Damn My Secular Soul


The Wrestling Match for Reason, God, Opinions. . . 

The Secular/Spiritual merry-go-round can be a dizzying carousel sometimes. Comment becomes a little conversation with potential for dialogue and meaningful debate. Or not.

Engaging believers CAN be productive and interesting. And sometimes the opposite.  There’s just no hope.  The following exchange between Chaplains may sound familiar to those who wander out on the minefield of blog commenters. . .

I recently came across a Priest who refers to himself as a Chaplain. He posted an alarmist article about the U.S. Air Force cracking down on a Chaplain in Alaska who was posting sermons attacking Atheists. The Priest was obviously agitated about this “censorship” and the “religious freedom” under attack (notice how quickly this becomes an attack on Christians, when the problem began as Christians attacking Atheists).

So, being who I am, I commented. Here’s my first one:

“In nearly every instance of “an attack on religious freedom” it is conservative Christians crying out they are persecuted when there is no evidence of this. Those who want Christians to continue to dominate chaplaincy seem to have no memory of “do unto others,” which remains the most difficult teaching for Christians to actually follow. If the military of our secular nation has to have Chaplains (and I’m not convinced we need them) there has to be accommodation to all faith and ethical traditions.
This post is yet another alarm bell for special privileges. It sounds rather tinny.”

This seemed to set the Priest off. Our back and forth began with him telling me he’s a retired British Intelligence officer (oh oh, what have I stepped into now) and the whole secular culture has lost the “Judeo-Christian doctrine and ethic.”

I scribbled back,

“Ok, sir, yet the article is on the American military and, in my opinion, the violation of the establishment of religion clause in our constitution. Hard to see your point regarding the “loss” of any Christian influence (dominance) in our cultures, though the point could be made that there is a decline in some ethics when any religion takes power and arrogantly dominates. Why wouldn’t Christians support chaplains of all ethical groups if they really care about all personnel?”

I’ll spare you the details of his life, but he isn’t happy with this “secular” stuff:

“Speaking for myself, a “secular” chaplain is a most oxymoron, a real opposite! But in this time of both modernity & postmodernity, I am certainly not surprised!”

When he started quoting “born again” passages, I was irritated and tried some good old sarcasm:

“Well, sir, I’m not sure much discussion can come from our perspectives here, but you may be correct in suggesting I’m both an oxy and a moron (smiling here). Welcome to the U.S..  I apologize for our godless constitution and secular nation built on freedom of religion (free to choose a religion, or not). Sorry we were never or will never be a Christian country. I often wonder, what is the goal of those who preach for a “return to Judeo-Christian” things? “Jesusland” USA only exists in some peoples’ fantasy world.
By the way, my almost 30 years as a Chaplain in one form or another, faith and no faith, taught me one main thing: no one owns or controls the truth, and, truth is, people are in need of much more than preaching (and quoting holy books simply doesn’t help).
I wish you well.”

Well, the preacher-priest wasn’t finished, and he obviously didn’t appreciate the sarcasm.

“Funny Chris, and I never said the American Constitution was “godless” and “secular”, your words and conclusion, not mine.”

He went on about being a “Biblicist” (bible worshipper?) and a “neo-Calvinist” so I knew I was done (well done, burned to a crisp, in Calvinistic Hell). He mentioned my eternal soul, so I finally concluded (duh) it was time to turn down the volume and sign off.

“I guess I asked for the preaching, by commenting here. As a former seminary-trained minister and a student of the bible for many years, I have to say it sounds quite hollow to have it pushed back in my face. But, it’s your blog, so expected.
Beyond that, one final comment: in your passion to convert the world to your opinion you might keep in mind that it is often secular people like me (and like Jefferson, Franklin, Paine and other freethinkers) who most protect your right to believe as you wish and speak freely. This is the strength of a secular state where religious freedom is vigorously supported by a Constitution and Bill of Rights based on reason and diversity rather than on one dominant theological opinion. Yes, a clergyman signed the declaration, alongside Deists and Freethinkers. Independent minds working together. Quite impressive. I wish you well.”

