Right-wing fundamentalists proselytize US military

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According to a couple of articles by Stephen Glain, one in The Nation and one in Foreign Policy, right-wing fundamentalists have been allowed to proselytize in the United States military and in particular in the Air Force Academy. As far as I know, the only organization actively opposing these fundamentalists is the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, headed by Mikey Weinstein.

Glain details a number of abuses that have been brought to Weinstein’s attention. Weinstein’s first case, unless you count the time when he was a cadet and punched an officer who accused him of fabricating anti-Semitic threats against him, was a complaint by Weinstein’s own son, a cadet at the Air Force Academy. Nearly 100 other cadets have also informed Weinstein that they have to pretend to be evangelical Christians, for example, by leaving Bibles and other religious texts on their bunks. Weinstein complained to the Air Force, whose investigation showed what Glain calls “predatory, top-down evangelicalism at the academy.” Glain claims nevertheless that overt proselytizing is not just ignored but rather abetted by the military brass.

One of Weinstein’s cases that stands out is that of Zachari Klawonn, a Muslim soldier stationed at Fort Hood. Harassed by his fellow soldiers, Klawonn was advised to find an apartment off the military base, because the Army brass would not guarantee his safety. Denied an off-base housing allowance, Klawonn appealed to Weinstein, who arranged for Klawonn to receive the housing allowance and also the services of a Muslim imam and a prayer room. Here, sunshine appears indeed to be the best disinfectant: Glain writes that the hostility against Klawonn has subsided as his case has been made public.

Other military personnel report having to attend sectarian lectures or listen to sermons. A Jewish soldier, who has since left the military, was subjected to anti-Semitic comments by his sergeant and his commanding officer, and was court-martialed on what he says are trumped-up charges. A young Catholic cadet was recruited by something called Cadets for Christ and discouraged from pursuing her military career in order to pursue what Glain calls “the divinely inspired role of wife and mother.” The Air Force denies that the Cadets for Christ, a private group, has been allowed to proselytize, but “dozens” of cadets corroborate the fact.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation had a budget in 2009 of about one-half million dollars, according to the Form 990 filed with the Internal Revenue Service. Weinstein, who is said to work countless hours in a day, was the only employee, apart from contractors, and his salary was about three-fifths of the total budget. If you read not so very far between the lines of Glain’s articles, however, you find that Weinstein and his wife must have virtually bankrupted themselves founding MRFF. Even so, Weinstein apparently accepted no salary in 2007, the first year for which I could find a Form 990.

MRFF is up against organizations like Military Ministry, which is affiliated with Campus Crusade for Christ, which in turn has a budget about three orders of magnitude – a factor of 1000 – greater than that of MRFF (if I read Glain’s syntax correctly). Glain quotes a retired Army general as saying that the Military Ministry “must pursue our…means for transforming the nation–through the military. And the military may be the most influential way to affect that spiritual superstructure.” The military probably helped racially integrate the country, which in a way gives all the more reason to be afraid.

Weinstein’s 20,000 clients have mostly been punished for their beliefs or have been actively proselytized. They are predominantly Catholics and Protestants, with a small number of Jews, Muslims, Wiccans, atheists, and homosexuals. Nevertheless, Weinstein is predictably subjected to anti-Semitic hate mail and death threats. He takes them seriously enough to have retained security experts and explosives experts, and he uses trained guard dogs and positions firearms in strategic locations in the house.

Weinstein told David Belden of the New Humanist magazine that he traced the problem to the ending of the draft in 1972. After 1972, the military became less representative of the population as a whole and more representative of rural and small-town America. Another factor, which Weinstein does not mention, is the departure of Reserve Officers’ Training Corps from many northeastern college campuses; I, at least, would rather recruit military officers from Harvard and Rochester than from Bob Jones and Liberty. Perhaps less plausibly, Weinstein also implicates the admission of women to the Air Force Academy and the subsequent sexual-harassment scandal there; Weinstein thinks that evangelicals essentially convinced the military that they knew better how to train young men to respect young women. Additionality, Belden notes that beginning in the 1990’s, for a number of reasons, the number of evangelical ministers in the military greatly increased while those from Catholic and mainline denominations decreased. At any rate, he says, European nations managed somehow to integrate women and homosexuals into their militaries; maybe the United States military needs to start teaching liberal values itself.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented a disquieting increase in the number of hate groups over the last decade; they now count just over 1000 such groups. They further document a startling increase in the number of “patriot” and militia groups from 149 in 2008 to 824 in 2010 – and that is following a steep decline between 1995 and 2008. I do not want to suggest that any group that thinks it is the Only Right One and tries to convince others of its Rightness is necessarily a hate group. Only when that group begins to punish or persecute other people for not accepting its arguments does it adopt the mantle of a hate group. If the officers in the military and at the Air Force Academy permit the behavior that Weinstein has documented, however, then the military is getting dangerously close to the threshold. Combined with the growth of hate, “patriot,” and militia organizations, the situation in the military and especially at the Academy is at a minimum grave cause for concern.

