Military Atheist Passes Away April 14, 2009

Military Atheist Passes Away

Major-General Patrick Crawford died a couple months ago. Yesterday, I was sent his obituary from reader Clare.

The Times Online (UK) piece documents his heroism and incredible career:

Tall, tirelessly energetic and inquiring, Patrick Crawford was just the effective and good-humoured doctor a crisis demands and, for that matter, to address problems from which others tend to shy away. His career as a regimental medical officer began with the Army in Malaysia, where he rescued an officer from a helicopter wreck threatening to explode in flames.

He was house surgeon, casualty and orthopaedics, and house physician at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, 1959-60, before beginning his National Service with the Royal Army Medical Corps. Extending to a regular commission, he served in Malaysia and Borneo until returning in 1964 to England for courses at the Royal Army Medical College.

His experience in the Far East led him to dedicate his research and teaching to the subject of preventive medicine, then regarded as something of a Cinderella discipline. Malaria became his particular target, leading him into community and occupational medicine.

And tucked away at the end of the piece are his religious views:

A humanist, seemingly from his exposure in his early days in the army to different religious groups, from the animist tribes of Borneo and Papua New Guinea to the Hindu Gurkhas, Crawford respected the enlightened teachings of all religions, providing him with an insight that was neither judgmental nor prescriptive.

An atheist who served in a foxhole — a man admired by so many others.

If only more stories like these were brought to light, it would be a wonderful thing for atheists everywhere.

Crawford was a hero for all of us.

(Thanks to Clare for the link!)

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  • ungullible

    Umm… that’s nice and all, but humanism != atheism, so I’m not sure it’s accurate to assume he was an atheist in a foxhole.

  • John

    Yep, not all humanists are secular humanists. But that’s ok, I think the non-secular humanists are generally decent people too.

  • happycynic

    Even if he was, the article says “humanist” so i’m betting most readers wouldn’t even realize that that strongly implies atheism. My bet is that they chose humanist because it skips the “A” word and you always want obituaries to say nice things about people *eye-roll*.

  • Erp

    People also use humanist instead of atheist because the former states what they are while the latter only what they are not.

  • Humanist is often the accepted codeword for atheist in public discourse to avoid offending those who find the very notion of atheists offensive. Freethought is another codeword that the general public isn’t familiar with because unless you’re already in the club, that pretty much sounds like it could be anything. Obit writers have clever PC codewords for just about anything that some in the community might find objectionable.

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