Friday, January 7, 2011

SFT in the Head

(Click on image for a larger version.)

Anyone who's known me for even a day knows what my religious affiliation is: None. Since early childhood, I've always been smart enough to see through religious dogma and propaganda as the pack of lies and fairy tales they all are, whether you're talking about any of the infinite versions of Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Elvis worship or paganism.

Unlike so many of us who label ourselves as "believers", I don't feel the need to wear my atheism on my sleeve and, despite my militant atheistic mindset, I've been around just barely long enough to respect one's own religious beliefs even if I silently shake my head at your lack of enlightenment and atavistic weakness for compulsively believing in something unprovable as a means of explaining the momentarily inexplicable.

But when I discovered this story about the Army's use of an SFT (Soldier Fitness Test), GAT (Global Assessment Tool) and CSF (Comprehensive Soldier Fitness), I saw red. I fired off a letter to the official spokesperson of the CSF, Colonel Marsha Lilly, in which I slipped into the persona of The General and basically savaged the entire concept of fiddling around with the wires in our soldiers' heads. It went a little viral, enjoying some play thanks to Chris Rodda and Mikey Weinstein of the twice Nobel Peace Prize-nominated MRFF and it was fun while it lasted.

But this is a deadly serious issue. The greatest danger, it seems to me, is not the effect it would have on free-thinking atheists like Sgt. Justin Griffith, who with Al Stefanelli, broke this scandal, but on those who still cling to one religion or another and may have doubts about their self-worth injected into their heads if they fail the spiritual part of the CSF.

What you see above in the lead image are screengrabs taken by Sgt. Griffith's wife, also an atheist, when she herself took the CSF and it provides a revealing look at what the Army's mindset is regarding spirituality.

An atheist like Sgt. Griffith (who's organizing his own little Stewart/Colbert anti-rally called Rock Beyond Belief), his wife or me do not make the mistake of predicating most or all of our self-worth, dignity and self-respect on the level of our personal divinity. That's somewhat like, I don't know, a company replacing the hard cash of a 401(k) and tying it to company stocks that can then go belly up on a moment's notice and leave the employee with nothing for their retirement.

Unlike a lot of the religious scandals uncovered and/or brought to light by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, this one has not only grown some legs quickly, it's hit the ground running. Just last night, Mikey Weinstein, the Director of the MRFF, was on Keith Olbermann's Countdown to give this travesty of the First Amendment, the Establishment Clause and the third paragraph of Article VI ("(N)o religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.") of that same Constitution.

Yet, that is precisely what the United States Army (and I'd be incredulous to find out none of the other major three branches have their own analogues of the CSF) is doing: They're partly if not largely predicating fitness to serve in our national defense on the degree of one's religious faith.

What is this, the days of the Knights Templar, the Crusades? Silly question, I know.

Far more than anyone who hides behind the Bible and a massive and growing evangelical movement within the Pentagon, Sgt. Griffith is a secular hero apart from his service to our country out of Ft. Bragg, NC for his public stance against an illegal, unconstitutional and reckless and dangerous evangelical movement that openly swears to "evangelize the unchurched." And God/Yahweh/Buddha/Allah forgive those who seek to lead their flock astray.

This is most definitely a Christian, specifically, a Protestant jihad on Godlessness. There are not, as yet, any known radical factions with the Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or Hindi military communities. When a small mosque was built on an Air Force base to accommodate American Muslim service members, it overcame stiff resistance from those within the Christian community. And it wasn't Hindis or Buddhists who hysterically shrieked when the $100,000,000 Cordoba Center was falsely labeled a mosque built on the bones of the victims of 911 at Ground Zero.

Space and the attention span of the typical blog reader forbids listing all the examples of the evangelizing being done by the military and at massive taxpayer expense. But try to remember why Mikey Weinstein founded the MRFF in the first place: Evangelical discrimination at the US Air Force Academy toward his own two children for their Jewish faith.

It's almost amusing to speculate that Mr. Weinstein's Foundation should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize on two successive years. It's not that Mr. Weinstein's Foundation doesn't deserve it but because they are, indeed, fighting in the trenches of a war in which the spoils are the souls of the unchurched. But neither Weinstein nor the atheists are the real enemy here.

The real enemy, ironically, are other religious fundamentalists who also seek to discriminate against them for their own heathen mindset.

Update: After Mikey read this piece, he emailed me to say that evangelism is "ubiquitous." My response is as follows:

"Well, yeah. That's because it's policy, urged at the highest levels of government, given a near total level of impunity and, furthermore, funded by the US taxpayer.

Here's the difference between Muslim fundamentalists and Christian fundamentalists, Mikey:

Muslims are transparent and in-your-face about their religious beliefs. You accuse them of trying to radicalize other Muslims, they'll say, "Hell, yeah, we are! That's what we're all about!"

Christian fundies will back away from their agenda and try to claim, "Oh, no, that's not what we're trying to do at all!" They're infinitely more craven and cowardly (at least in public) about their religious agenda than the Muslim terrorists we're battling.

What does that say about our "dominant" religion?"

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