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Readers Respond: Have You Been an Atheist in a Foxhole or a Similarly Dangerous Situation?

Responses: 52


The claim that there are no atheists in foxholes has been around for a long time, but it became especially popular after the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001. For theists it may be natural to assume that such a thing is true, but it's not. Just as there have surely been atheists who converted to theism, there are plenty of atheists who haven't - and plenty of theists who became atheists after facing situations like war. Have you faced death and remained an atheist? Share Your Story

ps of mother

in my defence ill say that i never asked 'god' to save me,and i have had three surgeries on open heart and some other time fear of serious life threatening illness cos of unexplained long lasting low fewer. it turned out to be nothing. some virus that my immune system won more successfully than some 'god' of theirs.
—Guest viki

i am a mother

when tsunami and atlanta happened i heard that many theists changed their mind. and i like the story of the grand grandfather. i myself,when not thinking as a mother,am sure that there is no god,looking at the evils and misery of the world. but,when my son was supposed to be ill with leukemia...he had nothing...it was a false alarm of a stupid doctor,after his tonsils had been taken out and his surrounding glands were swollen,well then i got into my barhroom licked the door,kneeeled on the floor,turned towards a wall and while crying in deep despair and fear for my sons life,asked the maybe existing god,this is how i addressed it,to make my son well. i am not embarrased that at that moment i forgot that all humans are supposed to be loved by god the same well and so why would god let one human live and another die,prematurely. when not thinking as a mother,i am aware of it,but when it comes to my sons life,i would do just anything to save him. give him my heart right now. my life.
—Guest viki


When I was an infantry platoon leader in Korea during that war, I was a Catholic. My war experience was the beginning of my becoming an atheist. Thinking back on it, I never prayed during the moments when I thought I was going to be killed, and I never heard anyone else pray. The war taught me that many deaths were random, caused by artillery and mortar fire not aimed at any individual. Two seconds later or two seconds earlier, they would not have been killed. Many theists say that their god "calls us home" when, in its wisdom and mercy, it is best to do so. I cannot help but think that if my friends who were killed had been back in a classroom instead of in combat, they would not have been killed.
—Guest Jim

There are no Atheists in Fox Holes

It was more than 8 years ago, in 2005 when I was 35, without knowing it, I was having a nervous breakdown. I was experiencing psychotic symptoms, paranoid that drug dealers were after me, who were determined to kill me. Four years before hand, I switched from agnosticism to atheism since I was convinced God was humanly invented. As I sat at the edge of the bed, all I could say to myself was, "35 years (my age) of wasted life." I did not turn to God since I accepted my death. I was homeless at the time, living with a friend. A mutual friend, a gangster-looking individual, whom I summoned to scare the drug dealers away, picked me up and took me to another friend's house. A few days later, I ended in the mental hospital. Although I got better with treatment, I never turned to God. My religious sister came to the hospital to try to convert me, saying I should turn to God since I fell in my face. I told her philosophy will do. I just didn't find it necessary to believe in a being I can't se
—Guest Albert Ramos

I focussed on reality and I'm alive.

I froze up a few times as a newby but adjusted to ignoring the possibility of being killed when there were things I could do to increase the chances of keeping myself and others alive. When I found myself in a hopeless situation with incoming mortar, rocket, artillery and small arms fire hitting close by I got to where it was funny to me and I'd laugh.. I was completely out of my mind but the guys expecting their prayers to make it all better were a lot worse off than guys like me.. I was in so much combat that I can't recall how many times I had to expose myself to enemy fire to direct close air support danger close, guide in an emergency medevac mission or helicopter resupply of ammo in a hot LZ. Even as a little kid I never bought into the idea of god. In 4 months I'll be 64 and out of the Marines 45 years... I think that what I have observed and experienced so far has strongly reinforced my lack of belief in an omnipotent super natural creator. I don't believe in Santa either.
—Guest Warner DeFord

Tragedy isn't enough to convert atheists

Contrary to the popular saying, tragedies can actually make you become an atheist. When I was in 8th grade, my dad lost his job. At first, I asked, "Why would God do this?" Later, I realized that there can't be a God. If God is so "loving", why would he do this to my family? (Especially considering that my parents were huge Jesus freaks.) So I gave up on religion all together, and I'm much happier now. Of course, I've had a bumpy road at times-I became depressed and asked myself what the purpose of lie was-but I didn't pray, ask a god for help, or even go to a priest for advice. I just stuck it out on my own merits. I am so glad that I realized my atheism at a young age.
—Guest Max

Imaginary friends not required. EVER.

