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August 30th, 2011
04:23 PM ET

Preparing clergy for war: army chaplains train by the hundred for the combat zone

By Eric Marrapodi and Chris Lawrence, CNN

Fort Jackson, South Carolina (CNN) – The summer sun beats down on camouflaged Kevlar helmets.  Weighed down by heavy body armor, men and women of the cloth are crawling through sand, under barbed wire and learning how to run with soldiers.

Explosions in woods simulate the battlefield as an instructor barks commands.

"You are not following simple instructions!  Cover me while I move!  Got you covered!  Let's go!"

This is the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, where the Army trains clergy of all faiths how to survive in combat.

Once many of these chaplains complete this modified basic training they will head to war in Afghanistan and Iraq, where the explosions and gunfire are not simulated.

U.S. Army chaplain candidates train at Fort Jackson in South Carolina.

Here at Fort Jackson, on a range in the woods, there is a bevy of broken down cars and trucks to simulate an urban battlefield.

The army says being a chaplain in combat is among the most dangerous jobs because the chaplains move from base to base ministering to soldiers.

"Once you move behind the vehicle, the chaplain, who has no weapon, will stay behind the engine block or the wheel base. That is the safest place for you to be,” the instructor yells to the long line of chaplains who are readying to run this course.

On the battlefield, chaplains look just like any other soldier.

Decked out in camouflage and body armor, the only addition is a two-inch patch signifying their religious affiliation.  Christian clergy wear a cross, Jewish clergy tablets showing the Ten Commandments, and Muslim clergy wear a crescent.

A cross patch signifies a chaplain's religious affiliation.

What they do not have is a weapon.

Chaplains are unarmed at all times.

They travel in combat with a chaplain assistant who carries a weapon and protects the clergy member.

For this drill the chaplains are learning to hold onto the back of their assistant as they run from obstacle to obstacle.

The pairs have to stay low and move through the course two pairs at a time.  The chaplain assistants have to cover the others as they move.

“Cover me while I move!”

“Got you covered!”

Then they run and dive for cover.

Army chaplains must learn to run with soldiers.

"Hold onto him like this and you will not get separated or you will be taken out. You are the target of opportunity.  You stay on him!" The instructor yells when a chaplain is separated from his assistant.

This is about as far away from a suburban pulpit or seminary these clergy can get.

“In school I'm used to sitting at a desk and reading and writing, so it's definitely a little more physical,” 2nd Lt. Adri Bullard said.  She is a Methodist seminarian, pursuing a Master’s in Divinity at the divinity school at Vanderbilt University.

“Being in grad school and trying to get your (degree) takes discipline and the discipline is pretty steady throughout my life right now. Getting up early, staying up late. These big booms, that's the main difference.  You really don't have those going off at seminary or divinity school, hopefully,” she smiles and pauses as explosions punctuate her points.

She is the smallest person on the range and sports the biggest smile.  What she lacks in physical stature, she makes up two-fold in effort and energy.

Bullard is among 200 chaplains and chaplain hopefuls going through various stages of chaplain school at any given time.  In Bullard’s class of chaplain candidates, the group covers a wide range.  “We’ve got two of our students who are actually in their 50s and we have two that are 22,” said Chaplain Maj. Harold Cline, who is an instructor.

Regardless of age, the candidates are put through their paces.

“When you’re working with soldiers, they’re in good shape. That’s part of their business. If you’re going to minister to them and work with them, rub elbows with them, you’ve got to be in good shape as well.”

The U.S. Army employs around 2,900 chaplains.  About half are active duty and the other serve in the reserves.  Eight-hundred chaplains and chaplain assistants are deployed in the war on terror and 300 of them serve in the Middle East and Afghanistan, according to a spokesman.

In order to join the ranks, a member of the clergy also has to meet the ordination requirements of their own faith and be endorsed by them to join the military.

Bullard has at least a year of schooling to go before she can be ordained in her church to serve as a full-time minister and an active duty chaplain.

She said she felt the call to ministry in college, “(I) did some of that in a congregational setting, yet felt like there was something else I needed to be doing, maybe taking it to another level in another setting.  Military chaplaincy seemed to fit that.”

Even in training she sees a parallel between her spiritual calling and the military.

“You're helping to meet the most basic needs a person has to live and thrive and flourish.  I'm going to look for everyone around me and make sure they're drinking water. I'll go get them water if they need it.  And that's scriptural,” she said, referring to a passage in the gospels where Jesus talks about giving water to the thirsty.

“So I think it's pretty easy to do ministry out here in the beating South Carolina sun.”

The task at hand

In the Army, each combat unit is able to have a chaplain with them if the commanding officer wants one. They report to that commanding officer and are paid by the military for their services.

The chaplaincy corps had to grow in a hurry as combat operations increased in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade, said Chaplain Carlton Birch, the spokesman for the chaplain corps.

“Our country is becoming more pluralist,” Birch said.  “We’ve had our first Buddhist chaplain, now we have our first Hindu chaplain. Our chaplain corps has had to adapt.”

It’s a long way from the start of the chaplaincy corps on July 29, 1775, under George Washington.

Today army chaplains minister to soldiers of all faiths regardless of their own.  They hold services in remote areas, connect a soldier of another faith with a chaplain of their own, and conduct ceremonies to send a fallen soldier home.

“They are the listening ear, they are there in times of crisis and turmoil for the soldiers,” Birch said.  “The value we hold dear is to meet a person at their time of need.”

