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There are no Atheists in Foxholes - Really?

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posted on Jul, 27 2010 @ 09:26 PM
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reply to post by silent thunder
 

To many a brush with mortality or death does lead to conversion (or so conversion narratives suggest). Often they include a kind of wager or deal with God. The experience of Cat Stevens that set him on the path to Islamic conversion is agood example:

In 1976 Stevens nearly drowned off the coast of Malibu, California and claims to have shouted: “Oh God! If you save me I will work for you.” He says that right afterward a wave appeared and carried him back to shore. This brush with death intensified his long-held quest for spiritual truth. He had looked into "Buddhism, Zen, I Ching, Numerology, tarot cards and Astrology".[19] Stevens' brother David Gordon brought him a copy of the Qur'an as a birthday gift from a trip to Jerusalem.[11] Stevens took to it right away, and began his transition to Islam.

en.wikipedia.org...
From a personal level, that is a powerful testimony.

However, historically the experience of conversion through fear, pain and misery is more suspect when religion deliberaty aids the creation of misery, or excuses it on the pretext that it facilitates conversion.
During the Barbery slavery of Christian Europeans in north Africa between 1530-1780, those who converted to Islam received better treatment and were sometimes freed. Many were tortured into conversion. Yet conversion brought its own problems - white Muslims were no longer ransomed back by the Christians, and later they had to undergo lengthy penance rituals if they wanted to reconvert to the Anglican Church.
In Christianity the miserable conditions of colonized people and slaves was excused on the pretext that desperate, fearful people were easier to convert (and more likely to abandon their old gods who were unable to help them). Their reward for obedience would be in heaven.
Some sects even founded hospitals that were more concerned with deathbed conversions than medical treatments.
Taken in a wider context the aphorism also suggests something very dark about religion.



[edit on 27-7-2010 by halfoldman]




posted on Jul, 27 2010 @ 09:34 PM
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reply to post by halfoldman
 


Interesting post, thanks.

Regarding all this saying something dark about religion, well, there are certainly lots of dark things that can be said about it. There are also good things in my opinion, although I'm more-than-aware this is not the opinion of everyone on ATS, and I have no particular problem with that.

Here's a thought experiment: Consider religion in some cases like those you've mentioned as an evolutionarily adoptive strategy for survival. From an evolutionary perspective, our brain's primary purpose is not to "discover the truth" -- it is TO SURVIVE. (Of course, in many cases these things are compatable -- but perhaps sometimes they are not). So, even if one thinks it is not literally true, perhaps value can be found in the way religion gives some people hope to go on in desperate times?



posted on Jul, 27 2010 @ 09:41 PM
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"Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die."




Uhm... if heaven were actually what its made out to be, im pretty sure everybody would choose heaven over this place.

Well not ALL people. But lots would.

[edit on 27-7-2010 by LuckyMe777]



posted on Jul, 27 2010 @ 10:12 PM
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Originally posted by silent thunder
reply to post by halfoldman
 


Interesting post, thanks.

Regarding all this saying something dark about religion, well, there are certainly lots of dark things that can be said about it. There are also good things in my opinion, although I'm more-than-aware this is not the opinion of everyone on ATS, and I have no particular problem with that.

Here's a thought experiment: Consider religion in some cases like those you've mentioned as an evolutionarily adoptive strategy for survival. From an evolutionary perspective, our brain's primary purpose is not to "discover the truth" -- it is TO SURVIVE. (Of course, in many cases these things are compatable -- but perhaps sometimes they are not). So, even if one thinks it is not literally true, perhaps value can be found in the way religion gives some people hope to go on in desperate times?

I agree, there are good things too, and I don't want to equate the darker historical side with the joy that people may have received through their conversion experiences.
Of course there is a gap between what people would actually do in certain situations and how they label themselves and argue after the fact.
I'm sure there's probably some religious people about who are really the biggest doubters and atheists, and some atheists who are more inclined towards a God then they would admit. Even Dawkins raises the question: How does one know that one truly believes? Or conversely, how does one know that one truly does not?
I sometimes think that admitting inconsistancy and falling outside the labels is more of a threat to either position than they are to each other.
I may question whether the experiences in foxholes or similar desperate situations are spiritual or psychological, but can I prove that they are not spiritual? No, I admittedly can not.

