This is a narrative of what happened in response to my putting up a sign on my door that said, "FREETHINKER REPRESENTATIVE."
First, some background. As you probably noticed, I'm a cadet at West Point. Being at a military academy, and in the regular army, one would think announcing my religion by posting it on my door might be violating Church/State Separation, or you may not. In any case, part of the reason I put it up was because of the Catholic Representative and her sign down the hall. So, I figured it's ok to put a sign up.
I expected people to ask why I was the Freethinker Rep; why I thought I was qualified. The answer would have been, because I am a Freethinker, and because I have 8 or 10 books, several pamphlets, and lots of interaction with the Freethinker community on the web, particularly Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers. And besides that, why not?
One reaction I didn't expect was people getting offended because if I was touting myself as a 'Freethinker,' read: I'm a free thinker and none of the other christians or catholics in the area think freely. It wasn't meant that way, but I wouldn't oppose it because I define a freethinker as one who searchers for the right and the good to order my life by any means available, particularly through reason and skeptical inquiry. Those who, through tradition, faith, reason, or no particular reason, choose God/Scripture as the source of their right and good and the manner in which they live their life no longer think freely. They have chosen scripture alone as the source of their inspiration for their life. They have forsaken skeptical inquiry and chosen God as their benchmark.
My roommate stated that he determined through reason that God exists and is the Truth, and through proper cross-referencing and study of the Bible, he can find the Truth for his life. He asserted that the scriptures or infallible because they are the word of God. I told him that people have mistakenly interpreted the Bible, and he could fall into that danger as well, just as anyone could. However, the true Freethinker, vigilant against corruption and wrongs against humanity, as well as cross-referencing all books, scripture, philosophy, history, insights of man, and every source of knowledge is far less likely to err than the theist who confines himself to only one source.
Right now, I had to take the sign down because 'we're not allowed to have anything on our doors, except for the Catholic Reps.' So, we'll see.
----------- 22 Sep 99
Here's an update on the Freethinker/Catholic sign issue. I've been busy since the last installment, so I haven't pressed it with the CO. I went in today though and asked if he had had 'a change of heart.' He said not really, but he was going to have the Catholic Rep take her sign down. The reason was because it was just a unofficial-looking piece of paper, same as mine. He had thought it was a plastic sign (understandable because some reps do have them). Maybe I shouldn't have, but I took the liberty of removing her sign for her and left a message for when she gets back that the CO said she had to take it down. That will help a little bit. So, the verdict at this point is Separation, no allowances for any religion. That will be fine, but the easy out for the CO's verdict is go trade with someone who has one of the 'official' plastic signs. My situation is go get a preemptive plastic sign for myself to put up if she decides to get one for herself. The official part will be a little harder, I'll solicit endorsements from MAAF, CFA, and maybe UUA. The sticking point will be trying to find official endorsement here on post. Can I convince the Chaplains to support me? That's a challenge. . .
------------- 12 Dec 99
Well, it turned out to be pretty quiet. So I guess that's the end of the story.