There Are No Atheists in Foxholes: The Song

Normally when I hear the name Regina Spektor, I think “my gorgeous future wife.”

Maybe I have to reconsider the wife part.

Her new album, Far, is being released today. The first single is called “Laughing With” and it is essentially saying that we may scoff at the notion of God, but when we’re put in difficult situations, we’re not laughing anymore:

No one laughs at God in a hospital

No one laughs at God in a war

No one’s laughing at God when they’re starving or freezing or so very poor

No one laughs at God when the doctor calls after some routine tests

No one’s laughing at God when it’s gotten real late and their kid’s not back from that party yet

Of course, we know that atheists don’t resort to (or “laugh at”) God in troubling times. We know better than to think a god is going to help us. We know we have to turn elsewhere to get comfort or help.

To suggest that “no one” resorts to God may be lyrically pleasing, but it’s certainly inaccurate.

For what it’s worth, the chorus does discuss the commercialization of God, so there’s that:

God can be funny

When told he’ll give you money if you just pray the right way

And when presented like a genie

Who does magic like Houdini

Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus

God can be so hilarious

Does anyone have a different interpretation of the lyrics?

And screw it, we all know she’s still on my list of future wives.

  • http://arkonbey.blogspot.com arkonbey

    Don’t worry about it the future wife thing. She probably realizes that she is painfully beautiful and extremely talented and this would make her insufferable.

    I think the entire song is about the human need to believe in something that might make their lives better when they themselves have no control over their lives; the classic reason for religion.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    That’s how I see it. I interpret it as “people only take God seriously when they really need something; otherwise God is irrelevant.”

  • http://aurorawalkingvacation.blogspot.com/ Paul

    Well, I guess she’s sort of OK looking, but she can’t sing. I’d strike her from the list, Hemant, there are far more talented people out there.

  • Tony

    Noone’s laughing at god when he is causing parasitic worms to burrow into a child’s stomach?

  • Greg B

    I’ll guarantee you god is the one laughing at those times.

    (metaphorically of course)

  • Woody Tanaka

    “Noone’s laughing at god when he is causing parasitic worms to burrow into a child’s stomach?”

    Peter Noone controls parasitic worms?? Why didn’t anyone tell me?

  • http://rubyleigh.blogspot.com Ruby Leigh

    And screw it, we all know she’s still on my list of future wives.

    wives? mmmm Hemant, are you a polygamist?

  • blackskeptic

    I actually really like this song :) But the Folks over at Pitchfork had the same thoughts as you.

    After all, cuteness is a terrific tool for allowing anyone to get away with being trite, which probably goes a long way towards explaining why a song like the first single, “Laughing With”, seems almost trenchant at first blush, yet upon closer scrutiny unravels into pure meaningless mush, a nattering scold that woefully misreads atheism and agnosticism, ticking off a list of boilerplate crises (war, poverty, a missing child) and reminding us that no one laughs at God in these situations, as though non-believers spend the majority of their tragedy-free time busting on the Almighty.

    The review of her whole album is here: http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/13184-far/ and that’s the lowest rating of her album that I’ve read.

  • Mathew Wilder

    Hmmm….reading the lyrics in their entirety makes it seem to me like she’s defending god-belief. One can only laugh in the good times, when one doesn’t need god. In other words, the title of this post gets it right – there are no atheists in foxholes, which we all know is a crock of shit.

  • TXatheist

    Pat Tillman didn’t laugh at god, he just died from friendly fire and died an atheist. This veteran never called on a god in times of urgency. If you think that’s bull see the movie “Touching the Void”.

  • Ashley

    i have heard this saying and it annoys me. Haven’t heard the song yet.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    No one laughs at God in a hospital

    Of course true Christians (TM) wouldn’t be caught dead in a hospital anyway, since Jesus and his disciples can heal with miracles and prayer.

  • http://zackfordblogs.wordpress.com ZackFord

    I feel like she’s saying that even though there are a lot of reasons to laugh at the idea of God, the mere fact that people find comfort in tough times by believing in him is enough reason to respect him.

    I think most of us reading Hemant’s blog know otherwise.

    What a disappointing application of talent on her part.

  • C. Harvey

    I haven’t listened to it, but I read the full lyrics… the last line is “we’re all laughing with god.

    To me, meaning, “if god exists, he’s a complete a-hole!”

    Or maybe she just threw that in as a cheap twist and had no real meaning behind it.

