March 1, 2008  

A question of tolerance

Had I not seen the title of Barry Fagin and Lt. Col. James Parco’s “A question of faith” [January], I would have gone through the first two pages wondering what their point was. Like most humanists (atheists, agnostics, et al), they try to disguise the agenda by creating a problem and then showing why a person’s belief in something greater than themselves is responsible for it. Although even they acknowledge that those of faith make up the majority in our society and military, they want all others to bend to their beliefs.

I have found that those who ask for tolerance are typically the least tolerant. The examples given by the authors as “problems,” such has handing out fliers during mandatory lunch formations, are only problems in the minds of those who are not tolerant of people with religious beliefs. These same people have no problem when fliers are handed out or posted regarding exercise classes, movie listings, job fairs, etc. My experience has shown that humanists, progressives, brights, atheists or whatever other term they are using that day have great contempt for those people with religious beliefs. As far as they are concerned, we might as well still believe in Santa Claus or the tooth fairy.

The reality is the majority of this country and the military are, in fact, Christians. The basis of the Christians’ religion is love. There is a not a country like the U.S. in the world that, while the majority holds one belief, all others are given freedom to flourish. Even Christian chaplains serve the needs of all servicemen when a chaplain of their faith is not available. Are there bigots in the military? Sure, just as we have gang members, drug users, criminals, etc. But we do not tolerate them, and when they are found out, corrective action is taken.

As for the Humanist Oath of Equal Character, I will not take this oath, now or ever. My beliefs as a Christian trump every other part of my life, job, etc. But as a Christian, I already treat all with love and respect — even those I disagree with.

Maj. Douglas R. Hurst, Army

Atlanta, Ga.

Professor Fagin and Lt. Col. Parco propose that all command officers be required to “attest to the truth” of the “Oath of Equal Character” from The Humanist, the body of which deftly manages to violate both the First Amendment and the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights.

The problem with moral equivalency arguments is that things are rarely equivalent. In effect, their article insists one pledge that one is no more upright of character than one who espouses white supremacy, human sacrifice, holocaust denial, polygamy or marijuana use, all of which are tenets of minority faiths. The moral and factual premise of the authors and the Oath of Equal Character quickly falls apart.

The case they make against Christians abusing their office suffers from selection bias, as well as relying on well-dressed mud flinging, no doubt knowing well that if enough is flung, some always sticks.

The oath of allegiance to the Constitution we all took as officers includes a First Amendment that protects the five freedoms (religion, speech, press, assembly and petition) precisely because of how unpopular they may be or become. The conclusion that, “Those who believe that those who don’t share their religious beliefs are less likely to have good character should leave the military and seek another career,” demonstrates Maoist thought policing with the obvious contradictions — in being certain about the error of certainty, absolutely opposed to absolutes and morally superior to the morally superior, do they now disqualify themselves from service?

I find the authors’ remedy to peaceful yet offensive excesses of zealous faith to be what is “subversive to our constitutional values” and worse than the problem itself. People rarely understand their own motivations — it’s time for these authors to reassess their own.

André Van Mol

Former lieutenant commander, U.S. Navy Reserve

Redding, Calif.