A religion scholar who doesn't believe in God has applied to become a Navy chaplain and doesn't think the fact that he's an atheist should disqualify him from serving.
Thirty-eight-year-old Jason Heap submitted his application in early July to the Armed Forces Chaplains Board and hopes to be the first humanist chaplain in military history, Stars and Stripes reports
"I am aware there are many who would be reticent or militant against that," he said. "But at the end of the day, my job is not to inculcate my viewpoints onto other people. My job as a chaplain is to be a facilitator, someone who cares for people, someone who is a sounding board."
Heap, a former Texas resident who now lives in England, has masters degrees from Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University and Oxford University. He has almost completed his doctorate as well.
For the last five years, he's taught religious studies to British teenagers while continuing his own extensive studies of 17th century Baptist literature.
The chaplains board is expected to make its decision in a few weeks, but Rep. John Fleming has signaled his intention to head off the induction of chaplains who don't profess a belief in God. The Louisiana Republican has filed an amendment to the annual defense authorization bill that would ban non-believers from the chaplains corps.
"The notion of an atheist chaplain is nonsensical; it's an oxymoron," he said recently. "It is absurd to argue that someone with no spiritual inclination should fill that role, especially when it could well mean that such an individual would take the place of a true chaplain who has been endorsed by a religious organization."
Heap called the timing of his application to Fleming's amendment completely coincidental.
"I'm not doing this just to make a point," he told the Stars and Stripes. "I'm doing this because I want to serve and give back to my country."
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