Sunday, September 09, 2007

Atheists in foxholes

Reader Tootsie's Mom (hi!) raised the question of the lack of atheists in foxholes in this comment.

At the risk of driving away a valued reader, I have to respond that Tootsie's Mom is wrong: there are atheists in foxholes, both literally and figuratively, for all that the religious try to comfort themselves by denying it. For example, Master Sergeant Gid L. White wrote a public letter to Katie Couric chastising her for publicly propagating the untruth that there are no atheists in foxholes.

Another atheist who has been in foxholes is this guy's dad.

And as I've written about here and here, football star Pat Tillman, killed in Afghanistan, was also an atheist.

But what if it were true? Suppose that, when disasters are upon us or the bullets are flying, even the most hard-bitten rationalist atheist turns to the god or gods of your choice. What would that mean about the existence of god?

Very little. Just because we clutch the security blanket doesn't make it effective. Those who have watched as many Road Runner cartoons in their youth as I have will remember the running gag where the Coyote would often find himself standing beneath a falling anvil or rock. He would invariably get a look of resignation and despair and hold up a ridiculously tiny paper umbrella over his head, hoping against hope that, this time, it will protect him.

It never did.

I leave the last word to PZ Myers, who wrote:

It has always seemed to me that that old myth is actually an admission: an admission that religion is driven by fear. Just crank up the terror on people, it's saying, and we can get 'em to believe anything. There might be some truth to that, but if anything, it's an adage that is damning to religion, saying that faith is an exploitation of human weakness.


Tootsie's Mom said...

Atheists, schmatheists! How do you know for sure they didn't call on some god/dess in their last breath? For instance, how many dying souls call out for "Mom" while in extremis as they gasp for breath and bleed out? So consider Mom as goddess, the source of all good (milk and cuddles) and evil ("just wait until your father gets home") in the world. There is no higher power than that, my apologies to organized religion everywhere.

Having said that, why do atheists feel driven to destroy others' belief in a higher power? Yes, some people have superthyroids and superadrenals and can plunge through everything no matter what. Still, I love the verse in the musical "EVITA" where Evita sings to Peron that it's difficult to keep following when you are the one you're following. Not all of us have superthyroids or superadrenals. So please, atheists, keep your negativity to yourselves and let the rest of us muddle through with our foolish (yeah, right) belief in a "higher power."

BTW, "Vlad the Impala" is a cunning moniker. LOVE IT!

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