An atheist at war

In both combat theaters, I recall endless and constant mandatory prayer circles being held by small units before military operations at which unit members who elected not to participate risked harassment, rebukes from their peers and supervisors, and even punishments. I recall dining halls decorated with bible verses, units adorned with bibles, and meetings started with Christian prayers. I recall the panic in a young soldier’s voice when he called me to tell me how his approved social meeting of military atheists was intentionally disrupted by an Army officer (a self-described “prayer warrior”) and that he was receiving threats against his life…

Between my experiences, as well as the experiences of the many atheist service members who have called and written to me over the years, it is clear to me that service members are openly religious only when they are compelled to be, and that’s why evangelical commanders and chaplains create command climates that publicly expose those less devout service members in an attempt to shame them into participation. When these commanders engage in these overtly religious activities, their actions are always Christian and there are never any efforts to reach out to those of other faiths or to create an environment of tolerance.

I used to believe that perhaps these commanders did not realize the harm they were causing to those that did not share their faith, but I later came to believe they knew exactly what they were doing.