After my “sign off,” I went back to visit and found that he had left 3 more comments for me beginning with,

“Yes, this is a blog, and a religious blog mate, and not really a secular place, i.e. modernity and postmodernity!”

And, he was a vet who fought for “God and Country.” Great.

Well, gosh, and damn my secular soul too.

Was I asking for this? Did I bait him? A little. But what was the purpose of his post and responses to me? To preach. To go after nonbelievers in the service of their country. To quote the bible and show me his profound faith and pietistic patriotism (implying all along that I could not possibly have ethics or be patriotic, and my soul is lost!).

So, I suppose this little “conversation” can be taken as a caution, a warning. We choose our fights over these emotionally charged things. Or, we simply choose not to fight but to seek constructive dialogue (CD). For some of us, we can quickly see when CD is not going to be possible.

Have you had similar exchanges with preachers and believers?  When did you know Enough was Enough?

Lifting the Veil

somali woman

Lifting the veil of religion, of faith, is. . .revealing (re-veiling?).

I don’t have a big problem with women wearing veils/hijabs or nijabs IF that’s their choice (some problem, but not very big).

However. . .this really makes me angry:  “Somali Woman Killed for not wearing Veil” (BBC) 

When insane murderers hide behind their own Veil of Religion, I’m angry and even more determined to face down Irrational Faith wherever it raises its destructive head.

In the Name of Humanity

holding the earth

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for the end to the War in Gaza.

I find his strong and well-chosen words quite startling:

“In the name of humanity, the violence must stop.”

With so many Wars of Religion continuing to fracture our world with fear-based faith, where we so often hear either calls for Peace or calls for War “In the Name of God,” it’s almost refreshing to hear a world leader choose words that get to the heart of the issues we all face. . .as Humans sharing One Fragile Home.

What if we would hear this more often, and heed this call to practice compassion, justice and reason

In the Name of Humanity.

Is there really Any Other Name that can call us to Responsibility?

Otherworldly Thinking


The story goes that on his deathbed Henry Thoreau was asked by a minister if he could see the “other side” yet (always a nice question for someone who’s dying, don’t you think?).  Purportedly the 44 year old Henry answered, “One world at a time.”

I have no interest in other worlds in the sky. . .except the supernatural-free worlds.

The stars and planets, the solar systems and galaxies and beyond. . .are fascinating to the imagination and inspiring to exploration.

And, of course, for all inhabitants of the homeplanet, the MOON is a globe of reflected beauty-light for everyone in every nation to enjoy.

A few years ago, I proposed a Moon Wilderness Park.  A crazy, lunatic idea.  But a concept that someone like John Muir, and maybe Henry Thoreau, would support.  I think they might howl alongside those of us who want to protect wild areas. . .even in the sky!

Now that we just honored the 45th anniversary of the first steps on the moon (“for all mankind”), we learn that the original plan for the moon was to Build an American Military Base and maybe even explode a nuclear weapon on the moon!  Incredible.  Now THAT’S lunacy!

The United Nations had a Better Idea.

Here’s something just posted on Moon Park.

I would value your comments. 

“Reverend Atheist”

pale chaplain
Maybe not Rev. Gunslinger

What?  Oh, of course!

Rev. Atheist, like Rev. Humanist and Rev. Freethinker.

Why Not?

We hear a number of agitated faithful ask, “How can you be an Atheist/Humanist/Freethinker and be a Chaplain, or call yourself a Clergyperson?  You can’t DO that?”

Here is my abbreviated reply:

1)  Actually, I can and I do.

2)  Though a secular is by definition a non-theist, non-supernaturalist, we need to take a closer look at what “Reverend” means.

For example, I was trained as a minister and received a Master of Divinity degree from an accredited seminary.  I was ordained by a recognized denomination (Presbyterian).  This means that I had 8 years of Religious Studies, Bible, Counseling, Psychology, World Religions, etc. and then served as a Chaplain for twenty-five years.  I “gave back” my ordination, but continued to work as a Chaplain.  Not a problem.  Then, I was ordained by the Universal Life Monastery in Seattle (mail order, ten bucks—much cheaper than seminary!).  So, technically, I can still call myself “Reverend” or a “Minister,” though I am not a theist believer. I rarely refer to myself as “Reverend” but often as a Chaplain.

