Rock Beyond Belief is an ambitious project that will be putting on a free festival consisting of secular speakers and musicians, both big name and small. We are a small grass-roots outfit, but we have the backing of many major secular and military foundations. After the success we had on Fort Bragg we are now focusing on putting together Rock Beyond Belief II aboard Camp Pendleton, California.
We are not interested in just being a counter-event to the offensive relationship that Camp Pendleton has had with the Armor of Light organization on base . We are also not interested in putting on an anti-christian, anti-religious, or anti-anything event. Rock Beyond Belief is A Day of Fun and Entertainment for the Rest of Us.
In the spirit of Richard Dawkins’ Out Campaign, we are embracing the fact that just by coming out and saying “we are non-theists, and also we are your firefighters, your military members, and your neighbors and friends” that we help to shed the negative connotations and debunk the myths associated with being a non-believer.
My name is Paul Loebe and I’m an active-duty Marine. I contacted Justin because I wanted to do something about the same type of treatment we foxhole atheists were receiving on the west coast.
I knew that Camp Pendleton had a very cozy relationship with a multitude of church organizations and that that was only the tip of the iceberg. As I researched more and more I became disturbed at just how many different units were directly involved with the Christian indoctrination aboard Camp Pendleton.
The largest organization in question is the Armor of Light. They are an offshoot of the Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. It took me quite a bit of digging to connect the dots between these organizations and their extremely close relationships with units aboard Camp Pendleton. Allow me to entertain you quickly with a brief history of this specific church.
Armor of Light and the Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa
–It was founded in 1965 by Chuck Smith and in 1968 quickly turned into a megachurch movement with their Pentecostal brand of fundamental evangelism.
–They have spawned over 1,000 churches and are very influential in the Southern California area…especially aboard Camp Pendleton.
–In 1980 the entire church stood by awaiting the world’s end with a candlelight vigil on new year’s eve because of a ‘revelation’ that Pastor Smith received from Jesus. Well, I’m guessing you can figure out how that turned out.
–CCCM is so extreme that the son of Chuck Smith was ‘disowned’ by his father’s church for being open, accepting, and loving to people outside of their rigid belief system when he opened a liberal church of his own just down the street from his father.
–The military outreach program is the Armor of Light. They are deeply embedded within individual units, sponsor family days, prayer days, concerts, and rallies all aboard base with the explicit permission of Camp Pendleton.
–US Government facilities and active-duty personnel are being utilized on a massive scale with alarming frequency.
Upon discovering there deeply embedded indoctrination within the base and individual units we immediately began to inquire about putting together an event but we have been met with a massive amount of resistance.
The problem is the solution
Some people say “two wrongs don’t make a right.” If nobody stands up to the pervasive and one-sided nature of religious favoritism, we’re left with an even worse situation. Whichever side has the most money wins, and wins bigger every year. This pattern has already resulted in an atmosphere of fear for atheists in the military. Many face potentially career-ending attention simply by publicly acknowledging their religious preference.
Worse still, many are faced with threats of violence – I receive a steady trickle of these myself. So this is a perfect opportunity to gain acceptance as well as a voice. If you still have a problem with our festival, either work on a time machine or send your complaints about the situation to the Pentagon (to join ours.)
We are planning to take Rock Beyond Belief to every base that hosted Rock the Fort or is “in bed” with organizations such as Armor of Light. As soon as we get our feet wet here, we will continue to be the only other voice in the limited public forum that the DoD has established. We are also encouraging all military atheists to stand up and speak out every time there is a similar situation.
If religious favoritism is being displayed, do not turn the other cheek. Don’t flip out either. First, try to stop the infraction directly through verbal and written pleas. If that fails, and they claim to support any other group, immediately take them up on that offer. It’s a win-win. You’ll either increase visibility and acceptance for the foxhole atheist community, or you’ll put a stop to a one-sided and unconstitutional situation. (in most situations, that is. No room for this sort of compromise on the dreadful Spiritual Fitness testing and training – that fight is coming.)
If you become aware of a situation, you should also immediately contact us here at Rock Beyond Belief!
Justin Griffith-Military Director, American Atheists
Paul Loebe-Assistant Military Director, American Atheists
“Don’t Pray? – Don’t Say!”
We find ourselves in the curious position of being on the front line of two types of war. One is tangible and you see it on the news every day, the other is the subterranean ideological battle that unfolds as the evangelical Christian groups work against the separation of church and state.
We are not going away. We are at a cross roads here. More and more people are coming forward, sticking their necks out just to say “I am not religious. Respect me equally.” I’m optimistic for the future, despite how rocky the situation is now.
Support a local Military Atheist meetup group
Join a M*A*S*H meetup group – If you live anywhere near a military base, please join / help start up a MASH meetup group. The military is so dismissive of us because we don’t stand up and organize. The Military Atheists & Secular Humanists movement is starting to spawn chapters at every post. The Fort Bragg M*A*S*H group is finalizing the steps necessary to get on the master list of ‘services’ that Fort Bragg sends out to all 50,000 troops. Our goal is raising tolerance and awareness for non-religious Soldiers, and the visibility we are going to get from that is vital.
Because of our success at Fort Bragg, we will empower all the other chapters with a step-by-step process. Fort Bragg was the trial balloon, and you already see what is about to happen when local members networked and organized. In a few months we will be standing up proper groups with literature, financial support, and of course the backing of the long-running Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF)
And any MASH group that contacts American Atheists for affiliation will receive it. Perhaps a billboard campaign, care packages, and speakers could help your MASH group gain legitimacy and stability.
Social Networking Outreach
We launched a YouTube channel, For the first video(s) we set the conservative talk radio show that interviewed me to relevant documents and pictures. That is actually a pretty decent place to start learning the actual details of the controversial aspects of our first approach with Fort Bragg. We’ve got some pretty sweet videos already in the works.
And I do try to answer as much of the email traffic we get as possible. If you simply want to offer support and encouragement, feel free to use the contact form, as it sends mail to me directly. Your letters have kept us going, and I pass them along to the entire RBB planning staff who all worked extremely hard on this event for nearly two years now.
Please contact me here. Indicate your status as a journalist and how time-sensitive your message is in the subject line, and I’ll get back to you much quicker.
If I am unavailable you can contact Justin here for any additional information.