If you’re like me and have been muttering that all the cool stuff seems to be happening on the west coast, this one’s for you. “Rock Beyond Belief” is a first, a brand-new, secular-themed one-day festival taking place in the parade grounds at the US Army base in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. So dump any plans you’ve already made for April 2nd and join in the fun from noon to 7:30-ish. Admission is free, there’s going to be cool music and some great speakers – like Jen McCreight, Hemant Mehta, Ed Brayton, and Richard Dawkins! And, because of my timing in contacting them, I actually have a scoop on some info that hasn’t been officially released yet. It’s over there in the poster, one of the new musical performers.
While new secular organizations are always good news in and of themselves, this event in particular has a little background. It seems the US Armed Forces have somehow been forgetting that, as a government organization, they’re not really allowed to promote religion of any kind, and most especially not a particular religion above any others. Last year, this was demonstrated in a rather obvious way with the Rock The Fort event, organized by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Despite many claims of playing neutral on the whole religion thing (yeah, Billy Graham’s organization was just doing this out of the goodness of their hearts,) the event was quite clearly intended to convert people to christianity, and they even bragged about their conversions onstage afterward. There’s also the not-mandatory-but-you’ll-be-prosecuted-if-you-don’t Spiritual Fitness Test that is currently being administered to service members.
There’s really no reasoning at all behind this, so some people have been fighting back to maintain the constitutionality of serving our country. The Military Atheists and Secular Humanists (M*A*S*H) and Military Association of Atheist and Freethinkers (MAAF), with little advance time and some apparent resistance from the powers-that-be, organized a major event “for the rest of US.” It’s not a de-conversion or anti-religion event – it’s simply a fun get-together with a secular theme, making the presence of atheists and freethinkers known just a wee bit more while providing some entertainment free from opportunistic huckstering.
So check it out, and watch for the bearded guy running around with the camera – I’ll be more than happy to meet anyone that has actually found this blog. And in the meantime, spread the word and link to the Facebook page – making this bigger than Billy Graham’s event would be freaking hilarious! But on a more serious note, the military is paying attention, and if you support the idea that they should be concentrating on the defense of the country and not favoring religious recruitment, let them know about it.
This really has nothing to do with whether or not anyone finds religion to be useful – it has direct bearing on whether our armed forces (and our government) swearing to uphold the Constitution isn’t just an outright lie. Isn’t there enough bullshit going on everywhere else?