Army Agrees to Host, Pay $50,000 Toward Concert for Atheists

In a win for military atheists (or “free thinkers” as they like to be called), U.S. Army officials have come on board to support “Rock Beyond Belief” — a concert being planned for nonbelievers and their enthusiasts at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. This development, which is sure to appease atheists, came after some church-state separation groups petitioned the Secretary of the Army last month. Below, watch a trailer for the event:

These groups were upset following support for a Christian concert that was also held at the military installment last September. They claimed that the Evangelical concert gave “selective benefits” to religious groups. The Christian Century (via RNS) has more:

That concert, staged by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, received more than $50,000 in financial support from the base, according to records obtained by local atheists through the Freedom of Information Act. The nonreligious concert will receive the same funds and will be held at a similar venue at the base.

Military atheists are hailing the decisions as a major victory, and say they are on the “cusp of a major breakthrough.”

An advertisement used within the "Rock Beyond Belief" trailer

This announcement comes after a group of atheists and skeptics came together at Fort Bragg earlier this year to form Military Atheists and Secular Humanists, or MASH. The group, which meets regularly in homes and bars outside of the military base, has been working toward official recognition as a “faith” group. Back in April, the group’s membership included 65 people (out of 57,000 active duty members who live on or around the post). As The Blaze reported:

Meetings of military personnel who are non-theists – an umbrella term for the many varieties of nonbelievers – have been held at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida and aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. But groups of any kind are prohibited from meeting on Army bases without official recognition.

If the Fort Bragg group succeeds, it will be overseen by the Chaplain Corps. That might seem contradictory for a group defined by its lack of belief, but it means MASH’s literature would be available along with Bibles and Qurans. It could raise funds on base and, its members say, they could feel more comfortable approaching chaplains for help with personal problems. Recognition would also be an official sign that not believing in God is acceptable, something members say is lacking now.

The “Rock Beyond Belief” concert was originally supposed to be held last April, but the event was cancelled when the garrison commander refused to authorize it. It was then that the ACLU, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and other groups chimed in.

Now, the event is back on and is slated for March 31, 2012. It will be free for all military members and the public. Of course, atheist superstar and author Richard Dawkins will be there to speak, among others.

What do you think? Considering that the base put $50,000 toward a Christian concert, is this a fair move — should the same amount go to pay for atheists to celebrate their non-belief? Take our poll: