Monday, April 21, 2014

No Atheists in a Foxhole.

Ian Cooper

They say there are no atheists in a foxhole.

That may be true, but no one ever said there were no hypocrites in a foxhole.

Any port in a storm as they say, and when all bets are off, where’s the harm in it anyways?


One of the things about atheism, in my own personal life, is that I don’t want it to become an attack platform against someone else’s personal beliefs. It is more a matter of living comfortably within my own skin, with some semblance of dignity, if not outright gravitas. That can hardly happen without some moral constraints. 

Without divine revelation, where could these good things possibly come from?

Could they not come from our own hearts and minds...?

The notion that atheism is completely amoral is mistaken. Atheism is the examination of profound moral questions using the tools of reason. The funny thing is that all religions ultimately appeal to human reason. 

That’s why they have been so successful.

Without religion, where would we be?

We would live in a completely amoral world and evil and anarchy would triumph. Or at least that seems to be the reasoning, however unspoken it may be—and sometimes it is spoken.

Bearing in mind my own upbringing, and no doubt that of most readers, it is safe to say that my own personal morality, stems from some point on the Judaeo-Christian family tree. As far as I’m concerned, it is not an attempt to justify some departure, along superior lines of reasoning.

It’s merely the background that I came from, and ultimately rejected on some philosophical level..

I cannot say that my morality, which is near enough that of most other Canadians as makes no difference, was independently arrived-at. It all had to come from some starting point, and that particular starting point included the Roman Catholic Church, and separate schools. It includes bed-time stories and Christmas decorations, the child’s yearning for gifts and miracles, and even the typical children’s books in the doctor’s office waiting-room. You might still be able to find some of those religious texts in your own pediatrician’s office next time you take little Suzie in there for a tummy-ache. No sane person sees any real harm in that. There’s no doubt that culturally, religion has played a role in the building of our society, and religion has also played a role in the sort of job description of atheism.

It is difficult to imagine a world not built on some form of generally-agreed set of rules.


It is a bit of a contradiction that the more liberal must tolerate the intolerant. This is not always easy to do, as it is not always reciprocated. Non-reciprocity leads to feelings of injury and alienation. It also leads to real injuries.

If I have the right to be an atheist, certainly someone else has the right to believe whatever they like. If atheism expects toleration, then surely it must offer its own tolerance up front. It’s a fair exchange.

There are times when I need a loaf of bread or a quart of milk on a religious holiday and I prefer not to have to go to a gas station—notice the societal sense of priorities here, where a quart of milk will cost me a buck more.

It's a minor inconvenience in a generally-decent society.

I really don’t want to go out and picket in front of your church over the matter. Let’s leave it at that.

People don’t have to adopt our beliefs, they don’t have to like us or accept us—merely tolerate us. That’s not always easy to do either! That is one good reason to keep discussions as polite as possible, and another reason to avoid the whole attack-platform ethos.

If atheism somehow justifies anti-Semitism, or anti-Hinduism, then the practitioner has missed the point.

And yet atheism is surely an attack platform against religion—any religion, and all religion. Simply put, an atheist believes all religion, at foundation-level, to be a problem of one sort or another.

Otherwise, why bother to speak up at all?

Maybe atheism sees itself as a solution waiting for a chance to happen. For a problem, is nothing more than a solution waiting to happen, or so the motivational speakers would have us believe.

It is an attack on irrational beliefs in the sense that those beliefs have come to rule society, which has many inequities and the presently-constituted moral authorities seem unable to address these issues. It is an attack platform for any number of things, including bourgeois value systems…if a person cared to see it that way.

But simply put, and as most people see it, atheism is the antithesis of religion, and nothing more in the eyes of some.

Atheism is the great contradiction, for in order to defeat and supersede religiousity as the dominant set of belief systems on the planet, as it might very well do some day, it adopts similar methodology. It adopts similar lines of reasoning, and it parallels religion in significant ways.

This is of necessity, for both belief systems are responses to and ways of dealing with questions of morality.

If Jesus Christ were alive today, he might very well be an atheist. He might very well still preach exactly the same things, for example brotherly love, respect, tolerance and forgiveness. He might simply phrase the ideas in more modern terms.

On the purely personal level, this is what I would seek to do with my atheism.

Leaving the whole question of God out of the equation, the message would remain the same, and also remaining the same would be the goal, the intention, of the teacher. For surely that was what Jesus was, and what he set out to be.

One of the things he tried to do was to contradict prejudice.

One teaching must supplant another with superior knowledge, or superior application, or it dies.

One of the lessons taught by atheism is that all bigotry, all prejudice is the result of teaching.

It is a learned response. The lessons we learn in life begin at birth and are instilled by the people around us, and the circumstances we find ourselves in. We are very carefully taught those prejudices, in many instances.

For the record, our prejudice against eating poisonous mushrooms would appear to be a rational one.

