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. Bob

    I used to work for the military. 1) I'm sure the top brass in the Pentagon knew full well about this. They are just running for cover and protecting their careers. Such blatant cowardice is not a US Air Force value. 2) It doesn't sound to me like they were using Christianity to say war was a good thing. To say such a thing too is cowardice, akin to Nero blaming his burning of Rome on the Christians. First of all, Abraham was Old Testament, so if you're going to use that as a negative example, you should blame it on the Jews. HOWEVER, it is NOT a negative example, so we should be THANKING the Jews. No no, it doesn't sound to me that the course wasn't using religion to say that war is good. Rather, it is showing through the historical biblical record, one on which our entire legal system is based, that war is sometimes necessary and legitimate and is sanctioned by the God of the Bible when waged by a legitimate government for a just cause. To say otherwise would be to say that we should not have rescued Europe from the Nazis, nor should we have police to keep us safe from criminals. The people who are making a big issue of this are just insane, and the brass in the Pentagon are putting their careers and butts ahead of the country's welfare.

    August 4, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • Agree w/Bob

      I agree w/Bob. I'm not sure about top brass knowing or not – regardless, Bob has a Very good point, "our entire legal system is based" on Biblical records. Get over yourself people. You support a country that is based on the Bible!!!

      August 4, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • Jerry

      "Rather, it is showing through the historical biblical record, one on which our entire legal system is based"

      Bwahaahahahaaa!!! Sorry. Ha ha, sorry bwahaahaaa!

      I'll compose myself, really, I'm sorry.

      You HONESTLY think that the US legal system is based upon the Bible?

      That's effed up dude.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • wellBob

      Well Bob, if you used to work for the military, you must know that the CSAF doesn't personally review every briefing presented in the Air Force. Nor, in fact, does he review every training plan that goes down. So, blaming the top brass for this is more than a little extreme, particularly considering recent moves within the AF to ensure that religious inclusivism is clearly understood and promulgated in the forces. This is certainly an epic fail on the part of whoever was tasked to develop this briefing and his/her immediate chain of command and, while an ethics seminar may have been taught for the past 20 years, it sure as heck didn't always have content this Biblically-weighted, or there would have been complaints en masse before now. And if you have been part of the military, you're also surely aware that there are many ways to discuss ethics (scenarios, historical events, core values training) that don't require quoting a religious text from one religious tradition ad nauseum.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • AC

      The legal system is by and large based on the Common Law legal system of England, which has its roots in pagan Anglo-Saxon tradition, with a heavy admixture of Continental European law brought over by the Normans, with its origins in pagan Roman law.

      The Bible is not the inspiration of the American legal system.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • Henry

      @ Bob,

      Sanctioned by the God of the Bible. Now how on earth will we know that this is the case? This is the problem with the fundamentalist Christians. They profess to know everything that God wants. They seem to have this feeling of "just trust me" because God is speaking to them. We have no idea whether God sanctions anything. For all I know God is sitting wherever he sits and is shaking his head in wonderment at people who profess to know where he is coming from.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Surf_Dog

      While I will agree with you that the brass at HQ in Washington are covering their collective behinds on this one. And you had me until you ignorantly stated that the basis for the legal system of the United States, and for that matter, for te erest of the world is the Bible.

      It is the principals of Roman Law for which the legal systems of the world used as the basis for their respective legal codes. American, British and here in Canada, as well throughout the rest of the world. That is why most legal terminology is in Latin, as in Habeas Corpus.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  2. donnamarinchekmarn01

    I agree...I really,really agree with this one!!

    August 4, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  3. oh please

    LITERALLY?!?!?!?! Learn the word....
    Nice to see idiots still populate the US military. not surprising that religious idiots populate the corps Religion has no place, AT ALL, NO PLACE.....anywhere. Keep the PINK ELEPHANTS THAT CONTROL THE UNIVERSE to your freaking self. there are no................NO GOD(s), singular NOR plural.

    August 4, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • Bilbo

      The FOOL says there is no God.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  4. sonofgadfly

    Push the button. Push the BUTTON! Push it for your Lord, Jesus Christ! Amen!

