Being an Atheist in the military

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Joseph Langdon's picture
Being an Atheist in the military

So I've been visiting this website for a while and only just recently decided to create an account. I've been an atheist since I was 14 or in other words smart enough to start thinking for myself. That being said I still joined the military after I graduated high school and now I am a cadet at the Air Force Academy.

Not gonna lie, going there has given me some of the best and worst experiences of my life but it I did go through a bit of culture shock when I arrived. I grew up in a socially liberal part of NY and have spent the last two years in one of the most conservative places in the country. Or in other words my views about the world don't exactly line up with the typical Air Force Academy cadet.

The only people at the Academy that know I'm an Atheist are a few close and open minded friends who while not sharing my beliefs about the world are at least respectful of them and because of that we're able to have civil discussions about their belief in God. However I still know more than a few . . . let's just call them fanatics or to phrase it differently believers with their heads shoved so far up their asses that can't see any other point of view besides their own and because of that are convinced they are right, everyone else is wrong and that that makes them somehow superior to everyone else.

These are the kinds of people at the Academy and in the military in general that I cannot stand. I've had to deal with people like this on multiple occasions and the minute they are given any sort of leadership responsibility the power goes straight to their heads and the develop a God complex. For example one of these individuals I have the displeasure of knowing became cadre for basic cadet training (it's essentially a 6 week long version of basic training we all have to go through the summer before our freshman year at the Academy). The dumbass predictably let the power go to his head and managed to get himself fired as basic cadre because of how he treated the basics he was responsible for. Yet this person is still here at the Academy and will still eventually commission. What scares me is that people like him are going to be officers one day and will actually be responsible for the lives of the people under them while still believing they are better than everyone else because of their faith.

So I guess the question to all of my fellow atheists or whoever bothers to actually read this is any advice for me, thoughts, suggestions, or even questions of your own about my experiences here?

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ThePragmatic's picture
Hi and welcome.

Hi and welcome.

First, it seems you are using your real name, and perhaps picture? Isn't that a bit risky? A google search on the name, and your picture and story pops up...

From the perspective of a non U.S. citizen (I'm from Sweden), it's scary that the military force that is essentially used to "police the world", is so steeped in delusion.

Joseph Langdon's picture
Honestly using my real name

Honestly using my real name and a picture is risky, but anyone could search my name and my facebook profile is more likely to pop up. But you do make a good point about the fact the many in the US believe it is our military's job to police the world. Honestly I don't agree with everything the military or even the country I serve does, including trying to be the world's policemen especially when we have politicians calling for us to put boots back on the ground in Iraq. Even if we were to stop being the world's policemen tomorrow we still have that reputation which also makes us the target for extremist groups who want to get a message across by attacking us any way they can.

While the military I serve does have some serious issues, especially in regards to religion many of the people I've had the pleasure to serve with are smart enough to realize they shouldn't be preaching their beliefs to others or think they are better than others. That being said we do have the few religious crackheads with superiority complexes and I only hope that as the United States continues to become more secularized these crackheads continue to become an ever smaller minority in the military until they are eventually rendered extinct.

All in all thanks for the input, it's always interesting to see the perspective of the American military from someone who isn't a US citizen.

Jeff Vella Leone's picture
welcome to the forum

welcome to the forum
I have read your post and thanks for sharing your experience.

It is not a shocking thing that most military forces believe in god.

It was always like that for people who risked their lives everyday.

It is one way of coping with fear and self importance.

A religion that promotes the idea that there is an afterlife and that you are the chosen one, is perfect for such a situation.

If you were indoctrinated with such a philosophy, military would seem right and logical to you.
Anybody that joins the military for any other reason would appear "to them" as not properly motivated for the job, inferior.

"So I guess the question to all of my fellow atheists or whoever bothers to actually read this is any advice for me, thoughts, suggestions, or even questions of your own about my experiences here?"

Well reasoning will not work in most cases, this is not something you have much power on.
You need to understand that.

It has to do with how a country handles mental health in all it's branches, including in the military.

