Atheists in Foxholes

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Christians tell us there are no atheists in foxholes. They say this without embarrassment, as if they do not see the inherent problems with this particular boast. First, it is an acknowledgment that the driving force behind Christianity is human terror. Frighten us enough, and we will reach for even the most unlikely lifeline.

That is bad enough. It gets worse. The aphorism is not even true. There are plenty of atheists in foxholes. It would be closer to the truth to suggest that there are no Christians in foxholes. We know this because of two things that are hard to dispute:

First, everyone in a foxhole is scared. Why should Christians be scared. Second, everyone in a foxhole is in a foxhole, not out in the open charging the enemy with two clips of ammo and a prayer on their lips.

Pick any of your favorite bible heroes. It is hard to imagine any of them cowering in a foxhole. If god is on your side, you and 299 others can take on any army of any size. When David faced Goliath, he took his armor off. He didn’t put more of it on.

So I observe, as did J. Anderson Thompson, atheists, or those that behave as atheists are the only ones you will find in a foxhole. To put it another way, we shouldn’t find Christians in foxholes. Look a little closer, and you will find a number of other places you shouldn’t find Christians, but do:

Christians in Doctors Offices

Jesus was known for healing miracles. And his closes disciples were known to be healers, to the point of being able to raise the dead. Even today, many Christians fervently believe in the power of miraculous healing, even regarding some in their churches as apostles.

The last place we should ever find any such people is the doctors office. It is understandable that atheists should go there because they have no other place to go for healing. All they have is science and medicine. But Christians are supposed to have something much more potent. Yet we atheists can’t get an appointment for all the Christians in front of us.

Christians in Loan Offices, and Other Places of Financial Aid

Why would a Christian need a loan from a bank? Does not their god own the cattle on a thousand hills? That’s got to be worth something? Why do they need to go to atheist bankers with hat in hand to borrow money? Why are they borrowing money at all, let alone, from outsiders?

It is even harder to explain why so many Christians find themselves in the welfare line applying for food stamps, and other state services for those who are incapable of taking care of themselves financially. It happenes – to atheists.

It shouldn’t happen to the faithful. Jesus said not to worry about what you will eat or wear. Next thing you know, is followers are begging for handouts as if they didn’t have a father who takes care of their daily needs.

We also see an awful lot of Christians consulting with bankruptcy lawyers. With god on their side, how on earth did they go bankrupt? And if god wanted them to be bankrupt, why are they seeking relief from these non-Christian institutions? There should be no Christians in any of these places. Yet there are, and in abundance.

Christians in Therapy

I’m using therapy synonymously with counseling. I am envisioning the sage professional getting paid $70 – $200 an hour (more like 50 minutes) to listen to your problems, and perhaps give some type of advice. Why would Christians ever be in that office on either side of the desk?

Christians are supposed to have a direct line to the maker of the universe. He charges no money. And you get as long as you like, as often as you like to talk to him about anything you like. Furthermore, he has perfect knowledge of all your problems, and can fix them with a word. Yet Christians still end up in therapy with atheists. How is this even possible?

It is obvious that having a little talk with Jesus is about as affective as talking to one’s self. There is no scenario where having an actual conversation with god could leave one needing to have that same conversation with a therapist.

While we’re on the subject, there is the matter of depression. Why are Christians being medicated for depression? I know it is a physical illness. But that is how an atheist would look at it. Christians claim to have a supernatural source of peace in the person of the Holy Spirit living inside them.

What of peace like a river, peace, perfect peace, and peace that passes understanding? When Christians and atheists are taking the same kind and amount of anxiety medicine, that’s a problem. Isn’t it?

I could go on this way for a long time. But I think you get the point. Not only do Christians seem out of place in foxholes, they seem out of place in a number of locations. They seem out of place weeping over graves of loved ones who died as believers. Grief counselors should never see a Christian. But they do. Suicide hotlines should never take calls from Christians.

Abortion clinics should never see Christian teens desperate for a solution not forthcoming from other quarters. I find it ironic that AA meetings are conveniently located in churches where all of them profess belief in a higher power. And many of them are lifelong Christians. Drug rehab centers are overflowing with sincere Christians who found no help any place else.

So if indeed there are no atheists in foxholes, it is because there is no room left after all the Christians have filled it in, cowering for their lives.

