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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. glab

    One of the main reasons I got out of the Army in the early 1990s as an officer was because I couldn't take the religious judgemental crap anymore. I had a battalion commander who insulted me and treated me differently because I did not believe in god. There is not much you can do about it.

    August 4, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • William Demuth

      We can extend Afghanistan and Iraq as long as we can so more zealots will die on both sides.

      Religious nuts killing each other, how cool is that!

      August 4, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      “...killing each other, how cool is that!”

      Killing, no matter who, is never cool, you evil troll.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Mark from Middle River

      But Marky, those are YOUR wars. Its your Christian Brothers killing Muslims.

      I guess Muslim blodd is unimportant to you?

      August 4, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>>”But Marky, those are YOUR wars. Its your Christian Brothers killing Muslims.”

      Since you brought up the Afghanistan and Iraq war …. can you tell me the Christian army over there killing Muslims? Or are you calling the United States army a group of Christian zealots?

      Gotcha, yah nut.:D

      August 4, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Mark from Middle River

      HEY your'e a quick study aren't you!

      It ain't exactly a Buddist army now is it? Perhaps they are a Wiccan Army?

      August 4, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  2. Richard Kessinger

    Your authors keep perpetuating the ridiculous myth that nuclear weapons are the ultimate doomsday machine. They are not even close to being correct.

    August 4, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • JeramieH

      I've thought the same too. Nukes will take out a chunk of a city but you can't exactly blanket every square inch of land with them.

      Biological weapons on the other hand, where every person becomes both a carrier and a virus factory, is the real danger.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  3. Jake Owens

    This is OUT-FREAKIN-RAGEOUS!

    My dad was in the Air Force for 26 years, I spent my childhood moving around and have no home town, we spent 10 years on the front-lines of the cold-war in Torrejon AFB, Spain.

    The Air Force as a Secular organization filled with normal people, I never ever heard anyone mention "The Lord" or Jesus, not ever.

    What is happening now is that the Righ-Wing nutbags are trying to Christianize the military so when they attempt their coup'de'etat the military will side with them. This has been taking place all over the military.

    Army bases have been hosting Mega-Church pastors and Christian Rock bands.

    This need to END, we are not a Christian Nation and this nonsense will lead to death and misery for Americans because we are founded on FREEDOM not some bronze age nonsense from a sheepherder culture.

    August 4, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • john

      whats outrageous? that the christians want the service to stop using the bible to teach war?

      August 4, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • Greg

      Right on, brother.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • Greg

      john, what's outrageous is that the Air Force even used the Bible to justify war in the first place! This should NEVER have happened. Get with the program, man.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • C-Lo

      Maybe if you had heard "The Lord" or Jesus growing up, you wouldn't be so angry all the time. Just sayin'.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  4. Fuyuko

    I don't think we should base ethicss training on religion unless you are a private church organization. Lot, abraham and the like had an entirely different set of morales and considering what Lot did, I don't think we should hold him up as an example.

    August 4, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      Which that Lod did? Getting captured so Abraham had to rescue him? Offering his daughters to the folks of Sodom so they would not molest the Messengers of Yahweh? Having Carnal Relations with his daughters while drunk? Sounds like these are among the top ten list of most Right Wing Senators.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  5. DC

    I think some people need to learn the definition of the word, 'literally'..."We were literally blown away by what we saw on the slide presentation."

    August 4, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  6. Bob

    And that, AC, is why there's a reliefe of Moses holding the tablets of stone over the seats our our Supreme Court (sarcasm intended).

    Jerry, you're nothing but a scoffer; a loud mouth who rants and glories in his gross ignorance.

    and as for you, "wellBob", you sound brave but you're too cowardly to even use a first name. Yes, you know how to use military language, but I suppose that's just to impress the civilian folk. Nevertheless, you are plain wrong. Just look at the early American Articles of War, which were heavily influenced by none other than George Washington, the father of our country and the one for whom our capital is named. There are all kings of references toward devine worship, and ANY officer who acted disrespectfully at a house of worship was to be court marshalled.

    August 4, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  7. Bob

    Obviously, whoever put together this course doesn't understand the difference between religion and ethics. He/she/they should be forced to take a course in ethics, one of the great problems of philosophy.

