We know there are atheists in the military; about a third of active duty soldiers don’t have a religious affiliation. Yet many Veteran’s Day services include religious elements that are off-putting to many of the very people who are supposed to be honored.
Johnny Pike, American Atheists’ state director in Kentucky and an Army veteran himself, has some excellent advice for anyone looking to honor soldiers this weekend.
He offered these suggestions in the Lexington Herald Leader:
▪ Make any Veterans Day event as inclusive as possible. Try not to host an event at a religious location. Keep in mind that in 2012 there were 88 different religious preferences in the U.S. military. This year, those of Christian faith made up only 52 percent of the current military. The event should remain secular like the military strives to be. No favorites should be made when honoring any person willing to fight for this country.▪ If there is going to be a religious speaker involved or an invocation given, try to have many worldviews represented. Oftentimes the local Universal Unitarian Church can find representatives from many beliefs.
▪ Aim to use few to no religious readings, songs or music. Prayer can be divisive and undermining to any soldier who isn’t amongst the majority praying. In addition, it reinforces the idea that all soldiers are religious and religious ceremonies should be the status quo.
There’s more where that came from, but the gist is clear: Don’t assume people in the military are Christian. It’s the same reason war memorials shaped like a cross are completely disrespectful to those who served, who don’t necessarily share the majority religion. If you actually give a damn about their sacrifices, it shouldn’t make a difference if they accept a particular faith.
There are indeed atheists in foxholes.
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