The danger of their job was brought home for many here last summer when Chaplain Dale Goetz was killed when an improvised explosive device struck the vehicle he was riding in Afghanistan.

He was the first chaplain killed in action since the Vietnam War.

“The danger is sometimes what gives us the credibility to minister to our soldiers.  They know we've been there.  We've been there with them.  We've faced the fear,” Chaplain Capt. Karlyn Maschhoff said.

Maschhoff is a seasoned chaplain with multiple tours to the Middle East under her belt.

She came to Fort Jackson for another component of training – moving from rookie status like Bullard to being a more senior chaplain and helping those new to this unique ministry position.

Before September 11, 2001, she was writing Sunday school material and doing mission work. “I came into the chaplaincy after the events of 9/11. That made a profound impact on me when I saw the need for chaplains,” Maschhoff said.

“It was a combination of patriotism and recognizing the needs of soldiers as they climbed on those planes to go to a place where they would be in harm’s way and I just felt the need to be with them, to go with them. That is what led to me accepting the call.”

During her prior tours in Iraq she has seen the worst of war on the battlefield and on the home front.

“My first deployment was in 2005-2006 and that was a tough period. There was a lot of loss of life, a lot of bloodshed and a lot of uncertainty. But then I also went back later in 2008 for a 15-month deployment and at that time you got to see things improving.  Incidents were happening, but you got to see progress.”

“Losing soldiers is always tough,” she said.  “Watching families struggle through a deployment, yet you come on, you struggle on together.  You get through the tough days together. You continue on. As a chaplain you bring hope for the future and that is our message to our soldiers, that it's a dark day but it's going to get better.”

Heading home the hard way

"In country if you're doing one of these it could be 100, 130 degrees, maybe even hotter," Cline barks as rookie chaplains learn how to send a soldier home the hard way, with a dignified transfer ceremony.

They practice with a flag-draped metal transfer case, identical to the thousands of cases used to send slain soldiers home from war.

Before the transfer case boards the plane for the long flight home, the chaplains say a prayer or hold a brief service.

“She may have moved on from this Earth, but she's still in my heart," a chaplain in training says as he looks over the transfer case.

Six soldiers pick up the case.  They snap their heels together and begin to move.

Chaplain Cline instructs chaplain candidates how to do a dignified transfer for a soldier killed in action.

"You do not want to be the chaplain who is walking too slow in front of an honors team,” Cline said.  “Why? They're carrying the body, they're carrying the transfer case, and even though the case is relatively light, it's got a body in it and it’s full of ice, so they're carrying a lot of weight.  Don't slow them down and don't make them hold that transfer case up while you're doing something ceremonial."

The chaplain candidate puts his hand on the flag, bows his head, and sends the solider off with a prayer.

Today is a drill, but the Army says in as little as two weeks, these trainees could be doing the real ceremony on an airstrip in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Days after our interview, Maschhoff was on a plane back to the Middle East to begin her third tour, fully confident of her mission from her commanders and from on high, “It's challenging and  you know there are tough times ahead, but you're there to do what you've been trained to do. You're there taking care of soldiers and it doesn't get better than that.”

–CNN’s John Person and Jonathan Schaer contributed to this report

Watch The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer weekdays at 4pm to 6pm ET and Saturdays at 6pm ET. For the latest from The Situation Room click here.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Afghanistan • Belief • Buddhism • Christianity • Content Partner • Hinduism • Iraq • Islam • Middle East • Military • TV-The Situation Room

soundoff (818 Responses)
  1. TheWiz71

    Oh, and by the way, to the many of you who are depicting the presence of chaplains as sending the message that God (and Jesus – in the case of Christian chaplains) is advocating war and violence, you have absolutely no idea what being a clergy-person & pastoral care giver is about. Does as prison chaplain advocate crime? No. I have met military chaplains who are devout and ardent pacifists, who decry all war as absolutely evil and contrary to the will of God. But, they recognize the need that these men and women who are engaged in combat have of care, counseling, sometimes prayer, often a listening ear, and someone to help them sort out for themselves the problems and questions that being a soldier raises for them as human persons. It is about serving the people, as (for the Christian) Christ served, not about advocating war or violence.

    August 31, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • an Army chaplain

      Atheist, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Taoist, Wiccan, Pagan, etc. etc. etc. A Soldier is a Soldier. As an Army chaplain, I provide care in times of trouble, trauma, turmoil, to help people find peace, comfort, strength, and hope, regardless of their religious background. I know what I believe and whom I serve, but that doesn't have to be the same as what the Soldier believe. For those who believe that chaplains advocate war, you have no idea. For those who believe that chaplains subversively want to convert others, you have no idea. Join the military and find out. Serve in uniform and feel the pains and joys of real people who, more often than not, are striving to make something of their lives and provide a better future for subsequent generations.

      It is very intriguing that most of the negative comments are from those who have not served or faced danger in combat. No one who has seen the carnage of war would wish it on anyone. Yet, we serve as clergypersons because our military personnel need someone to love them, care for them, walk with them, cry with them, and bring them to a place of hope and a future for their welfare, not for harm. I think of the Soldiers that I have known, who have either died or been injured, and thank God that I had the privilege of ministering to them, and thank God that they weren't cowards who spewed hateful words, but actually put on the uniform and served.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • Atheist

      In my experience (Vietnam War era), the US Army chaplains never pushed their religion. It was the chain of command above that pushed.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • Atheist

      A friend of mine received non-judicial punishment for having a couple of books on Zen Buddhism in his barracks.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • Atheist

      The chaplains were totally different. I think they helped many people deal with being forced to fight a war they didn't believe in. Evidently, progress has been made in tolerating diverse beliefs since the Vietnam War. Eventually, an atheist chaplain could make sense-maybe with a two-inch patch depicting the Dirac Equation.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  2. KMS

    @PapaKilo, thank you for the kind comments brother.

    I'm amazed at how angry many of you are at me and you don't know me; heck, I'm a pretty nice guy 😉 I joined the Army because I love my country and saw a ministerial need for religious Soldiers. I have no interest (or time) to bash atheists or argue with them. In fact, if an atheist came to me with a marital, depression, etc. problem, I'd gladly help in any way possible because they are Soldiers and fellow human beings. It begs the question, why did you click on this link, watch the video or read the article, take the time to comment and bash my profession, if you don't care about religion?

    August 31, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Papa Kilo 15er

      They haven't walked in our boots is why sir. I would bet that most of them would be knocking your door down at the end of day of firefights.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • KMS

      I appreciate your service. You're the reason I joined; I just have an immense respect for Soldiers.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Atheist

      See my comments above under @an Army Champlain.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  3. oneSTARman

    GOD of WAR – The Role of Chaplain in the Military is to make a more efficient KILLING MACHINE that is Untroubled by committing acts of Murder against People who have done the soldier No Wrong. At least these 'Insurgents' had never done ANYTHING to ANY American until FORCED to Fight Back against the slaughter of Old Men – Women and Children in their Village
    http://www.houseofpaine.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/Vietnam_girl_napalm.jpg

    August 31, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • EnergyBeing3

      WOW... if we as a country have to POLICE THE WORLD then why aren't we fighting in other countries with horrific terrorism? Why is it that we are targeting Afghanistan??? Why aren't American Troops in DARFUR? or any of the other countries?

      August 31, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • TheWiz71

      NO, the role of a chaplain is to interact with the individual soldier on a human, not just military level. It is to help them to sort through the crisis and issues they are facing while on duty, to advocate for enlisted personnel with their officers (which is the reason they get officer ranks) when necessary. And, btw, so the Taliban are a bunch of villagers who are peaceful pacifists? Try telling that to the families of the women they executed in the Kabul soccer stadium. Try telling that to the families of those killed on September 11 2001, when the Taliban gave safe refuge to al Qaeda. Sorry, but you need to do some more thinking before spouting off like that.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • Papa Kilo 15er

      One Star in the word of Ray Barrone's lovely wife Deborah, 'idiot'. You have no clue of what you spew.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • an Army chaplain

      for a person espousing peace, I sense so much anger, hatred, and bitterness. May you find healing in your heart...

      August 31, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  4. Kurt Michaelson

    Sometimes I wonder about going back, to serve as a Chaplain. I could only do it with the Navy, since I'd want to be around my Marines.

    August 31, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • oneSTARman

      You could Stay at the YMCA – Its FUN to STAY at the YMCA

      August 31, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • america45

      SEMPER FI my friend

      August 31, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  5. KMS

    I'm a Chaplain Candidate and was there when they filmed this story. I have no desire to argue with people about whether or not religion is valid or your tax dollars are being wasted. We do EVERYTHING other soldiers do except wield weapons. We are non-combatants (via the Geneva Convention). We go everywhere Soldiers go and then some. We travel between outposts to offer religious support for those who want it (a very dangerous undertaking, hence CH Goetz's death). We are NOT allowed to proselytize or evangelize people. We are allowed to speak about our faith openly (as all Soldiers are) but we cannot force religion on anybody.

    For those wanting to know why we're allowed/needed in the military here's why: the 1st amendment does not become null/void when you join the military. In other words, the military cannot force you to give up or take up religion. We are there for those who are religious and want support. I'm a Christian but I am required as a CH to provide support for all. For instance, if a Muslim approached me wanting religious support, it is my job to do all in my ability to find an Imam for him/her. This is the service we provide. You would be amazed at how instrumental CH's are in preventing suicides, depression, etc. We are the only section of the military that offers complete confidentiality to the Soldier.

    August 31, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • shin

      Confidentiality untill the Soldier says he has thought about hurting himself/fellow Soldiers then he is black balled as a psych case, and is well on his way out of the Army with an other than Honorable! Good Job Chaplain!!

      August 31, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • I'm The Best!

      I think it's great what you do. That being said, I don't think you should be on the front lines with the soldiers. If anything, it's just another person for them to worry about. Now I'm not in the military, but if I was I know I wouldn't want anyone on my team near me that didn't at least have a gun. If I think you could take care of yourself then I wouldn't have to worry, but it would bother me to know that you would have no way to defend yourself and the squad if someone came to attack from your side.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • oneSTARman

      Without People like You How Could the soldiers Keep on Killing? I'm SURE God is 'So Proud' of you.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • Papa Kilo 15er

      Where would we be without 'our' Chaplain Charlie's? From giving last rites, to trying to comfort a wounded soldier until a medic arrives, while rpg's are whizzing by, these guys are truly a sight to behold. You people on these blogs who want to argue religion are so freaking lost, lol. These guys don't care what religion you are, they'll STILL risk it all to try and help you if they can. I'd say they're the medics of their profession. Ooh Rah and Charlie Mike.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • KMS

      @Shin you're incorrect sir/ma'am. We can suggest seeing the mental health professionals but we cannot report people. It's literally complete confidentiality. And black balling people with mental issues is an issue the Army takes very seriously. There is no shame in mental issues, especially considering what these men/women do.