    August 4, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  8. Bhavin

    Muslims are taught that war is good per Allah and Christians are taught that war is good per Jesus! 90% of the world is ruled by 10% idiotic so-called religious leaders. What a shame!

    August 4, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • john

      um. this article is about them saying the exact opposite.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      Not in the course john, in the course they were using quote from the bible to teach that war was good, read the article my friend.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • john

      i know fred. but im talking about the people who objected.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  9. Is this a surprise

    Colorado Springs which is home to he air force academy has been prothletizing troops for the last ten years since this is home to Focus on the Family and the New Life church. Living in Colorado you hear consistently about the evangelical methods being practiced at the academy. And if the kids are living off campus, they are receiving constant bombardment by the evangelicals.

    August 4, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  10. Sam

    rAUL, please take your meds and stop drinking the right wing koolaid.

    August 4, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  11. paganguy

    I hear, the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs has been taken over by new-born nuts. They require everyone to attend Christian services. The Jesus freaks just can't get enough.

    August 4, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • Christian101

      haha i am just laughing at all your atheist remarks. Christians try to spread the word about jesus in an attempt to save your soul because they care about you. What do u atheists do? All you do is try and cause pain. At leased us Christians are trying to do something good. I suppose you will just ultimately pay for it in the end.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • Veritas

      Christian101
      Please....you got to be kidding....all you guys do is brain wash the masses.
      I am so sick of religious people who have all the answers from a 3000 year old book written by goat herders.
      Durning the time of Jebus what was the rest of the world doing...? They were advancing. Why would god pick a little tiny crap hole in the desert to dump his son. Look at a globe....
      When will this myth die?

      August 4, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  12. Satan

    Revelations is a fun instrument of fear, manipulation and control.

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

      It's author and the 1st century editors who followed had no idea it would resonate with such nasty power for thousands of years, I'm sure.

      Write a graphic little allegory of Roman overthrow one afternoon to entertain your ancient brethren, and watch religious conservatives brandish it for all time....

      August 4, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • john

      and thats exactly why the christians are fighting to have it removed

      August 4, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • Fuyuko

      It really isn't just revelations that has been held up as an instrument fo fear though. It is the Xtian fixation on hell, sin, original sin and damnation as well, and well, much of the old testament.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  13. Greg

    Isn't this to be expected in a country where every government official ends every press conference with "God Bless You and God Bless the USA"?

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

      this article is about using religion to justify war, not run a nation

      August 4, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      And NEITHER is acceptable in the US.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • Greg

      john, you can't separate the running of the nation – and the ideology for represents – from the military that is used to enforce that ideology.

      You aren't that naive, are you?

      August 4, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  14. Kay Goldenberg

    CNN buried the credit to Truthout.org and didn't even bother to provide a link!!!!! They reported this story FIRST. And it was as as a result of their story that this ethics course given by the Air Force was suspended. Read the original reports on Truthout! Shame on CNN for again violating your own ethical standards.

    http://www.truth-out.org/air-force-cites-new-testament-ex-nazi-train-officers-ethics-launching-nuclear-weapons/1311776738

    http://www.truth-out.org/air-force-pulls-christian-themed-ethics-training-missile-officers/1311972789

    August 4, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  15. William Demuth

    I dropped out of high school because of the religious BS tought in school. you all shuld do the same bc im smarter then everyone here.

    August 4, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • Julie Tabouger

      So you're a drop out. That would explain why you sit here and post on these forums all day. Get a job.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • What????

      Yeah, you can totally tell how smart you are due to your superior intellect and typing skills. I'm with you on the religion thing, but the mind is a terrible thing to waste. You should go back to school and get educated. Blaming religion for messing up your life is no way to go.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Julie

      I can buy your rear wholesale!

      Gimme a little love and I will toss you a donation for your cult!

      August 4, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • john

      you dropped out of highschool because of THAT?! dude, you have a hard life ahead of you...

      August 4, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Hey look, the other me spelled it tought, and questions my education!

      Same Christian nonesense, lie about who you are rather than being honest.

      The other me must be a priest! (bugger any little boys today Father?)

