August 3rd, 2011
07:50 PM ET

Air Force: Bible and nukes don't mix

By, Barbara Starr and Jennifer Rizzo, CNN

Washington (CNN)–The Air Force has suspended an ethics briefing for new missile launch officers after concerns were raised about the briefing's heavy focus on religion.

The briefing, taught for nearly 20 years by military chaplains at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, is intended to train Air Force personnel to consider the ethics and morality of launching nuclear weapons - the ultimate doomsday machine.

Many of the slides in the 43 page presentation use a Christian justification for war, displaying pictures of saints like Saint Augustine and using biblical references.

"Abraham organized an Army to rescue Lot," one slide read, referring to the story of the Hebrew patriarch and his nephew found in the book of Genesis.

"Revelation 19:11 Jesus Christ is the mighty warrior," another slide read.

The Air Force halted the class last week after 31 missile launch officers reported the religious nature of the briefing to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a watchdog group which tries to ensure religious freedom among the troops.

"There were several things that they found disgusting," Mikey Weinstein founder of the foundation said. "The first was the fact that there is actually a slide that makes it clear that they're trying to teach that, under fundamentalist Christian doctrine, war is a good thing."

Weinstein said his group had to act.

"We were literally blown away by what we saw on the slide presentation. And one of the first things I did was to contact some of the most senior leadership for the Air Force in the Pentagon and made it very clear that this has to stop immediately," Weinstein said.

The Air Force said headquarters officials were not aware of the religious component of the ethics course, despite it being taught for nearly two decades by chaplains.  The matter came to their attention they said when they received an inquiry by Truthout.org, an online publication which initially reported the story.

Here is a link to the story and associated slides CNN obtained from Truthout.org.

"That is when we became aware of concerns about the course and our commander here reviewed the course and decided immediately that it was not appropriate for what we want to do and suspended using that briefing," David Smith, an Air Education Training Command spokesman said.

The briefing was meant to mimic an academic setting where concerns could be voiced, according to Smith who claims chaplains were used to oversee the briefing for that reason.

"A chaplain is not required to take action if concerns are voiced," Smith said.

A review is underway at the base to see if an ethics briefing is needed at all.

"Ethics discussions are an important part of professional military development and it is especially important for our airmen who are training to work with nuclear weapons because they have to make hard decisions," Smith said.  "We are looking to see if we need a briefing like this... but it will not be a religion based briefing."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church and state • Military • United States

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soundoff (1,189 Responses)
  1. kingofthenet

    Exekiel 25:17

    The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.


    August 4, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • John

      Oh, shut the f*k up, inbred. No one cares about your fake religion.

      August 4, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  2. darrel

    If you can't follow orders and lauch, any weapon systems regardless of target or your personal belief, then you have no business being in that position to begin with. Nuclear weapons are just that , powerful weapons and the problem is not if they will ever be used again, but when. Again- if you can'd do the job, get out of it.

    August 4, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
  3. Rwraith

    If they had taught it using an Islamic doctrine, the missiles would already be flying.

    August 4, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • AB

      What nonsense? Why religion at all is the question? Not which religion!

      August 4, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
  4. ....

    TROLL ALERT – don't bother viewing this garbage, click the report abuse link to get rid of this piece of junk.

    August 4, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
  5. Vickster

    Atheists live in a vain attempt to vindicate their own hypocrisy and ignorance.

    August 4, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
    • wgage

      Faith is ignorance based.

      August 4, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • Alex Gessong

      @Vickster: Atheists live in world that values rational thought and objective fact as the basis for beliefs. People have believed in gods for thousands of years. To the pagans of ancient Europe, Thor and Odin and Zeus and Apollo were as real to them as your god is to you. And they had just as much proof for the existence of their gods as you do. I'm a Christian, and I can say, without irony, that I thank God for atheists, because as long as there are people who base their beliefs on objective experience of reality, not on unproven stories they were told as children, there's hope for our species.

      August 4, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • Bigdawg

      I am God: Love it!

      Lin, are you so weak in your faith that you have to attack those who disagree with you?

