Dear Internet Diary,
Right now, a lot of atheist groups like American Atheists are in a tizzy about Katie Couric's use of the phrase "there are no atheists in foxholes." While it sounded like Katie was using the phrase as a snappy opener for a news report on the role of faith in politics, or some such mind-numbingly boring pap you tend to get from news magazine shows, American Atheists is trotting out its pride in "our" soldiers and military atheists, and heroism, and patriotism, and fine young men and women and Tim McGraw bullshit.
They do it, because examining the lie behind the real meaning to that dumb statement isn't soundbyte-worthy or public relations-y enough. Portraying atheists saluting next to American flags with tears in their eyes makes us appeal more to the boomer voting block. They think we are some kind of pinko hippy New York intellectual academic satan-worshiping crowd, and it might be better to clean us up and stick us in uniforms. Although they should re-think giving us bayonnettes.
I suppose there's an essay here, but I'm more interested in the historical misinterpretation and misrepresentation of a common English language metaphor, because I'm Hellbound Alleee.
It's only natural that folks, being ordinary and therefore none too bright (or opportinustic with the fact that we are none too bright), we love to interpret metaphors literally. So when someone says "there are no atheists in foxholes," we look down into foxholes and go, "say, isn't that an atheist in there right now?"
Although I dare say foxholes went out with the kitbag, the doughboy, and those cursed Huns
"There are no atheists in foxholes" refers to the idea that anyone confronted with impending death is so reduced to his human nature, he will let go of his inner defenses and pride, and humble himself before God and his once-clean undershorts. Surely we all become equal in such a situation, right?
People of all kinds, soldiers, policemen, revolutionaries, construction workers, convenience store clerks, rap artists, sex industry workers, women who work late, and children face potentially fatal harm every day.. What the moment of truth shows is one's metal, one's training, one's mental preparedness for a situation, or for death. Some people haven't thought too much about death, and just aren't ready. Some have trained so well for such a moment that they can go into automatic training mode. Our instinct is just not necessarily to fall to our knees and cry out for God, because we're too busy with fight-or-flight. If we can do nothing but fall to our knees, there's usually other people in line before God to call to, like, well, Mommy. When I had my own foxhole moment, I did everything but pray--or even think--of God.
Which brings us to the deal-breaker; right down to the default definition of atheism. In a world full of war and disease, it's little children who are filling the foxholes. Little children who not only have never heard of any gods, they may not have heard of death. So, if you want to trot out the atheists in foxholes that appeal to the Patriotic American Grandparents, there are plenty of babies to show them. Children who don't need to be stripped down to their naked humanity, because they already are, and it's clear there's no loving God saving them.
Thanks for listening.