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Thread: Freedom From Religion Foundation calls for halt to Army Spiritual Fitness Survey

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    Elite Member ConstanceSpry's Avatar
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    Default Freedom From Religion Foundation calls for halt to Army Spiritual Fitness Survey

    FFRF calls for halt to Army ‘spiritual fitness’ survey - - Freedom From Religion Foundation - FFRF.org

    FFRF calls for halt to Army ‘spiritual fitness’ survey
    December 29, 2010

    On behalf of its currently active and former members in the Army, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) called today on the Secretary of the Army to halt its invasive and unconstitutional “spiritual fitness” survey and rehabilitation program.

    Foundation Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor wrote John McHugh, Secretary of the Army, asking him to stop the “spiritual fitness” assessment:

    “It is ironic that while nonbelievers are fighting to protect freedoms for all Americans, their freedoms are being trampled upon by this Army practice.”

    FFRF, a state/church watchdog with 16,000 members which also serves as the nation’s largest association of nontheists, noted that 15% of the U.S. population is not religious, but that surveys have shown that nearly 24% of all military personnel identify as atheist, agnostic or have no religious preference.

    Nonbelieving soldiers who took the survey told FFRF that when they answered the spiritual questions on the survey negatively, they received a low spiritual fitness score and were referred to a “spiritual fitness training program.”

    The Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program includes a mandatory “spiritual fitness” evaluation as one category of the Global Assessment Test. In the spiritual fitness category, soldiers are evaluated by how they rank statements on a spectrum from “not like me at all” to “very much like me.” The spiritual statements include:

    “I am a spiritual person.”
    “My life has lasting meaning.”
    “I believe there is a purpose for my life.”

    In their letter, Barker and Gaylor called the negative assessment for nonspiritual soldiers “deeply offensive and inappropriate.” “By definition, nontheists do not believe in deities, spirits, or the supernatural. The Army may not send the morale-deflating message to nonbelievers that they are lesser soldiers, much less imply they are somehow incomplete, purposeless or empty. As nontheists, we reject the idea that there is a purpose for life; we believe individuals make their own purpose in life.”

    Those who receive low “spiritual fitness” ratings are referred to a training program in which they are told, absurdly, that “Prayer is for all individuals.” They are encouraged to use “spiritual support as your armor or battle gear” and seek out chaplain guidance, and to consider “church” and “higher power.”

    “We are shocked that the training module resurrects a bogus Christian revisionist explanation for ceremonial flag folding, one which has been explicitly repudiated by the Department of Veteran Affairs,” noted Barker.

    FFRF cited Supreme Court case law mandating government neutrality and protecting freedom of conscience. The spiritual fitness evaluation, FFRF noted, is also in violation of Army equal opportunity provisions.

    “Service members have the constitutional right to decide whether to observe religious practices and what beliefs or non-beliefs to profess, accept or reject about life, meaning, spirits, etc. Neither CSF nor the Army may dictate what is orthodox in matters of conscience,” the letter concluded.

    The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., is a national association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics) that has been working since 1978 to keep church and state separate.

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    Elite Member MontanaMama's Avatar
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    That program sounds like something out of $cieno $ea-org and just as damn crazy. I love the name of the foundation.
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    Elite Member ConstanceSpry's Avatar
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    I am stunned they even have that survey, and especially that they can force people to attend a "spiritual fitness training program" if they "fail" the survey.

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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ConstanceSpry View Post
    The spiritual statements include:

    “I am a spiritual person.”
    “My life has lasting meaning.”
    “I believe there is a purpose for my life.”
    How are statements 2 and 3 spiritual? If you say no to questions 2 and 3, you are not a "nontheist" -- you are a "nihilist". And probably need some kind of therapy, not necessarily spiritual, though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MohandasKGanja View Post
    How are statements 2 and 3 spiritual? If you say no to questions 2 and 3, you are not a "nontheist" -- you are a "nihilist". And probably need some kind of therapy, not necessarily spiritual, though.
    Not sure I agree there. My life has meaning is kind of wishful thinking isn't it? And so is "I believe there is a purpose for my life."

    As an existentialist I kind of see those two statements as leaning towards theism. I'm an atheist. I'm here for the ride. I enjoy life and all that I have in it but I don't necessarily think in the grand scheme of things my life has any more "meaning" than a tomato's

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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gristledonna View Post
    Not sure I agree there. My life has meaning is kind of wishful thinking isn't it? And so is "I believe there is a purpose for my life."