      August 4, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      Obvious troll is obvious.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • Fuyuko

      I probably wouldn't boast about that if I were you.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • What????

      Holy Retard Batman! I cannot understand you because you do not write in complete sentences. This is what is wrong with American education today. Here we have a prime example of what our future generation of policy makers will consist of. Imagine the country being run by someone who cannot even right a simple statement. Thank you federal government for turning our country's education system into a touchy-feely place where students are allowed to skate by with the bare minimum standards of literacy.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • Julie Tabouger

      William, did I say anything about God or religion in my post? I don't think so. I believe I made a comment about your ad nauseum posts on the Belief Blog and the lack of education about which you boasted. (By the way, nonsense is spelled wrong in "your" retort, so in your effort to defend your education, you looked like a moron.)

      I stand by what I said earlier. Get a job. McDonald's is probably hiring.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Julie Tabouger

      Again I say, I buy and sell people like you every day.

      Return to your little life, I am always here if you need further education.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  16. John Pace

    At Offutt Air Force Base, the location for the Strategic Command headquarters, I remember going into the base chapel (the one on the old part of the base, not the one near the base theater) and seeing nice stained glass windows, including believe it or not a picture of a bomber and a mushroom cloud. In a house of God. This was in the 1980s. I don't know whether those windows are still there.

    August 4, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
  17. QS

    Thank reason we are not a Christian nation...if this "ethics course" is the type of thing a Christian nation would be all for, it's that much more proof in my mind that we should all do everything in our power to prevent ever allowing this country to become a Christian nation.

    August 4, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • john

      uh. thats not what this story is about.. at all.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      Actually john, I disagree, that very much IS what this article is about. Segments of the military are still VERY xtian-centric, and it's got to stop. It's not appropriate, indeed it's probably illegal.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  18. Jeepers

    You can have ethics and morality without it being religious. If they need a chaplain to talk to them about it though...I guess at least someone is.

    August 4, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • William Demuth

      In fact religion is the perversion of ethics and morality.

      It is a bastion of degenerate con men who rip off the old and bugger the young, all the time rationalizing their abominations on a God that doesn’t exist

      August 4, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Willy- The true fact is that the love of power and the generation of hate perverts things such as ethics and morality. You should try the short poem “The Hangmans Noose”. It does not take that much to see that your sense of and fervent hatred of the Faithful is the same instance that we see throughout history. With folks like you the term of tolerance and coexistence go right out the window.

      I do believe it was one of Hitler's top officers that called the Jews a perversion of the master race. The 700 club boys on the Christian side called the Gays and Lesbians a perversion on society.

      I always find it interesting how people of Hate tend to have the same word usage.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • come on man

      @Mark from Middle River
      and here you are using those exact same words!

      August 4, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • Asklepios417

      "You can have ethics and morality without it being religious."

      That's a debate that goes back to Socrates.

      George Washington felt that the intellectual elite ("minds of peculiar structure" as he put it) could be moral and ethical from a study of rational philosophy, but the common people would need the fear of God to keep them in line.

      From Washington's Farewell Address:

      "And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."

      August 4, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • john

      i thought this story was about using religion to justify LACK of morals, as in war

      August 4, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      C.O.Man. Example please. Are you saying that the concepts of ethics and morality are the same as General society.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  19. Anniecee

    I see the anti-God trolls are out, as usual. They know how to slam their opinions around but I don't see them offering better alternatives. The religion of Doubters is all about negatives and pointing fingers and insulting faith, as far as I can tell they're not developing a moral code that's any kind of improvement. If this world was getting better, maybe I'd be impressed but as this world becomes increasingly anti-God, we are sliding downhill faster and faster. The disciplines of Christianity are what built America into a great nation: rejection of those principles is destroying us, IMO.

    I'm a Christian but I agree that this military briefing sounds a little odd. The Bible does not advocate war, IMO, even though there's plenty of it described in the Bible. Jesus' teachings are not about that at all, in fact He teaches how to be a peacemaker. The Bible does show how and why war is necessary, I'm just not sure this military class is the place to lay that out. It would be more appropriate for the Chaplains to weave this kind of instruction into Sunday's Sermons, IMO.

    August 4, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Would those sermons be required?

