U.S. Army Recognizes Humanism as a Religion In an Important Move For Religious Tolerance

If you happen to be a humanist in the United States Army, today is your lucky day. The Army will now allow soldiers to put down "humanist" as their official religious affiliation. For many, the move has been a long time coming and is being praised by people who say the army is too dominated by Christian culture.

Humanism, a non-theistic spiritual tradition that affirms ethical responsibilities and personal fulfillment while rejecting the notion of deities or "supernatural beliefs," is only practiced by a small number of people in the U.S. Armed Forces, and has long gone unrecognized within the U.S. military. Now that the Army has officially recognized it as a religion, humanists within the Army will be better able to organize and the move could even make it possible for humanist chaplains to become a reality.

There is no word yet on whether or not the other branches of the military will follow suit and begin officially recognizing humanism as a religion — or whether or not the Department of Defense will put a humanist organization on its list of groups that can officially sponsor chaplains. But for humanist soldiers, including Army Maj. Ray Bradley who first put in a request to be listed as a humanist two years ago, this move is a definite victory.

“I’m able to self-identity the belief system that governs my life, and I’ve never been able to do that before,” Bradley says.

The military officially recognizes Islam, Judaism, Wicca, and many other religions (plus, of course, Christianity), but humanism seems to be the first non-theist religion to gain recognition (unless we consider atheism to be a religion). Further acceptance could be an important way for the military to respond to the growing number of Americans who identify as spiritual but not religious. It's also part of an on-going trend in the military of becoming more religiously inclusive. It's only been a few months since the military's ban on religious attire such as yarmulkes and Sikh turbans was lifted, but it seems that change is in the air.

Here's hoping that the this trend only continues, and that religious diversity becomes nomral and accepted in all segments of society.