So the first step is to get the citizens educated enough to understand that there is a problem here.
Then and only then, one could enforce better education on the military of a country.

After all it is not really a military problem but an education(indoctrination) problem that happens to kids, then when the kids grow up, it also effects the military.

Until we finally realize that indoctrination should be illegal, there is little we can do about it.
Children should be thought how to criticize any idea without exception to have good mental health.

Joseph Langdon's picture
Thanks for the input, and

Thanks for the input, and while I do completely agree with everything you've said the military is making progress in regards to becoming more secular, or at least it is at the Academy. I'd say we're making progress as a country overall but then I take a look at the bible belt and shake my head. Overall the United States is becoming more secular and the diehard religious fanatics that I see as a plague to human society are losing ground and followers, if a little too slowly for my tastes.

That's why I feel a strong urge to vomit just about every time I read something a Republican says in regards to social issues, especially the lunatic fringe group parading around as Tea Party when in reality I think of them as something closer to the American Taliban. Honestly the only good thing about them is that their views are largely too extreme for the average American and that Republicans running for office, particularly running for the Presidency have to appeal to these extremists for a nomination. This means they end up alienating a fair portion of the general population in the process and lose supporters as a result and this will hopefully mean we have a lot of democrats as presidents for the foreseeable future and the steps towards true secularization can continue to progress.

Palaephatus's picture
If I were you, and I felt

If I were you, and I felt pressured or bullied by any of the religious fanatics, I would contact the MRFF (Military Religious Freedom Foundation). Mikey Weinstein has an excellent reputation for handling these kinds of situations and having them swiftly resolved.

Joseph Langdon's picture
Thanks for the concern but I

Thanks for the concern but I'm not being bullied or pressured by any evangelicals in the military. It's more that I'm annoyed by the way they act as if they are God's gift to the world. Honestly the people who try to pressure the military to be more evangelical are generally "concerned" citizens who seem to be unable to understand that separation of church and state means the two should have absolutely nothing to do with one another.

Aditya Kiran Bukkapatnam's picture
Hello Sam,

Hello Sam,

I can't speak for a military atheistic experience, but being an American, I would guess that the experience is similar to what atheists generally experience in American society. The type of God complex you speak of among leaders is also some what analogous to political leaders as well. I think you personally epitomize the American military struggle for what it really is, a geo-political affair that should focus on human rights and justice, not a bunch of mindless militants on a mission of God to declare democracy in the dessert.

Sadly, as for now atheist Americans must be limited in their vocalization, because a great portion of the population have their heads up their asses as you put it. I'm from Illinois where we have a more mixed population than New York, so I do come across the occasional Evangelical. We must be smart in the way we go about our atheism,(I'm a student of philosophy so I talk about atheism professionally all the time.), because most of the religious people will take offense easily. I don't mean to sound cynical, but if you are in a community with such people, who have access to fire arms, your personal safety should come before your ideological passion, because atheism isn't a religion to rally around martyrs, we would rather have our atheistic community members stay alive, than put themselves in apparent danger.

I'm sure you already know most of what I said, but just a heads up from a fellow American who douses in atheism quite a lot. ( plus ethnically I'm Indian so I guess that makes me a double minority)

Joseph Langdon's picture
Yeah I try to keep my

Yeah I try to keep my personal beliefs personal. Thankfully most of the people here at the Air Force Academy are cadets like myself, which means we aren't legally allowed to keep firearms with us. Here its sort of like ROTC meets OTS in that we are technically active duty military members who are training to commission as officers while also getting a 4 year college degree. But most people here are level headed enough that they won't try and kill me or convert me for my own personal beliefs even if they did know.

But as an atheist American I completely understand your point about limiting my vocalization, especially when most Americans wouldn't even vote for a qualified atheist for president ( Then we have morons like Joshua Feuerstein whom every time I read something he said or see something he endorsed (a side effect of having conservative friends on facebook) I feel myself getting stupider, especially when he blames everything on Obama.

Thanks for the thoughts though.

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