I am retired Navy. In my Navy career, I found the vast majority of service members to be non-religious or atheists. Yet the military does not acknowledge this fact. So when I found out there was a group who valued me and was willing to fight for the rights of the majority, I quickly became a paying member. I strongly recommend anyone who is a veteran to join MAAF to protect our religious freedom. This is a great organization. http://militaryatheists.org/
I left my job as an IBM consultant making plenty of money and living the dream in NYC because I cared about foxhole atheists and knew that they needed help to achieve equality in the military. My own experience at West Point and in Iraq showed me a great need. I now run MAAF full time making significantly less in money and significantly more in personal fulfillment. I hope you'll tell your story here, donate, and join me in this fight. Those honorable atheists and humanists in the military will do their job either way, but they need and very much deserve a lot of help from their peers and from those of us on the outside.
MAAF has been wonderful. They supported our development of an atheist community at Fort Huachuca, providing literature and suggestions for networking. They supported us in an unsuccessful attempt to get support from the military chaplaincy and the garrison.
MAAF is helping Military Servicemembers to fight for their rights to NOT participate in Religion, Religious ceremonies, prayers, rites, etc., etc., etc. and still serve their country honorably and respectfully while protecting this country. MAAF supports the First Amendment.
I volunteer with a non-profit summer camp for children from secular families, Camp Quest (CQ). While CQ has locations all over the country, my camp is located near many military bases. At least 30% of our campers and volunteers are or have been associated with the military. We have campers whose parents are deployed, who have lost parents or other loved ones in the military. We have volunteer counselors and leaders who have completed multiple tours.
Our programs teach science, philosophy, nature, teamwork, self-confidence, and more, and also help our campers become part of the larger freethought community. We highlight "famous freethinkers," including Pat Tillman. We have done service projects in collaboration with MAAF that involve sending notes and gifts to those serving overseas. Working with MAAF has always been a pleasure, they are quick to reply to email and bounce ideas around.
After camp, we provide resources for campers and families to continue to get involved in our community, including lobby day events, how to start a secular club, and what other area organizations to join. Many of our families have benefited from MAAF and we're happy to have helped them make that connection.
I've been in the US Army Reserves for 25 years (and counting). I'm an atheist and early in my career, I simply didn't pay too much attention to matters of religious discrimination, though in retrospect I can think of a couple of examples. Especially after 9/11, however, there seems to have been a renewed effort by the leadership to equate military virtue with religiosity (particularly Christinanity). I started to see (or perhaps notice) more and more cases of religious discrimination, intolerance of unorthodox views, and at times even overt disrespect. Then I found out about MAAF. This is an organization that REPRESENTS the atheist, humanist, freethinker community in the Armed Forces. I found them to be a wonderful resource and eventually became so involved in their cause that I became a Board Member. If you have been discriminated against by any member of the military because you are an atheist, please know that you are not alone. MAAF can help reach out to your leadership and in most cases remedy the situation. In the more obstinate cases, MAAF can provide you with resources to help you make things right.
As the national demographics shift from religious to non-religious and non-belief, so too do the military demographics. There is a growing but silent minority of Humanists and atheists present in America's Armed Forces, and their numbers continue to swell. Sadly, because of the stigma that surrounds atheists many are unwilling to openly profess their life stance for fear of being shunned (or discriminated against) by their fellow service members and superiors.
MAAF has made a remarkable effort to protect the rights of these service members and continues to make progress toward a goal for equal rights of ALL Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines.
More and more are starting to step forward, but there are many who would ignore, and even actively deny, their right to be acknowledged and supported. These men and women risk all for their country. Their country owes it to them to afford them the rights they have sworn or affirmed to defend with their lives.
Help us help them.
The large and growing number of service members who have no religious affiliation and no belief in a deity is seriously underserved by the existing corps of chaplains. Military chaplains, of course, derive from one or another spiritual denomination, but they are required to step beyond their own sectarian beliefs in order to serve all military personnel, regardless of those individuals’ beliefs, when called upon to counsel or comfort in times of need. Service members who have no denomination, however, at times are treated like pariahs or, worse, are overtly proselytized to become believers. These individuals may protest within their command, but their lone voices often go unheeded, so collective action is needed. Being a national organization with local chapters, the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers provides a larger and more focused voice for all nontheists in military service that, increasingly, is being heard in the upper echelons of the Department of Defense and by higher civil authorities. More needs to be done. For example the commissioning of explicitly humanist chaplains is one initiative being pursued. MAAF is dedicated to building a welcoming community for what it calls the last unprotected minority. It needs your membership and financial support to accomplish its aims. Please join MAAF and explicitly support our nontheistic service men and women.
Jason was extremely supportive at a time that I was subjected to some very distressing incidents relating to my lack of religion. He was warm and caring and encouraged me on the appropriate measures to take and how to express myself. I probably wouldn't have taken the corrective action without his support and wouldn't have been able to see the matter get the attention it did.