El Gringoqueño

All a man needs out of life is a place to sit ‘n’ spit in the fire.

Why There Are, By Definition, NO Atheists in Foxholes

Yes, I know. Atheists are offended by that. Let me taunt you again. If you disagree with that statement, you are NOT an atheist.

Let me set you up with a bit of background. Perhaps we can agree on this, no? Would you say that as an atheist, God is no more "real" than say, Zeus, or Odin, or the Flying Spagetti Monster? Yes, you say?

Okay good. We shall continue.

Would you also say that religion, belief in an afterlife, or plain old "fear of God" stuff is just right out. Let’s face it, as an atheist, you don’t believe in that crap. Life is biological. When you’re gone, you’re gone. There is no higher calling than living your life to the fullest, not like a jerk, but fullest, being a good and productive human. It just makes good sense.

You also hate it when people say that without religion there would be no morals. Why not, you ask?

You reply, leaping forth from the fuente of Kantian thought, only that which can be applied universally is truly moral. You understand that the concept of universal morality and the golden rule are practical and lead to a good and solid foundation. Without this practical morality your own lifetime would have been marred with warring and fighting and disease and misery. Pay if forward, you say. Morals make good sense. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Now there’s a moral framework you can get behind.

One more thing, and this is important, so pay attention. You say that life is more precious for you than it is for a "believer," because, to an atheist, there is nothing after. Life is the greatest gift, the only gift you will truly ever receive. Life is all that you will ever have, and death takes away EVERYTHING.

Are you still with me? Do I have it mostly nailed down? I don’t want a straw man here. I want an atheist that can stand up and take it. But you know the strangest thing?

I agree with you.

But I still say there are no atheists in foxholes.

What?! Haven’t I been listening? Bear with me here, I’m going to spell it out. Here it is:

If life is all that you have and all that you will ever have, what the hell are you doing dying in a foxhole? I ask you, atheist, what is so important that you would be willing to give your life for it? I’m baffled. You profess to no god. You patently disavow any sort of celestial reward. You cast off the yoke of religious dogma, superstition, and tradition. For what do you die? Are you stupid? Crazy? Crazy like a foxhole, maybe. I’m on to you though.

A steadfastly rational practical atheist might reply that he is risking his life for a stable future, for enlightenment, for an end to suffering. I shoot back, but YOU aren’t going to be around?  What would the point be?

Maybe he will talk to me of acceptable risk and potential reward.  Sometimes it just doesn’t work out, he would say. Don’t kid yourself. There is no acceptable risk in war. Why sacrifice yourself for oblivion then?

Nobody will live this life as well as you, for you are you and no one else. No one else will enjoy it like you. No one will smell it, taste it, touch it like you. No one can live it as you live it, experience consciousness as you experience it. This fact is not selfish, it is reality, the only reality you will ever know.

But why do you die in this foxhole, atheist? May I dare offer an explanation?

Perhaps, there are no atheists in foxholes, because by the very fact that you are willing to die for something you believe in, something bigger than yourself, you nullify your atheism.

You’ve already proven yourself a practical maverick thinker, not prone to group-think. You’ve shown yourself to be a rational being of the first order. You have seen through all the veils the world has pulled over the eyes of your brothers. You’re the only one that actually sees the truth.

Why are you in the foxhole, then? Perhaps you are not only NOT an atheist, but the most pious of us all. By giving your life in a foxhole, you are faithful to your fellows. You make a commitment knowing the outcome is uncertain. That is faith, my friend. You have faith. Perhaps "true-believers" are not even fit to tie your sandal strap. You are such the atheist that you may as well wrap around and come out the other side transfigured and clothed in divine white.

So I ask you:

Do you believe in justice? Is absolute justice worth dying for? Do you believe in love? Is absolute love worth dying for? Ultimate empathy? I submit, dear atheist, that you are nothing of the sort. Not only are you not an atheist, but you are as the righteous of history, a hero of the first order, a savior of mankind.

Amen I say to you, brother.

