists where the minority with no voice and now its Christians who are the minority.

      This kind of thing infuriates me. It doesnt matter if its the Pledge of Allegiance (which you butchered) and now most schools dont recite it. Seriously though it dosnt matter if “In God we trust” is on buildings or money. People dont just pick up money read that line and go “oh wow Im a Christian now”

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