      @I'm the best, you'd be surprised how many Soldiers would disagree with you. Many want their chaplain with them. We are careful to NOT take up dead space or do anything that could possibly cause harm. Also, we go with a Chaplain Assistant everywhere that serves as a personal security detail for us. Also, most of us are cross-trained in medical techniques (like Combat Life Saver) so that we can be an asset on the battlefield should something happen.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • TheWiz71

      Am tempted to say "STFU" oneStarman. But, just feel sorry for you. Geez, what do you do with all that hatred, and how did you get to be so?

      August 31, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • KMS

      Oops, accidentally posted this twice.

      @PapaKilo, thank you for the kind comments brother.

      I'm amazed at how angry many of you are at me and you don't know me; heck, I'm a pretty nice guy I joined the Army because I love my country and saw a ministerial need for religious Soldiers. I have no interest (or time) to bash atheists or argue with them. In fact, if an atheist came to me with a marital, depression, etc. problem, I'd gladly help in any way possible because they are Soldiers and fellow human beings. It begs the question, why did you click on this link, watch the video or read the article, take the time to comment and bash my profession, if you don't care about religion?

      August 31, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Josh

      I am a member of the Army, and even though i am an atheist, there are few people that i respect as much as you and all of our chaplains. If ignorant people want to bash on religions, hey, that's their choice. Don't ever stop doing what you do.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • retired sm

      Chaplain KMS,
      Thank you for your service and to all chaplains who stood by me or for me during my military career. Please know that 98% of these posters have never worn your boots, nor mine, and probably have no sense of what it means to be soldier or part of a soldier's family. As the saying goes, until you have walked a mile in mine........
      Again, thanks, and God speed in your endeavors.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Atheist

      Agreed! Many people here are ignorant of the situation of war and are attacking the best of people.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  6. EnergyBeing3

    If any of you think the Atheists are the enemy, then you owe it to yourself to learn as much about them as possible. They've taken the time to read through the Bible, sometimes many times over and now is your chance to understand why there is such a revolt from them against Christianity. Simply read through a few of the top Atheist web sites on the web to better understand their arguments so you can reform your own arguments in support of Christianity. I'll give you a good site, TheThinkingAtheist, but there are several on the web to read through. Then please come back and support your religious beliefs........ if it's possible.

    August 31, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • Converted

      Before my conversion, I was probably best described as Agnostic leading toward athiesm. Immediately upon my conversion by the Holy Ghost, science went from the "answer to everything" to "witnessing Gods work" How amazing is the Spirit to be able to change a person in that way!!

      Recently, I have been reading a book "The language of God" written by a great scientist that was the director of the human genome project. He too was once an athiest. At a point in his life he asked "the question" sincerely and was directed in his studies towards those truths that reconciled in his mind science and God. He gave much credit and quoted C.S. Lewis and his book "Mere Christianity" as part of his conversion.

      After reading about this, I wanted to see what athiest's thought about this book. I found the most fascinating thing... The athiest statements went toward belittling people and said that anybody with any education or logic would get nothing from this book and could not help anyone change.

      You can imagine the chuckle I got especially after reading what I just read from one of the top scientists in the nation.

      I then wondered why one person can read a book and be helped in their conversion and another gets nothing. My conclusion was that one person asks and reads with a sincere heart. Another reads only with their eyes and mind (and possibly didn't read it at all).

      With this, I ask that you also read... but with real intent to understand. Ask God for help in understanding. Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, know and it will be opened.

      As a side note. In the "language of God" book, it noted that Darwin initially wanted to study in the church and was a man of god. Although his faith was shaken, God answered those questions he asked. After Darwin, another man of God (a monk) progressed Darwins theory by working with his pea plants and showing hereditary traits.

      Wow... God shows us his work and we fight and bicker about it... try to turn it against him (I am talking to both sides on this issue).

      With love, Come Unto Christ

      August 31, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • TheVoiceOfReason

      Religion = Delusion
      Coexistence is Futile

      August 31, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  7. NotQuiteRight

    This is just idiotic. So there has to be a chaplain for every faith, every faith that is sanctioned by the US government that is. Do they represent mormons, or are they lumped in with the christians? What about scientology? Jehovah's Witnesses? There's a lot of Hindus out there too. Maybe they should sacrifice a virgin so all the pagans are accounted for. Oh, and then don't take a gun into war, your particular delusion will protect you. Simply idiotic.

    August 31, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • DC

      Well, since Mormons are Christians, of course they are included.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • TheWiz71

      Chaplains minister to every soldier who comes to them, regardless of faith. If that person wants religious counseling, and the chaplain does not share that person's faith, it is up to the chaplain to guide that soldier to the place where he can get it. The government is not advocating or preferring any religions through the Chaplain's Corps.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • NotQuiteRight

      So if you accept mormons as christians, you must accept the fact that the jews came to America a long time ago, that god lives near a star named Kolob, that Joseph Smith found golden plates left there by this ancient jewish civilization, and the garden of eden is in Missouri, like the book of mormon states, right? Mitt Romney believes all that stuff.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  8. shin

    Those of you who think that a Chaplain is there holding the hand of every dying Soldier, aaah, have been watching to many Hollywood War movies! If Soldiers can't sort thru the why as to their being there, then I'd say it's a bit to late to try and figure that out when bullets are whizzing by, and mortar rounds are landing in your crotch! Chaplains just confuse these kids, preaching tolerance/forgiveness/ respect for life then justifying to a Soldier why he just blew away a whole family!