81 Comments

This is news? I thought the U S military would be a natural haven for right-wing politics and bigoted religion, since it is by natural an authoritarian rather than a libertarian force. To those who claim we owe our freedom to soldiers, what about the fact that those soldiers are themselves not free to quit their jobs if they disagree with the mission they are sent to, unlike any other profession? What if they are ordered to attack their own people for protesting against the government? Some freedom we would have then!

Dale Husband said: This is news?

If by that you mean “something which happened yesterday,” then no. If by that you mean “something important for the public to be aware of,” then yes.

I thought the U S military would be a natural haven for right-wing politics and bigoted religion, since it is by natural an authoritarian rather than a libertarian force.

While militarys are somewhat necessarily authoritarian, dominance of parts of the US military by evangelicals appears to be something that’s grown in the past decade or two.

And its neither automatic nor necessary. I haven’t heard any stories coming out of Annapolis or West Point that even compare to the story about the young woman cadet from the AF Academy.

eric said:

Dale Husband said: This is news?

If by that you mean “something which happened yesterday,” then no. If by that you mean “something important for the public to be aware of,” then yes.

I thought the U S military would be a natural haven for right-wing politics and bigoted religion, since it is by natural an authoritarian rather than a libertarian force.

While militarys are somewhat necessarily authoritarian, dominance of parts of the US military by evangelicals appears to be something that’s grown in the past decade or two.

And its neither automatic nor necessary. I haven’t heard any stories coming out of Annapolis or West Point that even compare to the story about the young woman cadet from the AF Academy.

And you certainly don’t see it among submariners and other types of elite or special forces. These guys deal with reality or die.

Where mikey really needs help now is with a problem at Fort Bragg. Last year the base spent thousands of tax dollars bringing “Rock the Fort”, a billy graham evangelical event to the fort. Soldiers who did not want to attend were not given liberty but confined to quarters and given punishment.,

In response, soldiers planned “Rock beyond Belief” this summer. Plans were being made, Richard Dawkins was to be a speaker and then suddenly on March 3rd, the base commander refused to sign a simple letter to let the event continue.

If you want to know more or can help, here’s the link. http://rockbeyondbelief.com/2011/03[…]us-soldiers/

I forgot part of the above post. The commander’s actions were against the advice of his legal advisors.

This issue seems off topic for PT. However, yes, this stuff has been going on for some time and the ACLU has intervened at times.(au.org) only to be ignored.

Example: recently Ft. Bragg senior officers sponsored a fundamentalist event (supported with tax $$) and punished anyone who didn’t “voluntarily” attend. They promised equal support for a secular event but refused to follow through (http://blog.au.org/2011/03/07/fort-[…]arist-event/).

DavidK said:

This issue seems off topic for PT. However, yes, this stuff has been going on for some time and the ACLU has intervened at times.(au.org) only to be ignored.

au.org is Americans United for the Separation of Church and State The ACLU’ site is www.aclu.org.

It’s not really off-topic. The organizations that are doing this in the military are the same ones promoting creationism. It would be a big mistake not to recognize the organized and centralized nature of the American fundamentalist Christian movement.

It is absolutely the case in the submarine force, and other “elite” forces that evangelical Christians subject their coworkers to similar constant tactics and an attempt to make their workplace a micro chasm of small-town evangelical America.

Dale Husband -

This is news?

It is a violation of human rights that is well worth fighting against. Military personnel do have different obligations than the general population, but they are NOT required to change or adopt religious beliefs. Religious discrimination within the military violates all applicable law.

Destroying dignity by forcing people to claim false beliefs is despicable in any setting.

I thought the U S military would be a natural haven for right-wing politics and bigoted religion,

Utterly irrelevant; military personnel are as free to privately hold and express right wing political beliefs and bigoted religious views as anyone else, but actions of religious discrimination are not allowed.

since it is by natural an authoritarian rather than a libertarian force.

The United States military exists to defend the United States and its constitution. Every military in history has always had a hierarchical command structure, within military (and most have had explicit or implicit military codes of justice that assure some basic rights within that context).

However, the United States military does not exist, at least according to the Constitution and US law, to impose permanent authoritarian conditions on anyone. It is not an authoritarian force.

To those who claim we owe our freedom to soldiers,

It is trivially true that, so far in human history, almost all democratic societies have been attacked at some point by non-democratic societies and relied on military defense to maintain political independence. While it is true that Nazi Germany or WWII-era Japan could not have occupied the entire US with ease, had the allies lost WWII (say had Germany not attacked the USSR), things might be quite different here.

what about the fact that those soldiers are themselves not free to quit their jobs if they disagree with the mission they are sent to, unlike any other profession?

