Discussion in 'Academy/Military News' started by sprog, Aug 4, 2011.
For those who may not know, I was a missile officer in the USAF from 99-03. I went through this training, although my memory of it isn't that great. I do recall meeting with a Chaplain, a JAG, and a pyschologist, I think. They talked about the ethical implications of using nuclear weapons and there was a video showing the potential consequences of their use. After this meeting, you had to sign something. Then, after the first "key turn" in the trainer, you had to sign something else. It all had to do with the Personnel Reliability Program (PRP), which is what people with access to nukes have to be certified under.
Regarding the Christian thing, and keep in mind I'm an atheist, I don't remember it being a big part of the briefing. Maybe this has changed in recent years.
Interesting (to me anyway)....
The MRFF and Mr. Weinstein seem to take offense at anything that mentions Christianity. Studying the ethical theories of warfare without Aquinas's "Just War Theory" is basically cutting out the predominant theory.
They also criticize using quotes by Werner von Braun, by noting he was a former Nazi. While true, they kind of gloss over the fact that he was one of the chief architects of ballistic missiles. He might have had some legitimate thoughts on their use...
too many people refuse to accept the FACT that we are products of our environment. The main difference between psychology and sociology is that one deals with the individual and the other deals with more than one individual interacting with each other; thus becoming a society. And that society has a transverse affect on the individual and their psyche; thus, the way the individual may think and behave. Look at how riots and gang interaction happens. As more and more individuals come together, the thoughts and behavior of the individual is altered.
I say this, because our society's values, laws, morals, etc... are based off of judeo-christian values. As an American, you might not want to admit that your sense of right vs wrong is rooted in such things as the 10 commandments, but they are. And even if you're an atheist or non-christian, our society's laws and behavior have their roots from judeo-christian beliefs.
Could a certain aspect of training for nuclear weapons officers/enlisted say something like: "We have a paradox of believing that we shall not kill another human being, however our society also believes that it's permissible when done in self defense or to prevent potential harm"/? Yes, they could teach this basic principle without focusing on the ROOT of that concept. But Why? A person can complain that because of separation of church and state, the government shouldn't mention religion, but that's not only naive but simply inaccurate. The separation of church and state simply states that the government will not dictate what the official religion would be. And thus, has been interpreted as also meaning the government wouldn't endorse one religion over another. Quoting bible verses as a root source for our social norms, values, persona, etc... is not endorsing a particular religion. It's stating a "FACT". That is in fact where our social norms root from. Anyone in this country that doesn't like that, or agree with that, is in denial. When you've lived in countries where judeo-christian beliefs were NOT the root of their social norms, you'll notice the difference in the two societies.
So basically, the military is expected to train such people in that they may have a conflict and contradiction between what their military duties may require of them, and what they believe is right and wrong.... but the military isn't allowed to tell you WHY you believe such things are right or wrong.
Some can believe that they are a total free thinking individual, who has rationalized their thoughts and beliefs totally independent of their society, but they are wrong. You/we are products of our environment. We think and believe the way we do because of our society. The way our parents raised us. The way our teachers taught us. The way our friends interacted with us. If anything, the media and entertainment industry have gone out of their way to change the social thoughts and beliefs of our society. But our current laws and basic beliefs are still based on judeo-christian teachings. Like it or not, it's the truth. There just happens to be a group of people that don't want to accept that. And if anything similar is brought up; e.g. christmas trees, easter, 10 commandments, etc... then they see it as the government endorsing or dictating religion in our country; thus violating the separation of church and state. In fact, it's simply certain people's ignorance.
And it isn't as if the Air Force is trying to proselytize anybody or teach Christianity. The class is designed to help these missile officers understand what they would be doing, and why it would be moral to "turn the key." Some religions have differing standards of morality. Some are anti-war. Should the US, in an effort not to step on any religion's or person's moral worldviews, stop the nuclear program, or go ahead and get rid of the military all together?
Flyboy; that is actually a very profound argument. Many times in a court of law, as well life in general, it has been argued: By not disagreeing, you actually condone. I.e. If a student is being harassed by bullies, and you don't do anything to stop it, that you're condoning it. If someone says something that is wrong or liable, and you don't speak up against it, that you are agreeing with it.
Jehovah Witness, Amish, and some others will not join or be any part of the military. They put their faith in god, and they live in the country however it turns out. But in order to appease such a group, if we were to dismantle the military, would be not then be "Condoning" their beliefs? As such, we would be promoting their religion.
Closer to home. By trying to be "RELIGIOUS NEUTRAL" and not mentioning, displaying, promoting, talking about, etc... anything religious, are we not then PROMOTING and CONDONING Atheism? Which in itself, has actually been successfully argued by many atheists as being itself a religion. Not believing in a supreme being or god, IS still a belief. Whether that belief is secular, scientific, etc... it's still a belief. As such, it should be just as respected as judeo, christian, islam, budhist, Wicca, scientology, etc... But to be 100% "Religious Neutral" is not possible. By disavowing any consciousness to discuss a "Supreme being", you are promoting and condoning the belief in "No supreme being".