    As an existentialist I kind of see those two statements as leaning towards theism. I'm an atheist. I'm here for the ride. I enjoy life and all that I have in it but I don't necessarily think in the grand scheme of things my life has any more "meaning" than a tomato's
    I don't know. You could find a nontheist meaning to your life by saying that your life, your job, and your charitable contributions contribute to the advancement of knowledge, of civilization, of humanitarianism, etc. And it wouldn't have any thing to do with a deity.

    By the way, I think you could reasonably interpret a tomato's life to have some kind of meaning and lasting purpose. It's a part of the food chain.

    If people care about you and depend on you for their physical well being (like children) or emotional health (like relatives and good friends might), then I think your life would have lasting purpose and intrinsic value even if you thought it didn't yourself - the "George Bailey effect".

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    Well again that seems like "wishful thinking" to me. I see what you mean and I guess I do think of my life that way as I live it. However they'd kick me out of the army then because I wouldn't answer those questions on the high side of the scale.

    I tend to think of life in a much more objective way I guess.

    I like what Carl Sagan says about it.

    [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Lm6pEhykhs&feature=related[/youtube]

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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gristledonna View Post
    Well again that seems like "wishful thinking" to me. I see what you mean and I guess I do think of my life that way as I live it. However they'd kick me out of the army then because I wouldn't answer those questions on the high side of the scale.

    I tend to think of life in a much more objective way I guess.

    I like what Carl Sagan says about it.

    [youtube]8Lm6pEhykhs[/youtube]
    Wait a second, aren't you giving some kind of lasting meaning to Carl Sagan's life, by posting clips of him? Thereby negating your thesis?

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    No I don't think so. All this, all the gossip and wars and drama and issues in the world. Every single thing we think is so important, even science or gazing at the stars or philosophizing (sp?) only matters to us here on this planet. So in the grand scheme of things I think nothing we say or do, even Sagan or Einstein really matters. It just matters to us. So we think it's important. It's a self contained system that could implode without so much as a whisper hitting the universe.

    Anyway now I'm depressing myself. But yeah that's pretty much how I see it.

    Did you watch the clip though, cause I think he says the same thing.

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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gristledonna View Post
    No I don't think so. All this, all the gossip and wars and drama and issues in the world. Every single thing we think is so important, even science or gazing at the stars or philosophizing (sp?) only matters to us here on this planet. So in the grand scheme of things I think nothing we say or do, even Sagan or Einstein really matters. It just matters to us. So we think it's important. It's a self contained system that could implode without so much as a whisper hitting the universe.

    Anyway now I'm depressing myself. But yeah that's pretty much how I see it.

    Did you watch the clip though, cause I think he says the same thing.
    Hold on - now you are talking the collective "We" instead of the individual "I". You can have meaning within a system, even if the system itself doesn't have an overall meaning per se.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MohandasKGanja View Post
    Hold on - now you are talking the collective "We" instead of the individual "I". You can have meaning within a system, even if the system itself doesn't have an overall meaning per se.
    Interesting point but I'm not sure I understand what you mean?


    My initial argument was to say that I don't think not thinking your life "has meaning" is something that automatically means you ought to seek therapy. to me its the way things are. All meaning we ascribe to live is self designed. There isn't any more inherent meaning in a human's life than there is in a tomato's.

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    I wonder what happens to anyone who openly observes a faith that is considered outside of the mainstream, such as Paganism? Are they forced to attend these re-education programmes? And what about Muslim, Jewish or Hindu soldiers? Are these courses tailored to fit all faiths and denominations or is the basis of the programme focused solely on or slanted heavily towards Christianity?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kittylady View Post
    I wonder what happens to anyone who openly observes a faith that is considered outside of the mainstream, such as Paganism? Are they forced to attend these re-education programmes? And what about Muslim, Jewish or Hindu soldiers? Are these courses tailored to fit all faiths and denominations or is the basis of the programme focused solely on or slanted heavily towards Christianity?
    I asked my husband (who was in the military for over 20 years), and he says he never had to fill out any "spiritual" surveys, nor did he experience or witness discrimination against non-christians. So these "surveys" and the requirement to attend spiritual fitness training (if there IS a requirement, the article just states "referred", and it might be optional) must be something fairly new.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MohandasKGanja View Post
    How are statements 2 and 3 spiritual? If you say no to questions 2 and 3, you are not a "nontheist" -- you are a "nihilist". And probably need some kind of therapy, not necessarily spiritual, though.
    A good point, except that we don't know the questions that lead up to 2 & 3. If all the prior questions have a theistic leaning, then those 2 questions would necessarily lead someone along the "spiritual" path.
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