1) If this were true, it would be irrelevant to the point at hand - that military personnel should not be subjected to religious discrimination.

2) This is at best a half truth. My grandfather was a “pacifist” (yes, there was a time when Baptists were pacifists), but served with the Canadian Army through all of WWI as a non-combatant (in the combat zone) - what was then referred to as a “stretcher bearer”. The military does, in fact, make allowances for conscience objection to violence. Of course, it is also true that the military has strict regulations against desertion. Again, though, it hardly makes sense to say “they can’t quit, so therefore they deserve religious discrimination, too”.

What if they are ordered to attack their own people for protesting against the government? Some freedom we would have then!

Indeed, the political freedom of the United States is entirely dependent on civilian control of the government and the military, and rule of law, as is true anywhere, and both of which have been severely compromised in the US of late.

All the more reason to take religious discrimination in the military seriously.

The United States military exists to defend the United States and its constitution

On paper, yes. If only that were true in practice.

Papaya said:

It is absolutely the case in the submarine force, and other “elite” forces that evangelical Christians subject their coworkers to similar constant tactics and an attempt to make their workplace a micro chasm of small-town evangelical America.

That wasn’t the case when I was on the subs back in the 1950s and early 60s. Various kinds of religion and non-religion were tolerated and were, in general, not particularly relevant unless there was a perception that fanatical religion detracted from a person’s ability of focus on the tasks at hand and not jeopardize the lives of others. There were Catholics, various kinds of Protestants, some Mormons, athiests, agnostics, and even some Eastern religions.

There was only a single case that I knew about that happened on our boat at the time I was on board. A young sailor reported aboard by flashing a bible at the deck watch and telling him he would go to hell if he didn’t repent.

A few hours in the after torpedo room with some of the crew members cured him of any notion he would ever serve on a sub. He was gone in the morning. I have no idea how this kid showed up where he did.

Maybe things have changed in recent years, but I have visited some of the modern boats and didn’t see or hear any evidence of this.

On paper, yes. If only that were true in practice.

Supporting the right of military personnel not to endure religious discrimination is highly consistent with an overall objective of supporting appropriate, defensive use of the military.

I find it EXTREMELY hard to believe that there is any real organizational support for religious proselytization in the irreverent military – ever hear the things Colin Powell says off the record?

That there are fools in positions of local authority is perfectly possible, of course, but it would take a really stupid senior officer to fail to realize that he would be making a career decision to court a public controversy over religious tolerance issues. Third rail and all that.

Another organization that is in on the “fight” is Freedom from Religion Foundation. (FFRF). This isn’t the first time I’ve heard about this. Considering that Colorado Springs is a major site for various fundie groups. The Air Force Academy had to be too much of a temptation for them to resist.

nmgirl said:

Where mikey really needs help now is with a problem at Fort Bragg. Last year the base spent thousands of tax dollars bringing “Rock the Fort”, a billy graham evangelical event to the fort. Soldiers who did not want to attend were not given liberty but confined to quarters and given punishment.,

In response, soldiers planned “Rock beyond Belief” this summer. Plans were being made, Richard Dawkins was to be a speaker and then suddenly on March 3rd, the base commander refused to sign a simple letter to let the event continue.

If you want to know more or can help, here’s the link. http://rockbeyondbelief.com/2011/03[…]us-soldiers/

Justin Griffith is the soldier who got this all going. When questioning Rock the Fort he was told that all groups would get similar treatment if they wanted to do similar shows.

Justin had to cancel the show because “similar treatment” was not forthcoming. The commander changed the venue and put restrictions on the show and it’s marketing that it was impossible for the show to go on.

Justin has all the information on his blog.

mrg said:

That there are fools in positions of local authority is perfectly possible, of course, but it would take a really stupid senior officer to fail to realize that he would be making a career decision to court a public controversy over religious tolerance issues. Third rail and all that.

At the USAFA and elsewhere within the US military, there are systematic unofficial safeguards in place to prevent “problems” arising for the Righteous In High Places. The culture change in the US armed forces since my time of service is seriously alarming. As mentioned, some of that can be attributed to the end of the draft.

Evidently this is something recent. I served while the draft was in effect and after the end of the draft 1968-1994, and saw none of this. There was no proselytizing that I could see. There were such things a prayer breakfasts, which were voluntary and no repercussions if a person didn’t attend.

Hercules Grytpype-Thynne said:

DavidK said:

This issue seems off topic for PT. However, yes, this stuff has been going on for some time and the ACLU has intervened at times.(au.org) only to be ignored.

au.org is Americans United for the Separation of Church and State The ACLU’ site is www.aclu.org.

