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What I'm Reading: Articles on Atheist Chaplains, War, and the Autism Epidemic

Should atheists in the military have chaplains to serve their needs? That's the question asked in a recent New York Times article, "Atheists Seeks Chaplain Role in the Military." The article discusses the spiritual climate of the military, which it claims is overwhelmingly Christian. Although the number of atheists is quite small, they are comparable to the numbers of Jews, Muslims, etc. Should taxpayer dollars be used to provide chaplains for them? And what does atheist chaplaincy look like?

Another article about the military also caught my eye: "A Beast in the Heart of Every Man."  Also from the New York Times, this article describes the context of the brutal murders by American military personnel of Afghan civilians. It's worth reading for the thorough examination of the events, but I was interested in the implicit questions it raised about our common humanity. Luke Mogelson pushes readers to consider whether atrocious crimes against civilians during war should be counted as murders or whether we, as the society that sent them to war, bear common responsibility. He writes:

If we lack a sense of collective responsibility for these more recent war crimes, Mestrovic blames this on our readiness to believe that such occasional iniquities are aberrations perpetrated by a derelict few, rather than the inevitable result of institutional failures and, more generally, the nature of the conflicts in which we are engaged. It is much easier to accept the assessment of the officer who told General Twitty that the Fifth Brigade had "absolutely the worst command climate I have ever operated under" but that nonetheless "nothing about the unit climate led to the killings . . . that was simply the work of a sociopath."

Finally, a recent study suggests that autism is no more prevalent among children today than it is among adults. It made me wonder, if autism has always been present in the population at a rate of about 1%, is it good news or bad that we are recognizing it earlier and earlier? I'm inclined to say that it's good in that we can serve kids more effectively the earlier they are able to participate in early intervention, etc. And yet I also wonder why it is that autism went underreported in the past. Are we making something out of nothing? Were individuals accepted in the past or was it to their detriment to go without a diagnosis? Is it adding social stigma to a child to offer a diagnosis of autism, or is it a helpful aid to parents, teachers, and doctors alike?

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