      August 4, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • Bigdawg

      Why does my atheism frighten you so much? Can't your faith sustain you when another human being disagrees with you? I believe you are showing YOUR hypocrisy and ignorance.

      August 4, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • GH

      Hmm, then I expect you to fully interrogate, examine the credentials, and interview each pilot of your next flight. You're ignorant if you have faith in them!

      August 4, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • heliocracy

      HAHA yes, I'm terribly ignorant for refusing to believe that a magical, invisible man in the sky created the whole universe, yet his chief concern is whether a bunch of violent morons on a speck of dust properly worship him, and who would condemn a person to eternal damnation for lusting after his neighbor's hot wife. Yeah, I'm definitely the ignorant one there.

      August 4, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • Vickster

      Over 10 minutes to prove my point...my faith is shaken! @ssclowns

      August 4, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • RD

      Weak attempt to sound smart but actually makes no sense whatsoever...

      August 4, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
    • Vickster

      And in tonight's headline, bigdawg's hypocrisy shines through as he confirms, "I believe!" Point, set match.

      August 4, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • Vickster

      "RD: Weak attempt to sound smart but actually makes no sense whatsoever..."
      Pot, meet kettle!

      August 4, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
    • Vickster

      "Yeah, I'm definitely the ignorant one there.

      Congratulations heliocracy...admitting your problem is the first step in solving it, but unfortunately, when you fell face first outta the stupid tree you hit every branch on the way down and the damage is irreversible.
      Have faith my friend!!

      August 4, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • Pastafarian

      lol Vickster. Ironic much?

      August 4, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
  6. Steve

    Pray. That's all that's left now.

    August 4, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      What are we praying for? Who are we praying to?

      Why is that all that is left? Prayer is a passive approach. Act. Do. Think. Feel. Men and women in charge of firing deadly weapons should have to think about morality, about the nature of what they might be called on to do. Those men and women will not all be Christian. This is the right, good move.

      August 4, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • JF

      Good luck with that.

      August 4, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  7. CA_Gal

    Just another example of the government wasting our tax dollars.

    August 4, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
  8. wgage

    When in the US Navy I enjoyed many discussions with the chaplain. But he was there to support those who were in need of spiritual support, nothing more.

    August 4, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • wgage

      Forgot to mention I'am an atheist. He was not bothered by this.

      August 4, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • Alex Gessong

      @wgage, since the Chaplain was not bothered by your being an atheist, it's a sign that he actually grasped what Christ was preaching: "judge not, lest you be judged," "treat others as you would like to be treated," "love one another," that sort of thing. He sounds like a good man. So many religious people who post here forget a very important aspect of what Christ did: he didn't shun non-believers or try to mock them; he went among them and spoke of his philosophy.

      August 4, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  9. GH

    Memo to the Islamic Extremist zealots.

    August 4, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • Jennifer Cuneo

      Why is the original reporting on this story not linked and buried below the second paraghraph? Here, let me assist you so you can correct what is clearly an error, or am I to beleive that CNN is not a professional news organization?
      Jason Leopold/TrughOut link to ORIGINAL reporting that led to change in
      training http://t.co/vSKHQW5

      August 4, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
  10. Truth Squad

    Sad that people are so offended by God and Jesus they just can't handle it.

    Eventually God and Jesus will be eradicated from public life and, as it was in the first 200-300 years of Christianity, it will be practiced underground, with these self-righteous atheists imprisoning and killing anyone caught.

    Also, as it was in the first few hundred years Christianity will flourish underground.

    Look at Russia, it tried to build an atheist utopia and it crashed and burned and the year it's borders were open to Evangelists 10s of 1000s of people became Christians despite having it hidden from them all their lives.

    The fact that there is such a backlash is just one of many proofs as to its validity.

    August 4, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
    • guest

      keep dreaming

      August 4, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • NJBob

      No, religion will eventually collapse because it will become increasingly seen to be irrelevant and counterproductive, especially as science continues to advance and we increase our understanding of the world around us. The only people who derive any benefit from religion are those people who remain willfully ignorant.

