There are those that still say that there are no Atheists in foxholes. Firstly, one should point out that the amount of foxholes is declining rapidly. So much of the big policeman of the world’s baton brandishing over the head of countries that will not do what they are told, is now done by comfortable family folk sitting in some office in Arizona, where after kissing their significant other and grabbing their lunchbox, they’re off to kill a few hundred in a drone attack as if they were playing Call of Duty, never having to step outside of the AC, leaving the office promptly at five. Be that as it may, to say that a soldier is always a believer in the works of fiction and their prospective cults, is a bit of an insult to anyone who has ever been in harm’s way. Police officers who on any given day can also take a bullet, do so quite often in working to protect believers, and saying that they are all strutting their stuff with visions of this Jesus character walking on water, 72 virgins or Moses and his burning bush rolling around inside their heads is a bit ridiculous, to say the least, if not obviously offensive.
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We are capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for, us humans. We have documented our own survival of famine, plagues & wars in the past few thousand years, and before that we somehow scrapped through with even shorter lives, much more difficulty and much less technology to help us out. We did all this in the process of evolving our own species without any help from a force outside our own drive to exist despite all of the factors in our own environment that would of like for us to fail in this process. Voltaire’s famous quote dealing with the necessity of creating a reason for everything through the conjuring up of gods is one that we can look at in retrospect as having been simply the words of a man who believed that there was an inherent justice that must already exist outside ourselves. Still wanting to believe that individuals need to fear something in order to behave in this world, he reverted to Deism, failing himself to understand that no such justice exists, nor does any such policeman of the universe.
Coming back to the foxhole then, if there is no concept of justice that is cultivated by some greater force in the universe that would dictate it to us, then we develop it ourselves and like all else, we constantly update it, learning from ourselves the ways in which to improve the treatment of each other, increasingly (though as slow as a sloth making its way along a branch) asserting more freedom for our species as a whole and on an individual basis, most certainly. If one still believes in the need to invent a character to fear, thinking impossibly that by handing down these ridiculous stories to children and beating them into submission, that the whole of our species will come to fear the same things and then act accordingly as per the poorly human written texts that people still quote verses from today, one must ask these believers why those in foxholes should beg something that they were taught to fear for help in their situation?
The fact is, like the attempt at prohibition in the United States, the demand of faith has not produced a universal belief in the need for faith. One may submit that Voltaire himself may never once in his life had been in a situation where he was subjected to a lot of pain, anguish or the threat of death, in which he had no available friends, family, comrades, etc. to call upon to help him. One can only know the true nature of “being in a foxhole,” or a similar kind of situation, if they have in fact experience it.
When you have been mugged or beaten in an area of the world where you do not speak the language and you have not a friend or family member within the borders of that country, it is fair to say that you have a comparable context to speak from. Even in war, you may have the possibility of another soldier stumbling upon you at some point. After all, the strategy of war most often demands that the front proceeds in a forwardly motion, not in one which retracts. By default then, someone should find you at some point. However, when you are beat within an inch of your life in the middle of nowhere, you have no one to speak to or hope to speak to. If you are a believer, you may somehow con yourself into the maddening deceit of prayer in which you talk to yourself inside your own head as if you were talking to something outside yourself, which you think will inevitably come to help you.
To this believer in the street, laying there bleeding, who somehow closes their bashed in eyes to pray that the same force they have been taught to fear all their lives will come and save them, one has to ask them how exactly they rationalize this whole chaotic mess in their heads. Take for instance the individuals who just beat you within an inch of your life, running off with your money and your possessions, leaving you there to die---you might fear them at that moment. At the least, you might fear that they would come back and kill you just for the thrill of doing it, because you know deep down inside that there is no inherent justice in the universe. When you scream “help,” you scream it for those that you have seen on television who help people in such situations. On news programs you have seen police and emergency medical teams come to aid those that have been hurt. You may know people who have been in car accidents, etc., who have been helped in such a way that preserved their life so that they lived to tell the story. These are the people you yell for. You yell for those that have proved already to you that they can and will help you.
You may also be yelling for any human to come and help you. You know that this happens, you may even do it yourself. People see others get hurt and they call those that are trained to work within such a context to preserve the best possible outcome concerning your situation. If you want to say that the person who calls the police or ambulance to help you must be a believer, who has done so out of fear that if they do not, they will get swatted like a fly by whatever force they believe in themselves which will do the swatting, feel free to. You are also free to believe that people do things to get brownie points from this same force, to look good so that they will gain some kind of reward themselves. In both cases, the belief that there is a third party watching over you which did not in fact do anything to help you itself, but instead left it up to some kind of moral dilemma for you as humans, is a sick sick assumption. The individual who ends up helping you must be extremely selfish, doing it just to avoid negative consequences or to gain positive ones for themselves. In this scenario where a belief in a force outside the context is considered, one who helps you certainly doesn’t care about you at all. They care about how stumbling upon your situation will in fact affect them.
As the brilliant Christopher Hitchens has pointed out in many a debate with christian apologists, the fictional Nazarethian’s story of “The Good Samaritan” was told about a non-christian. You do not know anything about this character, accept that he was a man and that he had the time and enough money to help another who had recently been robbed and beaten. There is no biographical information given to us about this Samaritan. For all we know he was a non-believer. For all we know, he himself could have been a thief and after recently scoring a good amount of money from another, he helped this other guy because he got luckily got away with it.
If you are in a dire situation, you can scream, you can call for help, you can close your eyes and hope for a purple unicorn to come and make things right. All that matters is that things get better, that you get out of this situation, and inevitably, that you survive the whole terrible thing. Regardless of what you tell yourself, you should not pretend that the rest of the living world, as well as all of those that came before you and all of those that will come after you (including all those that you may or may not know exist on another planet, etc.), agree with you on any level as to how you get out of a situation. You know how you got there. You yourself decided to become a soldier, even if you were forced into becoming a soldier, you know that at some point you willingly did it (you didn’t choose suicide instead), just as you decided to walk down a dark street alone. If you are strong enough to endure a situation you do so by yourself until you are able to gain the support of other human beings. Consider yourself fortunate to not have to rely on another force that may or may not show up, depending on how hard you squint your eyes and talk to yourself. Stop praying and start enduring. When you do this you will be out of your foxhole.