What does the word “reverend” mean anyway?  One deserving (perhaps) reverence or respect.  A member of “the Clergy.”

What does “Clergy” mean?  “Ordained for religious duties.”

What are “religious duties”?  Depends on whom you ask!

Ah, that’s the rub!

Those who say there can be no “Atheist Clergy” already have their own definitions that exclude pretty much ALL Clergy not of their special faith.  One whom they “revere” and consider a leader in “religious duties” represents Their God (their definition of God).  So, these folks would probably not accept or “revere” Other Clergy, such as Imams, Rabbis, Gurus, Priests, Priestesses, etc.

See the problem?  I think it’s fairly clear:  Some will only revere, respect and honor those they consider, they believe, are “ordained” or “called” by The One True God. . .Their God.  All others are Imposters, Actors, Fakes.

I think this is the foundation and the context for denying Secular Chaplains and Secular Clergy access to the honorable table, to full inclusion (whether military chaplaincy or any other kind of “ministry”).

So I would suggest that the next time you hear someone question the use of these professional titles by secular representatives, simply point out that they are doing the Work of Good, “called” by the natural instinct to do good and to help with compassion and justice.

In my book, a person EARNS respect and any “reverential honor” through education, experience and content of character.  It cannot be bestowed “from Above” or by a Committee.

I think this could be a very interesting discussion!

When Faith Gets it Right

child and flag

I continue to be in relationship with many people of faith.  Some are a little too much caught in “church business,” but many are out doing many good works in the community which benefits all of us, spiritual or secular.

I’m the first one to commend ANY group, faith or no faith, that seems (in my opinion) to be on the Side of Justice, Compassion and Common Sense.  I freely admit that I “caught that spirit” way back in seminary and liberal biblical studies that centered on action rather than preaching.  And 30 years of chaplaincy put me in daily contact with those on all sides of these debates.

Today I read this very hopeful example of what happens when Faith Works:  “U.S. Religious Leaders Embrace Cause of Immigrant Children”.  You could also say it shows that Compassion Works or Good Work Works!

To see Catholics, Prots, Jews, Unitarians, Quakers and Others forming coalitions to speak out for the most vulnerable human beings deserves praise and support from the Secular Community.

As a Freethinking Secular, I’m always pleased to see and hear when the Face of the Faith Community is kind, reasonable and charged up for a good cause.

Open, Humanitarian action is something to be supported and joined. . .

In this case, on behalf of children, regardless of sides, borders, skin color or beliefs.


Secular Chaplain Subscribers around the World

Sunflower Sun (Highland)

People “Follow” or Subscribe to blogs for many reasons.

Those who visit, comment and subscribe to Secular Chaplain are a Very Diverse Group around the World!

It’s good to think about why so many in the human family, from so many backgrounds and locations, are finding topics of interest here.

Take a Look at this Selection of Our Current Circle of Community:

What Countries are Represented on Secular Chaplain? 

In Africa (South Africa and Liberia)


United Kingdom













Canada (Ontario, British Columbia, and more)

United States

Virginia; West Virginia; North Carolina; Tennessee; Kansas; Texas; Nebraska; Colorado; Connecticut; Maryland; Alabama; Florida; Indiana; “Midwest”; “East Coast”; Southern California; Northern California; New York; Oregon; Washington State

Who Subscribes to Secular Chaplain?




College Students/Graduate Students




LGBTQ Persons









Persons in “recovery”

Persons with “mental challenges”

Web Designers


Fashion Designers


What is the Faith/No Faith Breakdown on Secular Chaplain?










Progressives; Catholics; Evangelicals


New Agers


Isn’t that pretty amazing?

Maybe you’re asking the same question I am:  What’s the common thread?  

I’m guessing that thread has something to do with the fact that we all, secular and spiritual, share the same “homeland” and want to learn to understand our world with all our different perspectives.  And I think we all want to contribute to making the world a better “home” for all of us.   

