An atheist commenter once scolded me for using the phrase “evangelical atheist.” His point was that evangelism was something only the religious did. (I’d look up the post, but that would take up time that could be better spent eating the rest of the Teddy Grahams. They beckon to me from the pantry.)
Anyhoo, it seems that not all atheists are so dismissive of evangelism. National Review’s Andrew Stuttaford points out an article from the NYT about atheists lobbying to be included in the chaplain corps:
Strange as it sounds, groups representing atheists and secular humanists are pushing for the appointment of one of their own to the chaplaincy, hoping to give voice to what they say is a large — and largely underground — population of nonbelievers in the military.
Joining the chaplain corps is part of a broader campaign by atheists to win official acceptance in the military. Such recognition would make it easier for them to raise money and meet on military bases. It would help ensure that chaplains, religious or atheist, would distribute their literature, advertise their events and advocate for them with commanders.
Distributing literature and advertising events sounds a lot like evangelism to me. In fact, this whole deal seems like an implicit acknowledgement that atheism and humanism have elements of faith like every other religion. Why else would you need a chaplain? Do atheist soldiers sometimes wake up in the middle of the night worrying that life might have meaning? Before they go into battle, do they need to be reassured that the spirit of no one in particular is watching over them?