12 Comments

  1. That was a very narrow description of atheists that I, luckily(?), do not fall under.
    Btw, Kant’s moral deeds are all aimed at beings known as God’s angels. Kant was a puritan. The White House administration has declared themselves of Kantian thinking.

    To die for a term is ignorant. To think you must die for a term is your belief that there are no other options. From random generalization there are two kinds of men: those that choose from options and those that make their own options.

    Your post is not as much about values being common to men, as it is about the four universal truth claims implicitly and necessarily raised in every speech act (Habermas) – regardless of reality.

    You tacitly try to go from human nature (or rather the nature of human speech) to the notion of these universals actually existing “out there somewhere”. At least that’s how I read it. Good, you got me provoked 🙂

  2. Hehe, you’re lucky I don’t come over there and kick your ass. Did you actually just compare what I wrote to the Bush administration? Did you? I think I’m going to have to script a corollary to Godwin’s Law about invoking Bush. Rolls up sleeves. Also, did you actually just dismiss Kant’s Categorical Imperative and the 1st Formulation as Puritanical nonsense? Hmmm, am I going to have to send you to the business school, oh soulless one?

    I kid, I kid.

    Narrow description? I don’t think so. From what I’ve read it is the ONLY description of the true atheist. They don’t believe is God. They are A-theists. Recently (if you’ve been paying attention on these internets) atheists have been on a roll decrying the superstitions and folly of religion and those that believe in magic fairies and whatnot. I was only trying to represent their side, their case, as they have been making it these many months. I mean, you HAVE noticed that the modern atheist movement has really picked up steam recently? I think it’s a good thing. I think it’s time for religion and the religious fetishists to grow up. You don’t believe in Santa Claus anymore, right? But as you get older, you CREATE Santa Claus.

    Atheists have been decrying fairies and orthodoxy without coming to grips with the concept of their own divinity. Okay, we know what you don’t believe, Mr. Atheist, but in what DO you believe. Tearing down is fine short term, but if you’re not edifying long term you’re not living fully.

    As for universals existing "out there somewhere," it’s not that it’s out there somewhere, but rather in here somewhere, all around somewhere, in, out, and all around. Love is an active realization. It’s something that happens to you, but it’s also something you decide every day.

    You see someone mugged on the side of the street. Let’s call him Sigg3. I am passing by. What do I do? If I stop, the muggers might get me. After all the position seems indefensible, dark, and fraught with danger. You look freshly beat up. If I pass by, nothing will happen to me, I think. I will be safe. I will go home to my children, eat my dinner, play with my kids and enjoy myself. But what will happen to Sigg3?

    1st Formulation aside, I must not focus on what will happen to me if I stop, but rather, what will happen to you if I do NOT stop. I am compelled to stop because I see your suffering and at risk to myself, decide to ease it. What is that? What would you call that? It’s certainly not rational. I could just call the police on my cell phone, snap a picture and keep walking. Nobody would blame me if you died. Rational people would say that I did all I could do, after all, I could have been killed.

    But I did not do all I could have done.

    What would you call that? It’s ultimate something, no?

    My contention is that that concept, feeling, emotion, with which humanity has been trying to come to grips for the past 100,000 years is what we call God. Every revelation, bible, sacred text ever written has been trying to explain that unexplainable great thing. Some get it right, some get it wrong, but they are all after the same thing.

    The phrase, "there are no atheists in foxholes" encapsulates the debate, I think. When the chips are down and you’re going to sacrifice yourself, what is that thing that compels you to fall on that grenade for your buddy?

    What are your thoughts on that? I’d like to hear them. What do you YOU believe. I’d like to hear what you have to say on the subject. Make it a blog post. WWSD (I’ll even get a little bracelet or something).

  3. I do not say that Kant’s theory is purely Christian, I’m just saying the atheist would have a hard time substituting terms throughout his works (God, Angels, Good, Evil etc), and then end up with something meaningful.
    I mean ‘divine being’ vs. ‘perfect being’, like one of my teachers suggested, doesn’t really solve the problem of presupposing what you’re supposed to explain.

