These cartoons seem to be making fun of atheists. “What a ridiculous idea!” they seem to be saying. “The idea of atheist or humanist chaplains!” But what is ridiculous about it? I suppose it is seen as ridiculous because, realistically speaking, the main job of the military chaplain is to provide emotional comfort and spiritual reassurance to the troops. Spiritual reassurance is very different from spiritual guidance. Oftentimes spiritual truth is not very comforting at all. As Flannery O’Connor said, the truth does not change depending on our ability to stomach it, or something like that.
If Christian military chaplains were really doing their job of providing spiritual guidance as revealed in Jesus Christ, then atheist and humanist chaplains would actually have a much more comforting message than Christian chaplains.
“If you die, you might go to heaven…but you might go to hell.” — Christian chaplain
“There’s no heaven, but on the other hand, there’s no hell either, so don’t worry about it.” — atheist chaplain
I would take a void of nothingness over hell any day. The only way atheist chaplains can be seen as funny and ridiculous is if Christian chaplains are always implicitly or explicitly conveying a message that what the troops are doing has no chance of sending them to hell, or even going so far as to imply that it will be their ticket to heaven. Only if that’s the case (and we all know it is) can the idea of an atheist chaplain seem funny. Only in comparison to this false comfort can the atheist’s message seem ridiculous or depressing.