December 4, 2011
Retired Army captain and Iraqi war veteran Jason Torpy says the chaplains employed by the U.S. military can’t relate to people like him. He’s an atheist.
He’s also the president of a group that’s trying to get the armed forces to become more inclusive by hiring atheist chaplains. The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers wants the military to provide for the estimated 40,000 atheists, agnostics and humanists who serve in U.S. forces.
Military chaplains, most of whom are Protestant Christians, are assigned many secular advising duties, including marriage, family and suicide counseling, Torpy tells weekends on All Things Considered guest host Rachel Martin. They touch so many parts of service members’ lives, he says, they can help improve what he sees as an environment of exclusion.
Capt. Ryan Jean wanted to perform well on the Army’s psychological evaluation for soldiers. But he also wanted to answer the questions honestly. So when he was asked whether he believed his life had a lasting purpose, Jean, an atheist, saw no choice but to say no.
Those and other responses, Jean says, won him a trip to see the post chaplain, who berated him for his lack of faith.
“He basically told me that if I don’t get right with God, then I’m worthless,” said Jean, now an intelligence officer at Fort Meade. “That if I don’t believe in Jesus, why am I in uniform, because this is God’s army, and that I should resign my commission in order to stop disgracing the military.”
Anti-atheist bigotry alive and well in the military.