    Re: getting mugged. If the rational thing for you is being a coward, then sure:)
    You seem to ascribe rule-following to the concept of rationality. This may prove unfruitful.
    A definition of ‘irrationality’ in Philosophy of action reads something like:
    when an agent does X knowing that X is not what the agents wants to do (general) and does not want to do X (specific) but still does it.
    It’s like impulses acting against you. Causes are often in the direction of weakness of the will or mental illness.
    In this sense (and by contrast) rationality would be doing what one (know one) wants to do, hence; “I’d rather go home now to my family and children rather than risking to get beaten” OR “I’m gonna shout out for a crowd so we can get the bastards”.
    Would it be harder for you to help a known pedophile in the situation you describe?
    I think we do what we want to. Difficulty’s that most people don’t know what they want.

    I like your contention, though. It is very neo-pragmatic. I am writing a book about the subject:)
    People oft remember that we lived in caves a sneeze ago, and we neglect the ongoing impact of what customs we’ve brought with us ever since.

  4. Of course, my razor blade compression of Kant portrays it like a thoughtless religion ramble, far from its profound level of understanding. It’s a solid piece of work.
    I just don’t see what God has to do in it, except for being a “solid” part of Kant’s childhood and life.

  5. Very nice discussion we have going here. I look forward to reading your book. I know you come from a philosophy background, so I won’t get bogged down in the precision of your discipline, but as a lay person, I made some assumptions (of course). In this case, rational for me means, "that which will offer me the most safety for the least risk" coming from the point of view of "if I die, that’s all she wrote." Perhaps I’ve triggered a special word within your realm which I didn’t mean to trigger. I suppose it is the same thing in physics. Speed and velocity are two separate things. Most people outside of engineering use those two interchangeably, but we engineers know there is a world of difference.

    "I just don’t see what God has to do in it…" Ah, but you see, that’s the basic misunderstanding. God doesn’t have ANYTHING to do with it. That’s the sticky wicket, now isn’t it. Life is like one of the pictures of something mundane and banal, but from really really close, so close that you can’t figure out what the hell it is. I think that’s our situation. We call it God, but it is known by a number of names. We trap it with orthodoxy, but it cannot be contained. We codify it, but words fail utterly.

    I do throw out the common notion of God when I use the word God – which I suppose is problematic. Flying Spaghetti Monster perhaps?

  6. ‘Nothing at all’ would suit me better.
    Thinking (or the act of imagining) ‘nothing’ and thinking ‘God’ seems to be quite the same to me. Or maybe ‘God’ and ‘Santa Claus’ are more like it. (Gave me a great idea ’bout Santa-jihad.)
    With Descartes; these are made-up ideas, ideas that I make for no place in res extensa, such as unicorns.

    You didn’t pick that mugging-example by chance, did you? Sneaky bastard.

  7. No, now why would I have picked that example? 🙂

    Your mugging still pisses me off. I wish I was there. I know what I would have done. I would have kicked some ass. How do I know? Because I’ve been in that situation before.

    I was in college and some asshole was beating up his girlfriend. I was walking with my girlfriend at the time. I immediately stepped toward the scene, but she tugged at me, saying that we should just keep moving. I ignored her plea and jumped into action, pulled the guy off and occupied him until the cops showed up. It was afterward that I thought about the possible ramifications like: what if he had a knife or gun. But I just saw that poor woman and reacted.

    I would have thrown down with you Sigg3, even if I would have gotten beat up too. We’d have been beaten up together. Kinda like life, no? We’re all beaten up and killed together… all we’ve got is the together.

  8. Oh, also, I don’t know if you delved deeply into my blog here, but I wrote about God and nothing a while back… 10 years ago in fact. Yikes!

    http://jim.casablog.com/1997/10/23/the-concept-of-nothing/

  9. Very pseudo-philosophy, if I don’t mind me saying. Which I don’t:)

  10. Sigg3.net now features 50 pictures of Jesus! That’s right.

  11. Chuckle. Oh you’re going straight to hell for that one 😉

  12. No, Jesus approved.

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