Atheism has always been a domain of faith. When science has no explanation, the atheist perseveres, waiting in hope for the epiphany of reason. From whence comes matter? A great bang in the center of the Cosmos. A broad expansion of the great material Unity, which will one day bring all things back to Itself. The governing philosophy at its core is simple: Not God.
Now comes the U.S. military, with research revealing that soldiers who have faith in God are more resilient and less likely to kill themselves than are faithless soldiers.
"I don't think any one of those questions has anything to do with how fit I am as a soldier," responds an atheist sergeant at Fort Bragg to an instrument developed by the military to assess spiritual fitness. Never mind what the data reveal about the average soldier. The faith of the atheist can surmount mere numbers: "My faith is that faith is baseless. Any evidence suggesting otherwise must therefore be wrong."
What's more, argues this soldier, alongside a host of fellow nonbelievers, assessing our spiritual fitness is a violation of our rights. They have a lawyer who agrees.
The military counters that it is not using the results of its spirituality assessment to make personnel decisions, but instead to expose those soldiers who score poorly to resources that might enhance-if they choose to take advantage of them-their spirituality.
Though I'm amused by their faith-based rejection of faith, I think the atheists have a reasonable enough suspicion. If military research found that firm believers in God hesitated before pulling their triggers on the enemy, and in response officials developed a means of testing one's God commitment, and in turn developed materials to expose the faithful to resources helping them let go of their love for God in favor of anger toward the enemy, I suspect I'd have an objection. And supporting the military's power to do one necessarily gives it the authority to do the other.
There's also the reality that whenever organizations other than the Church get into the business of assessing and assisting spirituality, they tend to pervert what they touch. So while the data may be right, and the faithful may be more fit to endure the stresses of military service (and of life, one might reasonably extrapolate), I think it's probably a bad idea for the military to be in the practice of administering faith instruments.
All the same, those results certainly are interesting.