February 17, 2009

Conscientious Objection & Atheism

I'm a lot better, thanks. Although last night I did just randomly skin my toe this morning because of the GODDAMN CLOSET.

*nurses it* Okay, I think we're all done with that random slew of emo posts, but I read something interesting this afternoon while I was desperately studying for a class I didn't go to (don't judge me).

I was reading this post from the Friendly Atheist about Agustin Aguayo, an army specialist. Long story short, Aguayo is an an agnostic and decides during his training that he could not kill another human being because it was against his beliefs, so he files as a conscientious objector (which I didn't even realize you could DO anymore).

Except, you know, atheists & agnostics apparently don't have morals (Aguayo says he believes in a "higher power" but doesn't attend any churches) so how can we conscientiously object to anything? Or so a judge felt:

… although Aguayo met many of the requirements of a conscientious objector according to military policy, he failed to meet one important non-official requirement: his belief system wasn’t Christian.

Aguayo wasn’t court-martialed that day. Instead the army told him he was going to Iraq whether he liked it or not — even if he had to be forcefully carried onto the plane. Soon after, Aguayo went AWOL again.


PFC Aguayo’s convictions do not appear to be sincerely held… PFC Aguayo did not identify any specific ways he has altered his behavior to accommodate his beliefs. Although practicing a religion is not a requirement for CO approval, PFC Aguayo has not discussed any equally significant source of his beliefs other than he was raised in a kind and respectful family.

So, at the end of the day and going AWOL repeatedly and clearly showing that he DOES NOT WANT TO HAVE TO KILL OTHER HUMAN BEINGS, the consensus is that you don't go to church, you're non-christian, you don't get to conscientiously object. Which is just WEIRD and wrong for a couple of reasons, 1) it's pretty clear that not everyone in the army is a Christian so why is this even a "non-official" requirement, and 2) why are they trying to force this man to do what he's clearly decided he isn't up for.

Let me explain that second point first. As you guys know I identify as an atheist, but when I was a little one, for some reason I wanted to join the Marines. Really badly. The ceremonial swords looked so awesome and I wanted to feel like I was doing something I suppose. Mind you, back then I dreamed I could have met the weight requirement. But also back when I was fantasizing, if I'm not mistaken there was no war. Sure there was some military shit going down, but I'm pretty sure the major conflicts were over, far as the public knew anyway *side eyes the government* My dad was in the Navy, btw, before he got discharged for having whatever mental problems (thanks for passing those on, damnit).

But yeah, I wanted to be a Marine. I didn't factor in that whole war and killing folks business (or knowing the demon child I was, I probably didn't care). But as I got older--and this wasn't a conscious decision, but you know what? Killing is horrible and war is hell. I would never want to be part of that. And even after identifying as an Atheist, guess what? I still don't want to have to kill anyone. I don't think I could even in self-defense if my life was in danger (well, maybe). As much as I talk about how awesome it would be to burn my AmLit teacher's house down and terrorize his pets, please believe that I don't have it in me to burn his house down with him in it knowingly, and maybe I'd feel bad later. I do not and I will not--it goes against my moral code.

Yes, folks, even without a deity to govern us, most real atheists (by that I mean not your emo Satanist neighbor down the street, we don't associate) still have MORALS and VALUES. I believe that this is just a part of the human experience. Not believing in God and not going to church doesn't make you an immoral or amoral asshole, it makes you godless. If in fact you are an immoral or amoral bastard, you were probably that way anyway regardless of your religious beliefs.

And that's where people get it twisted, that without any sort of moral structure humans would go nuts. And maybe that's true for some of us that claim we'd go on killing sprees if it weren't for Jaysus, but I can almost guarantee you that's not true for the rational 80% of the world, religious or not. It's just stupid. People, I believe, know what's right and what's wrong regardless of religion. We did before organized religion and we would continue to do so without it.

So on to that first point, well that doesn't really need to be explained much more. There's been some ongoing debate about these so-called atheists in foxholes, and atheists & agnostics have made it pretty clear we have no problem joining the army if we think it's right. But also, what about other folks that practice different religions in the army? Uh, Islam? Judaism--well, I guess that'd fall under Judeo-Christian. The point is, it's like they're implying that if you're not Christian you don't have the morals to conscientiously object, which is just silly considering that on the whole religions are actually PEACEFUL (yeah even Islam, I know right). Most of them have SOMETHING to the effect of "don't kill that person" unless you count the extremists that just want to go all hard on everything.

I will mention that there's also a fair debate on the Friendly Atheist post about why did the guy even join the Army if he knew he was just going to conscientiously object, and I honestly don't think that's fair. He'd already done a tour of duty, and even if he hadn't, damnit war is hell. I relate it back to my joining the Marines--I thought it was a special honor, but did I think about having to kill? Of course not, I just wanted to do it. This man isn't 5 or 6 years old, but he clearly joined the Army out of choice then realized that he just couldn't do this. How is this wrong? Would you rather put him out front and make him take other lives--something he doesn't believe in--and fuck his mind up for life? Perhaps he didn't think he was agnostic until he joined the army, we're not all born into non-religious families. As for whether he bit off more than he could chew and he's just chickening out, I say bless him for actually realizing he made a mistake and trying everything he can to get out of there. I don't think it's disrespectful towards the army, he clearly no longer wants to be there, why force him? That's just my outsider's look on it though.

See? Look at that, a big ol' substantial post! I'm so happy *sniff*

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