Representative Rob Andrews (D-NJ) offered up an amendment to the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act that would allow humanist or members of ethical cultural groups to join the chaplain corps.
Andrew’s offered up his idea Wednesday to help members of the military who are essentially atheists, but want someone to talk to about their problems. Unfortunately, Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee weren’t having any of it, saying atheist can’t offer spiritual counseling and would most likely offend dying soldiers and their families.
“They don’t believe anything,” said Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) “I can’t imagine an atheist accompanying a notification team as they go into some family’s home to let them have the worst news of their life and this guy says, ‘You know, that’s it — your son’s just worms, I mean, worm food.'”
“This I think would make a mockery of the chaplaincy,” said Rep. John Fleming (R-LA). “The last thing in the world we would want to see was a young soldier who may be dying and they’re at a field hospital and the chaplain is standing over that person saying to them, ‘If you die here, there is no hope for you in the future.'”
But Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) responded that atheists and humanists do in fact have strong belief systems – as much as Christians. He pointed out that the late NFL star Pat Tillman, who was killed by friendly fire, was an atheist.
“To say that an atheist or a humanist doesn’t believe anything is just ignorant,” said Smith. “The response to the gentleman’s amendment makes me feel all the more the necessity of it.”