Friday, November 11, 2005

Atheists in Foxholes

I appreciate what the men and women in our armed forces do for our country. As a vet, I know what they go through. Fear hit the men I was with as the first scud missile detection set off the air alert siren and we donned our ABC gear and dove into the bunker. We did what we were supposed to do and within the short period of time we were supposed to do it. Once safe in the bunker, it was time to wait until the danger was averted. I could see terror in the eyes of some near me through the lights of their gas masks. As the siren whined, fell off and restarted, the men began to recite perhaps the only part of the Bible they had ever memorized: the Lord's Prayer.

It's a great anecdote to support the old cliché: "There are no atheists in foxholes." While the story is true, the cliché is not. Many do realize their own mortality and turn to the faith of their heritage when the rounds start coming downrange. However, there are some who deny any transcendent power upon which, or through which, the universe is founded. These have every right to think as they will, and I certainly don't begrudge them their faith or lack thereof.

I do want to point out that their worldview generally contains fundamental inconsistencies. Perhaps the most logical atheism I've encountered is that of Friedrich Nietzsche, the father of atheistic existentialism. Existentialism gave rise to modernism and has relativistic thinking at it's core. If there is no God, then Existentialism is the most logical conclusion one can reach. Relativistic thinking is common, however, most people would recognize some absolutes were they to be honest with themselves. As a a result, much of society today is functionally existential.

My take on it is this: I don't believe there are such people as atheists. They simply don't exist. You can take this two ways:

  • The first is feigned relativism. If relativism is absolute (yeah, this is the problem with relativism), then there should be no conflict between my belief that there are no atheists and the belief of one who considers himself an atheist. The argument of the relativistic atheist is obviously ludicrous.
  • The second is an understanding that everyone believes in something even if one believes only in oneself. Humanist atheists are at least honest in this regard. However, one can follow the edicts of a god even if one doesn't realize it.


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