Smoking Gun proves Mandatory Army Spiritual Fitness Test is Religious Test, Unconstitutional

Foxhole Atheist, Dustin Chalker's Motivational Poster based on his survey results.

My (civilian) wife just took the controversial Global Assessment Tool / Soldier Fitness Tracker survey a few days ago, and she, like myself and hundreds of other foxhole atheists, failed the Spiritual Fitness section based on her honest answers. My wife did screen captures of all of it and I think you should see some things that got by the initial MAAF-leak (denoted with *).

There are some major problems with the new data. The new ‘Spiritual’ questions are much more offensive than the first 5.  They are also much more of a smoking gun.

[on a scale from 1 – 5] :

1) I often find comfort in my religion or spiritual beliefs  – This completely shatters the smokescreen / illusion that spirituality is the concept of “team spirit” or “being spirited / excited”. This is a smoking gun if I ever saw one. And I saw more than one.

2) In difficult times I pray or meditate – This suggests that you need to pray or meditate during difficult times. I understand that there are exceptionally rare instances of atheists who meditate, but in this sense it is clearly being used in a religious context. Don’t see the connection? In one of the extremely lengthy training modules for the Spiritual Fitness section that the wife and I both failed, they linked to this page to describe how to meditate.

3) I attend religious services – This is just a blatant ‘Screw you, people who respect the constitution’ variation of the “I am a spiritual person” smokescreen version of the question that I reported when the story broke.

Waiver to use our results – Cryptic as this is, I am extremely uncomfortable with our spiritually unfit results being used to design future education and training, and to make recommendations to senior leaders. The SFT user-guide‘s FAQ section says:

Q. What happens to the information I provide by completing the GAT?

A. It is stored electronically and confidentially.  Aggregate information will be used by the Army to make HR decisions.

FYI: HR means Human Resources. This means they are definitely allocating humans and/or resources based on these results. Even though my wife chose not to let the army use her data, many atheists did (including me). So, money is being ear-marked for the Spiritual Fitness concept based in part on the data coming from MY answers, not to mention the hundreds of other foxhole atheists who have started to come forward since I broke the story. This is absolutely infuriating.

Results

My wife’s scores were different than mine, but one thing is for sure on this capture. Despite what the CSF suggest, there is absolutely no indication that the CSF Training Modules are optional at all. After you finish, it just shows your results and gives you 1 option: “Continue to the CSF Training Modules”. I’ll be back next week with my take on those. Somehow they are even more offensive!

47 thoughts on “Smoking Gun proves Mandatory Army Spiritual Fitness Test is Religious Test, Unconstitutional

  1. Prof_X

    I guess I am on of the “exceptionally rare instances of atheists who meditate”
    I see nothing wrong with it. It is a mechanism to sort your thoughts and regulate stress.

  2. Sean

    I just closed the window when I was done. I have not received an AKO email telling me I have to go through the modules, yet, and intend to ignore any that may come in. If my command gets involved, I will explain the results to them. Until that happens, it is none of their business.

  3. Marvin

    Why do you say “there are exceptionally rare instances of atheists who meditate”? Surely you don’t think there’s anything religious about meditation. I would be willing to wager that among those who meditate — at least in the United States — atheists outnumber theists.

  4. Liz

    How long have you been with the Army?

    Because if THIS is your beef… you have a lot to look forward to.

    And, I realize you don’t get the fact that “close” is a relative term but it is. I don’t think that most Christians, Muslims or Jews believe that they are connected to six billion other people in the same way as they are connected to their best friends… or even their facebook friends.

    A previous post of yours states that:

    “not sure how ‘mandatory’ this training is, but it’s certainly possible”

    Why don’t you…

    ASK THE ARMY?

    Ask a counselor?

    Express on ICE that you are not happy with the test?

    Take the survey about the test?

    Volunteer to design a better test for spiritual fitness?

    I mean, our guys are dying for lack of interpreters because THE ARMY STILL DOESN’T REALIZE THAT THE MAJORITY OF AFGHANS DON’T SPEAK PERSIAN AND THE MAJORITY OF ITS LOCAL TRANSLATORS DON’T SPEAK ENGLISH.