    August 4, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  5. kelsi

    so much finger pointing going on here.. everyone wants to blame someone for the mistakes of someone else.. so lets blame every christian in the world!!? wow. thats ignorance if ive evr see it. a couple grown men decide to take words out of the bible and use it blasphemously to thier own advantage, that does not mean every believer in christ is the same. have u ever even read the bible? read & understood? have you ever trusted god? given it all to him? if you did youd find a love & peace in your life like no other.. and you would understand, you cant just label a man a christain and assume u know the heart of every believer. these men who taught this clss or whatever were not true believers.just men trying to justify the things hey do every single day.. kill people.

    August 4, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • Geoz

      Kelsi, what you have done is called the "straw man" debate technique. You set it up so that people are "blaming every christian in the world". this is a claim no one can defend, so you win your own debate. HOwever, no one is blaming every christian in the world. Many Christians are claiming to be victims though, and that isn't accurate either.
      Get back to reality Kelsi.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Sean


      August 4, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  6. Kerrmudgeon


    August 4, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  7. Adam

    This brings to light many troubling implications of the intersection of religion and foreign policy. For example, to the extent that one ACTUALLY believes that the Bible is the true, revealed word of the Creator of the Universe, then to that extent they KNOW that there will necessarily be a tremendously violent, cataclysmic event that will happen in and around the nation of Israel that will precede the return of Jesus. These are people who would look upon the silhouette of a mushroom cloud and see the silver lining that the best thing that was ever going to happen was about to happen. Can we really risk having people who profess to believe this have the authority to push The Button? The answer is clearly no.

    August 4, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Will

      So vote against them.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Kyle

      Even in the Bible, it states that no one, not even the Son (Jesus) will know the coming of the final hour, save the Father (God). These people who, as you say, are the ones to push the button, have no hand in the coming of a Biblical cataclysm.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Evangelical Christianity is a mental disorder that should disqualify the believer from getting near the stockpile.

      I mean would we let someone who worships Zeus near one? No we would say he was crazy and forbid it.

      Whats the difference?

      August 4, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • Adam

      But do they know that, Kyle? In that moment, can you not imagine them feeling the calming assurance of the backing of a supreme being? George W. Bush claimed that God told him to invade Iraq. Do not you think it dangerous that one who has the capability of obliterate the earth, can close his eyes, and feel that his intuition has been vetted by the Creator of the Universe?

      August 4, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Kyle

      So you want to assume that they know one part of the religion (ever lasting peace in the afterlife) but you also assume that they do not know that they themselves, by their actions, have no hand in bringing those final moments on Earth.

      You seem to be cherry picking the assumptions to best suit your argument....either they know their religion, or they do not know their religion. Assuming they're religious to begin with...since the article just discusses that the course was taught with a religious theme, not that all of the launch officers were religious themselves.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Adam

      [@Kyle] I'm simply saying that there are behavioral consequences of beliefs. My argument does not rest on anyone believing that he has the personal ability to usher in the apocalypse. No. I am saying that there are certain beliefs, which are derived from the Gospels, which would enable one who holds them to much more easily make a decision that would start a nuclear war. The only axiom that I am assuming here is that this cataclysmic decision should be at the furthest extreme of imagination possible.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • Kyle

      ...and certain personal beliefs, derived from an individual on a whim, would enable one who holds them to much more easily make a decision that would start a nuclear war. People make choices, based on faith, upbringing, their mood at that moment, etc...dozens of factors...some of which are found in the Gospels...that would either make a person more inclined, or less inclined, to start a nuclear war.

      Are you reading the Old Testiment where is was all hellfire, brimstone, and God's wrath? Or the new Testiment, the fullfillment of a loving God's promise to mankind?

      Saying that a particular faith, with faith being the cause, is more likely to drive someone to start a nuclea war...yeah...I'd like to see some kind of proof of that before I go finger pointing.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  8. I Luv Nukes

    I Luv Nukes

    August 4, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Laughing

      He loves nukes

      August 4, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • Badger

      I just like like nukes.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Sean

      I luv nukes but I’m not ‘in luv with nukes.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  9. Joe Regular

    Follow your orders or don't . If you can't, don't sign up. They shouldn't have to grease you into it with quasi-religious justifications.

