Jay Jochnowitz is the editorial page editor of the Times Union newspaper in New York.
In a recent column, he used that awful canard:
Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, the ranks of the underdog state Senate Republicans are suddenly filled with the religion of reform. Well, bravo.
We would be even more delighted if they weren’t trying to rewrite history and portray themselves as having been reformers all along.
Who knows if he put any thought into that statement and believes it, or if he just considers it a familiar saying and is ignorant that it’s a harmful cliché.
In any case, Ben Dreidel — who served in the Navy — didn’t like it and he had a letter to the editor published in yesterday’s paper:
In the July 25 editorial, “All talk, no reform,” the atheism of some in the military is considered comparable to disingenuous talk of reform by politicians. This is flagrant, offensive and false stereotyping.
Atheists are generally sincere in our beliefs; we are not closet theists lying about our true opinions, as the comparison suggests.
If a person considers a character to be fictional, stressful situations will not change that opinion. This is true whether the character is Harry Potter, God or Spiderman.
The Times Union owes an apology to the military atheists you suggest are liars. The phrase “There are no atheists in foxholes” is an insulting falsehood that should not be used.
Jochnowitz wrote back to him personally to say he won’t use the phrase in the future:
We received a fair number of comments on our blog, too, expressing similar objections to our use of the phrase. I was unaware that it’s offensive to some people, and it was not my intent to use it to insult your belief system or that of atheists in general. I saw it as a rather lighthearted observation that actually pokes fun at those who “get religion” in hard times or for opportunistic reasons. But having read your comments, those from other readers, and various commentaries on this, I can certainly see how an atheist would see this as an insulting assertion that their belief (or non-belief, as the case may be) is insincere.
… Rest assured that unless there is a good reason to use this in the future (such as pointing out the trouble with aphorisms like this), I won’t be using it again.
Kudos to him for recognizing his mistake.
The phrase may seem pretty harmless, but that’s how those stereotypes develop. More power to anyone who calls out those who mischaracterize atheists this way.