    But you’re worried about a non-mandatory training module that is the first release after the prototype? Seriously? Wouldn’t starting up an atheist non-worship group at the chapel be more useful?

    1. Justin Post author

      ASK THE ARMY?

      Check. Mixed results. Screen Captures don’t say anything about the training being optional, but the test itself is definitely MANDATORY under threat of UCMJ Army-wide.

      Express on ICE that you are not happy with the test?

      I’m raising this issue with IG, EO, chain of command, Keith Olberman (tonight)….

      Take the survey about the test?

      Did that. Last year too. Didn’t seem to make one bit of difference.

      Volunteer to design a better test for spiritual fitness?

      I did. It looks like this: ” ”

      But you’re worried about a non-mandatory training module that is the first release after the prototype? Seriously? Wouldn’t starting up an atheist non-worship group at the chapel be more useful?

      It most certainly SEEMS mandatory. After you finish the test, it simply gives you insulting results and tells you to continue to your training (see pic). What makes you think that I haven’t started along the lines of forming a group at the chapel? : My wife and I launched this a few days ago

  5. Sterling L. DeRamus

    Do not take this test! Pursuant to the U.S. Constitution, Article VI, Clause 3, no religious test may ever be given for any position under it. This is a blatant violation of Article VI and no one in the military can force another member of the military to reveal their religious views. Someone forgot to get JAG check off on this idiotic test.

    P.S.: I noticed that this is the test for a family member. Are these the same questions as asked of a service member?

    Thanks!

    1. Justin Post author

      This test is mandatory for all soldiers under threat of Article 15 UCMJ punishment (A serious thing, if you are unfamiliar). To answer your questions about the possibility of multiple tests. I can’t remember all of the 20 pages of questions, and it wont let me ‘go back and take it again’. I am really hoping that a soldier out there somewhere takes screen captures of every bit of it and sends them to MRFF. Also, I’d like to finally know as well. But these questions are certainly inappropriate for military spouses as well.

    2. Sean

      I am an atheist and I think this test is stupid too, but I don’t think its unconstitutional. Article VI, Clause 3 says that religious tests cannot be used as a qualification for a position of public trust. Therefore all the army has to say for this to be constitutional is that in determining whether or not a person was qualified for a promotion, the spiritual fitness index was not used. They can still use it to decide if they want the person to be promoted, but it can’t serve as a qualification. Essentially, if they don’t like atheists, they could say “Is this person qualified? Yes. Is this person desirable? No.”

  6. L

    You can still be an atheist and pass this test. Why is your life not connected to other lives and the whole world? Ones mortal power to affect the lives of others has nothing to do with god innately…. It’s clear what they’re looking for, morality through religious questioning. If you’re a moral atheist you’re good to go. If you’re not, why the hell are you joining the army?…. -a lesbian atheist anthropology major at a top liberal arts college

    1. Justin Post author

      Did you look at the screenshot?

      1) I am a spiritual person. 1 out of 5
      In the way that the Army defines Spiritual Fitness (their Spiritual Fitness Guide is hard to find a page without a bible quote on it), I don’t think this is the definition of ‘spiritual’ that you are looking for.

      2) My life has LASTING meaning. 2 out of 5
      Abraham Lincoln = lasting
      His dad? Not so much.
      statistically, my life will not likely have lasting meaning. But it’s possible.

      3) I believe that in some way my life is CLOSELY connected to ALL humanity and all the world. 1 out of 5
      So you feel closely connected to all 6 billion of your closest friends? You realize that it is also pretty much the soldier’s job to kill parts of the humanity that he is supposedly closely connected to? This question is impossible to answer anything but 1 out of 5 in an intellectually honest way, no matter what your religious preference is.

      4) The job my partner is doing in the military has LASTING meaning. 2 out of 5
      See #2

      5) I often find comfort in my religion or spiritual beliefs. 1 out 5
      Why did you skip this question in your comment? You think you would have no problem answering this? Notice how the question also equates (correctly) ‘religion’ and ‘spiritual beliefs’. Yeah… You should see the training.

      6) In difficult times I pray or meditate. 1 out of 5
      I wasn’t born with enough middle fingers for this one. This is a more subtle version of the extremely offensive “There are no atheists in foxholes” myth that is repeated more often to my face than you would imagine.