See, Atheism IS a belief. As such, a religion. You can't take religion and belief out of the equation. All you can do is have different beliefs have respect for each other. But discuss and consider nothing, IS condoning and promoting a belief. Atheism.
This training program makes no sense. If you read sprog's first post, he states he is atheist, so how is the introduction of bible stories from the old and new testament going to influence a non-Christian believer?
Probably the same effect as if the Santeria manual or the Islamic Koran or the Wicca Book of Shadows were used as the basis to teach moral values to a Christian.
Is it the USAF's position that it is impossible to train "missile ops" without the introduction of Christianity?
Is the Muslim missileer going to even pay attention to these bible stories?
"Military Morals" need not be tied to any sect of religion, be it Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, or Pastafarian.
To say that our morals as Americans are defined by Christian values is a slap in the face to any moral non-Christian. Contrary to right-wing beliefs, it is entirely possible to be both moral and atheist.
Are there no moral atheists?
Are there no moral Hindus?
Are there no moral Wiccans?
It's obvious the USAF knew it was doing something inappropriate, and has admitted so:
It also isn't correct to simply state that our legal system has solely Judeo-Christian origins.
The legal system in the United States, for the most part, has historical roots in English Common Law. The Saxons had started this up by at least the 5th Century, and Christianity didn't come to Britain until the 7th. This is from Thomas Jefferson's writings on the matter.
There are also Civil Law elements in the U.S., as Louisiana uses this is part. The Civil Law has origins in pre-Christian Rome, and it is where the idea of codification of laws originated. That is, Rome is the great-great grandfather of statutory law. Statutes are a huge part of the legal structure in the United States. The order of priority for finding a legal precedent : The Constitution, Federal/State statutes (if any), Federal/State Regulations (if any), then case law to fill the gaps and tell us what the Constitution and statutes/regs. mean.
Christianity was a sweeping force both in Continental Europe and Britain throughout the Middle Ages and beyond, and it would be naive to say that the influence of the Church played no role in the development of English Common Law or the Continental Civil Law. Nonetheless, the roots of these institutions are pre-Christian, and as with many laws, include provisions barring immoral conduct. Pre-Christian Britain banned theft, murder, etc. When we say that something is illegal/immoral on its face, it is called "malum in se." That means that even if there were no law to bar the action, it would still be very morally troublesome. Thus, Christianity has no monopoly on morality.
I consider myself a moral atheist. There was a campaign a few Christmases ago, where buses in some major city (NYC or DC, maybe?) had advertising purchased by an atheist group. The message was "just be good for goodness sake."
Personally, I don't care if someone is Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or part of a cult worshipping Kermit the Frog. A person of any of these faiths can be moral, and can certainly also be immoral.
I wouldn't say that the inclusion of these Bible verses will influence a non-believer. They are not meant to do so. They are simply there to show the morality of warfare (in this case nuclear warfare) based upon "Judeo-Christian" principles our country has been founded upon.
As Christcorp has said, there is no way that you can implement this program without a single touch of some kind of religion, whether implicitly or explicitly contained in the training materials.
This class is focused on morality. And especially when this is the focus, some kind of religion will be present in the materials, whether it is in the form of Bible verses, quotes by philosophers, or what not.
This is political correctness gone wild. It's a misinterpretaion of the US constitution- (one not adopted by the way by the US courts) and is pushed by those who have their own agenda of eliminating any recognition of religion in the United States.
In this case- This training makes perfect sense. How can you talk to military members about the ethical implications of killing without at least acknowledging that one of the fundamental laws of the Christian and Jewish faiths state: "Thou shalt not kill"? Well over half the country professes to be Christian- (something like 75%). Are they just to ignore talking about how their religion justifies what on the surface is a basic and fundamental ethical commandment? Those who are flogging this horse would have you believe that all you really need to do is say: "it's not an ethical dilemma REGARDLESS of what you believe because we say it's not". Uh huh. Ethics and how to reconcile confliicts with something deeply ingrained in a person needs to acknowledge what is the cause of the conflict. So - if you can't talk to 75% of the population and acknowledge that there is a tension between what the job may call upon them to do and what they believe- and what the justification that allows a soldier to kill, then how do you propose to alay thse ethical issues? By saying that you have agreed to fire a weapon designed to kill mass numbers of people on orders? That's a statement of what you must do- not how you can do so and live with your innermost beliefs.
When we go into predominantly Muslim nations- we learn about some basic tenets of the Koran. Why? Not because because the military is proselytizing for Islam, but because you can not successfully influence the population function if you have no understanding of what is one of, if not the, driving force in the country you are in.
