US Army’s Virtual Spiritual Fitness Center Opens, Says Atheism = Faith

Perhaps due to the recent public pressure the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness department of the Army has been facing, they have opened a Virtual Spiritual Fitness Center. You should remember that their controversial Soldier Fitness Tracker is mandatory for all Soldiers, and was not available to the public.

The new Virtual Spiritual Fitness Center is very much available to the public.
(*** UPDATE: If the link is not working for you, here is a snapshot from google cache ***)

According to the interviews and media from CSF, and the answers I have received from them, they claim that the Spiritual Fitness concept has nothing to do with religion at all. I’ve heard that it has to do with ‘Human Spirit’, or ‘being spirited’. I think these statements are more than a little disingenuous. And now their own Virtual Spiritual Fitness Center is proving my point. They list several religious resources, and go out of their way to be inclusive all religions in their efforts to promote and define spirituality. It’s like they didn’t get their own script about spirituality meaning ‘Human Spirit’.

The site is also being populated with the latest headlines from Beliefnet, a specifically Christian religious mega-blog. Chicken Soup for the Soul is prominent, as is the ‘Biblical Hotline’. There are several links to contact Chaplains all over the world, as well as guides on ‘How To Become A…’ Christian, Muslim, Jew, etc. As hilarious as that sounds, the attempt to be all-inclusive of every religion fumbles even harder when it reaches its logical conclusion: Atheism is a Faith, just like all those other religions!

Well, I guess that settles it, right? Atheism is now officially a ‘faith’ or a ‘religion’ right? Of course not.

Most readers are familiar with the following classic responses:

“If atheism is a religion, then not collecting stamps is a hobby.”

“If atheism is a religion, then bald is a hair color.”

What is your favorite way to respond to this common derogatory accusation? I hear it all the time, and while these examples are classic and funny, I know there are others just like it.

Perhaps you have a totally different approach to answering this question, and if so, please comment.

Either way, the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness department of the Army seems to be digging further and further into the hole when it comes to defining ‘Spirituality’ or ‘Spiritual Fitness’. This is exactly what we all know they are talking about: religion, faith, gods, deities, souls, theology.

The thin smoke-screen of an excuse ‘Human Spirit, not religion!’ that keeps popping up in the media is also now, on their training materials for the Soldier Fitness Tracker. They use the ‘Human Spirit defense’ to ward off the (truthful) perception that Soldiers ‘fitness’ levels are being evaluated based on religion. Not to mention, ‘spiritually unfit’ Soldiers are then being forced to sit through mandatory Spiritual Fitness remedial training, equally religious.

The 'Human Spirit' defense for the mandatory Soldier Fitness Tracker in action. What does it look like these Soldiers are doing?

The Virtual Spiritual Fitness Center has a way that you can contact them directly. You may be interested to let them know your opinion about atheism being referred to as a ‘faith’ or a ‘religion’. Please, if you do contact them, keep it civil and respectful.

While the virtual center appears to be very new, the real life counterpart is a $28 Million project built on Fort Hood, TX. Chris Rodda explains:

To date, the Fort Hood “mega-church” project has received over $28 million in earmark funding, $17,500,000 for its chapel complex and religious education center, and an additional $10,800,000 for its “Family Life Center.”

In addition to this extravagant new chapel complex, which is currently under construction, Fort Hood also recently opened its new “Spiritual Fitness Center,” a facility created by extensively renovating one of the post’s existing eleven chapels. While the military insists that this Spiritual Fitness Center is not religious, but merely spiritual, the renovations of the existing chapel resulted in a building that is indistinguishable from a chapel, complete with its Christian themed stained glass windows.

20 thoughts on “US Army’s Virtual Spiritual Fitness Center Opens, Says Atheism = Faith

  1. Dan Rawlings

    OK Army, let me break this down for you!

    A- (latin prefix meaning removed from, or absent of) THEISM- (Belief without evidence usually in a god or system of gods)

    A + THESIM = NOT RELIGIOUS!

    If we were to make the same word in English it would come out something like “Nofaithism”

  2. Tony

    I’m an Atheist, and I consider it a status: religious, spiritual, moral, ethical, philosophical, all of the above. No, it is not a religion; it has no doctrine other then to say that the supernatural does not exist. But, it is a valid choice when listed in a dropdown to describe your faith or lack thereof; Humanist would be better. Stand up and be counted. Making a big deal about it makes us look like idiots. I’m more upset that Humanist, Pagan, and UU are’t listed. If the Navy were worried about my spiritual fitness, and provided an Atheist/Humanist leader/chaplain to talk with and a neutral place do it, that would be great, except that as a tax-payer I’d rather see the money go somewhere else. Actually, knowing the motards that are out there – they need all the ethical guidance they can get.

    @Mike, I don’t see it like an off channel. We have a lot to say and we often get righteous about it. Let’s stop pretending we are void, that atheism is a statement of the negative. It’s a statement of the positive, our positive recognition of the truth about living and dying, and the value of life, Earth, and everything.