      August 4, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • R A Williams

      The backlash against violent religion in the military isn't evidence of its "validity", it's evidence that the situation is pretty messed up.

      We need for every individual who has access to weapons technology to conduct themselves in a rational and sober manner regardless of their religious beliefs. Glorification of war for religious purposes, and the use of religious imperatives to justify war and other forms of physical jihad, is definitely integral to the philosophy of certain religions. But that mentality is not appropriate to a weapons management environment. So while it's perfectly acceptable to be a violent jihadist (Christian Fundamentalist or otherwise) in a personal capacity, it is neither appropriate nor acceptable to do it in a work context. Nor is it acceptable to abuse one's military authority to promote violent jihad.

      August 4, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • Alabama Doc

      I think it might be an insult to that early group of christians to find out that their religion had been used to justify the launch of nuclear weapons resulting in the direct annihilation of millions of people. Regardless of the "necessity"

      August 4, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • Mike

      What you are seeing is younger officers and enlisted personnel who are better educated and are more willing to express their true feelings and frustrations with training courses such as this when asked. None of us, and I'm sure not the public, wants the U.S. military to become some sort of "Christian Army for God."

      August 4, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      It has nothing to do with being offended. The content is irrelevant. It does not apply to any one who is not a Christian.

      Morality does not belong to any one religion. Nor do ethics.

      August 4, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • wgage

      I am not offended by that which does not exist. I am offended by nonsense.

      August 4, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • darrel

      No problem with God or Jesus, or Budda or Allah or anyone esle. My problem is with ANY religion trying to run my life and tell me how to believe and act. Take care of your own house and I'll take care of mine. I don't need or want your interferance.

      August 4, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
    • Bigdawg

      One cannot "eradicate" that which does not exist! I cannot 'eradicate" Santa, The Easter Bunny and Dick Cheney's kinder side any more than you can prove the existence of your flying spaghetti monster in the sky!

      One collander, please!

      August 4, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
    • RD

      The only reason why Christianity is the dominant religion is that it actually persecuted, massacred, and tyrannized simpletons for hundreds of years. It might do Christianity some good to go underground again for a while.

      August 4, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
    • Alex Gessong

      @Truth Squad: There are over a billion Christians. In Jesus' lifetime, there were barely a billion people on the entire planet. The religion is not about to vanish any time soon. This move is correct: religion should not be used as motivation for willingness to launch nukes at anyone. Seriously, as a Christian, I do not believe Christ would want to nuke anybody. Christ said "be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves," "do good to those who persecute you," "if someone hits you on the cheek, turn and let him hit you on the other cheek, too." That's pacifism. That's why Christ is called the 'Prince of Peace," not a god of war. There's nothing remotely "Christian" about nuclear war, nor is there any need to fear for the future of Christianity simply because religious references are removed from military training.

      August 4, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  11. Alientech

    Just launch the weapons when told, don't worry about the ethics of it.

    August 4, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  12. Mark

    I could never cut it as a nuke officer. When it came down to the moment of precious to launch, knowing I could kill millions... even if I might be preventing further death on our side... I can't guess what I would do at that moment.
    No, I wouldn't need some chaplain brainwashing..

    August 4, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      I agree. I do not think that I would able to do that as well.

      August 4, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
  13. Hdude

    Satan wins again. If western ethics aren't based on Judeo-Christian basics what are they based on? Is the military going to dictate ethics to those that hold the nuclear trigger?

    August 4, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • mrEd

      If you need religion to determine your ethics, you're either too stupid or too immoral to be trusted with nukes.

      August 4, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • Andrea M

      Uh, the simple and basic idea of just being good to your fellow human beings? It does not take a god for humans to be pleasant to one another.

      August 4, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
    • Matt

      As a Christian, I have no problem stating that Western theories of ethics were around for several hundred years before Jesus; there were specific descriptions of ethics in Aristotle, about 400 years before Christ.

      August 4, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • tribble10

      @hdude: If we need a Judeo-Chritian bible basis, then please explain how Lot's daughters's actions fit into ethics. Unfortunately, I'm making the assumption that the story is true. You are for incest?

