I am a veteran. I am also an atheist. I had the honor to serve with both, along with those who believe in Gods, gays who weren’t asked and didn’t tell, women, minorities, the handicapped, even citizens of other countries who served on behalf of their adopted home. Most of them served with distinction and some of them made the ultimate sacrifice. These days, they all volunteer. The military, like the civilian world, is everyone.
I’ve had many a peaceful argument with some of my theist friends about whether there are “atheists in foxholes”. They reason that atheists are somehow less devoted to their convictions and that in facing death they will willingly surrender them to a God in which they do not believe.
Indeed, many atheists do and I am not one to criticize them for it. Like birth, death is one of the few things humans share. It can come peacefully and painless or in abject fear and horror on the battlefield. At that moment everyone can choose their method to face their last minutes on Earth. Whatever gets them through the uncertainty and fear is a personal choice and not to be criticized by making their decision less than your own. It is the last breath of freedom any of us will have.
Let me assure you there are atheists in foxholes. Their blood is just as thick and red when it leaks from their shattered bodies. The mud or dust that covers them in their last moments doesn’t distinguish who it lands upon. They all die just as surely.
Atheists aren’t entitled to special treatment, but they deserve as much honor and respect as anyone willing to protect all Americans’ rights — whether they personally believe them or not. Let us simply offer the same honors as anyone who pays the ultimate sacrifice.
Yes, there are atheists in foxholes and this Memorial Day it would be a fitting tribute if we all symbolically joined them in that lonely foxhole one last time as Americans, joined by the separate beliefs they died to protect.
- Are There Really No Atheists in Foxholes? (psychologytoday.com)
- A Follow-up to ‘Are Foxhole Atheists Really Seeking a Cure?’ (patheos.com)
- No atheists in foxholes? New study says different (secularnewsdaily.com)
- Foxhole Atheist Heroism (secularnewsdaily.com)
- In their own words: Valley veterans remember their military service (fresnobee.com)
- Memorial Day – honoring those who serve our ‘One Nation under God’ (newcovenantchristianministries.wordpress.com)