      —notice the screen capture, where the answers were 5 out of 5 or 4 out 5 for the remaining 4 spiritual questions from that area of the test—

      2 other religious questions were on the test that just might trip up atheists:

      7) I attended Religious Services in the last 4 weeks. 1 out of 5
      REALLY? You think you could have PASSED THIS??!?? You certainly don’t seem to have a clue what its like being an atheist in the military either. And you certainly seem really ready to alter the wording of the questions to take the side of the religious community. Very strange.

      8) During the past four weeks I did something that utilized my Spirituality skills. 1 out of 10.
      Seriously. Read more carefully. It must have been easy to miss all of this stuff as it was IN GIANT RED BOXES WITH RED ASTERISKS!

      1. Not the original L

        In the way that the Army defines Spiritual Fitness (their Spiritual Fitness Guide is hard to find a page without a bible quote on it), I don’t think this is the definition of ‘spiritual’ that you are looking for.

        Let me first say that, it’s unclear whether you are arguing against the test or against the implementation inside of the Army hierarchy. If you’re arguing against the test in itself, then the motives and beliefs of the authors are relevant. If you’re arguing against how the Army plans to use the test, then I concede that I have no knowledge of how that will work.

        On the first point, you argue that L‘s definition of spirituality is errant. I find it useful to look at what the authors of the test, Pargament and Sweeney have advocated as a definition.

        Spirituality refers to the continuous journey people take to discover and realize their spirit, that is, their essential selves. To put it another way, spirituality is a process of searching for the sacred in one’s life. From this developmental perspective, people can take any variety of pathways in the effort to develop the human spirit. Nature, music, exercise, loving relationships, scientific exploration, religion, work, art, philosophy, and study are just a few of the paths people follow in their efforts to grow spiritually. As long as people engage in these various means with the intent to enhance their search to discover and realize their essential selves, they are participating in the spiritual quest.

        This is taken from their American Psychologist article describing the development of the Spirituality test used in the Army Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program. The article is quite clear that their conception of spirituality is one that focuses on the ability of the individual to find meaning in life and use that meaning as a coping mechanism against life’s stressors.

        The above quote couldn’t be more new-agey and non-offensive if it tried. Though it seems to have irked you.

        I will send you the article, if you’re interested.

        RE meditation: While it is clear to me that meditation originated from religious belief and based on its origins is a religious practice, the implementation seems like it can be entirely non-religious (much like how yoga has become thoroughly secularized in America). Barb Fredrickson, to name one academic that I know of, has used meditation as a way of boosting the positive emotions in individuals, which research has shown to be beneficial to their overall well-being. As an aside, one of her collaborators, Sara Algoe, has worked with the Army to develop the positive psychology portion of the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program.

        1. Justin Griffith Post author

          First off, thanks for the reply. Quite an old story, and I invite you to look around. Spiritual Fitness gets dirtier and dirtier the more you look. I think you are looking for a positive way to spin this, which is fine. I encourage that sort of frank discussion with an open ended back and forth.

          I will send you the article, if you’re interested.

          And I will send you the Army’s definition of Spiritual Fitness, and which regulations it’s covered in. Actually, I’ll let you google them, only because I’m low on time. Guess which department they fall under? The Chaplaincy. Also, look at the 1987 DA Pamphlet definition of Spirituality and the newer (2000-something) SLIGHT but IMPORTANT modification of that same definition… They simply change one word. “or” becomes “and” and the whole meaning is shifted. It’s that kind of slow-creeping over the wall of separation between church and state that goes unchecked for 20 years and starts funding $30 million dollar Spiritual Fitness Centers (aka mega church) on Fort Hood etc…

          Also, you might want to check to see if your observation of Spiritual Fitness being secular falls in line with the army’s new Virtual Spiritual Fitness Center! [not a joke]
          http://www.spiritfit.army.mil/
          if you can’t get that link to work, check google cache.

    1. Justin Post author

      I specifically said that a minority of atheists practice meditation. But their instruction provided a LOT of metaphysical / religious imagery and context. I think it’s very clear that you didn’t click on the link that THEY provided on how to meditate.