Either group is useful for this issue. Consult them both.

Colorado Springs wasn’t the evangelical hotbed it is now when I was in the Air Force there in the late 70’s. Matter of fact it was a pretty laid back town. I think Ted Haggard and his ilk are what killed it. Enjoy.

“The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented a disquieting increase in the number of hate groups over the last decade; they now count just over 1000 such groups.”

A few facts about the SPLC and “hate groups”:

1. There is no legal definition for “hate group,” which is why even the FBI does not track “hate groups.”

2. The SPLC uses the deliberately meaningless term “hate groups” in its fund-raising propaganda precisely because it allows them to denigrate their perceived opponents without accusing them of any actual crimes.

3. The SPLC’s “Hate Map” is a fund-raising tool, nothing more. It provides no information whatsoever on the 1,002 alleged groups, in fact, the SPLC didn’t even bother to make up locations for 262 of the groups; that’s 26% of the total.

http://wp.me/pCLYZ-8u

Many of the alleged “groups” are listed twice in the same location. In many states, the percentage of phantom “groups” runs to 80-100%.

4. Since the SPLC is the sole arbiter of the meaningless “hate group” label, AND because SPLC fund-raising is directly tied to creating the illusion of an ever-increasing threat, it is in their direct financial interest to raise the numbers each year.

Since 2003, the SPLC has taken in more than a third of a BILLION dollars in tax-free cash, and yet the number of “hate groups” always goes up.

http://wp.me/pCLYZ-82

5. The most ironic (read: “hypocritical”) thing about the Southern Poverty Law Center is that NOT ONE of its top ten, highest paid executives is a minority.

http://wp.me/pCLYZ-7m

In fact, according to the SPLC’s hometown newspaper, the Montgomery Advertiser, despite being located LITERALLY in the back yard of Dr. Martin Luther King’s home church, the SPLC has NEVER hired a person of color to a highly paid position of power in its entire 40 year history.

Some “experts”

truthspeaker said:

The United States military exists to defend the United States and its constitution

On paper, yes. If only that were true in practice.

It is true in practice simply because no general or admiral has dared to speak out - or to act against the wishes - of the President of the United States unless that officer realized that doing so would result in the end of his career. Each and every time this has happened, the officer has had to resign or has been fired by the President.

eric said:

Dale Husband said: This is news?

If by that you mean “something which happened yesterday,” then no. If by that you mean “something important for the public to be aware of,” then yes.

I thought the U S military would be a natural haven for right-wing politics and bigoted religion, since it is by natural an authoritarian rather than a libertarian force.

While militarys are somewhat necessarily authoritarian, dominance of parts of the US military by evangelicals appears to be something that’s grown in the past decade or two.

And its neither automatic nor necessary. I haven’t heard any stories coming out of Annapolis or West Point that even compare to the story about the young woman cadet from the AF Academy.

Agree with your observations, eric. Moreover I have visited annually United States Navy warships here in New York City during Fleet Week and haven’t seen any sign of religious proselytizing. The problem at the Air Force Academy has been underway for years (I have a high school classmate who teaches there but haven’t been in touch with her for a while so I don’t know if it is still serious.).

John Kwok said:

eric said:

Dale Husband said: This is news?

If by that you mean “something which happened yesterday,” then no. If by that you mean “something important for the public to be aware of,” then yes.

I thought the U S military would be a natural haven for right-wing politics and bigoted religion, since it is by natural an authoritarian rather than a libertarian force.

While militarys are somewhat necessarily authoritarian, dominance of parts of the US military by evangelicals appears to be something that’s grown in the past decade or two.

And its neither automatic nor necessary. I haven’t heard any stories coming out of Annapolis or West Point that even compare to the story about the young woman cadet from the AF Academy.

Agree with your observations, eric. Moreover I have visited annually United States Navy warships here in New York City during Fleet Week and haven’t seen any sign of religious proselytizing. The problem at the Air Force Academy has been underway for years (I have a high school classmate who teaches there but haven’t been in touch with her for a while so I don’t know if it is still serious.).

Having been in the Navy for 10 years I can say I never saw any type of religious proaelytizing. Our chaplins were always neutral when it came to a persons belief. If you needed his help he was there. When I was stationed at an Air Force base however, there was more religion floating about, and having atheist in my record did raise eyebrows and questions.

I would add that one of the memories I have of my naval career is the chaplin standing on the quarter deck as we left to party in the Phillipines. He was handing out condoms and saying “have fun, be careful”

Richard Keefe -

You seem to have commented on the final paragraph, which is somewhat tangential to the rest of the article.

May I ask you a few questions?

1) With regard to the actual topic at hand here, do you think military personnel should be subjected to unwanted, aggressive sectarian proselytizing?