    August 4, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  10. Will

    Wait, so these airmen have problem with war? Um...okay. They are aware that they are in the military. Yes, the air force does actually count, even if they don't know it.
    What ever happened to quiet disagreement? Are they so scared of words? Or do they just need the attention?

    August 4, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • William Demuth

      The purposeof a soldier is to PREVENT war, not cause one.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Will

      By being ready for war. And to fight the war once it starts.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Kyle

      Politicians prevent war, not soldiers/airmen/sailor/marines. When the politicians fail to prevent war, the armed forces fight the war.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • KansasWrangler

      These were not airmen, they were officers, college graduates. In the past the military climate made it impossible for anyone to complain. It is a good sign that these officers were able to voice their concerns.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  11. Mat

    They were "literally blown away"? So was it high winds, or a real nuke that got em?

    August 4, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Kyle

      Haha. Nice catch.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  12. Rufoscoe

    When it's time to launch, we don't need anything standing in the way, this means God, Morals and Ethics. You CAN say "My God, what have we done", we absolutely DON'T want anyone to say "My God, what are we doing", It would make all the stockpiling of fissile material a senseless act.

    August 4, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Will

      Thats's kind of impossible. But the best you can do is follow orders and hope the CinC knows what he's doing

      August 4, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • um what?

      The stockpiling of fissile materials is a senseless act.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  13. LadyAnon

    Who allowed that in the 1st place? *crickets chirp, all is silent and no one speaks up*. Anyway, about that whole separation of Church and State...how's that goin'?

    August 4, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Once

      By the whole separation of Church and state thing you mean the fact that the Government cannot force you to believe in any religion right? That is what that is for to insure each person has the right to choose the religion they want to follow, not the one the Government wants them to follow. It doesn't mean keep religion out of government.... It means keeps the government out of the people's religion.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • griz5106

      ONCE: No youv'e got it backward. Separation of church and state means to keep religion out of government.

      August 5, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
  14. Bo

    __________________________________Hi folks! To be sure, I didn't read all the posts, but my opion is that this class was conducted to ensure the Christians who may have concerns about launching a missle and killing a lot of people. These persons needed to be reasured that it was necessary and moral to launch the missles if ordered to do so._______________________________________________________________

    August 4, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Ha HA

      Christians with moral qualms?

      Like they used in Jonestown? Or Salem? Or Aushwitz? Or Wako? Or Ruby Ridge? Or Norway, Or Belfast, Or any of a million other places?

      Most Christians are bleeting sheep, but their are a few wolves mixed in.

      I trust them less than ANY other group there is . They are so berefet of individual thought that the whole religion MUST be considered a cult.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Howie

      That would be a very charitable read on the situation. Unfortunately the fact is, all US armed forces are fully infiltrated from the top to the bottom of ranks by christian evangelist fundamentalists. There is constant indoctrination at every stage of the game. They firmly believe that if you are not one of them, you will go to hell, you serve satan, and you are the enemy. Take a look at the religious or ethnic background of soldiers killed by 'friendly fire' – that's odd, most are not christians or not white. Interesting. . .

      August 4, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  15. DrJohn

    Is it Chritian to nuke thy neighbor? I say nuke them and let God sort them out.

    August 4, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Dog the Hunter

      I've heard this before but it went "I say bomb them and let Allah sort them out"

      August 4, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • asdf

      I remember that part of the Bible well: "And Yea, Jesus said 'If they are brown, nuke them.' And the desciples laughed. And it was good.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • Sean

      I was wondering when someone would pull the race card. Cause you know… all Christians are white…sigh.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  16. Bruce

    Well YOU ASKED for an end to all wars, didn't you?


    A nuclear holocaust that causes human extinction ends all wars. There you go–glad to oblige!

    August 4, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • William Demuth


      Almost zero chance of ending all life, or even human life.

      All movies aside the ONLY way to get that job done is with disease.

      Trust me I have studied it for decades.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • Bruce

      True. I'll modify my claim. You really only need to end civilization to end war. You don't have to kill off all the humans.

