Posted by Anne Landman on January 13, 2011

praying soldiersThe U.S. Army is administering a mental health and fitness test to soldiers that civil rights groups say unconstitutionally requires active-duty soldiers to believe in "God" or a "higher power" in order to rank as "spiritually fit" enough to serve in the military. The Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) initiative, first used in 2009, is a "holistic fitness program" used to help reduce the number of suicides and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) cases among military enlistees. Suicides and PTSD cases among troops have reached epidemic proportions in the last year as a result of multiple deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, and the poor quality of care soldiers get when they come home. The CSF test utilizes a "Soldier Fitness Tracker and Global Assessment Tool" that measures soldiers' emotional, physical, family, social and spiritual "resilience." Soldiers fill out a 100-plus question survey, and if poor results put them in the red zone in any area, they must take remedial courses in the discipline in which they received the low score. Over 800,000 soldiers have taken the test so far, and more than 100,000 of them have gotten remedial training. Non-religious soldiers say the test's spiritual component asks questions written predominantly for soldiers who believe in God, leading atheists and other non-believers to score poorly and be forced to take remedial courses which employ religious imagery to "train" troops up to a satisfactory level of spirituality.

Comments

I think the Army has a point. If you believe in heaven and God, you are probably more willing to be cannon fodder for your the high priests of the Nation-State. You are more compliant and less likely to think for yourself, so you are a better soldier.

What's missing from this report are details about the remedial training given non-believers so that we can decide for ourselves how onerous or coercive it is.

But if "God works for Uncle Sam" theology doesn't work for all of the troops, they could just narrow the focus -- "The only higher power is firepower."

Probably better that way. Too many people's Higher Powers tell them they shouldn't be over there slaughtering their fellow human beings.

I'd guess that repeated tours of duty in Iraq and/or Afghanistan have much more to do with soldiers' suicides than whether or not they are religious. And I'd be interested to know what this training is like (and whether it turns out to be helpful or, if right-wing fundamentalist, destructive).

...nothing new there. This is just a new way for them to make sure they have more sheep than free thinkers. However, in it's core lies weakness. An atheist soldier IMO is probably just as equally valuable or even more valuable. He won't think twice about eliminating the enemy when necessary.

You're making a scurrilous assumption that an athiest soldier would be an a-moral soldier. Athiests have just as many (and in many cases more) moral beleifs about the value of fellow human beings. The main difference I see is that the athiest doesn't think that an invisble best friend named Jesus is standing behind him to give forgiveness for the sin of murder.

The bible contains many instances of attrocities that Christians call God's will - not such a good example for moral behavior.