    August 31, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • EnergyBeing3

      True... and on with the great Christian Hypocrisy that has helped make America Great!!! I'm going to go hate and kill more people for Jesus so I can get into the "Exclusive Club in the Sky" ... FREAKING AWESOME!!!

      August 31, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • TheWiz71

      Troll.

      August 31, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • Ralph

      Inase you're unaware, (which you probably aren't, but just like being an ignorant troll), they're not there to kill families and children. Do accidents happen, unforuntately yes, but their mission to to get rid of extremist terrorists, whose only goal is to kill innocent people.

      August 31, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • shin

      Ok Mr. Ralph If I was a betting man? I'd wager we have killled more innocents over there, than any terrorist group! However we get to do the body count right b/c were the good guys, seems like your the ignorant troll, TROLL! Accidents happen ok! I just emptied a whole clip into a car carrying a family there fault for not undersanting English right! STFU! Explain that to your GOD when the time comes!!

      August 31, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • EnergyBeing3

      @Ralph

      Good point but then why Afghanistan? There are also terrorists in OTHER countries. There is horrific terror in Darfur but you don't see the US military sending troops there. There are agendas we might not be aware of.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
  9. String

    The month of August, 2011 is America’s deadliest in long Afghan war: 66 troops dead this month.

    August 31, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  10. Ralph

    Gotta love never ending arguments on these boards. Funny how atheists like to evangelize as well.

    August 31, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • TheWiz71

      So true. The same old tired arguments from the atheists, which rarely have anything to do with the column at hand. And the thing that we theists do is too often rise to their bait. Best just let them rant their hatred, and love them anyway.

      August 31, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • Laughing

      A lot of the times its more a defensive rather than offensive thing, I would say a fair amount of regulars come to have a civil debate that turns into name-calling and atheists being called "souless", they "going to burn in hel.l" among other things.

      There's never-ending arguments and there's debate. You can find both here if you want to.

      August 31, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • I'm The Best!

      I admit that I will ocasionally bait, but I do try and make it relavent to the article. But I will rarely see a theist rise to the occasion and give me a good real reason that I'm wrong in the way I believe. Usually all it is is quotes from the bible and them telling me that I'm wrong.

      August 31, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • J.W

      Yeah Laughing we do say that sometimes, but that is because we are all uneducated and delusional.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • NotQuiteRight

      It's no different than the same old delusional excuse of a belief system you call your religion. Except that you think you're special and gifted compared to us secular folks, and that somehow you're better. That stinks of conceit to me, but I'm sure jebus would approve, since he's the one who started it.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • EnergyBeing3

      ABSOLUTELY !!! OK so if I held a belief system (and yes, I have my own spiritual belief system ) and it was shared by millions of people the world over, but then along came a group of people who call themselves "Atheists" refuting my belief system, I'd want to know where they are getting their information or where their resources are for thinking this way. You can do this by simply going to a few Atheist sites online and reading WHY they think as they do. You owe it to yourself.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • Laughing

      @J.W

      Touché sir, Touché

      I won't say I haven't baited a few believers here or there, but hey, if that's what it takes to start conversation, then thats what it takes.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  11. EnergyBeing3

    Hmmm, lets see now. I'm dieing after I've murdered other people and I lay there and have the option of morphine or the Blood of Christ. Ah...... choices choices.

    August 31, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • TheWiz71

      There's a theoretical difference between killing a person in combat, and murdering someone. But, that's beside the point. What is the point is that a wounded soldier can get both the medical treatment and the spiritual care they need. Nothing wrong with that.

      August 31, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • EnergyBeing3

      OH now that makes total sense. Thanks. I get it now. Killing others, Jesus would be proud.

      August 31, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • Lola

      EnergyBeing3, you are so right. I am a christian, but I don't believe in killing others. Jesus said "those who live by the sword will die by the sword". He did not fight those who killed him, he showed love.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • NotQuiteRight

      What, did god explain the theoretical differences to you, or is this something new for the church? Defense, I would argue, is a theoretical reason for killing, but not to go to someone else's house and kill them. Your delusion books don't explain that in more detail?

      August 31, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  12. String

    This month America’s deadliest in long Afghan war: 66 troops dead

    August 31, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
  13. TheWiz71

    People, if you're atheist or theist or whatever, lay off these chaplains. They do real, important work helping our troops through a lot of tough stuff. They are there for them. We pay for the chaplains because having chaplains to care for our troops helps our soldiers to be better soldiers, and helps to care for and heal them as human beings. If you're an atheist, and don't want to believe that's your business. But, unless you want to get out there and do this same work, holding the hand of a wounded or dying soldier, listening to them as they deal with family trauma while they are a thousand miles away, helping them sort through the big questions that their involvement in combat will inevitably bring, then lay off.

