Justin Griffith is behind the belief event, which is modeled on Christian evangelist Billy Graham’s Rock the Fort. Rock the Fort is a public event for U.S. soldiers and has been an institution since 2009.
“They bragged that they got hundreds of soldiers … to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior,” Griffith told MSNBC. “That is just unacceptable. The chaplain’s job is not to grow his/her flock, it’s his/her job to tend to the existing flock.”
Chaplains have been a part of the military since its founding and are trained not to minister solely to Christians but to those of other denominations as well. Because atheists do not follow a particular practice, they are not in need of a chaplain’s care.
However, Griffith states that he wants atheists to be treated in the same manner as Christian believers, which is confusing to many.
“There are no atheist seminaries,” former Navy Chaplain James Klingenschmitt told The Christian Post. “That’s why atheists and agnostics can freely obtain secular counseling from military psychologists, since by definition they don’t want religious counseling or services.”
The event next week will feature noted atheist Richard Dawkins as a special guest. Dawkins, of course, is the author of “The God Delusion” and has spoken publicly about his non-belief in God. The hope for Rock Beyond Belief is to draw attention to atheists in the military, but is there truly a need?
“Evangelical chaplains are taught to respect the faith or the lack of faith of anyone in the military,” said Paul Vicalvi, executive director of the National Association of Evangelical Chaplain Commission, which oversees 1,200 chaplains in the military. “It’s not that we’re against people who don’t have faith or think they are lesser persons. We are there and we respect everyone; that is our fundamental teaching.”