      Sure, there might be murder, but there will be no more war.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • iTzlogical

      "the ONLY way to get that job done is with disease.
      Trust me I have studied it for decades."

      Lets hope the FBI gets to your house before you put your "studies" into practice.

      Unfortunately if you tell a crazy person that they are crazy they won't understand...I'll save my breath.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • Dan, TX

      Disease? Nonsense. Some fraction of humans has resistance whatever disease you care to name. Some are immune to HIV, some immune to bubonic plague, some immune to smallpox, etc. I agree nukes couldn't completely wipe out people either. A meteor of sufficient size – sure.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • Kyle

      Last time I checked epidemiology was a legitimate field of science.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • William Demuth


      Just because I breed influenza in my "at home beer brewing kit" dosen't make me a bad person.

      Once I move to aerosolize it, that might.

      Does anyone have a high speed desicating furnace the want to rent me for a few weeks?

      August 4, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  17. free spirt

    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.
    What are Chaplains suppose to do? Teach them about economics?

    August 4, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • LadyAnon

      Question is – why are Chaplains teaching it? And they didn't know what they were teaching?? What kind of BS is that? Come on!

      August 4, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • KansasWrangler

      It's about time someone complained. How could they not know what the chaplains were teaching. It has already been reported in the DADT discussions that most military chaplains are evangelicals. It is pretty unlikely that they would not be proselytizing.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • Ruth

      They have to do SOMETHING.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  18. RMc

    Why do ethics have to be religious? In my mind, those are two very different things.

    August 4, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • PossumHunter

      I think part of the problem is that we, as a society, have not taken the lead to make it part of the school system. We truly leave it to Religion to dictate it for most of us (not me). We know that some families are failing to do so.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  19. Eric of Reseda

    “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.” – Sinclair Lewis

    August 4, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • truth2power

      "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians, they are so unlike your Christ."-Gandhi

      August 4, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • TheMovieFan

      Nice quotes.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  20. martinipaul

    Since atheists developed the atomic bomb I would suppose they indeed do not mix. What is the greatest atheist contribution to mankind: cyclon b or nuclear weapons?

    August 4, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • TheMovieFan

      Where did you learn that factoid? Do you have a link to back that up?

      August 4, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Newyorker

      No moron. The greatest contribution of atheism is everything you see around you. It is modern civilization as we know it. And that includes science, math, technology, literature, the arts, and practically any endeavor that is not based on the Bible.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Thinking Mind

      Actually, I'd say it's Freedom. Enjoy.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Gromit801

      So in your strange little world, a jew is an atheist?

      What have atheists contributed? It's a long and distinguished list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_atheists_%28science_and_technology%29

      August 4, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • asdf

      I love how Christians in the same breath will say that Einstein was not an atheist when he was reinventing the way we see the world using relativity, but when he was working on the bomb, he must've been an atheist.

      I suppose atheists' greatest contribution is our emphasis on actual facts rather than closing our eyes, plugging our ears and praying so loud we can't hear our common sense. How long will people keep up with this BS that the Nazis were atheists? Jesus comes up loads of times in Mein Kampf. I guess all it really shows is that people can twist the bible to say whatever they want.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Bruce

      Actually, while atheists might have developed the bomb, it took a true believer to actually use one for the purposes of killing thousands in the blink of an eye–and then to do it again a few days later just to send a message to Russia that the first one wasn't a fluke.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • martinipaul

      moviefan: stop watching dumb and dumber and check out the leading scientists who developed the bomb. Do some work and find your own links.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • Talgrath

      Actually, the vast majority of the team was Christian as was most of the US in that time; so I'm not sure what your point is any more.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • martinipaul

      nyer: There are no, and never have been, religious influences in painting, music, literature, movies, theatre? As for freedom, I suppose you dismiss the ancient greeks, who were, after all, pretty damn religious in their way. As for the majority of the 'team' you're probably right. I'm taslking about the brains who developed the bomb, not the janitors who swept up after they were done.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • Terre

      How about reason and logic both which are absent in religions

      August 4, 2011 at 3:12 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.