  • gmcfly

    This is just like that time Sam Sparro broke my heart with that song about creationism. Et tu, Regina?

  • Sapient

    It’s not that bad a song. Alas, I don’t really understand it, either.

    I do see another interpretation caused by the last line of the song. It seems (I’m guessing) that the last line of the song implies everyone’s laughting with God, not at God, so that every previous line (in hospitals, in wars, etc) states that everyone’s laughing with God in those occasions.

    Ehr… actually a little creepy.
    ..and probably a false interpretation.

  • http://makarios-makarios.blogspot.com makarios

    Why would you want to be married to someone whose deepest held beliefs you find idiotic?

  • http://www.decrepitoldfool.com george.w

    Man, nobody’s that good-looking.

    Last month I suffered a perforated intestine and needed emergency surgery. The pain was unbelievable and I was in the hospital for nine days, tubes in most orifices including one that doesn’t normally exist. Three weeks later I was hospitalized again with an infection. Now I’m five weeks out, moving carefully, recovering.

    It never once occurred to me to pray or look to any “god”. I was certainly suffering and knew I could die, but the god hypothesis is long-busted. All the medical people did a great job, however. I could see them and see how hard THEY were working to save my ass.

  • http://hoverFrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    it is essentially saying that we may scoff at the notion of God, but when we’re put in difficult situations, we’re not laughing anymore:

    I read that the survivors of the attacks on the Twin Towers where too busy trying to stay alive to pray. It may be the case that many people pray for divine intervention when they see no further option available to them or who do so through some sense of tradition. People, even religious people, tend not to pray in that life or death moment though. Not and survive anyway.

    Contrast the pilot who landed his aircraft in the Hudson, saving 155 people, to the Tunisian pilot who went completely barking and prayed instead of taking emergency action, killing 16 people. Not laughing at g0d, just keeping g0d out of the picture.

  • Matthew T.

    She definitely has a kindergarten theology, which I would expect from a pop singer. The song isn’t that great vocally either. The piano parts are kind of pretty though.

  • Alz

    It is sad that some people do not take the time to try to understand our perspective. Good times or bad, the supernatural is not even a factor in the equation.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    I’d rather listen to Joan Osbourne.

  • Todd

    Regina is Jewish by birth, but I suppose when you like someone’s stuff as much as I do hers, you hope they’re secretly thinking the way that you do.

    I’m sure that she’s arguing for belief here. It’s depressing, but she still sounds good.

    The same consensus has been reached over at songmeanings.com where there is just about nothing in the way of an atheistic presence (and if it does show up, it’s voted down). Many of them just seem so confounded by anyone seeing the world in a different way, commenting on how impossible it seems for anyone to think Christianity might be bad…

  • Aj

    Apparantly there are no atheists in foxholes, and other people’s gods are silly. It’s not like we haven’t heard that nonsense before. She has put out any good albums or songs that I’m aware of. “Fidelity” would be a good song, if it wasn’t for her “h-h-h-h-heart” that anoys me truly.

    I like Dennett’s response when he was in hospital and people said they were praying for him, he asked “did you also sacrifice a goat?”. So thoroughly debunked, Regina, people do laugh at God in hospital.

  • Tom

    Of course, we know that atheists don’t resort to (or “laugh at”) God in troubling times. We know better than to think a god is going to help us. We know we have to turn elsewhere to get comfort or help.

    I know people who identify as atheists who laugh at God, especially in troubling times. Does this mean they are not truly atheists by “acknowledging” God by laughing at him?

    I wanted to post this because the language of “we atheists” is irritating to me, especially when someone arrogantly defines what atheist really are. Truth is, there are a lot of people who are atheists for mostly emotional reasons, and who would derive great satisfaction at laughing at God’s foibles.

    Anyone else see this?

  • Infinite Monkey

    IHMO-its built around the theory that god is where you turn when you have no where else to turn. I don’t disagree with that per se, after all, if you’ve tried all logical courses of actions, why not try try some illogical ones. Worst Case Scenerio-nothing changes. But, there’s a big difference between an “oh, why not, what harm could it do” and believing. The true test is what happens afterwards. If you try turning to god, and things clear up, should you then start believing, then yes, you have stopped being an atheist. If you go back, then it was really a “why the hell not”.

  • Andrew C.

    Regina is Jewish by birth, but I suppose when you like someone’s stuff as much as I do hers, you hope they’re secretly thinking the way that you do.

    I’m sure that she’s arguing for belief here. It’s depressing, but she still sounds good.

