The New York Times recently published a piece by Tracy Luhrmann, a Stanford anthropologist, entitled Conjuring Up Our Own Gods and it’s sparked some controversy, at least partly because she repeats the tired old “there are no atheists in foxholes” nonsense. Grant Hicks hammers her for it in a letter to the editor:
How nonchalantly T. M. Luhrmann tosses off the old canard about “no atheists in foxholes” as if it were both self-evident and unexceptionable. In fact, it is a slur on every atheist, not just (although particularly) on the many who have served their country honorably in battle.
The implication — that atheists are all really theists at heart, our convictions casually and shallowly held and easily abandoned in the face of adversity — is simply untrue. I’ve never been in a foxhole, but I did once sit in a hospital waiting room while a surgeon explained that my young son had a life-threatening and possibly inoperable brain tumor.
I did not pray then, or since.
And thousands and thousands of others have been in a foxhole without crying out for god to save them. Atheists face death every day without falling back on religious wishful thinking. And frankly, it should be more than a bit embarrassing for a serious academic to repeat this inane platitude as if it were legitimate.