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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. stmark

    to all posting remember simply that Christ is coming and the nuclear force will not save not one of us from judgment except those who accept Jesus and listen to HIS teachings. Nuclear weapons..HAH..wait till the end of days..some of us may even see those fireworks..I pray that I dont. In these end days it REALLY DOES NOT PAY TO BE AN ATHIEST.

    August 4, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
    • Ramiro K

      Hey man You wont be such the big man when Bubba Smith break your neck!!

      August 4, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
    • The Lionly Lamb of God Does Roar

      stmark on August 4, 2011 at 10:08 pm, did write, "to all posting remember simply that Christ is coming and the nuclear force will not save not one of us from judgment except those who accept Jesus and listen to HIS teachings. Nuclear weapons..HAH..wait till the end of days..some of us may even see those fireworks..I pray that I dont. In these end days it REALLY DOES NOT PAY TO BE AN ATHIEST."

      Hear ye the words spoken by Christ Jesus which are, "Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence." John 18:36

      You stmark make me feel ashamed to be a Christian Fundamentalist! You don't even know that there are words in the bible regarding this wor;lds finality, "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up." 2 Peter 3:10 NO way in H E double LL will nuclear war melt away this earth! Only by our Sun will the earth "melt" and /or be "burned up"! Please read with much mediation upon all of 2 Peter chapter 3 for you need to be redeemed from your falsely establishing an untrue end to this world!

      August 4, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
    • Martin T

      Wow, is about all I can stomach to say to this post. I am an atheist, proud to be a freethinker, and I find your "logic" rather idiotic.

      August 4, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
  2. Adam

    Was the complaining officer a Muslim?

    August 4, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
    • AJ

      No, it was a Jew, just as bad.

      August 4, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
    • Martin T

      Does it really matter? The fact remains the military has NO business being in the religion business, PERIOD. Separation of church and state, ever hear of it? I don't give a rat's A$$ is the guy with the gun next to me believes in god or dog, as long as he fights well, shoots the bad guys, and covers my butt. I HATE PEOPLE WHO THINK EVERYTHING IS ABOUT GOD AND RELIGION!

      August 4, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
  3. Peter Knibbe

    Will S, We have been trying to teach ethics non-religiously for years now. I'm not convinced that it is working out very well. One problem is that ethics need a philosophical base and as a pluralistic society we don't have one that everyone buys into. If, for example, we are just animals with no eternal purpose, survival of the fittest can seem as ethical as "thou shalt not murder". Hence the emphasis on "looking out for number 1", meaning ourselves. On a more practical level, the rules have been multiplying in number and complexity since we abandoned the Judeo-Christian basis. Love your neighbor and do unto him as you would like him to do unto you is a lot simpler than our current ethical guidelines. We are getting so good at creating loop-holes that our guidelines are totally loopy!

    August 4, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
    • Mr.Stone

      There is nothing ethical about decimating a populace.

      August 4, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
    • Dillon

      I agree. It makes a whole lot more sense to slaughter animals in proclamation of the one true god than to focus on things that might actually help other human beings.

      August 4, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
    • Kevin

      Who is this "we" that have been "trying" to teach ethics non-religiously for years now? I know of many hundred college professors that teach ethics without religion without any problems. Ever heard of utilitarianism?

      August 5, 2011 at 12:39 am |
  4. Lawrene

    I contend that the bible and nukes do mix: Ever hear of Sodom and Gomorrah? Fire and Brimstone fell on Sodom and Gomorrah which is God's version of a clean Nuclear device.

    August 4, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
    • Martin T

      The ONLY thing that mixes well with the bible is gasoline, as in soaking them all and setting them on fire!

      August 4, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      @martin t
      adolf hitler was fond of burning books...any relation?

      August 4, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
    • Know What

      Those nasty dinosaurs must have been horrid sinners - for "God" to have wiped them out, without even leaving a Noahsaur and his family to carry on!

      August 4, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
    • Martin T

      Hey Herbert, so was every POPE, MANY MANY Evangelical Christians, even that weird Christian Group led by Warren Jeffs, and relation to YOUR religion?? Hmmm....

      August 4, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      @martin t
      The issue You raised was book burning,a favorite with the Nazi party of Germany 1920-1945.The drivel you responded with is incoherent and makes no sense in relation to your original statement,as well as making no sense on it's own merit.If you can"t express yourself perhaps you should leave commenting to others.