    The same consensus has been reached over at songmeanings.com where there is just about nothing in the way of an atheistic presence (and if it does show up, it’s voted down). Many of them just seem so confounded by anyone seeing the world in a different way, commenting on how impossible it seems for anyone to think Christianity might be bad…

    You’re not kidding. I looked at the comments on XTC’s Dear God and most people completely missed the point of that song.

  • QrazyQat

    Regina needs to rent the movie “Touching the Void” and listen to Joe Simpson mention that, in answer to whether he ever once thought of praying or god when he was going through one of the most harrowing survival stories of all time (watch it, you’ll be amazed) he said “No, not once”.

  • TXatheist

    Qrazy, hope you can laugh at this like I did…climbersforchrist….

  • TXatheist

  • TXatheist
  • http://mimi-n-moe.blogspot.com/ Karen

    My take it on is the same as the second comment…When the going gets tough people turn to god…and that when times are good god isn’t needed.

    i prefer music without god references.

  • Brooks

    You could always replace her with Lily Allen. Lyrics from the Lily Allen song Him

    Would you please take me away
    from this place
    I cannot bear to see
    the look upon your faces
    And if there
    is some kind of god
    do you think he’s pleased
    When he looks down on us
    I wonder what he sees
    Do you think
    he’d think the things we do
    are a waste of time
    Maybe he’d think
    we are getting on just fine
    Do you think he’s skint
    or financially secure
    And come election time
    I wonder who he’d vote for

    Ever since he can remember people
    have died in his good name
    Long before that September
    Long before hijacking planes
    He’s lost the will he can’t decide
    He doesn’t know who’s right or wrong
    But there’s one thing that he’s sure
    of this has been going on too long

  • http://starseyer.blogspot.com Mikayla

    I probably wouldn’t laugh at god, but only because I seriously thing gods would be the last things on my mind in a crisis…

  • Becky

    I just noticed that two songs from that CD are older ones of hers; how cheap!

  • Autumnal Harvest

    I don’t care if she has a song about how the Earth was created in six days in 4004 B.C. She’s still awesome, and I still totally adore her. Will it help redeem her if I point out the lyrics to her song “Baby Jesus”? :

    you know that statue
    that statue of baby jesus
    in the window
    in the window of the 99 cent store
    last night I saw the owner kiss it
    and whisper in its ear
    I was walking home from walgreen’s
    and he did not hear me see him
    and on the
    very very next morning
    all the subway cars were hallelu-leluing
    welcome back the baby king, the baby king
    all the believers they were smiling
    and winking at each other
    i could honestly say I was scared for my life.

    They said, all the non-believers they get to eat dirt, and the believers get to spit on their graves… (repeat)

    you know that statue
    that statue of baby jesus
    in the window
    in the window of the 99 cent store
    they’ve been showing it on the news
    it was thirty times its size
    with a megaphone and a heart-shaped bruise
    it was hovering in the skies
    and all the
    subway cars were hallelu-lelu-leluing, hallejuah
    welcome back the baby king, the baby king
    all the believers they were smiling
    and winking at each other
    i could honestly say I was scared for my life

    They said, all the non-believers they get to eat dirt and the believers get to spit on their graves… (repeat)
    believe!…

    you know that statue
    that statue of baby jesus
    in the window
    in the window of the 99 cent store
    when I woke up I ran and bought it
    and locked it in my closet
    with a little bread and water
    and a flashlight and a first aid kit till he grows

  • AxeGrrl

    *deleted post – because someone answered the question i was asking later in the thread:)*

  • Karlover

    Seriously, Hemant? This song is awful, just from a musical standpoint. Then when you take the lyrics into account, it’s even worse. To me, the lyrics are straight out of a high school poetry class, then set to some boring music.

    Other than that, I liked it. :)

  • http://www.powerpoppat.com PowerPopPat

    I’m gonna play this song Friday on my radio show—and follow it with NoFX’ “Blasphemy: A Victimless Crime”…..

  • Leah

    I can think of about 15,000 other things I don’t laugh at when in the hospital or while waiting for my kid who is so late I’m frightened for them. They include, but are not limited to: bagels, my dog, Thursdays, and the Easter Bunny. I suppose she could have omitted the “at god” part of her lyrics, except then there’d be no discussion. Sadly, the “at god” is what makes it worth discussing. Oh, and I generally like her. Still do. Just don’t think this song has a meaning that I can identify.


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