2) Do you think that gatherings, festivals, or celebrations associated with some religious groups should receive preferential treatment, relative to those associated with other religious groups, within the military?

3) Your criticisms of the SPLC could be valid even if this is not true, but purely for full context…do you belong to a group, or hold opinions about the appropriate role of ethnicity in American society, that the SPLC might disapprove of? As I noted, even if this is the case, it would not necessarily invalidate your criticisms.

Please don’t falsely accuse me of “assuming” anything, as all I am doing is asking questions.

I was in the Navy as well from 85 to 91 and do not recall seeing any of this, but then it seems to me the whole world was more “live and let live” kind of attitude towards religion back then. I think the change came after 2000, when Bush was elected. Hence also was the Dover trials that spawned this site and piqued my interest as to why this foolishness exists in this day and age.

Richard Keefe said:

“The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented a disquieting increase in the number of hate groups over the last decade; they now count just over 1000 such groups.”

A few facts about the SPLC and “hate groups”:

1. There is no legal definition for “hate group,” which is why even the FBI does not track “hate groups.”

2. The SPLC uses the deliberately meaningless term “hate groups” in its fund-raising propaganda precisely because it allows them to denigrate their perceived opponents without accusing them of any actual crimes.

3. The SPLC’s “Hate Map” is a fund-raising tool, nothing more. It provides no information whatsoever on the 1,002 alleged groups, in fact, the SPLC didn’t even bother to make up locations for 262 of the groups; that’s 26% of the total.

http://wp.me/pCLYZ-8u

Many of the alleged “groups” are listed twice in the same location. In many states, the percentage of phantom “groups” runs to 80-100%.

4. Since the SPLC is the sole arbiter of the meaningless “hate group” label, AND because SPLC fund-raising is directly tied to creating the illusion of an ever-increasing threat, it is in their direct financial interest to raise the numbers each year.

Since 2003, the SPLC has taken in more than a third of a BILLION dollars in tax-free cash, and yet the number of “hate groups” always goes up.

http://wp.me/pCLYZ-82

5. The most ironic (read: “hypocritical”) thing about the Southern Poverty Law Center is that NOT ONE of its top ten, highest paid executives is a minority.

http://wp.me/pCLYZ-7m

In fact, according to the SPLC’s hometown newspaper, the Montgomery Advertiser, despite being located LITERALLY in the back yard of Dr. Martin Luther King’s home church, the SPLC has NEVER hired a person of color to a highly paid position of power in its entire 40 year history.

Some “experts”

I have seen similar allegations about the SPLC, but am sure most would dismiss them since they come from “right wing” media sources. Thanks for setting the record straight about that organization, Richard.

Shebardigan said: At the USAFA and elsewhere within the US military, there are systematic unofficial safeguards in place …

“Unofficial” – as in “not established as formal policy” or “undocumented”? This sounds like speculation.

Mind you, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were cliques in some places that was making nuisance of themselves, or even that there were some officers tacitly supporting it – anybody familiar with the officer corps knows its quality is, uh, “variable”.

But a systematic policy? Hard to buy. What makes me particularly suspicious that the online sites where GIs post don’t seem to be making much of a fuss about the matter, while they discuss every other issue of personal importance to them.

http://www.truth-out.org/armys-fitn[…]er-fire66577

The above is a link to information about the Army’s spiritual fitness questionnaire. This program is required for all soldiers. It’s not a local program.

PZ has info on Pharyngula.

Yes, thanks! The Pharyngula article concerns a sectarian rock concert that was allowed at Fort Bragg, whereas a companion event for nonbelievers was first allowed, then effectively disallowed. Mikey Weinstein (not to mention Richard Dawkins) was to have been one of the speakers. You may sign a petition posted at the preceding link.

nmgirl said:

Chris Rodda said:

I saw a comment about this issue being off topic for PT, and thought I should let you guys know about something that makes it not so off topic. Part of the military’s “Spiritual Fitness” scheme has been to push creationism as a means of suicide prevention. The “reasoning”? If you think you were created by god, you’ll think your life has a purpose and won’t kill yourself. I’m the Senior Research Director at MRFF, and you wouldn’t believe all the crazy crap like this that I see. I wrote about one insane instance of it in the Air Force here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris[…]_147155.html

Chris, thanks for chiming in.

That’s scary. While we’re off on this subject, I, too, was in the USMC (65-67) but I never encountered anything related to religious discrimination, brainwashing, or harassment like this. But perhaps there’s a bigger picture here if you look at what the Republican governors are doing to their states’ constituents regarding their collective bargaining rights, etc. under the ruse of budget controls. It’s looking more like a government takeover where the Republican’s are dismissing their opponents and their constituents in their blatant grab for power, and the religious right is there behind them every step of the way. 1984 here we come? There are several states currently considering vouchers for parochial schools, and the D.C. (read conservative/creationist). And there will be more efforts to dismiss Darwin and evolution, like the PP presentation referenced by Chris, not surprisingly in line with the tact that the dishonesty institute takes.