      August 4, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
    • Peace2All


      You Said: " Is the military going to dictate ethics to those that hold the nuclear trigger? "

      Ummm... wasn't that what they were already doing here, according to the article ?


      August 4, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
  14. Jim Justice

    This is stupid. No nuclear weapons will ever be launched again. I call your bluff, rich people! Or, you will detonate one or two or ten just to prove that I am wrong, that you do have the balls to do it! It's all about childish things with the rich, and the most childish of all is nuclear warfare.

    August 4, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • GH

      Hear that Iran? N. Korea? China? Al Qaeda? Whew... I can now sleep well tonight! Thanks!

      August 4, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  15. svann

    This is no christian religion. This is warmongers trying to make their button pusher not feel guilty with the act of extinguishing millions of lives. A fake religion that they try to call christian because they know it will make it easier to accept.

    August 4, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
  16. Scott A

    So our Air Force didn't know what was going on in a class that was taught by Air Force personnel for 20 years? Great to know our armed services claim to be oblivious to the obvious.

    August 4, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  17. Brian Zahnd

    Nuclear Weapons have made Christian Just War Theory obsolete.

    August 4, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • Alex Gessong

      @Brian: there's no Christian theory of war of any kind. Christ preached about peace, never war. "Blessed is the peace maker," "turn the other cheek," "be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves." That's what Christ preached. The thing is, some people call themselves "christians" while ignoring what Christ preached. Innocent non-combatants die in every war, so no war is ever a "just" war.

      August 4, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • Brian Zahnd

      Alex, I agree. (I'm just pointing out that even in Augustine's Just War Theory - which I don't subscribe to - the use of nuclear weapons would be prohibited.)

      August 4, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
  18. Rethink

    If they were "literally blown away," then why did they have the audacity to come back?

    August 4, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
  19. PulTab

    bible and rational thinking don't mix.

    August 4, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • NJBob

      Absolutely! And neither does religion and democracy or the idea of personal freedom. All religions are autocratic by nature. They are in conflict with the values upon which this country was founded.

      August 4, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • 2tor

      Actually, you've been wrong for over 200 yrs, as the majority of the nation always believed in a deity. As well as you. I think you'd find our laws since the beginning were wrapped around the 10 commandments. Like it or not.

      August 4, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • GH

      Good grief. How moronic!

      "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."??? I just KNEW those guys who wrote this weren't rational.

      August 4, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • josh

      Actually most of the founding fathers were atheists, do your research before writing.

      August 4, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • Alex Gessong

      @PulTab: rational people can find things of value in the Bible. Things like "treat others as you would like to be treated," "love one another," "judge not lest you be judged," that kind of thing. There are some universal truths in the Bible (it's good to "honor your father and mother," for example) and ethical guidelines ("don't steal," "don't murder," "replenish the earth"). Granted, there's some weird stuff in there, too (like the story of Lot's daughters), but it contains some jewels of wisdom.

      August 4, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
  20. I am God

    I am God and I say what is wrong with me be taught with war. I mean I torture and kill people everyday. I bring you sickness and disasters and famine everyday so let me play with the nuclear buttons, I'll be good you know I will (wink wink nod nod massive fist of my anger and wrath upon your face errrr I mean kitty cats are nice)

    August 4, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • Lin

      All you really are is a blasphemer. Pathetic.

      August 4, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • Geebs

      your comment is so stupid that i can barely type for the reeling in my head. Your mentality is definitely limited. And you lump yourself in with the "intelligent" God haters?

      What make you think that God has anything to do with the horrible crap you vomited just now?

      August 4, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • K from AZ

      You are to be pitied. I'd be very careful, God will not be mocked. Would hate to be in your shoes on 'judgement day'. Take this as a warning for your immortal soul.

      August 4, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • Alex Gessong

      @"I am ..." : As you see, not everyone can grasp irony! Some people who call themselves Christians forget what Christ preached. They forget who said "do good to those who persecute you," and "turn the other cheek." They also forget that Christ didn't shun sinners or mock them; he went among them and spoke of a better way. Peace to you.

      August 4, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.