The American Atheist website has recently reported that "American Atheists" and the "Freedom From Religion Foundation" have demanded an end to "coerced" prayer in the military.
The groups wrote to Secretary of Defense James Mattis to complain that military members have been "forced" into religious observances while attending training. The primary problem, claims these groups, is that military trainers have included prayer in graduation ceremonies throughout the nation.
In other words, according to these atheist groups, it is "coercion" to simply be in a room of people respectfully praying, while it is perfectly acceptable to forcibly demand those with religious faith be outright banned from public prayer.
Interestingly, however, the atheist group also seems to have a problem with Christians praying in the military even if they are not in a group of non-believers. For this reason, the group has suggested to James Mattis that restrictions should be placed on the ability of Christians to attend Sunday worship services.
Oddly, the atheist groups complain that voluntary worship services on Sunday have indirectly been a means of discrimination against non-Christians because those who don't go to church have to do other "tasks" during this hour-long period.
In a way, the complaint can be summed up as follow: atheist members of the military don't like Sunday worship services and therefore choose not to go. But not going isn't the result of a simple choice, they say. Rather, the fact they are doing other "tasks" that aren't a Sunday worship service implies discrimination against them as non-Christians. Ultimately, the complaint rests on a very deep anti-religious prejudice that defies logic.
According to these atheist groups, the military is violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, since "proselytizing" and "infusing religion into secular ceremonies" shouldn't be something that the military does.
"By scheduling prayers in graduation ceremonies and leading cadets in prayer prior to examinations, the country’s military training facilities are violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment," they write. "While military chaplains may provide religious services to those who seek them out, their mission does not include proselytizing or infusing secular ceremonies with the chaplain’s personal religious beliefs."
American Atheists and FFRF are therefore requesting that the Department of Defense takes concrete steps to end prayer in the military, implying that anything short of a radical undermining of public religiosity in the military will constitute "religious coercion and discrimination."
Any claim that these groups are simply trying to defend the First Amendment of the US Constitution can be disproven by a brief glance at recent activity by this organization. Underlying their constitutional objections to prayer in the military rests a profound anti-religious prejudice.
The Daily Caller reports that the American Atheist group was mocking Jesus Christ and the Nativity scene with a series of billboards they recently set up which say "Just Skip Church, It's All Fake New!" The ads were placed throughout what the organization considers part of the Bible Belt: Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. Furthermore, NBC News reports that the group has posted a second series of billboards with the message "Just Like Santa Claus, the Atheists Are Comin' to Town!" in order to advertise their upcoming national convention in Oklahoma City.
“Everyone knows that the stories we’re told in church aren’t the truth,” said American Atheists president David Silverman, according to the Daily Caller.
American Atheists claimed that they wanted to engage in "dialogue," a claim that is false simply by looking at the tone of the billboards themselves. And director Nick Fish didn't at all seem interested in "dialogue" when he admitted to Christian Times that the advertisements were intended to "get a rise" out of religious people.
Many of the so-called "New Atheists" enjoy "getting a rise" out of religious people, considering it a critical part of their strategy to undermine religion and promote non-belief. Richard Dawkins, a leading proponent of the New Atheism, for instance, has called on atheists and agnostics to "ridicule and show contempt" for religion and religious doctrines. He encouraged non-believers to mock and ridicule religious ideas in public.
This recent complaint about prayer in the military, of course, isn't anything new. Rather, it is the result of a longstanding trend, with origins dating back centuries, to privatize religion and transform it into something "private" and non-threatening.
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