Last week I had to watch the Air Force’s latest attempt to stem immoral behavior through institutional education and training. I sat in an auditorium with about 50 other pilots and student pilots and learned something I learned in kindergarten…don’t take something that isn’t yours. Apparently, however, our service is at such a low point that our leaders think it is time to re-teach this lesson. Unfortunately for the Air Force, it seems they can no longer tell us why such behavior is wrong.

Secular humanism, an attempt to get rid of religion but retain morality, is failing even as it retains its death-grip on the minds of many national leaders. Sexual assault is on the rise in the military (1 out of 3 women are sexually assaulted according to our Sexual Assault Awareness coordinator). Suicide rates have caused increased concern among the upper brass. Scandals at the Academy continue to make the headlines on a fairly frequent basis. The basis for ethical behavior is being removed as “too religious,” and the humanists are shocked to discover that moral behavior isn’t quite as intuitively obvious to all of humanity as was expected.

I am rather disappointed with the Air Force’s attempts to address sexual assault (defined as, “intentional sexual contact, characterized by use of force, physical threat or abuse of authority or when the victim does not or cannot consent..without regard to gender or spousal relationship…’consent’ shall not be deemed or construed to mean the failure by the victim to offer physical resistance. Consent is not given when a person uses force, threat of force, coercion or when the victim is asleep, incapacitated or unconscious”). The video we watched took great pains to drive home the point that under this definition most sexaul assault won’t be conducted by the man in the ski mask, but rather by acquaintances and friends (or even spouses) who take things farther than their partner desires. The point is that the entire criminality or wrongness of the act rests upon mutual consent.

The difficulty is that now judges will be left to discover and evaluate the hearts and intentions of men and women who may not know those intentions themselves. For example, Jerry and Sally go out to a bar. They have too much to drink but don’t mind because they are enjoying themselves. Jerry offers to walk Sally back home and she invites him in. After spending the night together one of them (let’s say Sally) decides last evening wasn’t such a good idea. Sally is shocked and horrified that she has slept withJerry and decides to press sexual assault charges. She claims he seduced her while she was “incapacitated” and unable to resist due to the large amount of alcohol she drank. Jerry says Sally consented to the act, she may have said no once but he just thought she was playing hard to get. (Lest you think this is too extreme, it is actually hinted at in the Air Force video and has been voiced as a concern among some of my colleagues). Who is in the right? By tipping its hat to the assumed normalcy of sexual promiscuity, the Air Force leaves itself very little ground to stand upon in condemning less socially acceptable sexual behaviors.


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Posted by Tex


  1. They should have an AF form 69 that consenting parties must sign for there to be no culpability:)


  2. This is a tangent, but I’ve been interested as to why secular humanism invalidates all morality, and I haven’t figured it out yet.

    I usually understand morality to be kind of like the laws of physics: the moral behaviour (broadly understood) is that which is best at making a person happy. Universal moral laws are the patterns of behaviour which are best for the majority of or even all people.

    Consequently, it seems to me that living by moral laws is justifiable regardless of whether they are enforced by a religion or not.

    Or, do you mean the average joe needs a noble lie?


  3. My impression is that sexual assault by military men is way down. If your argument is that the military is increasingly secular — and there is no evidence to that effect — then it would appear that becoming secular increases morality.

    There are more reports of assaults on women in the military — but there are a lot more women in the military. We have ratcheted up our morality among military people — it is no longer considered moral for military “men” to cat around, to grope any woman they come across, etc., etc.

    If that’s the result of greater secularism, bring on the secularism.

    The notion that women are equal and deserve respect as people IS more the result of some secularism in the military (certainly it’s not an argument pushed by the clergy). To the extent anyone can live up to that higher moral standard, good on ’em.


  4. Ed,

    I’d be interested in seeing some stats to that effect.


  5. Eric,

    Even if moral law is something like the laws of physics, the main difference is that they can be ignored and denied. To the extent that they are, someone may live a less than excellent or happy life; however, it is often difficult to make the strict connection. Further, even if morality is the most rational course (given that the assumed end is happiness), we must agree that all men are not rational and no men are completely rational. Oft times immoral actions seem to be the best course of action in attaining happiness, especially if a person is looking for less than the long-term sort of excellent life. And even then, arguments can be made for lifestyles that contradict the moral laws upheld by various religions and ideologies.

    Living by moral laws can be justified without appealing to a religious code; however living by moral laws is often not actuated without appealing to a foundational reason that gives weight to the “ought” of moral mandates. Secularism’s foundational reason is weak and does not give enough weight to the multitude of “oughts” it demands.


  6. Ed,

    I’d be interested in seeing some stats as well. In our Sexual Awareness briefing we were told that 1 in 5 civilian women are sexually assaulted while 1 in 3 military women are sexually assaulted. By giving the briefing to every member of the Air Force, combined with the argued thesis that most sexual assaults take place between acquaintances and friends, the implication is that Air Force men are committing the majority of these assaults on military women. If you have different info, I’d be interested in seeing it.

    What is your support for the claim that there is no evidence that the military is increasingly secular? The Air Force is being pushed towards the position that all religions are equal (and therefore none are true), e.g. the current lawsuit against the AF Academy. Personnally, I have had commanding officers tell me that spirituality is good, even if my chosen spiritual path involves worshipping the devil. The value of religion as a means to know true things is increasingly denegrated–chaplains are useful when it comes to praying at the opening of a new squadron bar or bowling alley but there is little room for them in the war room where policy is being made and specific tactics discussed.

    I believe that while the Air Force is tightening up its standards, its inability to give a good reason for the new standards will be harmful in the long run. It already is making hypocrites out of many of its officers who live two lives–one in uniform and another out–because the moral standards imposed by the military don’t carry any real weight on the minds and consciences of the troops. The Air Force, as a microcosm of American culture, makes its moral decisions based on pragmatic concerns. When enforcing x behavior is no longer practical, x will no longer be immoral.


  7. How could one provide religious foundations for the moral standard? (If that’s what you’re implying should be done) If seperation between Church and State means that no one can be forced to believe in theis/deism, then I don’t see how anything would change significantly. Those who don’t believe won’t be persuaded to be more moral and those who do are already more moral.


  8. Ah well, there I go again, killing another promising discussion. In other news, I will now begin attending STFU. Hopefully there I will learn how to really participate in the dialectic with others.


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