After this week's unexpected pro-atheist letter, it was not unexpected that someone would respond with an anti-atheist letter. This letter by Howard Jelinek was published today under the heading, “Atheists: No atheists in Vietnam.”
A recent letter titled "Atheists: Nonbelievers are coming out" was grossly incorrect. The letter writer stated that "you will find less crime, less divorce, less child molestation, less spousal abuse, etc., per capita among nontheists than any religious group." This is an incorrect statement without proof.
She also stated "there are also thousands of atheists in foxholes." I had the privilege of commanding a battalion from the 82nd Airborne Division during the Tet offensive in Vietnam. On several occasions, I flew chaplains to combat airborne troops fighting near Hue. During a lull in fighting, religious services were held at the battle scene. Perimeter guards had to be rotated so that all could attend the brief service. It was impressive to see all the young men take time out to bow their heads in prayer. I did not see any atheists; everyone wanted the opportunity to pray. On other occasions, I brought a Catholic chaplain to a monastery that had been partially destroyed in a fierce battle. Without being announced, church bells were rung and the nearby Vietnamese would stop their activities and come immediately to worship. This was risky for them, for the area was still contested. Again, the fields became empty, and I saw no atheists among the Vietnamese.
Mr. Jelinek's first point is completely unsubstantiated. Yes, there was no evidence presented for Ms. Perry's statistical claims, but there was also no evidence presented against Ms. Perry's claims either. I don't know whether the letter writers failed to include them in their letters or whether the newspaper failed to print them, but as it stands now, neither claim is supported.
Mr. Jelinek's second point is equally weak. He denies Ms. Perry's claim about the number of atheists in the military based solely on anecdotal evidence from a single incident! I suggest that he visit the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers with detailed statements from over 100 individual servicemen, and the Atheists in Foxholes event with the names of over 500 servicemen. I also suggest that he bear in mind that this represents only a small fraction of atheists in the ranks of the military.