As the US gets more diverse in religious belief- I assume that this course would also identify the source of the religious dilemma that soldiers of other faiths face and how they are reconciled. You can't mention every existing religion and don't need to if there is no significant population of members who practice the religion- but to ignore mentioning how Christians deal with the ethical implications of killing in wartime is to basically just pretend. The law allows killing by soldiers as long as it is done under lawful order- but that is not an explanation of why it is ethically permissable for a Christian, (or a Jew, or a Moslem) to kill in Wartime. But a discussion of Just War theory best articulated by Thomas Aquinas would do that- at least for the Christian. Unfortunately these folks would have you not discuss that because it would necessarily discuss the forbidden book . So the ethics class becomes : "well the government says it's ok- if you have a problem with it- resolve it on your own."
IMO this is all just part of a campaign to restrict the free exercise of religion and functionally re-write the First Amendment so that the Government is not only restricted from establishing a national church or recognizing the primacy of one religion over another, (which is what the Establishment clause says) but actually is banned from even recognizing that religions exist and are practiced by the vast majority of the population. In this case- they would rather not recognize the source of the dilemma and speak to it if it means actually recognizing religion of any type.
This training makes zero sense.
The use of the Christian bible to attempt a justification for killing makes no sense to a Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or any other non Christian soldier.
And using it in an official US Govt / military justification certainly could be seen as an endorsement of one particular sect.
Morality and ethics exist outside of religion.
For you they exist outside religion. But a training course on the ethics of killing given to a military audience which by any calculation is at least half christian - yet doesn't acknowledge that the source of those members ethical dimma really is what makes no sense. And a reasonible way to deal with the ethical dilemmas associated by moslem soldiers or buddhist soldiers is not to deny that they have ethical contradictions, it is to reconcile what their basic traditions and beliefs are with the justifications that allow them to function. It makes no sense to just pretend that those ethical contradictions don't exist because someone else doesn't share them.
And- acknowledging that the population or the military members you are supposed to be teaching is not prohibited by the 1st Amendment.
Incorrect assumption on your part, I have stated no position of my own about any religious affiliation, denomination, participation or adherence that I may or may not have. You seem to think that if someone recognizes that there should be a separation of the Govt and the Christian Church that they must be atheist or agnostic. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
I can, however, logically deduct that morality and ethics CAN and DO exist outside of any religion, including Christianity.
Even those with a Chrsitian background can certainly make a distinction between justified and unjustified killings without need for biblical instruction. Going down the "My version of god says it's OK to kill them" road seems a little unnecessary.
I don't disagree with that, but to say that the bible needs to be the instruction manual is tantamount to a US Govt endorsement barred by Amendment #1. The news report doesn't state that the Quran or the Book Of The Dead is also being used in classes titled "Islamic Just War Theory" or "Buddhist Just War Theory." I am assuming that even non-Christian missileers (such as sprog) are also required to attend a bible-themed USAF-sanctioned training course.
Certainly it's not offensive for those of the same sect, but to have official US Air Force-mandated training using the Christian bible certainly may be. Even Christians should recognize this, as the next time it might not be the Christian bible that is being used, and any "new" book might offend them, right?
If you think it's OK, simply substitute "Quran" or "Bhagavad Gita" or "Dianetics" for "bible" and "Islam" or Hinduism" or "Scientology" for "Christianity" and see if it still would be OK.
That's all from me about this.
Bruno, you bring up some great points that I totally forgot about. (I've been retired for 12 years now). When I went to North Africa in the 80's and I went to the middle east during and after gulf war I in the early-mid 90's, I was in fact given information about the muslim religion. The military wasn't trying to convert me to being a muslim. They were trying to educate me on the people of the region. Both civilians and "Possibly" even my enemies.
Whether Luigi or anyone else wants to admit it, we are a product of our society, and our country and our laws are indeed based on Judeo-Christian backgrounds. I never said it was solely FOUNDED on those principles; but that there is indeed a judeo-christian background. When the overwhelming majority of a country's people profess to be a particular religious background/belief, the morals, values, ethics, etc... of that society will in fact be influenced by those backgrounds/beliefs. If not, you'd probably have your women walking 5 paces behind you; cutting off the hands of thieves; throwing people off of towers for punishment against crimes; along with other types of laws like "Sharia Law". Point is; our country is predominantly christian, and our beliefs, laws, morals, values, etc... have much of their roots from that background. Even an atheist will/would be influenced by this background as they were growing up. So yes, an atheist can be moral, but you don't design your beliefs, morals, values, etc... all in one day. It's started when you are born. You are a product of your environment. You may alter some of your beliefs and values over time, but they will still have their foundation.