    August 31, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • Atheist

      Agreed, lay off the chaplains . But seriously, attacking the chaplains is really ignorant and beyond rationality.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
  14. shin

    More dead weight on the battle field to add to all the non-combat soldiers over there, and females who are banned from combat missions! No wonder were losing the war, and have lost the war in Iraq already! 2,900 and only 800 deployed should tell you something, less than half deployed, the others getting fat pay-checks to provide marriage counseling!

    August 31, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • TheWiz71

      So you don't care how combat is impacting our troops as human beings? You want our soldiers in combat having no means of sorting through personal crisis, and thereby being even more distracted from their mission? Nice. Just nice. And, of you can't tell from the story, the whole point of this training is so that the chaplains on the battlefield won't be dead-weight to their comrades. I haven't been there, so I can't say, but I'll warrant that there are a lot of troops of any and no faith who have been helped by the work of a chaplain. So, as I say above, lay off.

      August 31, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      @TheWiz71: "So you don't care how combat is impacting our troops as human beings? You want our soldiers in combat having no means of sorting through personal crisis, and thereby being even more distracted from their mission?"

      That's what basic training is for: preparation.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • More Accurate

      @shin, That's 800 currently delployed, not ever deployed.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  15. Sy2502

    I can't believe any of my tax money is going to army clergy. Churches are full of money, why don't they pay for their clergy?
    Also, what's their god doing sitting on his thumb while people kill, maim and torture other human beings?

    August 31, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • sheetiron

      "Churches are full of money"

      LOLOLOL!

      You obviously have never worked in a church before.

      August 31, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • TheWiz71

      It's obvious he hasn't. But, at the same time "the God I believe in isn't short of cash, mister". There aren't too many churches (beyond the "megachurches" – I'm talking mainstream denominations) who are full of cash. And, the ones who are better off (Trinity Church, Wall Street, for example) use their money to fund vital ministries all over the world already, but those are the exception rather than the rule.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Aaron

      If they choose, soldiers in battle have earned the right to have access to spiritual guidance.

      And you said it succinctly in that people kill people. God is not a puppet master. Go do what you want to do. And he is not sitting on his thumbs. Just as the soldiers, you have access to spiritual guidance as well.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • J.W

      Churches do pay for their own clergy. The other money a church takes in is used to pay the bills of the church, and to do building repairs. Much is donated to charities as well.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • Atheist

      Sheetiron hasn't been to the Vatican!

      August 31, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  16. Apul M'Dkeek-Aoud

    Killing for Jesus.

    August 31, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • SGT Gregory

      Which is why they don't carry weapons, right?

      August 31, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
  17. GDBnNH

    First of all, I am an atheist yet I respect the beliefs of those who have faith in their religion. Frankly, I think chaplains fulfill an important role in the military beyond just preaching the gospel. Often they are the only people a soldier, sailor or marine has help them through the horrors of war.

    Second, I would like to remind people of four chaplains, Reverend George L. Fox, Rabbi Alexander D. Goode, Reverend Clark V. Poling and Father John P. Washington. For those of you who do not know the story of these Four Chaplains, they were headed to Britain on a troopship, the USAT Dorchester. On the morning of February 23, 1943, the Dorchester was torpedoed by a German submarine, the U-223. These four chaplains worked distributing life jackets to the troops as the ship sank. When they ran out of life jackets, they gave them their own ones. They were last seen with their arms locked together, praying on the deck as the ship sank.

    I hope their selfless dedication is never forgotten.

    August 31, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • TheWiz71

      Hear, hear!

      August 31, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • Atheist

      Yes!

      August 31, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  18. Atheist you are NOTHING but you are so proud of yourself

    you are not even as rich as Bill Gates.
    you are not going to have more girl friends than Hugh Heffner
    you are not as smart as Albert Einstein who once said "God do not throw dice"
    you are not as handsome as me, oops sorry Brad Pitt not me.
    your brother/sister is much better than you in every way.
    you even AFRAID (pee on your pants) if your boss angry at you.

    But with your PROUD and with your small brain you can certainly say that there is no God.

    You are amazing LOSER atheist ......

    August 31, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • Laughing

      Fascinating.

      Mind if I copy this so from now on when a christian askes why atheists "persecute" christians while they do nothing, I can show this as direct proof that this is simply not the case?

      August 31, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • Spiffy

      Someone is mad... Can't you stand up for your beliefs in any other way?

      August 31, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • J.W

      I think this post is exactly right. Atheists are poopheads.

      August 31, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      Spiffy

      Someone is mad... Can't you stand up for your beliefs in any other way?

      ----
      I suspect after that post they turned on their Nascar.

      August 31, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • Scott

      You don't have to be smart to realize there is no god, just honest with yourself and others. I think the question Chaplain's should ask is WWJD. Seriously. How smart do you have to be to realize when you are being used? And this is from an American that has nothing but respect for our military.

      August 31, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • Atheist you are NOTHING but you are so proud of yourself

      Hi Spiffy,

      I'm not mad, just stating the fact. Because I realize I'm nothing I believe in God.

      Let's say God does not exists I loose NOTHING, but If God exists atheist lose EVERYTHING.

      In this live you have to choose:
      1. Believe in God (50% chance He exists)
      2. Not believe in God (50% chance He doesn't exits)

      Take your chance

      Don't blame a believer who do bad stuff. Even Judas Iscariot one of the disciple betrayed Jesus even though He saw Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

      August 31, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • Mikah

      This is a terrible post. It makes me want to vomit. A true Christian would never respond this way. This is shaming, does not bring God glory, and is incredibly vain. All you've done here is help plunge non-believers further into anger and doubt.