What do you think?

Secular Chaplain is for “thinking together,” asking the questions that need to be asked, and sometimes answered.

So I am pleased to “Welcome the World” to this Growing Circle of Reason and Inter-connection!

Whether you’re a nonbeliever, believer or simply curious, thank you for joining the conversation!

{I would suggest the image of the Sunflower might be a good one for this meeting of minds}

Do Unto Others. . .


{This poster was on the wall in our Street Chaplaincy drop-in center}


Let’s call it “DUO” (D.U.O.)

Do Unto Others.

Master Kung (Confucius) said it 500 years before Jesus.

Doesn’t matter.

It’s about DOING, about Ethics (NOT who gets the credit, for gawdsake).

Like all meaningful rules, guidelines, “spiritual lessons” or principles I think this is “simply” a REMINDER of behavior we KNOW is “good and right.”  Doesn’t take faith to know that (in fact, I think faith can get in the way of the simplicity).

As I see it, there are at least two ways of understanding this ancient principle:

1)  You want to be treated well, so treat others well

2)  In your actions, be a model for others

(and some joke, let’s hope it’s a joke, that it also means “Do unto others BEFORE they do to you!”)

With the first one, I think of an incident when my daughter was 2 or 3 years old.  She was going around pinching us on the arms.  At first it was funny, but then became irritating.  So, as I think many parents have done for thousands of years, I pinched her back.  She didn’t like that of course.  “That’s how it feels.  Do you like how that feels?”  A simple lesson.  And a lesson I suppose we have to learn over and over in our lives.

But that’s still a little negative, almost a “I DON’T want you to do that to ME, so I won’t do it to YOU.”  Later, I helped to teach my daughter (and she learned naturally) that the more she helped others or gave nice things to others (even hugs and good words), it not only made HER feel good but then she appreciated the good things that people did for her.

That’s Reciprocity.  A give and take.  A balance of act for act, good for good.

With the second one, doing to or for another person shows them good actions, how you treat another.  Then they can see not only what you want for yourself, but what is “good” or ethical behavior.  It is modelling in the best sense.  It is intended to enlighten, to educate, to remind.  “You LIKE that to happen to YOU, so DO it to Others” or the flipside, which is similar to the first point, “You DON’T like that, so DON’T do it to Others.”

And sometimes this “little lesson” that can be so hard to practice, has to be, by its very nature, uncomfortable, even agitating.

We can illustrate this with a current, very controversial and divisive example (I’m not saying this would actually work very well, but might be worth a try in some places!)

Example of DUO Action. . .

The Supreme Court’s decision to allow “counseling” outside women’s health clinics has provided a wonderful opportunity to practice the Good News of the Gospel!  Yes, Seculars, Agnostics, Atheists and Freethinkers, YOU TOO can Live the Good News!

What IF all people (faith or no faith) who believe in freedom of human conscience and are strongly committed to PRO-LIFE (like health choice, early childhood education, feeding and housing hungry and homeless humans, marriage equality, anti-war, anti-death penalty. . .you get the picture:  PRO-LIFE). . .

What IF we stood at the doors of the Anti-choice Churches to “counsel” people going in to their worship services?

What would the “counseling” be?  

Well, maybe something like this:

“Please, don’t kill an innocent MIND!”

“Faith is a CHOICE.  You can make a different choice NOT to believe or have faith.”

“Look at our Large Signs and Photos of BRAINS, of People Using Those Brains, of Wise Thoughts and Science. . .of the Real Needs of Our Human Community.”

“Join with Us, Work with Us, to make our World better for all of us, not to force our intrusive beliefs on everyone else.”

“This is the meaning of DUO:  Do Unto Others. . .Together we are a DUO!”

Yes, this is edgy and a bit “in your face.”  But, when DUO is practiced in the way I’m suggesting, it’s not a violent thing.  Not an angry thing.  Simply an “educational moment” to model that ancient principle of reciprocity.  And, yes, it may serve to show the anti-choice crowd how it feels to be pinched, if you catch the connection.