The class in question is/was designed to teach/educate those who may have a moral conflict with performing such military duties. There very well may be some who have no moral conflicts at all. "Kill them all, and let god sort them out" mentality. In those cases, such a class shouldn't affect or offend them at all. Maybe a muslim missile officer in the U.S. air force believes he's doing God's will, and therefor it's totally fine to blow up someone with a nuke. Point is: If anyone in the U.S. Air Force has any moral conflicts with potentially killing other people, (And they haven't already claimed to be a conscientious objector and gotten out by now), then those morals that they have that are conflicting came from society. Sorry, that's where they came from. You can't learn and develop morals independently. It's not possible. You can change, alter, etc... your beliefs over time; but the premise of your values, morals, etc... come from your existence in your society. And our society and it's values, morals, beliefs, laws, etc... have been effected to where they are, from a Judeo-Christian background of people.
Sorry if someone doesn't like that answer. They can rationalize it and believe it's not true. But it is true. Not because I say so, but because that is the formation and founding of our country. Religious freedom my Christian Sects in Europe was actually one of the main beginnings and influences in the new land. And while you may not consider yourself a puritan, amish, protestant, catholic, mormon, Jewish, Jehovah Witness, Assembly of God, or any other religion that believes in the principles of the Old Testament and/or Jesus Christ and the New Testament; the fact remains that you have indeed grown up and have been Socialized based on those morals and values. Not that you've been indoctrinated in those religions, but into their social norms. Again, this is fact, whether you want to agree or not. Just like if you were born and raised in China among budhists or in Saudi Arabia among muslims. You will have been socialized into their morals, norms, beliefs, etc...
So I agree that you can not understand Where you are, or where you're going, if you don't know where you came from. We're talking social engineering, NOT RELIGION. But most of the worlds societies have their morals, norms, beliefs, etc... based on a religious foundation. And our country's was predicated on the Christian beliefs. Again; facts.
Am I missing something, or are we just getting a little argumentative here?
Granted, this is about politics AND religion...
Of course thst entire premise is false, but let's assume it was 100% true.
Does that allow an official US Govt/US Air Force to endorse the moral/ethical teachings of one particular religious sect over any other? i.e. "The bible says it's OK to launch a missile and kill 100,000, so go ahead and press the button."
Of course not. It takes not one minute to realize that a military training course using any specific religious instruction book as the primary instruction text clearly violates the establishment clause.
And the Air Force has admitted as much, as they have ceased the course and issued a statement saying what they did was inappropriate.
The premise is not false. You may believe that you are an island, and that all your beliefs, morals, values, and actions are independently developed, but you would be wrong. That's why you'll find that different societies and cultures have different sets of values, morals, beliefs, etc...
You said that atheists can be moral. Of course they can. But what is moral? Is being a cannibal moral? In some societies it is. Is killing your wife moral if she disobeys you? In some cultures it is. You can believe that you established your morals totally independent of society, but you'd be wrong. You are a product of your society. And our society is affected in large part by the Christian beliefs.
That doesn't mean you are forced to adopt the Christian religion. And the air force teaching people where their morals derive from, and thus potential moral conflict, is not promoting a religion. And the only reason the air force ceased this training, is not because the agree its wrong. But because of political correctness.
In the interest of disclosure I am a Christian youth pastor. I have never served, but I have counseled many HS young people on the moral "dilemma" some face when making the decision to serve. They want to know from a biblical perspective what is right. It is something that needs to be addressed, and many can't and I believe shouldn't separate ANYTHING they choose to do from what they have learned from the bible. That is a basic belief of Christianity. It is a Christians source of truth. To not address those issues from the source is silly. I wish every soldier to have confidence in what they are doing is right, and if they are Christian to not reconcile those issues from a biblical perspective is a disservice. JMPO. I am not implying that others outside of Christianity do not have morals, but it's baffling to me that others with different beliefs wouldn't want their "Christian" fellow soldiers able to dispense their duty without doubt. - Now let's think about something... Do you as a non Christian soldier want the majority of your platoon, flight, company..whatever to have doubts as to the morality of your mission? When you take away the Christian soldiers source of morality and try to explain it away by other means it seems hollow at best. I would hope they would eventually offer that class again in some form even if they make it optional.
So the official US Air Force spokesperson is lying?
It's not politically correct. What did you expect him to say?
In your mind, you believe that the air force was trying to CONVERT all those taking the class to Christianity. They weren't doing any such thing. However; our society has become so PC, that if ANYONE complains about ANYTHING; especially if it's politically to the right or religious to the right; then the offensive topic is simply removed.
In our PC world where tolerance is pretty much one sided; e.g the majority must be tolerant of the minority, but the minority is not expected to be tolerant of the majority; it's simply "Easier" to remove the subject in question than to demonstrate that it's not religious in nature, but rather the basis of sociology and thus how a society has developed. But again; it's simply easier to remove the offensive subject. That is what the majority is expected to do when the minority complains.
Separate names with a comma.