There may be no atheists in foxholes, but there soon will be a few humanists. The
Religion News Service picks up the story: "In practical terms, the change means humanists could face fewer hurdles in trying to organize within the ranks; military brass would have better information to aid in planning a deceased soldier's funeral; and it could lay the groundwork for eventually adding humanist chaplains."
I have written before about the movement to have the
A lot of other Americans, some of them atheists themselves, feel the same way. They ask: What's the point? A Christian chaplain can assure the dying soldier that he'll be in heaven soon. What words of consolation could a humanist/atheist chaplain offer?
Actually I can imagine several. But I don't have to imagine a humanist who wants to be a chaplain. Last year The Times profiled Jason Heap, a nonbeliever in God who applied to be the Navy's first humanist chaplain. The idea that chaplains might be called to minister to the armed forces' humanists, atheists and agnostics reflects a broader movement of nontheists who congregate in ways reminiscent of traditional religion.
In a column lamenting the exclusion, Greg. M. Epstein, the humanist chaplain at Harvard, cited a
"When the Boston Marathon bombings took place," Epstein wrote, "many of us in the local humanist/secular/nontheistic community realized almost immediately that our community would be affected profoundly. And indeed it was." It's hard to argue that those residents shouldn't have had a representative at the interfaith ceremony, even if he or she couldn't join in the praying.
Religion without God may seem like an oxymoron to Fleming, but clearly it make sense to a growing number of Americans, in and out of foxholes.