Over time, draft boards came to resemble freshman philosophy seminars in their attempts to decide who did and did not qualify for C.O. status. A Jewish socialist who ran an engraving business did not, but a pulp artist and atheist who appealed to the idea of secular humanism did; some members of the Ethical Culture Society qualified, but not others; Jehovah’s Witnesses initially did not, on the theory that someone willing to fight the Devil during Armageddon ought to be willing to fight America’s enemies during a war; a writer turned financial consultant who belonged to no church but had read “philosophers, historians, and poets from Plato to Shaw” was granted C.O. status after two contradictory close readings of his antiwar play.

Casey Cep, Why Are Americans Still Uncomfortable with Atheism?, The New Yorker October 29 2018