Atheists in Foxholes: Why I Won’t Wear Christian on My Dog Tags by Bruce Monson (Jan/Feb 2003)

While preparing for my deployment to the desert to fly missions in support of “Operations Enduring Freedom” over Afghanistan and Southern Watch in and around Southern Iraq, I had to ensure that my mobility folder was in order. Since becoming the mobility officer for the unit I had noticed that a few of my peers had dog tags that said “No Religious Preference” or “Other.” Mine had said “Other” until someone told me I would receive better treatment in a POW camp if I said I was religious. Since then my dog tags have said “Christian.”

It has been a long time since I had had my dog tags changed, and as I prepared for this deployment I began to think more about that word that so often hangs from my neck.

Though I was raised Christian at an early age, I found that the questions I had could not be answered to my satisfaction. I had just left it at that, until recently my wife joined the Mormon Church. Initially, upon studying Mormon beliefs, I couldn’t help laughing at some of the bizarre dogmas they have added to Christianity, and at their sordid history as well.

But when my kids began singing songs about “following the prophet” and I heard “authorities” in the church teaching my kids things like, “When the prophet speaks, the debate is over,” I stopped laughing. I began to read more about religious history and also began voicing my opinions in the local paper and various periodicals, especially after September 11 and with the recent controversy over “Under God.”

When one of my pieces was printed in the “Faith and Ethics” section of the local paper, a local religious group contacted me and invited me to speak at its weekly meeting. It turned out that this group was pretty open-minded. My views, surprisingly enough, were very similar to a favorite author of theirs, former Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong, who is an outspoken advocate of church reform.

I learned a lot of surprising things about the church from the members of this group, especially their pastor, a woman who has become a good friend. She told me of seminary school where one learns about the true history of the church, things that are not taught to “the sheep,” probably because they are not very faith-promoting.

Basically the bible is, at least mostly, a fraud, and the church knows it. The gospels were written long after they pretend to have been, by people with little knowledge of the history of the time or even the geography of the places in the fictitious stories. A widely held opinion among experts both within and outside the church is that Jesus was created as a fictional character of Christian stories and never lived at all. The silence of historians from the time and places where the Jesus stories were set gives that theory some weight.

Much of the bible was written for political influence, with rulers like Constantine and his Roman Catholic Church being strengthened by the “word of God” of their invention. When Constantine held the Council of Nicea, more than 300 years after the Jesus story was said to have occurred, the council selected the official collection of works that would become the bible. Amazingly, the conference actually voted to decide whether the Christian God would be a Trinity or not.

The name “Jesus Christ” is not found at all before the first Council of Nicea in 325. The two names represented older gods that were molded into one by the council, Hesus of the Druids, Jesus of the Israelites and Christos of India, among others. Constantine, ruler of Rome, thus created the Roman Catholic Church with elements of many popular religions to unify all people under his control under a god of his design.

As if fraud in the name of political control wasn’t bad enough, the real tale of the spread of Christianity is a horror story more gruesome than anything Stephen King could invent. It is a story of true sin unmatched in scale and cruelty in all of human history.
Long-held beliefs tend to die hard, but all across the world, they did. Millions were killed for not denouncing their indigenous beliefs. The most gruesome torture imaginable was inflicted on those who clung to the faith they had held since their childhoods. Christianity spread by literally killing off the beliefs of large portions of the world. I wonder if believers today could see the mountain of innocent tortured bodies that is the true foundation of their church, would they still take their children’s hands and climb to the gaudy entrance?

I am now sitting in a trailer in a desert not far from the birthplace of Christianity. I fly a military jet over land and peoples torn by centuries of war over oil, land and the religions that began here and spread like a plague across the world. I contemplate the horror that faith enables as I fly over Afghanistan, where our mission is to track down and kill those responsible for the worst terrorist attacks in American history–largely inspired by a difference in religious upbringing. Faith in their imaginary god gave them the courage to end their lives, happy with the elaborate delusion of an afterlife, while they disintegrated in a murderous hell of their creation.

As Seneca the Younger said: “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.”

Today we live in a world of delusional beliefs that were spread by conquest and the most perverted torture humanity has ever invented. These beliefs were deployed with the same clear conscience possessed by the September 11 religious murderers.

Thinking of all this makes me feel dirty for having the word Christian pressed against my skin by the dog tags hanging from my neck.

I do not look down on Christians who don’t know the history of the tradition they represent, but now that I know, I will not represent Christianity in any way. When I get back home, I am going to have some new dog tags made. If I can’t have “Agnostic” printed on them, I will dig out my old “Other” dog tags and use them from now on. It is possible that I could be treated worse in a POW camp someday as a result, but I feel that it is more important to represent who I am.

Hell, the way things are now, they would bury me with a damn cross over my body. I don’t want to be remembered like that.

Freedom From Religion Foundation