Army Officer Wants Humanism Officially Recognized

Article excerpt

Byline: Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Soldiers who don't believe in God can go to war with "Atheist" stamped on their dog tags, but humanists and others with various secular beliefs are still officially invisible in the Army.

Maj. Ray Bradley is applying to be the first humanist recognized as a "distinctive faith group leader" by the Army. In the meantime, he can't be designated as a humanist on his official records or dog tags, although he can be classified as an atheist.

The distinction may not seem like a large one to those unfamiliar with humanism, but the Fort Bragg-based officer says it's the equivalent of being told that "Christian" is an acceptable designation, but not "Catholic."

"Humanism is a philosophy that guides a person," Bradley said. "It's more than just a stamp of what you're not."

Humanism's core beliefs range from the assertion that knowledge of the world is derived from observation and rational analysis to the conviction that working to help others also promotes individual happiness.

The issue is another sign of the growing willingness of military personnel at Fort Bragg and other military bases to publicly identify themselves as atheists, agnostics, humanists or otherwise without belief in a supernatural higher power and seek the same recognition granted to Christians, Jews and other believers.

"There are a lot more people with these beliefs than just Major Ray Bradley, but he's in a position where he can stand up and put in a request for this," said Jason Torpy, president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers and an Army veteran. …