By coincidence I recently received an email from another submarine veteran that had a PDF document attached which consisting of a bunch of pictures about the ballistic missile submarine USS Nebraska (SSBN 739).

One of the last pictures in this PDF document shows a gift of a Christian bible enclosed in a Plexiglas case engraved with the following:

“THIS HOLY BIBLE IS PRESENTED TO THE USS NEBRASKA (SSBN 739) WHICH WAS CHRISTENED ON AUGUST 15, 1992 AND COMMISSIONED ON JULY 10, 1993 BY THE SUBMARINE’S SPONSOR MRS. PATRICIA PROS EXON”

.

I think there are all kinds of things that sponsors can give to submarines and other ships at christening and commissioning; so I don’t take this as any indication that there is some kind of sectarian conspiracy going on here.

There is also the issue of the dramatic increase in the number of women now serving in the military, on ships, and soon to be on submarines. I have no idea if or how this relates to any trends in sectarianism in the military.

But from what I can gather from meeting those who are in various branches now; none of this ever comes up. The problem seems primarily local and dependent on the command at the time.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

Mike Elzinga said: The problem seems primarily local and dependent on the command at the time.

Yeah. That there are packs of fundys in uniform making nuisance of themselves in various places is perfectly plausible … and the idea that some of the brass is in need of a little “operator headspace adjustment” – well that wouldn’t have been news to one of Caesar’s legionnaires.

But when the evidence for a systematic conspiracy is some dippy questions in a dippy questionnaire, all I can say is: “Is that ALL?”

Dang, it’s like they’re working down the checklist for CONSPIRACY THEORIES FOR DUMMIES.

Robert Byers said:

Why is pandas thumb attacking a particular group of people by religious beliefs ? First right-wing fundamentalists is always a slur. it never mean good guys. Whats right-wing got to do with a complaint about evangelization? The word is evangelical Christian. Theres a hostility here deeper then complaining about Christianity in a profession. Its unkind, prejudiced , and desperate. Competition is no bad.

You really have no clue, it seems. When your religious views by their very nature are bigoted, of course you think opposition to them must somehow be intolerance too, because in your fuked up perspective there is no room for equality among different peoples. If one group is not dominant, then you assume it is powerless. That’s stupid.

Dale Husband said: You really have no clue, it seems.

DH, how long have you been talking to RB? This is NOT news.

Mike Elzinga said:

By coincidence I recently received an email from another submarine veteran that had a PDF document attached which consisting of a bunch of pictures about the ballistic missile submarine USS Nebraska (SSBN 739).

One of the last pictures in this PDF document shows a gift of a Christian bible enclosed in a Plexiglas case engraved with the following:

“THIS HOLY BIBLE IS PRESENTED TO THE USS NEBRASKA (SSBN 739) WHICH WAS CHRISTENED ON AUGUST 15, 1992 AND COMMISSIONED ON JULY 10, 1993 BY THE SUBMARINE’S SPONSOR MRS. PATRICIA PROS EXON”

.

I think there are all kinds of things that sponsors can give to submarines and other ships at christening and commissioning; so I don’t take this as any indication that there is some kind of sectarian conspiracy going on here.

There is also the issue of the dramatic increase in the number of women now serving in the military, on ships, and soon to be on submarines. I have no idea if or how this relates to any trends in sectarianism in the military.

But from what I can gather from meeting those who are in various branches now; none of this ever comes up. The problem seems primarily local and dependent on the command at the time.

Isn’t it interesting that we still conduct ancient superstiuous ceremonies like ship christening, blessings of the fishing fleet, animals, etc. I guess it’s still supposed to put an invisible, protective shield around whatever. Sigh, how these old customs linger on.

DavidK said:

Isn’t it interesting that we still conduct ancient superstiuous ceremonies like ship christening, blessings of the fishing fleet, animals, etc. I guess it’s still supposed to put an invisible, protective shield around whatever. Sigh, how these old customs linger on.

The Navy, perhaps a bit more than other branches of the military, is steeped in tradition intermingled with extremely modern and advanced technology.

Much of it is a way to provide a sense of belonging along with some standards of how members relate to each other and their ships.

Relating to ships and submarines has many of the same elements of relating to a familiar car or other piece of machinery; they seem to take on a “personality” due to their individual quirks and histories.

They are the homes of sailors for a number of years, and the crews become extremely familiar with every aspect of how the ship or submarine responds, smells, feels, and protects. This is especially true of submariners where every crewmember must become proficient in every other crewmember’s specialty in addition to his own (it’s called qualifying on the boats).

