Oh, yes there are atheists in foxholes!

Oh yes there are atheists in Foxholes!
In the latest Newsweek:

There are no atheists in foxholes,” the old saw goes. The line, attributed to a WWII chaplain, has since been uttered countless times by grunts, chaplains and news anchors. But an increasingly vocal group of activists and soldiers–atheist soldiers–disagrees. “It’s a denial of our contributions,” says Master Sgt. Kathleen Johnson, who founded the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers and who will be deployed to Iraq this fall. “A lot of people manage to serve without having to call on a higher power.”
It’s an ongoing battle. Just last month Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said, “Agnostics, atheists and bigots suddenly lose all that when their life is on the line.” Atheist groups reacted swiftly, releasing a statement that “Nonbelievers are serving, and have served, in our nation’s military with distinction!” The National Guard said it received about 20 letters objecting to Blum’s statement, and said his comments were “intended to clearly illustrate the positive spirit of camaraderie, human understanding and inclusion of our fine men and women in the National Guard.”
In the past several years, atheists have organized letter-writing campaigns against Katie Couric, Tom Brokaw, Bob Schieffer (who issued a public apology) and other news anchors for repeating the “no atheists in foxholes” line on TV. And on Veterans Day 2005, several dozen atheist veterans paraded down the National Mall bearing American flags and signs reading ATHEIST VETERAN–WE SHARED YOUR FOXHOLES! Johnson says atheists in the military face prejudice. “Before I got to be the rank I am I had to keep my head down and my mouth shut. I had commanding officers who made it clear that they wouldn’t tolerate atheism in their ranks.” Military leaders deny any discrimination. “Service in the military is open to people of all creeds and religions,” says Michael Milord, a lieutenant colonel in the Air National Guard. Officially, the Department of Defense considers atheism a creed like other faiths. New recruits can choose ATHEIST, AGNOSTIC, or NO RELIGIOUS PREFERENCE for their dog-tag identifications. And an atheist symbol, which resembles an atom, is among the dozens of “approved emblems of belief” that can appear on the headstones of fallen soldiers in military cemeteries. Would a soldier really die without faith? Bowling Green State University’s Ken Pargament, a professor specializing in the psychology of religion and coping, says: “If someone is a committed atheist, they’re likely to stay a committed atheist.”

How is that last sentence the answer to the question asked in the previous sentence? Duh?
You can read my answer to the question if there are atheists in the foxholes here
Update: Archy takes time to dissect this more fully…and more damningly to the dumb Lt. Gen. Blum.

4 responses to “Oh, yes there are atheists in foxholes!

  1. I had to post my own comments on this. Shorter me: Gen. Blum is a wanker.

  2. I still remember my brother’s letter from Marine Corp boot camp — I’m a buddist.
    The options were:
    1) Go to Sunday services. There were many options — all sectarian (hindu, buddist, protestant, catholic, jewish).
    2) Spend 4 hours cleaning the barracks.

  3. It’s worse than simply implying that there are no atheists in the military (and, presumably, that therefore atheists will not defend their country); it’s the implication that those atheists that are in the military have such a thin grip on their “denial of Dog”, that the moment they come under fire they’ll all abandon their disbelief in terror and become born-again christians. Which is, sadly, the arrogant view held by many christians.

  4. I was (still am) an atheist and I dug/occupied many foxholes. I knew many others as well. I always wondered about that quote, and I remember it being said more than once while in the Middle East during the first, albeit brief, Gulf War.
    I used to visit with the Bible study group in the lead-up to the war because of curiosity, nothing else to do with my mind, and because no one knew of my atheism. I remember the topic of atheism coming up (I *might* have brought it up) and everyone nodding their heads and saying “amen, brother” when the tired, worn, and fallacious phrase, “there are not atheists in foxholes” was uttered.
    I so wanted to say, “but I just dug one yesterday and pulled a shift of guard duty in it last night!” But part of the reason I was with these guys was participant observation (anthropology was my calling even then) and I observed how they reacted to a Jehovah’s Witness (and soldier) that declared his Conscientious Objector status. Much of this bible study group’s discussion centered on the reconciliation of war and battle with the christian faith and how god was on our side.
    Ironically, it was their hypocrisy that helped reinforce my atheism.