      Jesus didn't come here for the righteous, he came for the sinners and the non-believers. Please remember that as you engage aetheists and agnostics and Muslims and Bhuddist, and all of Gods' creations.

      August 31, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      Atheist you are NOTHING but you are so proud of yourself

      Hi Spiffy,

      I'm not mad, just stating the fact. Because I realize I'm nothing I believe in God.

      Let's say God does not exists I loose NOTHING, but If God exists atheist lose EVERYTHING.

      In this live you have to choose:
      1. Believe in God (50% chance He exists)
      2. Not believe in God (50% chance He doesn't exits)

      Take your chance

      Don't blame a believer who do bad stuff. Even Judas Iscariot one of the disciple betrayed Jesus even though He saw Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

      -----
      I love dumb christians. If you are playing the odds then you never believed anyway.

      August 31, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • Laughing

      I'm confused, where did you come up with the statistic that there's a 50% chance that god does exist and 50% he doesn't? That only works if you operate in a closed system with only one god. I think you need to toss in % of Allah existing, not existing, Zeus exisiting/not existing, Odin existing/not existing..... and so on.

      August 31, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Atheist you are NOTHING but you are so proud of yourself

      You Said to -Spiffy: " Let's say God does not exists I loose NOTHING, but If God exists atheist lose EVERYTHING. "

      Please look up "Pascal's Wager." It is not a very useful way of deciding whether or not to believe in a Deity, much less the Christian version. Choosing what supernatural myth to believe based on hedging one's bets, again is not a very thoughtful way of believing and living. (IMHO).

      You Said to -Spiffy: " In this live you have to choose:
      1. Believe in God (50% chance He exists)
      2. Not believe in God (50% chance He doesn't exits) "

      Well, first... no one 'has to choose.' Second, there are a multi-tude of other potential scenarios should there even be life after death and a Deity of some kind.

      Regards,

      Peace...

      August 31, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • Mikah

      @Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics:

      This guy is not a Christian. I'll admit, all Christians (at least I do) have doubts. It'd be impossible not to. We're human, and modern science (though never having 100% proven the Bible wrong) is breathing down our neck.

      This guy is just trolling I guess.

      August 31, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • Atheist you are NOTHING but you are so proud of yourself

      OK no more argument. (it won't end – we can twist the world)

      Mark my word.

      All of us in this forum will die by 2080. So see you all then by that time we will know who is right and who is wrong.

      Does God exists or Not exists.

      And I put my bet (my whole life) that God exists.
      End story – see you after life.

      Sincerely,
      Theist

      August 31, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • Spiffy

      @Atheist you are NOTHING but you are so proud of yourself

      Thanks for telling me story from your holy book. I have already read the bible but I still find it funny that people believe in miracles.

      So the only reason you believe in God is because you don't want to go to hell? If God is real I doubt he would be proud of you just for being a coward. Plus what do I lose? Some Christian denominations define hell as simply a place without God.

      My question for you is did you pick the right religion out of the thousands?

      August 31, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • Spiffy

      @Atheist you are NOTHING but you are so proud of yourself

      I doubt I will be dead by 2080. I will be 85 then and with the way modern medical technology is advancing life expectancy will only go up.

      August 31, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • TCP

      Hey atheist hater, So pretty much the ONLY reason you "believe" in a god thing is JUST IN CASE there is one? Is that REALLY what you mean to say?...I'd better believe 'cuz if I don't and there just happens to be an omnipotent, omnescient, omnipresent, peaceful, loving, forgiving, free will granting god thing it won't send me to HELL to BURN for all eternity for not worshipping it...NICE! Me? I'll just roll them bones, thank you.

      August 31, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • J.W

      When you say well there is a 50/50 chance God will exist that is not faith. If you have that much doubt you are really more agnostic.

      August 31, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • Atheist you are NOTHING but you are so proud of yourself

      If you (human) can understand it – it's not God. I cannot respect any god that I can figure out. (St. Augustine)

      "God do not throw dice" (Albert Einstein).

      if God exists – nothing is impossible for him

      If you are atheist, you have to resolve this question first does God exists? before ask further question.

      Most people become atheist because of their pride. They think they are self sufficient, they don't need other supreme being, in my first post – I just want to point it out that atheist as a human is NOTHING.

      Mark my word: We all in this forum will die by 2080 at that time we will know Theist is right or Atheist is right.

      See you afterlife.

      August 31, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • Atheist you are NOTHING but you are so proud of yourself

      Okay, help me!!!
      I need my med, do you see my drug.

      Mikah,

      If the atheist and me (not a real Christian) do not repent will we go to hell. If He come to save sinner why there is hell? Why don't the Supreme Being create human who will never be able to sin?

      Why so much suffering.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • Dr.K.

      Did anyone else catch that many of the ideals this person used for comparison – specifically Einstein, Brad Pitt, and well my boss for that matter – are prominent atheists? Was it intended to be ironic?

      August 31, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • Jim P.

      And a beleiver is all of the abive then? Sorry. Einstein was speaking metaphorically in regard to Quantum theory and some other aspects of theoretical physics that troubled him. He quite specifically denied belief in a "personal god". Hefner doesn't even have a wife and I could not care less about his "girlfriends". I do note the divorce rate is highest in the so called "bible belt" states though, inttertesting fact.