A well-trained and experienced crew can “feel” what is going on much of the time; even when off watch.

I don’t think most people in the Navy see such traditions in any particular religious sense. In many respects it is a way a crew bonds with a complex technological object that becomes an extension of themselves.

Commissioning crews are often the most closely bonded with the ship because they have had a hand in preparing it for sea duty; but ships and submarines that have a remarkable set of accomplishments are often seen as special. And many sailors tend to be wary of ships and submarines that have had a history of problems; many of which can be traced to early technical problems that then lead to unpopular assignments, which then leads to further deterioration of the ship.

Getting such a ship or boat “back in shape” takes a rather forceful skipper because crewmembers are wary of its past history. It’s a mixture of superstition and practical intuition about clunky technology.

Mike touches on an important point when he says that members of groups need to relate to each other. That is an overriding requirement in the military, and it sharpens a primal human need to belong to a group.

Now, for FL’s sake, some scientific (well, anthropological) discussion of the observations of the US military given above.

Principle one: Individuals generally need to identify as members of a group, particularly when under stress. One means by which individuals demonstrate identity with a group is by assimilating, supporting, expressing and transmitting its cultural institutions.

One such institution, in the US professional military, (or at least in its non-elite elements) is fundamentalist protestantism.

Why this should be the case is a question for research. The suggestion is that recruits, both enlisted and commissioned, derive disproportionately from rural and small-town backgrounds, often in the South. Whatever the cause, repeated observations confirm that the expression of fundamentalist protestantism is a cultural value in (parts of) the armed services of the United States.

Principle two: The expression of cultural values is subject to feedback, and hence increases. This increase is most clearly seen in groups that are separated or isolated in some way from larger, more inclusive or culturally diverse societies. The US military is such a group.

That is, the expression of cultural values tends to increase in scope, in power and in the resources devoted to it. This increase occurs independently of its actual utility to the group. Unless some other factor intervenes, the expression may increase to the point where it is actually catastrophic to the group.

Observations in support of this:

The Easter Islanders expressed a cultural value - reverence for their ancestors - by erecting huge stone statues in specific places. To transport them, they cut down the palm forests of their island, on which they relied for food, to make rollers. They continued erecting ever more grandiose statues and cutting down the trees, until the forests were destroyed. They then starved.

The Aztecs valued human sacrifice. They made ever-increasing demands for sacrificial victims of their subject peoples, so that when Cortes arrived, their subjects enthusiastically joined him. The Aztecs’ reaction to this was to demand more sacrifices, which only ensured their downfall.

The northern Italian condottieri were mercenary soldiers who valued profit. It was more profitable to manoeuver and then negotiate without actually fighting. As a result, they were destroyed by an opponent who was prepared actually to go to battle.

These observations and many others from history tend to confirm the hypothesis that expression of the cultural values of a group may increase to the point where this increase can and does actually subvert the supposed purpose of the group, and even its actual survival.

Therefore:

Prediction one: The expression of fundamentalist protestantism in (parts of) the armed forces of the US will tend to increase over time, unless some other factor intervenes.

Prediction two: This increase will ultimately subvert the actual purpose of the armed forces - ie the defence of the United States, its territory, people and Constitution. One obvious point of this subversion is the difficulty of maintaining the Constitutional separation of Church and State in the face of a culture of fervour for one, given, exclusive religion in the armed forces of the State.

Hence, it is the duty of those sworn to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States to intervene to prevent this from happening. The Executive and the Joint Chiefs must act; but more, every officer of the US armed forces has that identical duty.

If officers do not intervene to prevent the coercive expression of religion, or fail to confirm and uphold the Constitutional right of freedom of religion, they are in dereliction of their duty. But if they actually attempt to deny the Constitutional rights of others by preferring or differentially treating any expression of religion or non-religion, they are criminally in breach of their oaths, and should be dealt with by military justice.

Dave Luckett said:

Prediction one: The expression of fundamentalist protestantism in (parts of) the armed forces of the US will tend to increase over time, unless some other factor intervenes.

Prediction two: This increase will ultimately subvert the actual purpose of the armed forces - ie the defence of the United States, its territory, people and Constitution. One obvious point of this subversion is the difficulty of maintaining the Constitutional separation of Church and State in the face of a culture of fervour for one, given, exclusive religion in the armed forces of the State.

There is a further danger in that the “heroes” and high-ranking officers in such a military become prime candidates in political elections for public office. High government officials who are fervent followers of such sectarian views would not hesitate to use the military to enforce these sectarian rules on the entire population.

The microcosm of the Air Force Academy in the community of Colorado Springs is a thought-provoking reminder.

Mike Elzinga said:

Dave Luckett said:

Prediction one: The expression of fundamentalist protestantism in (parts of) the armed forces of the US will tend to increase over time, unless some other factor intervenes.

