Atheist in foxholes

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There is this widespread saying that, "There are no atheists in foxholes" . This refers to a situation of extreme stress or fear, when even the most committed and staunch atheists reach out to a higher power abandoning their disbelief in god or a higher power 

Origins of this saying.... courtesy : wikipedia 
The precise origin of the phrase is uncertain. Various sources credit Lieutenant-Colonel William J. Clear, or Lieutenant-Colonel William Casey, but the phrase is most often attributed to journalist Ernie Pyle. The line is used in the film Wake Island, which was released sometime in early 1942. In the book Ghost Soldiers, authorHampton Sides credits the origin of the phrase to "Father Cummings," a chaplain present during the raid at Cabanatuan in 1945. In the form "There are no atheists in the trenches", the idea dates back at least as far as World War I.

Obviously this saying has been around for some time now. But the question is, is this true or not ? and if true then why ?

True or false : Now this answer may vary from person to person and may turn out be contrary of the one that a person believes is his answer when such a situation actually occurs. Now majority of us can only assume how a person might react when he is in grave danger . Hence to formulate an 100% correct answer that implies to every person is not possible. Because its not possible to know the thought process of the one actually going through the situation. But this is sure that this change of faith has been seen and thats why  such a saying came into the main stream. But at the same time this is also equally true that people are there who have proved this saying wrong 
hence the quote of the blog :
Every philosopher has an equal and opposite philosopher

and many examples of such atheists in foxholes are listed in MAAF ( Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers)
So we can make the conclusion that such an generalization cannot be made and validity of this saying varies from person to person .
With the validity of this saying settled, we can move to the other  part of the question

Why ? :  Now why does a person reach out to a higher power when he is in a situation which is  too much for him to handle (if he/she actually does reach out ). This can  we related with, 
Why does a child cry out to his parents when scared? 
Simple, a child has seen on several occasions that his parents care for him, they are bigger than him and stronger, they hand him his toys, food and help him get up when he falls.He does not know any supreme authority besides them . So he builds up an understanding that when he is in danger (or he feels that he is danger) they will come to help him and are strong enough to tackle any situation. Therefore he calls out to them.
Why do we blame the government for bad management in public sector ?
We over the years develop and understanding that all public sector is controlled by the government and forget that government is not a single entity but a system where their are different people controlling and running different departments to their level best who may not even be concerned or ever be concerned with the department where you faced bad
management. But still we are familiar with this thing, this government that runs everything around us therefore its the one responsible. Hence government gets the blame for actions of one person.
Why do theists thank God for every good thing that happens to them ? 
Theists come to believe that God is the cause behind everything that happens and nothing happens without his wish and he does good things to certain people . These good things are a result of his grace and therefore thank him for those good thing some out of sheer belief and rest who make an habit out of this. And hence This "God" gets all the credit. 

Now similarly when a person is grown up and realizes that parents are not the supreme authority he is again and again subject to the thought that god is supreme and it is the god that can save lives miraculously and also grants wishes so in spite of not believing in such a god out of human reason and logic under normal circumstances . Such a person when under extreme conditions of stress or fear , when his brain is not act as under normal conditions with different hormones like adrenalin and others .He knows Government(another preformed notion of supreme authority) can't help him in this situation.
So normally a person reaches out another preformed notion of "god" in his sub-conscience when he is in grave danger as he is no longer following reason, just his insticst of reaching out to who ever may help him and surviving (this is after all what evolution prepares one for)
this is as normal as,
swearing at people you will never swear at, in anger 
making false claims and saying things yo will never say while normal, under intoxication or making too big promises to fulfill while over the top happy 

cerebration log : someone reaching out to a preformed notion dat he wishes to be true for help, doesn't mean that notion is true 

1 comment

Ketan December 31, 2009 at 3:37 PM

Hi! Surprised to note that your otherwise popular blog did not receive any comments on this post.

You've analyzed the human psyche pretty well.

In one of my posts towards the end, I had dealt with the same issue. Here:

A few responses to criticism of atheism (click). Take care.

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