      August 5, 2011 at 5:52 am |
  5. Buddy R

    Many liberals are such loons. America was founded by Christians. George Washington prayed with his troops. Bible verses are all over ALL the historic buildings and monuments in Washington.

    Officially atheist nations have ALWAYS been bastions of mass murder and have always denied even the most basic of rights to its citizens. Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and a dozen lesser atheist rulers have been responsible for the deaths of over 250 million people in the past 100 years.

    You can't teach morality or ethics unless God is involved. Morality does not exist in a universe without God.

    August 4, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • demilioso

      America was not "founded" by Christians. Many of the founding fathers of the United States had a Christian background. Many, like Thomas Jefferson or Thomas Paine, were extremely critical and skeptical of Christianity. I'm not going to argue with you about God or morality. But get your God **** history right if you're going to preach.

      August 4, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
    • Jay

      Yes, Morality exists without religion. Truth be told, morality without religion is much better. I don't need the watchful eye of some made up "daddy-figure" to make me feel like I should treat everyone fairly.

      August 4, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
    • SomeGuy

      Exactly! Take God for example, when things weren't going his way... he destroyed everybody on the planet. Isn't that what we are talking about here, total global destruction? Way to take an example from God, America. Global destruction isn't too far away.

      August 4, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
    • Stephen Black

      Morality is relative. For instance, I don't believe in god, and for me morality means things like not hurting anyone physically or emotionally. Treating people with respect until they don't deserve it. Being fair to everyone no matter what their color, beliefs, lifestyle, etc. You know, the basic things most people would include under the "morality" umbrella. But I see a lot more of an odd subjective morality coming from a lot of Christians. Hating someone for being gay isn't morality. Hating people who don't share your beliefs isn't morality. Shuffling off to church dutifully every sunday doesn't make you de facto a decent person. At least not to me. I think there are good and bad people of faith, and good and bad people who are non-believers. I think too many christians like to equate their degree of faith and their degree of morality. I think it's incredibly simplistic to say that morality is exclusive to those who believe in my god, and only my god, who worship that god in the same manner as I. I think there just /might/ be a bit more to it than that, yes?

      August 4, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
    • Martin T

      Buddy, you are a sad individual, truly. Have you ever read a book? Have you ever had an original thought? I mean, just a statement that America is a Christian Nation is absurd. I bet you are one of those Americans who praises god while carrying a big old BUBBA gun in your pickup. Sad, really sad...

      August 4, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
  6. Hunter

    I was only a matter of time. Just a few more years and we will have purged God from every aspect of our awareness. A process that when complete, will make America just like the rest of the nations on earth, Godless. Read your history books and see what happens next.

    August 4, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • hirisute

      Let me guess. An unbelievably peaceful time full of scientific, artistic and medicinal advancements? Oh God! The horror!

      August 4, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
    • The Lionly Lamb of God Does Roar

      @ Hunter

      History is a wonder filled and lucid beast! Sometimes its' heads are voluptuous and at times hideous. Never in our Day has there been such a meloncholy Beast as there now is! So many heads all abasing each other with finite trivialities of never ending denials that continue to be more and more complex. The LORD's Prayer use to be this. "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Forgive us OUR DEBTS as we forgive OUR DEBTORS and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever Amen."

      It is now said as. "Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Forgive us our TRESSPASSES as we forgive those who TRESSPASS AGAINST US and lead us not into temptations for thine is the power and the glory forever and ever Amen.

      My Alcoholics Anonymous meeting ends with us saying the last lord's prayer above. Here is MY TAKE on The LORD's Prayer; My Parents who died and art now in a heaven of Heaven's contentment; Holy be their namesakes. Their kingdom now come and their lives newly begun like upon this earth they were once on. Forgive us oh parents our past mistakes and help lead all dying souls to their respected heavens and lead not them into indebtedness nor temptuousness of ill will, For yours oh parents are now in the heaven that Christ Jesus did so promise. For Christ Jesus is the King of all the Gods and Goddesses born of GOD and Forever do I praise The Holy Redeemer of all lifes' souls until my dying Day, Amen and Amen.

      August 4, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
  7. Muneef

    Yes of course they want robots who would carry on instructions with out thinking or considering it in religious terms whether as Rights or as Wrongs... Just obay orders with out questioning or any hesitation..!