Even in the 21st century, it would be difficult to be born a native American and not feel some resentment towards other Americans or Canadians, or not to have some questions about the past, and the society that still surrounds you rather than fully accepting you.

It must be difficult to be born a Palestinian, and have anything other than anger towards Israel. It must be difficult to be born an Israeli, or a Jew in some other part of the world and not have some ingrained prejudices towards a people who, in some cases, live fifty yards away. It is the same whether we care to discuss black versus white—how ‘natural’ that phrase sounds—or any other racial or cultural question.

Atheism isn’t going to solve too many land questions, and not in a situation of long-standing dispute, where cultural, economic and political dominance are at stake. A place where there is too much blood and too much history. Only time and stability can heal those wounds. Only a long period of sustained peace can heal those wounds. It is fair comment to say that it is religious interests, allied to political interests, that fight so strongly to keep those wounds open. For surely the state, as theoretical entity, would like to see those wounds firmly closed.

What atheism might do is to weaken the props—for state and church are still inseparable in too many ways.

In Canada, as I write this, it’s Good Friday. It’s a statutory holiday. That means a majority government, freely-elected, passed a law. It is a state-religious holiday. And yet rule by the majority surely means tyranny for somebody—the few.

Hell, maybe even the atheists.

The Queen of England, the titular head of our constitutional monarchy, is also the titular head of the Anglican Church. In order to become a country, Canada had to ‘repatriate’ the British North America Act. It’s a piece of paper. Rather than burn it or shred it, they enshrined it. It is the symbolic source of all their legitimacy, and it stems from the divine right of kings. Even in the 21st century, we cannot seem to dispense with all of that. They still seem to think merit is instilled by blood and heredity. The reason is simple. 

To initiate a new discussion about what it means to be a nation, what it means to be a Canadian, or even just a person, and how equal under the law any given person might be, would invoke too much noise. We would all be talking at once. We’d all have our wants and wishes, some of which ennoble or enrich ourselves, and some of which diminish or impoverish our neighbours. It’s a strange thing, but Canada, as it is presently constituted, would be, ah…’un-re-formable-again.’

Too many people would seek to prevent too many things, and too many people would seek to enable too many things. The talk would never end, would it?

Too many terms and conditions would apply for it to ever properly work again. Nation-building best happens in the undeveloped or pioneering state.

As things now stand, our government is assumed to be valid—and for all intents and purposes, it is. The thing works after all. Once you have achieved that, it is a question of balancing a lot of interests, not all of which will coincide, and some of which will contradict one another.

Atheism undermines the legitimacy of all this, all of these mechanisms, in some purely academic and philosophical challenge.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be this way—it merely is, mostly because it has been.

It reveals legitimacy to be nothing more than a legal fiction—a necessary fiction, maybe.

The idea of monarchy, is one that could probably be dispensed with, given fertile ground and some nurturing.

But it is a fiction nevertheless. For surely they govern by the sword as much as by reason. Where men cannot be persuaded to obey, they must be compelled, after all.

Atheism contradicts the assumptions on which our culture was built, and therefore it is The Great Contradiction for more than one reason.


Atheism has a lot of lessons to teach us about ourselves as well as others.

To be objective, one must get outside of the system under observation, and ultimately, to go beyond one's self.

It is to become an outcast in every sense of the meaning. It means to become an outcast from existence itself, for without existence we can have no perceptions at all. That’s all atheism really is. It’s just a new way of looking at the same old problems.

It is a contradiction of past perceptions.

In its present stage of development, it is still more art than science.

This ‘getting beyond all prejudice’ is of course extremely difficult.

How would we get outside of our bodies and their subsequent needs, (and therefore interests), let alone the known universe without some new kind of technology? The universe is where we live and where all things happen, for they can happen no place else. This is where our interests lie.

That’s only rational.

The very fact that we went outside of it might make it an impossibility to observe.

In that case, I guess you could say we’re pooched, ladies and gentlemen.

The sky is falling.

We’ll leave it at that for the time being.


Evolution. I don’t have a problem still calling evolution a theory. The reason is that our life-spans are too short to ever make the long–term observations required for scientific proof to be established.

That’s not to say that I have any doubts about the outcome of such studies.

Here are some more interesting links.

Christian Radio fuels witch-burning mentality. (

Lawsuit to remove the term ‘under God’ from U.S. Constitution. (American Humanist.)

Atheists should ‘come out of the closet.’ (The Freethinker.)

Calling for an end to Saudi Arabia’s anti-atheism statute law. (Atheism U.K.)

Atheists are Believers. (non-Religion and Secularity.)

Use Rational Thinking to Build a Civil Society. BenBaz Aziz. (Atheist Ireland.)

Religious People Invited to Turkey’s First Atheism Organization. (Daily News.)

Angry Atheist Sues Over Vanity Plates. (The Daily News.)

Atheism to be Taught to Irish Schoolchildren. (The Guardian.)

Where Will Atheists’ Souls Go? (True Believer.)


No comments:

Post a Comment