      Let’s try this again.

      http://www.inthelight.co.nz/spirit/mantras.htm

      It’s an undeniably religious activity in this light. And no, this example is not isolated at all. It is quite representative of the careless use of the word spirituality they seem to employ. One minute, it means ‘rituals, like haircuts’ (I have no idea how I am spiritually unfit in this light…) the next minute it means ‘religion’. The smokescreen evaporates rather quickly when you actually take this test, and do the training.

      Oh, and read the Spiritual Fitness GUIDE! Out of the 70 pages, only a handful don’t have Bible quotes on them. One of those pages says “This page intentionally left blank”.

      1. ~L.K.

        As an absolute atheist (civilian), I do meditate. However, I don’t in times of stress or difficult times. Its an exercise at bedtime. With the wording there, I’d put it at a 2, purely for the ‘in the times of difficulty’ portion. Usually in times of difficulty or stress, I try to figure out a solution, not blank my mind.

        I am in agreement that there is issue with this test and situation, I just wanted to give an account of an atheist that meditates. I am in horror that its placed as religious. Its a great tool to lower your blood pressure and breathing and to balance the mind (and a great way to go to sleep if you’re having a hard time of that, maybe that’s a difficulty there?).

  7. AndrewFinden

    The US constitution is quoted above with the implication that it is being contravened, is it not? If so, could you please answer two questions:
    1) Which religion(s) is being established / required?
    2) What is being denied if one fails the spiritual (which can be secular) part of the survey?

    According to this article:

    “Researchers have found that spiritual people have decreased odds of attempting suicide, and that spiritual fitness has a positive impact on quality of life, on coping and on mental health,” says Cornum, who is director of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness.

    This seems to indicate that the Army thinks spirituality is important – but not mandatory, and that if you disagree, then there is no direct consequence.
    Again from NPR (Tuttle’s assessment is worth reading there too):

    There’s nothing about this assessment that indicates that you are fit or not fit to be a soldier,” says Cornum. She says the training module only offers ideas for developing one’s spiritual side. It is not mandatory and has no effect on one’s career.

    We hear very often from atheists that no one has the right to not be offended.. well.. if you find it offensive when the survey suggests you brush up on your spiritual fitness, then get over it. Admittedly it’s a very poor means of support – to do an electronic survey that gives computerised recommendations, but until you’re actually being discriminated against, while it’s just a case of being ‘insulted’ then get some thicker skin. Could be worse – people are actually being arrested at gun-point for their religious beliefs by other governments.

    1. Justin Post author

      See latest article. Read the Spiritual Fitness Guide… All cleared up?

      http://rockbeyondbelief.com/2011/01/14/msnbc-and-npr-cover-mandatory-soldier-fitness-tracker-tests-for-spiritual-fitness-religion/

      http://rockbeyondbelief.com/spiritual-fitness-guide/

      Also when you quote a senior officer in the Army by name, I have a hard time coming back to it. However, I respectfully disagree with this sentence:

      There’s nothing about this assessment that indicates that you are fit or not fit to be a soldier,

      This is the SOLDIER FITNESS Tracker, part of the Comprehensive SOLDIER FITNESS initiative. I failed (red bar, whatever you want to call it…) the Spiritual portion of the SOLDIER FITNESS Tracker. It most certainly implies that I am unfit as a soldier.

      We hear very often from atheists that no one has the right to not be offended.. well.. if you find it offensive when the survey suggests you brush up on your spiritual fitness, then get over it. Admittedly it’s a very poor means of support – to do an electronic survey that gives computerised recommendations, but until you’re actually being discriminated against, while it’s just a case of being ‘insulted’ then get some thicker skin. Could be worse – people are actually being arrested at gun-point for their religious beliefs by other governments.

      You didn’t notice the FACT that there are 220 others that have since come forward who also had a major problem with this test. 96% of them were Christians who felt like they aren’t Christian enough. I also find it hard to believe that someone like Findo thinks that 220 people who serve the US military need to get thicker skin. My friend Dustin Chalker survived 8 IED blasts, and earned his Combat Medic Badge recently. Then he came back with some mTBI, and when he took this survey he was extremely offended. But he needs to get thicker skin… I bet you have a yellow ribbon on your car too. Please remove it.

