Conscientious Objector status is not a trivial exemption to obtain. How can Atheists (etc.) have a fair chance at achieving it if the general attitude is that without a belief in god, one has no basis for morality?
Most of us may have forgotten about it but it turns out the USA still has a Selective Service Agency (www.sss.gov), Not only that …
"Almost all male U.S. citizens, and male aliens living in the U.S., who are 18 through 25, are required to register … " and "In a crisis requiring a draft, men would be called … examined for mental, physical and moral fitness … before being deferred or exempted from military service or inducted into the Armed Forces". (http://www.sss.gov/FSwho.htm)
Who takes this very seriously? Probably no one. But then there were a lot of National Guard reservists who never really expected they'd be called up for an indeterminate period of active duty after the US invaded Afghanistan and Iraq following the 9/11/2001 World Trade Center attack.
Given all the craziness, uncertainty, instability and conflicts in the world - changes in economic and military balances of power, climatic changes, natural resource constraints, etc., it struck me that thinking about Conscientious Objection was reasonable and realistic.
"WHO QUALIFIES? Beliefs which qualify a registrant for CO status may be religious in nature, but don't have to be. Beliefs may be moral or ethical; however, a man's reasons for not wanting to participate in a war must not be based on politics, expediency, or self-interest. In general, the man's lifestyle prior to making his claim must reflect his current claims." (http://www.sss.gov/FSconsobj.htm )
I am particularly interested in what additional problems confront Atheists, Secular Humanists, and others who don't have any religious foundation at all to support conscientious objector status. Being a Christian in and off itself is not good enough in spite of the commandment "thou shall not kill". I don't know if Christians have to take some sort of oath about this. In practice, the majority of Christians have treated it as good advice that goes out the door when the opportunity for a good war comes along. In the case of Buddhism, one may take vows to abstain from taking life (formulated in various ways).in addition to others. Maybe having trapped a mouse or swatted a fly will be counted as a disqualification.
It would be really interesting to hear from someone - a draftee, selective service board member, ... - who had experience with conscientious objection in the time up to 1972 when the last draft effectively ended.