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The Spiritual Needs of the Religiously Unaffiliated Airmen and Trainees in Basic Military Training

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Conference Paper

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59th Medical Wing Lackland AFB United States

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In the United States the religiously unaffiliated are growing Pew Research Center,2015. This group includes atheists, agnostics, and nothing in particular, and now accounts for 22.8 of the U.S. population. These figures are not unique to civilians and are replicated across our joint branches of the U.S. Military Military Leadership Diversity Commission, 2010 25.50 of Service Members SMs identify as religiously unaffiliated and 3.61 as Humanist. Evidence points to a clear, and growing, cultural presence of the religiously unaffiliated in our U.S. Military Hunter and Smith, 2009.There are significant differences in religious attitudes between enlisted members and their officer leadership, with only 15.65 of officers holding religiously unaffiliated beliefs compared to 27.63 of enlisted members Hunter and Smith, 2009. In this atmosphere, without systemic support for their beliefs, many young service members may feel adrift and alienated as they attempt to assimilate into their new military culture. In August 2014, a programmatic innovation supported by the U.S. Air Force emerged to serve this group. The Humanist Group developed after one atheist trainee requested to meet with a non-theistic chaplain. His request sparked a program that now serves Basic Trainees and Airmen every week during the 8.5 weeks they are in Basic Military Training BMT. The Humanist Group is currently the only a-theistic programming in the Department of Defense that functions exclusively to serve the non-religious spiritual needs of this population. The program includes an 8-week sequential format through the following topics 1 Humanism, Communication, and Military Life, 2 Morals, 3 Fallacies, 4 Coming out, 5 Separation of church and state, 6 Nones, 7 Grief and stress, and 8 Death.

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