      And just because ‘it could be worse in other countries’, doesn’t mean ‘do nothing about stuff here’. That’s ridiculous. It’s analogous to this:
      Reasonable Guy: “That politician is corrupt, he accepts bribes.”
      Findo: “Yeah it could be worse, he could have committed genocide. That happens in some countries. Get thicker skin.”

      This is an easy fix. They’ve already started removing some of the offensive aspects of the training in the last few days. All because people came forward. That’s how you affect change.

      1. AndrewFinden

        Hi Justin, thanks for your reply

        All cleared up?

        Not quite. Thanks for the links, though they don’t seem to answer either of the two questions I asked. And I asked those two questions because I think they show that the it doesn’t actually violate the constitution as is claimed, but is more an issue of being offended about being told that one is not spiritually fit (I don’t agree that it implies you’re not fit to be a soldier – as the NPR article pointed out, it is simply a response to the research that recognises that those who do cultivate spirituality tend to be better equipped to deal with depression etc. – I agree with the commenter on the first link you posted. I see it as an assesment that one can take or leave as they wish.)

        My comment about getting thicker skin was someone facetious – simply echoing what evangelical atheists all too often tell those who they offend. But unlike some evangelical atheists, I don’t think the test is in any way designed to cause offence; as it says, it’s a response to the research. Perhaps it was unnecessary of me to put it that way.

        You worry about your response being used to justify more spirituality training, but there is a clear option for this not to happen, so how is that a problem?

        I bet you have a yellow ribbon on your car too. Please remove it.

        I don’t own a car and I have no idea what a yellow ribbon is (I’m not even American – perhaps why I’m a little more dispassionate about the issue.)

        It’s analogous to this…

        Not quite.. for I’m arguing that nothing illegal or wrong is being done. If you were to show that it was unconstitutional, it would be analogous, and I would indeed be wrong to made such a comment.. but then, I suppose I’m not the one offended so I can cut some slack ;)

        Just to reiterate – I think it’s a pretty poor means of support and is certainly flawed, but I can’t see that it’s unconstitutional or intentionally offensive (I think it’s only offensive if you make certain assumptions about it’s purpose which I think are unjustified).

        1. Justin Post author

          What is the clear option for my response not being used to justify more spirituality training? The Army is going to use these results for HR decisions NO MATTER WHAT. If you click the ‘No don’t use my data’ option, you are simply opting out of letting them use your data PUBLICLY. My answers, and all atheists answers ARE definitely being used to justify the allocation of money and resources for Spiritual Fitness.

          Yeah never mind the whole Yellow Ribbon thing, I checked your blog and realized where you were from shortly after I wrote it. I felt it would be disingenuous of me to remove it after the fact so I left it unedited. It was a jab at your patriotism that was a reaction to your facetious remark about thick skin. We’re even sort of.

          Did you read the Spiritual Fitness Guide? Is there any doubt in your mind as to whether or not the Spiritual Fitness concept is promoting 1) Religion over non-religion 2) One religion over other religions ?

          Also, Article VI para 3 is clearly being violated by the test itself.

      2. AndrewFinden

        The more I think about it, the more I realise the problem really is using a computer to give robot responses instead of having a real person who can think outside those programmed boxes and actually empathise and interact with a person instead of give a one siye fites all response. As I’m basicallz dispassionate about the issue, and you’re obviously verz passionate, I think it best for me to leave you to it – thanks for the interesting and pleasant reply though. Cheers.

  8. Sorenna

    Justin- thank you for sharing this. I have read reports where the military is becoming frightenly religious and we do not need a religious military. Is that not what we are supposed to be fighting in the Middle East?

    I am glad you are standing up. You are also very smart which is why you “failed” the silly questions like, “My life has lasting meaning.”

    In University I took several classes that dealt with archeology and I can tell you that most of our lives will produce no lasting anything, good or bad. There may be a pottery shard we leave behind or a grinning skull someone may dig up. But it is a narcissist who thinks our little lives will bring about anything lasting.

    Keep fighting. You have a right to be in the service AND be a smart atheist. Wish I had your courage.

  9. Akhmad

    Whenever someone says “no atheists in foxholes”, point out the fact that atheists are weeded out in these type of selection processes, how can an atheist fight for their country when they are denied the ability to do so based on a religious test? How pathetic!

