Atheists in Foxholes

After the conflicting claims made by two letter writers regarding atheism which appeared during the first week of the year, it was not surprising to find yet another letter on the topic this week. This letter by Norm Allen, assistant director of the Council for Secular Humanism, was published today under the heading, “Atheists: Studies are ambiguous.”

A recent letter writer challenged the notion that atheists are better behaved than theists, and that there are thousands of atheists in foxholes.

The truth is that there are studies that both support and refute the first claim. (Still, it is a curious fact that one rarely finds atheists in jails and prisons.)

However, there is no doubt regarding the second claim. In fact, there is an organization called the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers that works hard to put this vicious lie to death. As a member for the past 17 years of a leading secular humanist organization, I have personally met hundreds of former atheist military members all over the world who have served courageously in battle. Indeed, Paul Kurtz, the leading secular humanist in the world, served valiantly during World War II. The letter writer seems to think because he commanded a battalion in Vietnam that he knows for certain that there were no atheists on the battlefield. However, he would have to be God himself to know this for certain. In any case, even if there were no atheists in Vietnam, that would hardly prove that God exists. After all, during times of war, people are most likely to revert to all kinds of superstition out of fear and desperation.

What would really be shocking is if there were no atheists in science labs and philosophy classes, where reason, rather than fear and irrationality, is more likely to prevail.

I am familiar with Mr. Allen from his appearances on multiple radio shows and podcasts and am pleased that he mentioned the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers to counter the simply anecdotal claim by the writer of the anti-atheist letter to which he is responding. My only disappointment is that this letter was written by someone outside of the area instead of by a local resident like the original pro-atheist letter. The people of Jacksonville need to understand that there are more atheists, agnostics and other non-believers in the area than they probably think. The first step toward being respected for any group is standing up and being heard.


No comments: