Capt. Michael Cummings’s essay “Where did God Go in Afghanistan?,” published in the November 5, 2010 New York Times ‘At War’ blog, recounts how he attended a chapel service and found only a few men in attendance. To account for the dismal attendance, he speculates that religion, unlike gambling, smoking, and pornography, is “not cool.” The young men, he says, are not less moral than active believers; they are simply young men, far away from home, quite similar to college students. They want to taste the fruits of life but are not especially good or bad. His worry focuses on their attending religious services.
First Sgt. Kathleen Johnson’s reply “Where did God Go in Afghanistan? An Atheist Writes,” published on Nov. 16, 2010, celebrates what troubles Cummings. A veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, Johnson is the Veep of American Atheists and the founder of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers.
Johnson argues that in her experience the military was religiously coercive, that service members were forced to publicly practice their religion. She reports that there were “endless and constant mandatory prayer circles.” She’s convinced that “service members are openly religious only when they are compelled to be.” She provides details of atheists being threatened and ridiculed; during her deployments it was ‘not cool’ to eschew God.
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