Arguing that God requires war and suffering to create converts or bring out spirituality brings its own problems - it detracts from His innate goodness. And many go to war as believers but return as staunch atheists.
Similar debates have been raised about the spiritual significance of the holocaust - some survivors lost all faith while others gained new faith.



posted on Jul, 27 2010 @ 10:32 PM
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DOOD! Someone delete this or explain to the noob how to delete this. I just decided to combine the posts.
[edit on 28-7-2010 by Deeds203]

[edit on 28-7-2010 by Deeds203]



posted on Jul, 27 2010 @ 11:28 PM
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Originally posted by halfoldman
According to Wikipedia:

The statement "There are no atheists in foxholes is an aphorism used to argue that in times of extreme stress and fear, such as when participating in warfare, all people will believe in or hope for a higher power."

en.wikipedia.org...
The phrase is often used on TBN and other Christian media to argue that atheism is phoney, and that times of fear bring out the "true", natural yearning for God even in scoffers and deniers.
It appears to be one of the most effective tools in religious manipulation.
Yet, outside staunch atheist circles it is never really questioned.

According to Wikipedia the statistics don't seem to tally with the propaganda, if one applies the argument to the US military. It says they have more non-religious members than religious. (This would be in contrast to global perceptions that the US military is strongly brainwashed by the religious right.) The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers uses the aphorism "No Atheists in Foxholes" ironically, in order to draw attention to the statistical untruth of the statement (and they possibly feel aggrieved that their profession is used by religious sects to push something they don't believe in).
The Freedom from Religion Association in Wisconsin even erected a monument to "Atheists in Foxholes", and it's one of the few military monuments to my knowledge that clearly states that it hopes to avert war.

Personally, what irks me is that the argument can be used by any religion - it doesn't specify that there are no Muslims, Hindus or animists in foxholes (for example).
Doesn't that demonstrate that religion is non-specific in its manipulation, and it's quite happy to have foxholes with other religions as enemies? Wouldn't most religions just seem plain ridiculous if they didn't have an enemy of another denomination or faith as the "other"?

I'd say it's the atheists who should be in the foxholes.
Religious people with true faith shouldn't fear death, and thus they shouldn't be afraid to die. They shouldn't need foxholes.
Or is that a case of another aphorism: "Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die"?


[edit on 25-7-2010 by halfoldman]


Firstly, you can believe in a higher power and not be religious... For example, me.

Secondly, presuming there are more so-called non-religious in the military, how would that statistic refute the phrase, "there are no atheists in fox holes"? Do you not grasp the meaning of the expression? The expression is saying that you may be an atheist now, but you probably won't be once you're confronted with the strong possibility that you will die.

[edit on 27-7-2010 by ChickenPie]



posted on Jul, 28 2010 @ 12:11 AM
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DOOD! Someone delete this or explain to the noob how to delete this. I just decided to combine the posts.
[edit on 28-7-2010 by Deeds203]

[edit on 28-7-2010 by Deeds203]



posted on Jul, 28 2010 @ 01:21 AM
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I just want to say before I present my view that I have served for the past 11 years. In that time I have moved from a lapsed Baptist, to a devout atheist to what I personally describe as Gnostic (not Agnostic).

As for the large number of 'non-preference' personnel in the military, well that comes down to several things. 1st, it is a statement on the Society you come from. You join, they ask, and if your community has not imbued you with a religious preference then you mark 'non-preference'.
Then you have 'us' atheists. Let me tell you, it isn't always an easy thing to claim. You can get some dirty looks from a right wing, Christian centered, don't ask don't tell military. Instead of marking Atheist we just mark 'non-preference'.
Next we could consider that many enlisted are fairly uneducated, joining with a high school diploma at best. That isn't to say that Atheists are stupid, I am pointing out that the sum total of their life experience prior to Raster-Man turning into a pink mist was trying to get into the cheer-leading squad's locker room.
Another reason is the limited availability of varying faiths offered by service Chaplains. Think about that concept. Within this 'war machine' exists a position for a 'holy man'. As an officer you can either go to West Point and end up leading Delta Force like General McChrystal or join the Chaplain Corps and hold Sunday mass. That said, even though other faiths do have Chaplains to represent their orthodoxy, their ability to truly promulgate it service-wide is minimal.

And truly, what are we left with? This is no philosophical debate. This is not 'I think therefore I am. Also I know it to be true that God exists; I know I did not create me, ergo I am not God; and If I am not, then he does exist, and would not deceive me'. This is Pvt. Baggadonuts driving through Afghanistan, 1/2 way into his 2nd tour. Way past the 'Thank God I'm alive stage' and well into the 'Why am I alive and my best friends wife collecting SGLI benefits' stage. Religious Non-preference. You are GD right I don't have a preference. Prayer doesn't pull you through. Coffee, Situational Awareness and Semper Fidelis do. Hoo-ah.

