Friday, July 26, 2013

Congress Recently Amended A Bill To Prevent The Military From Hiring Secular Humanist Chaplains, And I'm Not Too Upset About It

-- because, what the heck is a Secular Humanist chaplain anyway? I've only encountered one so far, Chris Stedman, a Secular Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University, and Stedman is hard for me to take when I'm in a good mood. It's hard for me to imagine him being much comfort to military personnel in crisis. To me he's barely distinguishable from a "modern" Christian or Jewish theologian. He's more supportive of religion, more quick to excuse its flaws and more critical of other atheists, than many of the conventional sort of religious clergypeople.

Jason Heap had been attempting to become the Navy's first Humanist chaplain. It's unclear at the moment whether -- excuse me. Let me re-phrase that in a less pompous manner: I don't know whether this amendment will prevent his appointment. Heap is 38 years old, a graduate of the Brite Divinity School and Oxford University, and has the endorsement of the Humanist Society, whoever they are. In case you're wondering whether Brite Divinity School might be some sort of atheist institution, associated with the so-called "brights" -- no such luck. It's a Christian seminary affiliated with Texas Christian University. Oh joy, another theologian, just what the world needed, and atheists in particular.

It is my considered opinion that what is most urgently needed in the military, what has been insufficiently replaced by chaplains for a long, long time, and, I fear, would be just as insufficiently replaced by Secular chaplains, is psychologists. Unfortunately, of course, there is still a great stigma attached to psychology: ("You want to consult with a specialist in the human mind in order to improve your mood and coping skills?! What are ya, crazy?!")

I'm not crazy about the idea of Secular clergy, in the military or elsewhere. I've noticed that some atheist churches have sprung up, and I'm not dying to visit any of them. (I attended a Unitarian church for a little while once, and I'm not going back anytime soon.) I think that the atheist monuments going up on public land next to things like copies of the Ten Commandments are silly, and I think the energy put into the court battles for permission to erect those monuments would've been much better spent supporting science education and combating the efforts of pseudoscientific Creationism to attain the status, legally and in people's opinions, of science. I think that the formal debates between atheists and creationists lend Creationism an air of seriousness it doesn't deserve. The fact that "In God We Trust" is on our money doesn't bother me. It seems I disagree with the typical New Atheist on every one of those points, with the possible exception of the Unitarians. It seems that snake handlers, "modern" theologians and New Atheists all differ from me in their need for forms and institutions which are either religious or copy religions.

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