    1. Justin Post author

      I understand why people say this sort of thing, but it does serve to insult both Foxhole Atheists, AND my religious battle buddies. Religion has nothing to do with how fit a soldier is. It just has no baring at all. Religious people are not automatically stupid/easily manipulated on topics outside of religion. (And I don’t even think they are stupid at all. I used to be a creationist!)

  10. George

    On goarmy.com to start my application it asks my religion….the option for Atheist IS there. Why do they want to know, unless they are already stamping my dog tags?

    1. Justin Post author

      That’s a separate issue altogether, George. There are many people who feel like that the Army has no business asking that question, especially because of where the answer shows up. It will be prominently displayed on your ERB (Enlisted Record Brief) or ORB (for officers), and this form is used to evaluate Soldiers for various things. It plays a major part in promotion, especially for the senior enlisted ranks. When the majority of people in America, and therefor also in the military, are repeatedly found to be distrustful of atheists (or pagans, or muslims, etc.), it correctly raises some eyebrows. Also, many people feel that the question violates the no-religious-test clause of the constitution.

      As for me? It’s troubling, but it’s not my fight. Good eye, though.

  11. JoAnn

    Justin, what do you mean by “it’s not my fight”? You are the one that has a problem with it. If you have such a problem with it, then how is it not your fight to attack it? That is the same as if an African American who complained about the discrimination caused by literacy tests in the 1950’s said, “But it’s not my fight.” If it’s not your fight, whose is it?

    1. Justin Post author

      JoAnn, I think you are confusing two separate subjects. The Survey/GAT/Spiritual Fitness Test issue is ‘my fight’. The other issue that George raised was about having your religious preference listed on things like your dogtags and ‘enlisted records brief’ (ERB), etc. THAT is not my fight, but I welcome anyone to champion this as well, because who knows what someone will do when they are sitting on a promotions selection board, and they get a packet from ‘SGT Griffith, Atheist…’ I think it would be much better to just hand in a packet that said “SGT Griffith, Soldier” (etc.)

  12. Chris

    Like the article, but I do have an issue with your views on nonbeliever meditation. Meditation is not a theistic practice. Buddhism- one of the main influences of meditation in the west since 1960- can be considered atheistic. Buddha is not a “God” to anyone, just a teacher who layed out the steps to inner peace.

    Meditation is about contemplation and self, or lack thereof. None of this is even spiritual, let alone religious. Many atheists- including Buddhists and many Hindu sects- enjoy meditation for its proven medical and psychological benefits. Contemplating ultimate reality is not religious- it is what astronomers and physicists do every day.

    I would humbly request you either revise your article to reflect this, or take it into consideration in the future.

    1. Chris

      Oh, but I feel it is worth mentioning that despite my quibble with your take on meditation and the “exceptionally few” of us atheists who practice (not actually exceptional, or few, at all in fact) that I did find this article from StumbleUpon, and I will be “upvoting” it to increase the exposure it gets. This issue is very important.

      1. Justin Griffith Post author

        Thanks! Yeah I probably should have corrected that “exceptionally few” bit back when this article first hit. I just was overwhelmed by the Army’s take on it, not seeing any other way to look at it. I do still hold the opinion that the percentage of atheists that meditate is probably relatively low, but I haven’t seen any polling data. Either way, they certainly aren’t meditating the way that the Army described it to me. Once again, thanks for the feedback.

    2. Justin Griffith Post author

      Appreciate your respectful tone and discourse here, quite a rare thing it seems. I’m going to have to decline from revising this extremely old article, but I have gotten similar comments from plenty of atheists to know that there are indeed non-religious ways to meditate. I believe I referenced that already in the original post. Anyway, as I had not personally known anything about non-religious meditation, I was only exposed to the version reinforced by the army training provided. Did you click on the link? It’s impossible not to draw the conclusions that I did. And trust me, I’m holding back in that post. I’d recommend looking into the Army’s new Virtual Spiritual Fitness Center (not joking), and definitely check out that link they provided to explain how to meditate (in every religion no less… bizarrely ultra-inclusive of all the major religions and in great detail, but leaving off secular meditation entirely). It seems that your argument is with them, and I suggest you send them an email.