    To overcome that it is either they will become in need to create lab mankind that has no parents, no emotional feelings,no religions...just as a robot mankind since they might not trust on any belief or non belief....what they want is regime loyal soldiers...
    Surely they might have already prepared similar army through some orphanage houses or during the times when the Tube Babies became to be known...or otherwise if we take HollyWood movies as to no smoke with out fire then there are those supposedly mutants one's who having speacial abilities and capabilities...that are of some animals....well never know what there could be unknown to many...!

    Well maybe soon those breed their Armies and maybe their new obedient populations..they have all the science they need as well as lack of morals to go ahead with that since believe in no religion that can hold them back...!!?

    August 4, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
    • mich098

      You have got to be kidding–when the enemy is attacking and wants to wipe you and your family and country out you want people debating what the bible teaches? Stay off the front line and become a conscientious objector and not a warrior my friend.

      August 4, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
    • hirisute

      Are you kidding me? Did you not even read the article? It says RELIGION is being used to justify GOING TO WAR. That God is a warrior etc....maybe if we finally got rid of religions, we'd all have a lot less reasons to justify killing each other.

      August 4, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
    • Muneef

      There will always be a justifications to raise wars...and not limited to Religions....History Clearly reads that it was not only religions...What about Racesm,Political Ideals? Was the war against Red Indians religious? Was the killing and burning of Slaves and Blacks in U.S by groups was it religious? Were all the countries that got involved in the WWR's about religions?
      Did the becoming as non religious as did the communist countries became stop them from raising wars against other neighboring nations? What did the USSR do? What did China do? Whether it was religious or not there will always be wars because some people are living on it, by creating jobs and positions, weapons,arms producers and all related Logistics needs....
      As long as factories remain producing hate weapons,arms and marketing for it by plot seedings towards creating wars to achieve sales and the more wars there are then the more sales there will be...!

      August 5, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  8. Benjamin Harris

    This is going to certainly put a crimp in the plans of Christian fundamentalists to baptize the infidels of the world in a ball of cleansing fire now, isn't it?

    August 4, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
  9. apeasant

    Separation of Church and State is a key tenant of America. Don't like it? Get out. There are plenty of other nations that I'm sure have their traditional beliefs inscribed into our military. The United States is not one of them, not should it ever be. Religion is important to some, but it needs to stay in Church and off the big red button

    August 4, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
    • Martin T

      HIgh Five, Right ON!

      August 4, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
  10. Andrew

    This shows the degree of Purtianical, maniacal theocracy at work in our society in it's most dangerous and extreme workings.

    August 4, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
  11. Peacefulguy

    Everybody knows that books and planes don't go together. How do they expect people to read while flying a plane?

    August 4, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
  12. Qev

    Great...Just what we need...guys with access to nukes taking their ques from some bronze age sky deity.

    we're all goners...

    August 4, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
  13. Eric

    While the overt religious imagery was definitely unwise, having an ethics course for nuclear missile crews is essential. Even merely standing watch on a missile submarine or at a, ICBM silo can be emotionally traumatizing for some people, and the only way to prevent that is by helping crews come to terms with their duties beforehand.

    August 4, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
  14. Ron Hale

    Chaplains are preachers/teachers of the Bible, at least those who are Christian. It's not weird for them to use Bible verses; this is who they are and what they do.

    August 4, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
  15. Will S

    In basic training (in the 80s) we had a choice between going to church services and cleaning the barracks. In the 90s I was probably the only officer on post with a Darwin fish on my car. The military is top-heavy on fundamentalists, special ops even more so.

    August 4, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
    • jEFF

      I had the same choice, so me and my mates went to whoever had the donuts.

      August 4, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
    • kathryn

      it was the same way in AF BMT in 2005. i sat in the wiccan service a few weeks, because it was the least oppressive, and then the lutheran service, because you were fed a second breakfast [but don't let that get around!] catholic education was interesting, but i was discouraged there was no secular sunday service. they'll recognize mono and polytheistic beliefs, but not give the atheists/agnostics/secular humanists [whatever you wanna be called] a group where they can recoup from the breaking down that is a big part of BMT.

      August 4, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
    • Martin T

      As a former Special Ops officer, I agree with you completely. There is a fundamentalist "club" within the military that if you are not a member of, your career isn't going far no matter how good you are with weapons. What scares me is that if there is no checks and balances within the military, nuclear war is a forgone conclusion. There is a faction who would push that red button today if given the power to do so. Our military is just as fanatical, in many ways, as is the Taliban.