David Johnson

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Atheism: The More Difficult Path

 

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I have been in a lot of online discussions and debates on theism and atheism. I have interacted with hundreds of people, and encountered thousands of nuanced opinions on the subject of god and gods, their existence, and the lack thereof.

Assuming their existence, the debate is barely begun. What does this god want from us, if anything? How are we to know? How do we sort out true revelation from false? To debate these things, we must presume to know what exactly is meant by a god in the first place, which we don’t.

One truth has emerged for me as a result of all these discussions: The Christian position is the one with more epistemic certainty. Christians are more certain of their position because they have to be.

Their position is faith-based. True faith leaves little room for doubt. That means that one must be absolutely certain of her theism, or at the very least, behave as if she does. There is a narrow window when one might question her core beliefs. But at a certain point, they are pressured to decide. They either believe or they don’t.

For the atheist, all epistemic options remain open. They can question and doubt anything and everything. They never have to come to a dogmatic conclusion about anything. But that means they are less certain about big questions. And uncertainty is uncomfortable.

No one wants to admit that they do not know when it comes to the big questions. But that is the position the atheist is in more often. This is just one of the reasons why atheism is the tougher path. Here are a few others:

Minority Report

When two out of three people believe one thing, you do not want to be the third. Confirmation bias often leads to the wrong conclusion. But it is a wrong conclusion that puts us all in the same boat. Even if you are right, it is lonely to be a minority.

For inconsequential matters, it is just uncomfortable. But for more important matters, it could be crucial to survival. In a situation where there is strength in numbers, you want to be a part of the larger number. Go against the group, and they may find you eccentric, but tolerable. But defy the group on a core issue, and you may be ostracized from the group, left to fend for yourself.

Atheism is the minority position. In some parts of the world, you can be locked out of major parts of society by not going along with the religious majority. This is a very uncomfortable place to be. But more than uncomfortable, it can be deadly.

Burden of Proof

Logically, the one making the positive assertion is the one with the burden of proof. But practically, the one with the burden of proof is the one with the minority position. In this way, the atheist always inherits the burden of proof even when it is not his to bear.

That constant burden is bad enough. But it gets much worse for the atheist, as one cannot prove a negative. Even if the atheist’s position is that he is simply not convinced of the existence of any gods thus presented, he must prove that the existence of any god is impossible. This simply cannot be done. So it is an impossible burden the atheist is forced to bear.

Opponents of Straw

The atheist never know’s with whom she is arguing from one moment to the next. She crafts an airtight case against one version of god, only to discover that her opponent also rejects that version of god. She has attacked a straw man.

If an atheist is in discussion with ten different Christians at once, at least nine will accuse her of attacking straw men. There is no single idea of what god is, and what Christianity is. Quoting the bible simply does not help since there are as many views on what the bible says as there are denominations. For the atheist, it is straw men all the way down.

Conclusion: Playing Defense

The atheist is forever on defense. It is not just a matter of the false burden of proof. It is everything. The atheist does not go door-knocking in an attempt to convert believers to atheism. No one is lobbying to have atheism taught in school. Science, yes. Atheism, not at all.

Politicians might begrudgingly admit to being atheist. But no politician runs on a platform of atheism. There is no atheist money that say we do not trust in gods. And it is still the case that atheists are the least trusted people in America.

This is an uphill battle.

All of this is quite apart from the arguments of the position. Atheist apologetics are far easier to argue than Christian apologetics. When it comes to atheism, one can appeal to reason and experience more credibly.

I have never experienced a miracle of which I am aware. I have never experienced the presence of a god. I have no reason to believe that prayer to any god under any circumstances is effective. The sick remain sick. The poor remain poor. The dead remain dead. And mountains remain unmoved. Religious claims do not resonate with me, or comport with my experience of reality. In short, I have no reason to believe religious claims. So I don’t.

No matter, atheism is still the minority report, carries the burden of proof, against opponents of straw.

It reminds me a bit of the Matrix. I always get the red pill and the blue pill mixed up. But one of those pills allows you to stay in a comfortable fantasy. The other pits you in direct conflict with the controlling machines. The fantasy is easier. And so is faith.

Taking the wrong pill insures a life of conflict. That is atheism. Unlike Neo, I didn’t choose. But it is my path nonetheless.

David Johnson