On Wednesday, when the Army holds its 12th-annual Diversity Leadership Conference at West Point, gays and lesbians will be well represented for the first time. But so will another disparaged military minority: self-identified atheists and freethinkers in uniform, as many as 40,000 of them. In an unorthodox move, the academy has invited Jason Torpy, an Iraq vet and president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, to plead the case for—among other things—adding atheist chaplains to the armed forces.
Huh? Isn’t “atheist chaplain” a contradiction in terms? Not at all, Torpy says. In an interview with Mother Jones, he explained how the military’s chaplain corps in fact performs mostly secular counseling and community services for the troops—while still eschewing gays, lesbians, atheists, and religious skeptics, denying them the same means to mental well-being that most Christians, Jews, and Muslims can find in the ranks. The big problem, Torpy points out, is that the services’ chaplains aren’t representative of their flocks: Conservative evangelical clergy dominate the ranks, in numbers way out of proportion to those among servicemembers
(chart: http://www.militaryatheists.org/resources/demographics.jpg )