      Thanks for the discussion, Chris. Cheers.

      1. Happy Chappy

        Justin, I’d like to engage you in a full conversation offline about your experience. I am a humanist trying to make my way through the Chaplaincy and am deeply interested with how other secularists, the non-religious, et al, are receiving this sort of material from DoD. I know the reasons why the GAT exists and have been exposed to some of the studies indicating how faith/spirituality/etc factors into stress “resiliency.”
        j.bailey.books at gmail if you would like to initiate contact.
        Like Chris, I Stumbled Upon this article.
        To George’s point, it is important for the Army to know an individual’s theistic (non)beliefs in order to provide the appropriate rites, rituals, and services in a variety of situations (to include KIA). The problem is that these things do carry stigma when you consider that the majority of soldiers (and therefore superiors, promotion boards, and so forth) may find it difficult to separate their biases from bureaucratic functions. An issue I have been confronting in my service without sufficient resolution.
        I hope that a conversation with you, and those who have replied here in respectful discourse, will help me resolve these tensions.
        V/R,
        Happy Chappy

  13. SGT LB

    Thought you might be interested to know I just took this survey today, and all of the questions you’d marked with an asterisk were conspicuously missing. (I do remember seeing them last time I took it.) The first four questions were still there, though.

  14. monica

    Well, I’m just a female Brit civilian who’s wandered into this discussion, albeit rather belatedly. I’m an atheist, as you might expect, being a Brit. I think Justin is quite right in believing this to be a (not very well) hidden religious agenda, rather than those who are trying to look on the bright side of non-religious “spirituality”. There really is no such thing. A “spirit” is a non-pyhsical entity which, the religious believe, survives after death. We atheists don’t agree, and find enough meaning for our existence merely from the simply incredible fact that we have been born at all. For every live human from a successful conception, about 40m other potential humans didn’t make it. Don’t tell me that God leaned down and riffled through the sperm to select me and have a purpose for me. I’m here through luck/chance and it’s my very great good fortune.
    This Spiritual Fitness is a discriminatory device and everyone, religious or not, should be highly suspicious of it. What discriminates in your favour today could easily discriminate against you tomorrow, and if that discrimination is based on evidence-free supersition, you should be even more afraid. And for those who seriously believe in such a ludicrous concept as “fundamental atheists” they should take note that it is secular governments who best preserve the freedom to worship as you choose – even if they do shake their heads in bewilderment as you do so. As indeed, I think your Founding Fathers so wisely knew.

    Here in Britain we’ve pulled the teeth of religion over centuries via the dear old Church of England. It’s a gentle institution fondly regarded even by atheists. Not many attend church, but everyone knows that if you do go, to enjoy the benefits of community support, you certainly don’t have to actually believe in a personal and judgemental god, or an afterlife. That’s why we’re not very good at dealing with fundamentalist Muslims. We think they’re mad.

  15. Robert

    Well said Monica, I was about to bring up the same thing about the “spirit” nonsense.

    Also with regard to the way the information gathered through the survey will be used, they will use it however they please regardless of what they might tell you now or what their real intentions are those can change.

    I don’t think it’s coming to this yet but we might remember a time in history when the Nazis made the Jewish population wear the Star of David on their clothing, seemed harmless enough at first…
    Maybe they took a similar survey to identify their “spiritual fitness” too.

  16. Marella

    My first thought when I read the spiritual question is to request a definition of spiritual, but as I read more and more of those outrageous questions I changed my mind.

    Now maybe I’m a bit more bolshie than others but if I were asked to take a clearly impertinent test like this, especially when the desired answers are so obvious it’s insulting and the results could have lasting consequences for my future, I would have no hesitation in lying through my teeth and giving those morons what they want. Then I would say they can’t use my answers.

    1. Justin Griffith Post author

      You have no way around your answers being used. They will be used in an anonymous / aggregated way to “make H.R. decisions”. This means that your answers go to funding more churches and Spiritual Fitness Centers.

      Also, answering dishonestly perpetuates the problem of “atheism = bad”. I’m proud of my journey to atheism. It was a long and difficult journey, and I refuse to be closeted about it now.

Leave a Reply