      August 4, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
  16. Michael

    Live by the sword die by it ! A man of god is only given right to defend his family, other then that killing is a sin that leads to death!
    The attempt to help justify a nuke war can only be done in self defence. in that case you must take the first blow letting your aggressor know that all will die together withholding not one nuke!

    August 4, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
    • Michael

      It is only the fear of this that's binds them! Don't be afraid to die!

      August 4, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
  17. David Johnson

    From the article:

    "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."

    Fundamentalists are insane. What if they give a war, and Jesus doesn't show up?

    Would you really want Bachmann's finger on the button? Never, ever, vote for a Tea bagger. They are Evangelical crazies. They don't care for the planet. They are too Heavenly bound to be any earthly good.

    Cheers!

    August 4, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
    • Qev

      Well said.

      August 4, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
    • beelzebubba

      Well said! Two of the worst presidents of the last hundred years, dubbya and Jimmy Carter, were born agi'n evangelical's. They're living proof that anyone who thinks god is their co-pilot isn't fit fer holding offfice as President of the Benighted States of Uhmurica.

      August 4, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
    • Martin T

      Well said David! Those teabaggers are going to ruin this country if given a chance. To me, they are America's answer to the Muslim extremists.

      August 4, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
  18. joe camel

    i forgot remember 2 or 3 years ago the US Airforce was requiring christian stuff at the chapel and chow hall at the academy?

    August 4, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
  19. Muneef

    Yes of course they want robots who would carry on instructions with out thinking or considering it in religious terms whether as Rights or as Wrongs... Just obay orders with out questioning or any hesitation..!

    August 4, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
    • Fred1

      Isn't that the christian way? Obey god with out question?

      August 4, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • Muneef

      To overcome that it is either they will become in need to create lab mankind that has no parents, no emotional feelings,no religions...just as a robot mankind since they might not trust on any belief or non belief....what they want is regime loyal soldiers...
      Surely they might have already prepared similar army through some orphanage houses or during the times when the Tube Babies became to be known...or otherwise if we take HollyWood movies as to no smoke with out fire then there are those supposedly mutants one's who having speacial abilities and capabilities...that are of some animals....well never know what there could be unknown to many...!

      August 4, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
    • Muneef

      Fred.
      Obeying God is one thing and obeying mankind evil greeds is another thing...

      August 4, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
  20. Jim

    As a career officer I see this as another example of the AF bending to political correctness despite true effects. The fact of the matter is that they're trying to train nuclear launch crews to do their duty ethically when called upon to do so. Particularly with nukes that can imply ensuring the members that their morals do, indeed, allow them to "push the button" if necessary. Since a sizable portion of those officers are Christian, using sources from their religion is appropriate (many of which would also support Jewish servicemen, and some Muslims). It would be similarly appropriate to reach out to Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or Wiccan officers on the basis of their respective faiths. The reality is that to most effective at this kind of challenging teaching you have to meet people where they ARE, not based upon a theoretical construct that doesn't really "touch" anyone.

    August 4, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
    • TrueBlue42

      As a career NCO, I see the revamping of this briefing as a positive thing. The true effects to which you allude can be brought about without religious dogma. As for meeting people where they are, for those of us who are Atheist (or those who belong to a non-Christian faith), pushing Christian ideas is not the way to go about it. I see this move as evolution, growth, and betterment, not a simple bending to political correctness.

      August 4, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
    • Will S

      You can teach ethics without a religious context. Crack open Aristotle some time. This isn't exactly news.

      August 4, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
    • Christina Moore

      It would be much better to pass out a copy of Dawkins' "The God Delusion"
      They would then get the real truth about religous doctrine as well as the confidence necessay to perform any military function. Man does not need the fear of God to reach his/her potential. Time for people to leave the Dark Ages behind.

      August 4, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
    • SomeGuy

      Exactly Jim. People in power have been using religion as a reason to slaughter people for centuries, why stop now? Too bad that this time, there would be nobody left living on this planet.

      August 4, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
    • Martin T

      I was an officer, as well, and I was sickened by the way the military shoves religion down the thoats of the enlisted. I actually resigned my commission after Desert Storm because I could no longer stomach the preaching. Having said that, I have to say that teaching ethical behavior or making sure men/women can push the button if called to do so, is better left to psychologists.

      August 4, 2011 at 11:48 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.