I was in the military. Went in an atheist. Stayed one the whole time. Went out an atheist. I served during peacetime, so no big deal. What I do think being an atheist has done is make me face reality, which has given me a clear head in emergency situations. I don't panic when things happen. I'm always thinking: Okay, what do we need to do, what can be done, and so on. Once when I was at home alone and half of my toe got cut off in an accident, I didn't pray to god. What a waste of time and effort! I wrapped up my foot as best I could to stop the bleeding, collected my poor toe and put it on ice while I was talking to 911. It wasn't a genocidal tyrant who saved my toe; it was my clear head and having paid attention to my RN mom's shop talk, the EMS crew that got to me and to the hospital so quickly, and the fantastic surgeon who sewed me up good as new. No genocidal space buddies necessary!
—Guest Aquaria

Burned and still an atheist

In 2000 I was burned severely in an industrial accident, I thought I would die or wind up severely disfigured but I never quit being an atheist. I have some scars on my arms and hands, but other than that I'm doing fine
—Guest ModIndie

My fox-hole was a shipwreck

I was shipwrecked on a rocky Tasmanian coast one dark night in early 2012. Fortunately I was sailing single handed and had only myself to worry about. As my boat was smashed to pieces around me it seemed most unlikely that I would survive. I never thought for a moment about asking for help from an imaginary friend, I just got on with making the preparations to abandon ship. I had made an appointment with the dentist and I remember thinking if I was about to become fish food it was handy that I hadn't wasted money on my teeth, my kids could spend the money on something useful. Afterwards it occurred to me that was a profound thought, I really believed I was about to die but my atheism was unswerving.
—Guest Mac Hoban

Atheists share foxholes w Christians too

I was in a convoy in northern Afghanistan when a vehicle roll-over occurred. I pulled security on the vehicle while it was being recovered and we received pretty heavy fire. Thankfully we managed to get out with no casualties. Religion/faith never crossed my mind. After returning to the states, a friend and I ended up on this very subject (he's a combat engineering that clears IEDs from the routes). His mother always told him that "there are no atheists in foxholes". Well, he went through several IED events, direct and indirect fire. Praying to a higher power never occurred to him either. We both concluded that a religious person would be prone to do so out force of habit. If you're used to turning to a higher power during a crisis, naturally you would do so in a 'foxhole'. Where as those of us with a more secular world-view, well, we're more focused on how to stay alive and keep our buddies safe. tl;dr When you're in a 'foxhole', you usually have more important things to do

Cancer sucks, but it didn't convert me.

A few years ago i received a bone marrow transplant to treat an otherwise imminently fatal leukaemia diagnosis. The process itself has a 25% chance of being fatal. After the transplant you have to wait about 8 - 10 days to know it has taken - if it fails you're on your way out. Mine was slow and didn't give a positive cell count until day 13 or 14 - and for the few days that I truly believed I was going to be dead within a couple of weeks I did not once feel the need to ask an invisible friend for help. When my counts did signal I would probably survive I thanked the doctors and their team - not any god.

No reason to implore deities

One of the primary reasons why I was vested with the title with which I now post this is because I operated as a part of a private personal security firm that assisted the needy with their emergencies, given that those emergencies, for one reason or another, 'fell through the cracks' of traditional emergency response. Although most of the situations to which I was subsequently a part were mundane, I eventually came to see a number of terrifying incidents and life-threatening encounters. I never saw a reason to implore any kind of god of gods; perhaps my penchant for honesty would serve as a greater impetus than some, but I refused to believe in anything for which there was insufficient evidence. I saw it no different than simply lying, even if I didn't know for sure that gods did not exist. The fact that a great abundance of the wrongdoers against whom I found myself was comprised of theists didn't help the case for an all-loving deity, either. Empathy is more important than gods.

Death row

Not been in a foxhole but as Christopher Hitchens said. There are no atheists on death row either.
—Guest Mark

Tragedy strikes regardless of faith.

In 2010 I cared for my mother in the last stages of colon cancer. My mother refused treatment for her cancer and the colitis that led to it, because she believed she could pray herself well. That if she just had enough faith that "GOD" would hear her and she would be healed. My mother was a good person. She would literally give a stranger the shirt off of her back. She is dead. Her faith and her god didn't save her. At no time during my mother's last days did I join her in her belief. I changed her diapers combed her hair clipped her nails and read to her. I cooked and cleaned and took care of her business. I convinced her to make a will even though she didn't believe she would need one and I watched my mother die. I wished that I could have convinced her that she should take care of herself instead of trusting in a fairy tale to do it for her. Maybe she would still be here.
—Guest menotme

Why do you need foxhole protection?

If you truly believe, then why do you need the protection of a foxhole?
—Guest Commentor

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Have You Been an Atheist in a Foxhole or a Similarly Dangerous Situation?

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