Wednesday, June 10, 2009

There are ONLY atheists in foxholes

(I don't plan to write much about this, but I'd like to get the meme out there that "there are ONLY atheists in foxholes". So if, after reading what I've written, you agree with what I've said, then please make sure to use it as a counter response any time you hear someone making the tired claim that there are no atheists in foxholes.)

I'm sure by this point that a lot of those involved with the new atheist movement are all too familiar with the phrase "there are no atheists in foxholes", the reasoning behind which is that no one in a desperate situation can possibly disbelieve in a god. - I couldn't disagree more though. I would argue that it's during those desperate times that everyone has doubt., that when one finds themselves in a "foxhole", so to speak, that it's actually a difficult task to continue believing in a god.

Let's explore the idea of a soldier literally in a foxhole. What would be going through a soldier's head in that situation? Would such a soldier be relaxed, confident that his god will shield him from all oncoming bullets and shrapnel? Or would he be overjoyed at the prospect of getting to go to heaven? - I've never been in a foxhole, but something tells me that that's not what they're like. I'd imagine that men who find themselves in foxholes are anything but relaxed or overjoyed. And indeed, that's the very idea behind the original saying that everyone in a foxhole suddenly finds themselves believing in a god.

So some of these soldiers might start to pray, but does that really mean that they're believing in a higher power at that moment? Or does it mean that they're just desperate? Someone who's grown up believing in a god, but suddenly finds themselves in a situation where they don't quite feel so protected, might start praying just because they think it's what they're supposed to do (or in some situations, because there's no other recourse of action), but that doesn't mean that there's any actually believing taking place. And as I mentioned earlier, the behavior of someone in such a situation would indicate that they would indeed be having a lot of trouble believing their own bullshit.

So it's not a shortage of atheists that we should expect to find in the trenches, but rather of theists. If one day someone can show me some evidence of a soldier in a foxhole who feels completely safe and/or excited about getting to go to heaven, then maybe i'll change my tune, but until then, I maintain that there are only atheists in foxholes.

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