      Some very smart people beleive in an invisble buddy in the sky and some do not. Some otherwise very intellgient people snoke cigarettes or think Astrology has any real validity.

      Which takes more ego: To say you do not beleive there is an all powerful being who cares deeply about every aspect of your life or to claim that there is one and he/shge/it/they have important, special,.universe-spanning plans for you and that if you kiss up to them, they will come someday and take you away to a happyland where you get everything you want forever?

      I see no evidence for any god, same as I see no evidence for the tooth fairy or unicorns. They may exist, but until they show up and say "Hi" to me, I am unlikely to start beleiving in them.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • Laughing

      I have no idea,

      I want to say it's an atheist troll (a la Adelina) but I think this person is actually serious, which is sort of sad.....

      August 31, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • Spiffy

      @Atheist you are NOTHING but you are so proud of yourself

      If magical invisible unicorns exist then nothing is impossible for them.

      No God does not exist. Moving on...

      So now you are some expert on atheists? I became an atheist after studying my past religion (Catholicism) and multiple other religions I was able to come to the conclusion there was no God.

      I will most likely not be dead by 2080.

      No you won't.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Atheist you are NOTHING but you are so proud of yourself

      I'm just stating the fact: PLEASE TELL ME which one is NOT TRUE

      you are not even as rich as Bill Gates. – TRUE
      you are not going to have more girl friends than Hugh Heffner – TRUE
      you are not as smart as Albert Einstein. – TRUE
      you are not as handsome as me, oops sorry Brad Pitt not me. – TRUE
      you even AFRAID (You might pee on your pants) if your boss angry at you. – TRUE

      But with your PROUD and with your small brain you can certainly say that there is no God. – TRUE

      August 31, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • Laughing

      I fail to see how not being rich like bill gates, have as many relationships as hugh, be as smart as einstein, ect... in any way has to do with being an atheist or not.

      For instance:

      The sky is blue – FACT
      I have two feet – FACT
      My phone could use an upgrade – FACT

      Thus god does not exist.

      You follow?

      August 31, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • Atheist

      Thank God I'm an atheist! (plagiarized joke)

      August 31, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
  19. Mike

    As soon as they say something against gays, they will probably be court-martialed.

    August 31, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • sheetiron

      Actually no. At least not for now. As the DADT policy change stands, chaplains cant preach against ho m o s e x uality if they choose. If a h o m o s e x ual attends a service and is offended, well, quite frankly thats their problem. They don't have to go the the service, and the military doesnt tell the chaplains what they can and cannot preach about. Some people may not agree with that, but thats almost word for word what we got from the brief when DADT was repealed.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
  20. C

    There is something horribly wrong with the mere existence of this article. US citizens should be questioning the strong Christian influence in their military before they end up in an openly Christian crusade. The rest of the world WILL NOT tolerate such behavior, at least I hope not.

    August 31, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • Mike

      It seems that we are ending up more with an openly gay-rights crusade that a Christian crusade.

      August 31, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • Josie

      I hate to say this, but even if a Chaplin is Christian, they do learn and have to understand ALL faiths that serve in the Military. In my ex's last unit that he deployeed with they had 3 Pagans, 1 Mormon, 2 Catholics, and even a couple of Muslims. I have high respect for the Chaplins, they do an amazing job. If I get through school and decide to go back in as a Chaplin, I will, and will be proud of it.

      August 31, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • Scott

      Jesus/God justifying an organized military will send up waring signs to anyone with an IQ over 70.

      August 31, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • L.V.

      Chaplains as they are now in the US military have existed since World War I. Not even a flicker of your so called "Christian crusade" has ever occurred. Chaplains have been of great comfort to many in and out of war zones. Your apparently strong dislike for Christianity is sad to see. But, it's not like Christianity will ever go away, so just stick to your vitriolic comments on CNN thinking they'll make any difference at all. 🙂

      August 31, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • Mike

      Scott: I thought that's what Islam is all about. Use force to convert. It's worked pretty well too. Way I understand it chaplains are there to help soldiers of the respective faiths. When I was in the service, I had no use for them, but others did.

      August 31, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • TheGarin

      Seiously C and Scott, you can't be that stupid to take that out of this article. A christian crusade...really? And you really make yourself sound so intellectually superior when you insult someone's intelligence in the comments section of a CNN story. Get a life you two.

      August 31, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • dbm

      Where do these half-wit armchair historians come from? 'C', do you even know why the Crusades happened? I bet you think it was just some invasion of Muslim countries. Why not actually look at a history book and read what went on during the early Middle Ages and the military expansion of Muslism, followed by Seljuk Turkish, armies from what was North Africa, the Middle East and yes, even into Europe until the Crusades were called. It was a response to an already growing threat to Europe and the remnants of the Byzantine Empire.

      August 31, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      L.V.

      ........ But, it's not like Christianity will ever go away, so just stick to your vitriolic comments on CNN thinking they'll make any difference at all.

      ----------
      The Romans thought that to and we now read about their gods in the Mythology section. Catholic church is seeign a decline. Like with mormons, we see christianity change form and dilute and eventually disappear.

      August 31, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • sheetiron

      The "rest of the world" tried to "NOT tolerate" Christian influence many times before. The "rest of the world" being Rome. The Roman Empire lead 10 separate campaigns to snuff out the Christian movement over a period of almost 300 years. We see how that one worked out.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
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About this blog

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.