Prediction two: This increase will ultimately subvert the actual purpose of the armed forces - ie the defence of the United States, its territory, people and Constitution. One obvious point of this subversion is the difficulty of maintaining the Constitutional separation of Church and State in the face of a culture of fervour for one, given, exclusive religion in the armed forces of the State.

There is a further danger in that the “heroes” and high-ranking officers in such a military become prime candidates in political elections for public office. High government officials who are fervent followers of such sectarian views would not hesitate to use the military to enforce these sectarian rules on the entire population.

The microcosm of the Air Force Academy in the community of Colorado Springs is a thought-provoking reminder.

I think there is yet another danger. Consider the situation that if you’re in combat and surrounded by fundies, you’re not, and to them you’re a non-believing trouble maker for them and they know it, will you end up a victim of friendly fire? Will exist?

And Air Force officers tend to have jobs like working in missile silos, flying armed combat aircraft, securing our nuclear weapons stockpiles, etc.

What could happen if one of them were an evangelical who decided that these are the End Times, and it’s his job to initiate the prophesied Armageddon?

Just Bob said: What could happen if one of them were an evangelical who decided that these are the End Times, and it’s his job to initiate the prophesied Armageddon?

Or got upset about the fluoridation of water supplies.

mrg said:

Just Bob said: What could happen if one of them were an evangelical who decided that these are the End Times, and it’s his job to initiate the prophesied Armageddon?

Or got upset about the fluoridation of water supplies.

Bat Guano. Now there was a charater.

Mike Elzinga said: Bat Guano. Now there was a charater.

I always remember Slim Pickens as Major “King” Kong, going out with quite the bang.

“Hello Dmitriy? This is Alex. How are you? I am fine. Well, you are fine, too. We’re both fine.”

“I have some bad news, Dmitriy. Well, one of our generals went a little bit funny in the head and ordered all his bombers to attack your country … Dmitriy … Dmitriy … “

Inspector Clouseau was not Peter Sellers’ only claim to fame.

Just Bob said:

And Air Force officers tend to have jobs like working in missile silos, flying armed combat aircraft, securing our nuclear weapons stockpiles, etc.

What could happen if one of them were an evangelical who decided that these are the End Times, and it’s his job to initiate the prophesied Armageddon?

Honestly there are a lot of safe guards to prevent just this type of action happening. Even if they manage to launch there are still mechanisms to destroy the weapons in flight.

Wayne Francis said: Honestly there are a lot of safe guards to prevent just this type of action happening. Even if they manage to launch there are still mechanisms to destroy the weapons in flight.

I recall the infamous Davy Crockett, a spigot mortar that could be mounted on a jeep to toss a peewee nuke – few hundred tonnes yield – a few kilometers. It was withdrawn from service after a short time when the brass got to thinking it might not be a good idea to give swarms of second lieutenants the capability to decide if they wanted to “go nuclear”. The warheads were converted into atomic demolition mines.

Eventually the Army got rid of all their nukes; it never made a lot of sense to pump a lot of resources into weapons that could only be used with approval from the Oval Office.

Launch a nuke, probably not. But even a launch with a non-activated warhead could provoke a counterstrike. And could we talk our way out of an incident where a bomb or cruise missile crashed and failed to initiate a nuclear explosion–but spilled its radioactive guts over, say, Islamabad?

And contemplate what a fully fueled B-52 could do to the Capitol Building or the White House (with that Kenyan Muslim Socialist in there!).

mrg said:

Mike Elzinga said: Bat Guano. Now there was a charater.

I always remember Slim Pickens as Major “King” Kong, going out with quite the bang.

“Hello Dmitriy? This is Alex. How are you? I am fine. Well, you are fine, too. We’re both fine.”

“I have some bad news, Dmitriy. Well, one of our generals went a little bit funny in the head and ordered all his bombers to attack your country … Dmitriy … Dmitriy … “

Inspector Clouseau was not Peter Sellers’ only claim to fame.

No indeed, and if you may recall, he played three parts in the film. However, it was Sterling Hayden’s general who was absolutely priceless IMHO!

Dale Husband said:

This is news? I thought the U S military would be a natural haven for right-wing politics and bigoted religion, since it is by natural an authoritarian rather than a libertarian force. To those who claim we owe our freedom to soldiers, what about the fact that those soldiers are themselves not free to quit their jobs if they disagree with the mission they are sent to, unlike any other profession? What if they are ordered to attack their own people for protesting against the government? Some freedom we would have then!

It wasn’t like that when I was in the military. If you did then what the fundies do now, you’d be in serious trouble…

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on March 15, 2011 1:00 PM.

This Week in Intelligent Design - 15/03/11 was the previous entry in this blog.

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