Back on July 23rd, the US House voted down a proposal to provide atheist chaplains for the military. At the time I was of mixed emotions over this; on the one hand, since atheists profess not to believe in any gods, wouldn’t their work be a lot like military psychologists and psychiatrists, but for free? On the other hand I thought it might be slightly amusing to watch atheist chaplains follow in the footsteps of ‘atheist churches’ by swiping all the trappings of organized religion without that whole ‘faith’ thing.
Wallace Henley, senior associate pastor at Houston's Second Baptist Church, brings up an interesting idea: ‘Christians should be disappointed and atheists should be glad’ at this ruling. Why?
Because allowing atheist chaplains recognizes atheism as a religion and would make atheists subject to the same legal restrictions they have gleefully placed on every other religion.Part of me had sort of thought of that implication; after all, I’ve written (as have others) that atheism has all the earmarks of being a religion – all it lacks is a god or gods. But that distinction is pretty much meaningless, as Supreme Court justice Hugo Black pointed out back in 1961:
"Among religions in this country which do not teach what would generally be considered a belief in the existence of God are Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, Secular Humanism, and others[.]"So why not throw atheism and agnosticism into the mix as well? After all, we do think of Buddhism and Taoism as ‘religions’, don’t we?
Go over and read all of Pastor Henley’s article; it’s rather enlightening.