left biblioblography: Profiles In Atheism - The Principled Patriot

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Profiles In Atheism - The Principled Patriot


When I was nineteen,
I joined up with the reserves
And I fought on weekends
paid my college tuition
But out in the killing fields,
you come to question all you learn
is peace the truth
a universal truth
or some man made superstition
- 'Kiss The Sun'

This July 4th, I am going to pull a profile from the present, rather than the nostalgic trips into previous centuries, and present you all with an actual 'atheist in a foxhole' and a true patriot: Pat Tillman.

Truthfully, when I first heard about this (Tillman's abandonment of his professional sports career for the military), I didn't think very highly of it. Of course, that was the typical American snapshot judgment in action (I'm as prey to it as anyone else, I fear).

As is standard, there's far more beneath the surface than most know.

"At one point in his NFL career, Tillman turned down a five-year, $9 million contract offer from the St. Louis Rams out of loyalty to the Cardinals."

(I'm no sports buff, can barely them - but loyalty is an attribute I can understand, and respect.)

Pat and his brother Kevin abandoned their respective sports careers to serve in the armed forces.

His political views?

"The September 25 2005 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper reported that Tillman held views which were critical of the Iraq war and did not support President Bush's re-election. According to Tillman's mother, a friend of Tillman had arranged a meeting with Noam Chomsky, to take place after his return from Afghanistan. Chomsky confirmed this [12]. The article also reported that Tillman urged a soldier in his platoon to vote for John Kerry in the 2004 U.S. Presidential election. [13] However this could not be independently verified due to his death in Afghanistan."

This of course, does not necessitate that he was a liberal: I'm sure there's a few moderate conservatives who hold these views.

'Religious' beliefs:

Tillman's religious beliefs are not totally clear, although by accounts, he was not religious. According to speakers at his funeral, he was very well-read, having read a number of religious texts including the Bible, Quran and Book of Mormon as well as transcendentalist authors such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau; his younger brother Rich stated that he "isn't with God... He wasn't religious."[14] Another article quotes him as having told then-general manager of the Seattle Seahawks Bob Ferguson in December 2003 that "you know I'm not religious".[15]

A few snippets, from alternate sources:


"But in the meantime, a recent ESPN.com expos√© by Mike Fish aired an interview with Kauzlarich, who was the “cross commander” of the Rangers in Khoust, Afghanistan, in April 2004.  Kauzlarich, in a stunning display of Christian empathy, blamed the family for continuing to ask questions about the circumstances of Pat’s death, and suggested that the reason they’d found no closure was that infidels such as themselves (the Tillmans did not belong to a church), when they die, are only “worm dirt.”

Mrs. Tillman's response (via Thefutureofthebook):

Well, this guy makes disparaging remarks about the fact that we're not Christians, and the reason that we can't put Pat to rest is because we're not Christians," Mary Tillman, Pat's mother, said in an interview with ESPN.com. Mary Tillman casts the family as spiritual, though she said it does not believe in many of the fundamental aspects of organized religion.

And it's rumored that Richard Tillman spoke at his brother's funeral, and said:

"And after listening to officials talk about Pat being with God, Richard spoke at the memorial and said, “Pat isn’t with God. He’s fucking dead. He wasn’t religious. So thank you for your thoughts, but he’s fucking dead.”

How much the 'atheist card' has played into the cover-up over Tillman's death via 'friendly fire' will be the subject of much ruminations over the next few decades, there is no doubt.

What makes this different? Well, I think there's enough evidence that he was at the very least an agnostic. He also signed up on the side of his country, regardless of his own stand on the issues. There was a thing that needed to be done, however distasteful it may have been (and that is pure speculation on my part), and he stepped up to the plate.

I am also no large fan of the fact that we require any military force in order to protect our country - but the need is there, and will be for quite some time. Until that day when all arms are laid down, when one-eyed stares are no longer a requirement of countries to protect themselves, when the concept of peace is no longer some abstract theory with nuances abounding. Till that day comes, we are indebted to our servicemen (and women) for their willingness to lay down their lives to keep us safe.

And so, I salute his bravery and his principles, and that strength of character that had no religious underpinnings to prop it up (because in truth, courage in an afterlife is no courage at all: it's not even remotely courageous to sacrifice oneself if the base is that there is a hereafter).

In memoriam: Pat Tillman. Regardless of how he met his end, he gave of himself without the promise of rewards post-mortem.


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karen said...

Here's to Pat.
It takes a real commitment to serve in a war that you don't support, when you have the opportunity to bow out.

I'm glad he was honest about his feelings about the war, and very grateful to his brother Rich for speaking out at Pat's funeral.

If only someone would say at mine, "She's not with god, she's fucking dead."
I bet my son will. :)

Nice post, KA. Thanks for a nod to a non-historic atheist.

Krystalline Apostate said...

karen - thanks, doll, it's nice to know SOMEBODY'S still reading me.
In a matter of speaking. ;)

karen said...

Still reading, not commenting as much anywhere. You seem to get lots of responses when you crosspost at GifS.

Been in a funk.
Plus, the old brain just doesn't seem to like plain oxygen and no nicotine. :/

Krystalline Apostate said...

Karen - aye, I do get quite a few responses at GifS.
Glad to hear you're off the old demon Nicotine (hmmm, time to look for a better word?).
Good to know you'll be w/us for some years longer now.

karen said...

"Good to know you'll be w/us for some years longer now."

Ya never know.
While I am rapture-safe, I could get squished by a meteorite, or a Greyhound bus. If that happens, with my dying breath, I request a Virginia Slim Superslim Regular! Please. Oh, forget the pickiness, gimme anything ya got on ya!

Krystalline Apostate said...

Karen - I think we're ALL rapture-safe, even those folk we wish would simply vanish.
But far be it from me to deny a dying person's last request.