This would be DUO (Do Unto Others) in action.

It’s a Working With Others for Good, rather than Working Against Others for Yourself (or your God).

DUO is the Way of Reason and Compassion. . .

A Dynamic DUO!

Sidenote:  Those who are SO concerned about little faithful fetuses (because it really IS about Babies Becoming Believers) need some gentle reminders of how their own God lovingly slaughters children from time to time:

Joshua 11:12: “[Joshua and his army] struck every person who was in it with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them; there was no one left who breathed. And he burned Hazor with fire.”

First Samuel 15:3: “Thus says the LORD of hosts [to King Saul], ”Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”

Psalm 137:9:  “Blessed [Happy] shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.”

And my personal favorite (for all the Theological Gymnastics it takes to “explain the historical context”):

Matthew 2:16-18:  “When King Herod saw that he had been tricked by the Wise Men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed ALL of the Children in and around Bethlehem under two years old. . . .”  Remember:  This was according to God’s Loving Plan.  It was the fulfillment of divine prophecy, “A voice was heard in Ramah. . .”  Remember, God Knows All and fully knew that “sending His only Son” into the world would cause the death of ALL the Infants and Toddlers in and around Bethlehem.  And of course, He Knew that the bloodshed was Only Beginning, from these innocent children to Jesus to the centuries of people killed In His Name.

Not a pretty story.  Religious History has not been a good example of DUO.  Maybe it’s time?


God’s Having a Busy Summer


What’s Your God Up to this Summer?

On Vacation or Holiday?   Or Working Overtime to pay the planet’s stack of bills?

Is S/He lying on the beach somewhere, in World Cup Rio (tanning) or Gaza (bombed to bits)?

Is S/He out in a sunflower field in Eastern Ukraine (stunning us with beauty, or fallen from a jet)?

Maybe S/He is crouched low in fear riding a bus through an angry crowd of Faithriots (God, Guns, Flags and Country) or out among the crowd screaming for the “Illegal Children” to “Go Home!”?

Is the Lord of the Universe, as you understand Him/Her, frenzied with taking sides in unending conflicts?

Or maybe the Almighty is sad and depressed, thinking maybe it’s time to rescind the self-imposed order NOT to wipe out Humanity with a flood again?  Nothing like another divine genocide to “make a point.”

So, God’s having a busy summer. . .

Here’s how Timothy Egan writes it ( “Faith-based Fanatics”, NYT)

But this year, the ancient struggle of My God versus Your God is at the root of dozens of atrocities, giving pause to the optimists among us (myself included) who believe that while the arc of enlightenment is long, it still bends toward the better.

[The rage between Israel and Hamas] has its roots in the spiritual superiority of extremists on both sides.

The clashes [between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar] prompted the Dalai Lama to make an urgent appeal to end the bloodshed. “Buddha preaches love and compassion,” he said.

And so do Christianity, Islam and Judaism. The problem is that people of faith often become fanatics of faith. Reason and force are useless against aspiring martyrs.

In the United States, God is on the currency. By brilliant design, though, he is not mentioned in the Constitution. The founders were explicit: This country would never formally align God with one political party, or allow someone to use religion to ignore civil laws. At least that was the intent. In this summer of the violent God, five justices on the Supreme Court seem to feel otherwise.

Suggestion:  Pay attention to the role of the irrational in the old, old “news” all over our screens.  Listen, learn, THINK, FEEL and ask a lot of rational questions.  Seek solutions to the fanaticism and fearfulness.  At the same time, take some breaks.  Be good to yourself.   Read some good books, watch some comedy or thoughtful films.  Take a walk.  Get some fresh air.  Try to focus on inspiring stories like the ones on “Making a Difference” (NBC), “On the Road with Steve Hartman” (CBS) or “Upworthy.”  Do your own acts of kindness.   Get out in Nature (probably the BEST move).

Whatever Your God or Someone Else’s God is doing this summer. . . take short, daily vacations, if only for a moment.  

Good Knows, we need it. . .our world needs it.