  3. Teri

    My current favorite response to the ridiculous notion that atheism is a religion is to say: “Atheism is not a religion, it is a personal relationship with reality.” :)

  4. Iggy (USAF)

    It -should- be listed under its own tab, or maybe a philosophy tab.. but that’s the Army’s crack web development team hard at work.

    I’m surprised it even appears on the list to be honest.

  5. Karen

    Interesting how the Christian and Jewish drop downs all have links to legitimate websites about the specific religion or denomination, while the Agnostic, Atheist, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, etc. all have links to Wikipedia, or eHow, or WikiHow sites. Where are the links to legitimate websites or national organizations of these belief systems? Hmmm….

  6. Fester60613

    @ Tony: You wrote “I’m an Atheist, and I consider it a status: religious, spiritual, moral, ethical, philosophical, all of the above.”
    I believe the term you’re looking for here is “Life Stance” as in: Humanism is a comprehensive life stance that upholds human reason, ethics, and justice, and rejects supernaturalism, pseudoscience, and superstition.

    It would be far more reasonable to refer to religions as life stances: “My life stance is Roman Catholic” or “Her life stance is Southern Baptist.”

    Finally, I really like your positive attitude: “Let’s stop pretending we are void, that atheism is a statement of the negative. It’s a statement of the positive, our positive recognition of the truth about living and dying, and the value of life, Earth, and everything.” Well said!

    1. Justin Post author

      I see your point here. I think the ugly way the Army asks you for this information is actually acceptable. They call it a “Religious Preference”. Life Stance might be more visually pleasing, but probably not the perfect way to put it.

  7. Kevin C Jenkins

    On Facebook, I list myself as an agnostic-atheist (don’t know if there’s a god, but don’t believe in one based on faith) and a secular humanist. Atheist is just a description of what I am not, and it’s a little absurd to describe myself in that way, but until our cultural climate stops assuming religious affiliation as a default, I think it’s necessary.
    Anyway, I am not a person that forms belief in completely unknowable supernatural things based on faith. What I am is a person that believes humans have what it takes to form an ethical, prosperous, healthy and happy society on their own. This world is all we get, and this life is all the time we get to experience, but I recognize that those facts make what we have all the more precious. We have the ability to make it a life worth living and loving for many, and we have the potential to extend that to many more. There’s possibly some faith there, but at least people are real, and it beats being cynical and only looking at the worst of the human condition.

    Still, the “if atheism is a religion…” statements are fun. If atheism is a religion, then abstinence is a sexual position.

  8. hillary

    I would like to state that I have visited beliefnet many times and can not speak to the headlines but the overall site never struck me as overtly christian… in fact, the quiz on beliefnet is the reason I know I’m a secular humanist and that my beleifs are similar to certain sects of bhuddism and paganism (and certain more liberal sects of christianity). Maybe they should link to something other than the headlines, but beleifnet is actually a good source of information for someone on a spiritual journey, be it christian or otherwise.

    1. Justin Griffith Post author

      Yes but Atheists tend to do badly on the Army’s mandatory spiritual fitness testing and training. This ghastly thing is brought to you (with US tax money) by the very same people.

  9. John Perry

    Every credible book on world religions has a section to study non-theistic faiths. It should be pointed out that Buddhism does not require a belief in a god. Few would argue that it is not a religion. An assertion that God does not exist is an unprovable belief. When one orders his or her life around that belief, it takes on religious form. At its core, atheism is a belief system that orients people to life and gives them meaning. For example, the grand theory of evolution serves as a doctrine for many. The anti-supernaturalistic assumptions are read into the data. It assumes that everything came into being by natural processes even though it cannot prove this. If atheists allowed for the possibility of God, they would be forced to look at the data from that perspective. As a faith system, atheism in all consuming in that it is a total system that serves as an interpretive lens for life.

    1. Justin Griffith Post author

      Atheists generally don’t assert “God does not exist.” We all comfortably understand the impossibility of proving a negative. Atheists say things like “There probably is no god, so relax and have a good life.”

      An atheist might say: “John Perry is an atheist towards Thor, Zeus, Allah, Ra, Shiva, Anubis… I just take it one god further.”

      An atheist might say: “Atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby.”

      An atheist might even say “The Gods of X religion are demonstrably false” because the religions we encounter are not logically tenable.

      John Perry might say: “You can’t PROVE that there isn’t a god!”

      A foxhole atheist might reply: “You can’t PROVE that he isn’t a Flying Spaghetti Monster.”

      But an atheist wouldn’t say “I was there at the beginning of the universe. God is bullshit because I was there man. I WAS THERE!!! I TOOK GODDAMN PICTURES!”

  10. Cody Harding

    Atheism is a faith like nudity is a camo pattern.

    Atheism is a faith like starvation is an MRE option.

    Atheism is a faith like an empty magazine is a combat load.

    Some for our military folks.

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