      You guys always want to force your God down others throats!

      Clean up your faith and come into the modern day and perhaps we will stop thinking you are all crazy.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • Neeneko

      I see atheists developing a moral code all the time.. including things like 'be nice to oppressed groups', 'killing is wrong', 'truth is good'

      August 4, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • Asklepios417

      The pro-God trolls are out as well.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
    • Michael

      Anniecee, you live in a world where the vast majority of individuals hold religious beliefs. You live in a country (presuming you're American) where it's impossible to become elected to major office without professing Christian convictions, and where one can't walk two blocks without passing a church. A country where religious doctrine and lawmaking have mixed, unabashedly, for centuries, and continue to.

      You and your ilk are not victims. Get off the cross, you self-victimizing faux-martyr.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • come on man

      @Neeneko
      Tell me.......How do you justify morality if God doesn't exist........w/o him, what you consider good may in fact be evil to another person! You end up having no justifiable reason to condemn another person's actions as wrong. Moral relativity is the best you can do!

      August 4, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • JoePub

      William Demuth, how about I let you believe what you believe and I believe what I believe and leave each other alone?

      August 4, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • William Demuth

      JoePub

      Hell no.

      Thats how we ended up here. No mercy for Christians. Its me or you!

      August 4, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • QS

      "...what you consider good may in fact be evil to another person! You end up having no justifiable reason to condemn another person's actions as wrong."

      Indeed – I believe that much of your religion is evil though you believe it to be good, therefore, based on your religion, bible, etc...you have no justifiable reason to condemn my being gay as wrong because

      Religion and morality are not synonymous. Just because you believe that they are does not make it so. And just because you believe your religious beliefs are the foundation for all morality doesn't make it so.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      @come on man: You mean, just like we do now. There are no moral absolutes in this world.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Willy- Explain clean up your faith. Thanks

      Anniecee, I agree, The Atheist trolls are out but I seriously agree with your point about these briefings sounding very odd. For me it is hard to come from a Christian foundation of Jesus saying “caste the first stone” and then to equate it being able to incinerate tens of thousands.

      Notice though Anniecee, you have pretty much found common ground with the Atheist and still a few of the militant Atheists jumped all over your post.

      That is hatred in a nutshell. It blinds you.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • jorgath

      @come on man:
      I justify morality without religion by asserting that it is logical to encourage behavior towards me that I would find beneficial, and one of the better ways to do so is to act towards others in that way. Yes, that's "do unto others," but I don't need religion to come up with it. I just need Kant.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • Fuyuko

      um, its not trolling to have an opinion about religion. As far as the world getting worse, it probably is better than it used to be, you simply didn't live in the age of human sacrifice, and slavery. These things exist today, but not to an extent they existed in the 'good old days.'

      August 4, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • Bryan T

      To "come on man"
      Tell me.......How do you justify morality if God doesn't exist

      We certainly don't get our 21st Century morals from the 2000 year old Bible. Otherwise we would still have slaves, etc. etc. A civilized society develops its own rules and morals over time. It's the only way we can hope to get along. Most religions just borrowed them as commandments or edicts. That's why they are all so similar.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Mark from Middle River

      Lets start with prosecuting anyone who ws complicit in child buggery, or do you defend that?

      Lets agree that religion is OFTEN used by lunatics as rational for horrendous crimes. The churches know who these crazy men are, yet they do nothing to flag them so society can intervene before disaster strikes.

      Lets admit that many of your churches are just con games ripping off little old ladies. Lets identify tham, tax them and hold the crooks responsible.

      Lets also stop sending religious agitators oversees. We have enough instability without zealots marching around in the middle east complicating things.

      These things are a reasonable begining, do you disagree with any of them?

      August 4, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • JoePub

      "Can't walk two blocks without passing a church".

      OHHH THE SHEER HORROR!!!! I feel your pain.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  20. HJA

    In basic training in the Air Force we were told "you will go to church on Sunday, you will get down on your knees and pray".
    You didn't argue. Even out of basic you were expected to attend services.

    August 4, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Probably to ask for better targeting against the Muslims?

      August 4, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • QS

      Which was just as wrong as this "ethics" course.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:18 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.