In response to Ignorance Defier, this is a post that will be direct but i want you to know it is written as an open exchange of thoughts, and in no way mean't as an attack, the internet leaves much room for interpretation.

Ignorance-defier: "So if I am in a place of refuge I can't be an atheist...
To me this is nothing more than senseless religious propaganda" The point is not that the foxhole is the refuge, it is that you have a sense of impending doom, that disaster and calamity surround you, and that your end, if it is to follow suit with your squad, is imminent. Those are words spoken by a man who has not spent time in a foxhole; one who has would never - NEVER - use a dictionary to define one. This has nothing to do with a Christian God. This is religious non-preference. i.e. I don't care what saves my @$$, just save it. The post pertains specifically to orthodoxy, and in these times orthodoxy has lost its foothold in the military.

Another post mentioned a 'higher power'. The guy who wrote that, well, he is a friend of a friend, so to speak, and I know right away he understands the difference between religious non-preference and atheist. If you are a wordsmith like myself (0 sarcasm, I looove etymology) here is the root of Agnostic. Ag(without) Gnostic(Knowledge in spiritual matters). That is you my friend. I say this not to incense you, but as a fact, not because you deny, but because you lack proof/fact/knowledge of spiritual matters. You ignore spirituality in (by admission here making up a number) 95% of humanity, and thus are truly ignorant in things of a spiritual nature.

Again, I truly do not wish to begin the standard back and forth here. I am speaking with sincerity and frankness, the definition of honesty, with no malice or intent to anger.



posted on Jul, 28 2010 @ 08:45 AM
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reply to post by ChickenPie
 


Firstly, you can believe in a higher power and not be religious... For example, me.

Sure, if labels need be applied one could call it being "agnostic".
I'd like to think I understand the meaning of the aphorism. However, I could also understand that atheists who came close to death and didn't pray or turn to a higher power might find the phrase presumptive, if not downright imposing.
The last time we in South Africa were at war (around 1991) we didn't have those issues.
The then Nationalist Party government ran the state, education and the military along Christian lines, and the cabinet was often called the "National Party at prayer". If somebody was an atheist they kept it to themselves, since atheism was strongly associated with communism and the "enemy".
Now, as far as I can tell from US media there is that whole issue of seperation between church and state, and both the religious people and the atheists and freethinkers (agnostics?) each seem to feel that there is a conspiracy against them. Religious groups may feel that the historical Christian character is eroded from daily life, while atheists may feel they have religion thrust upon them. The word "statistics" is thrown about in arguments, although the actual statistics seem to be hard to come by.
If it is true that the US is a country with a practising Christian majority, it would be ironic to have an army of mainly atheists defending theist ideas.
At least the rightwing media like Fox and TBN have reinforced perceptions of a religious army and the contention appears to be that religion has somehow claimed the military image for itself.
In any case, the aphorism depends on the testimony of survivors (unless one believes that one can contact the dead and ask them whether they died as atheists or not).
If one thinks of World War I where the horrendous trench warfare sometimes claimed a million men in one day, atheists could well ask, where was God or the higher power who these men prayed to? Because some people turn to God in a moment of mortal distress doesn't necesarily mean that anybody hears them. So while religion uses the aphorism to prove itself, for the fallen the prayer that God may spare them fell on deaf ears (or no ears at all). That would be one concievable counter argument. The whole experience of WWI seems to have changed the entire religious culture of Europe at the time.




[edit on 28-7-2010 by halfoldman]



posted on Jul, 31 2010 @ 02:46 AM
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reply to post by Deeds203
 

Great points, however, I'm not sure if "agnostic" means having no knowledge on spiritual matters. I'd say the likelihood is that agnostics have knowledge of a huge variety of spirituality, and therefore they would rather combine divinity as a "higher force", rather than commiting to one position as the only truth.
I do however wonder, how does an agnostic invoke a 'higher power" as a stress reflex? Wouldn't that be a theistic, specific personality of Godhead that they invoke? Practically it sounds like a bit of a cop-out.
But nevertheless, in the postmodern paradigm such labels are not crucial.
In the postmodern, identity is fractured and "truth" is situational.







 
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