Who’s in Foxholes?

Who’s in Foxholes? June 11, 2014

The quote from the Faith and Theology blog will probably irritate some. But I think its point is well taken. To the extent that some wrongly claim that being in the midst of war causes people to lose their atheism as they find their lives in danger, being in the midst of war could just as easily be said to cause people to lose their Christianity as they seek to take the lives of others.

If you would respond by insisting that the reality is more complex, I am inclined to agree – but I hope that you will then steer away from all simplistic slogans, and not just those that offend you.


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  • Sven2547

    “There are no atheists in foxholes” isn’t an argument against atheism, it’s an argument against foxholes.
    ~James Morrow

  • Michael Wilson

    James what is your opinion on Christians as policemen or soldiers, are they compatible professions? I know the early church frowned on it because the work entailed violence. Jesus explicitly demand Christians provide material support for Rome’s army with taxes and carrying soldiers packs without a hint of passive resistant’s. However their seems to be nothing in what he said regarding serving in an army as a soldier, either for or against, but he does seem to advocate for pacifism. Paul however seems to view Rome’s police work as legitimate, despite Rome being imperialistic in the most crass and inhumane sense.

    • I’m not sure that I’d agree that there isn’t a hint of passive resistance in what Jesus taught, at least as interpreted by the author of the Gospel of Matthew. But the resistance focuses on the power difference between the soldier and the one conscripted. It aims at turning the victim into a benefactor, in the hope that the equal humanity of both may be highlighted. And so I think that Jesus’ goal for his followers was not to pursue military solutions, but to find ways to make such solutions no longer necessary.

      • Michael Wilson

        Jesus command here are odd. If taken literally, Jesus’ followers would invariably be the slaves of the powerful. For example, if the Koch brothers wanted to eliminate their progressive Christian foes, all they need do would be to ask to borrow all you own. No more funds for countering their work, though I guess you could still shout in streets. This may well have been his intention, or maybe he never gave his words much thought. Some religions do fine on that principle. Buddhism has been flourishing for millennia despite its core being monks who own nothing more than a begging bowl and robe.

        But I feel that this sort of devotion would run counter to a religion that says we should love do to others as we would have done to us. you may have heard in the news about the maniac that was shooting people in Washington and was stopped by a library aid with a can of pepper spray. Now did this fellow reject Jesus by resisting evil? or should he have maintained his holiness by offering to carry the gun mans bag? For someone that argued against those that maintained ritual purity to the harm of the poor, it seems it would violate that principle to obey the letter of Jesus’ commands and allow evil you could stop persist. I argued this when we were talking about “Man of Steel” that Superman was more Christ like killing Zod than letting him go, because Superman sacrificed his innocence rather than let Zod kill innocent people.

        Again, it is possible that Jesus envisioned his followers to be monks and really did suppose that few would follow his path. But I’m not convinced. I can’t help but think their is hyperbole at work in Jesus sermon. Further I think you have to look at his message in relation to his audience, since I don’t think he envisioned his words being scrutinized like a constitution 2000 years later. His audience in Galliee was a hot bed of insurrection, and if Im not mistaken a rebellion their in Jesus’ youth was crushed. He would have known the danger of resisting Rome. When Gandhi and MLK resisted they were beaten and thrown in Jail. When Jews resisted, they were crucified, and soldiers would rape and loot their homes. And what did the resistance want to do? Establish a Jewish kingdom like the one that was there before, which also crucified rebels. I think in the context of Jesus’ audience, his words are good advice. If Jesus were in Memphis or Bombay would it have been different? If Jesus were a Washington library aid would he resist evil? What do you think?

        • Well, since Gandhi and Martin Luther King were inspired by Jesus’ teaching and example as depicted in Matthew, I’d like to think that he would have done the same in their context. But we can obviously only speculate.

          • Michael Wilson

            People say Jesus inspired a lot of things. I’m interested in what he actually thought, and if it is reasonable to look to him as an inspiration for us. It’s unfair to dragoon worthies of the past into our own conceptions of good at the expense of their message.

  • Earthlings Make Me So Angry

    The only reason an atheist would appeal to the Christian deity as opposed to some other deity is probably just cultural conditioning. It is the god-idea they are familiar with. In the end it only shows how pervasive the idea is that the universe or something transcending the universe can be responsive to human need and over-ride any rational refutation for the existence of deities.
    It would be interesting if one had the slightest evidence to suggest that there were no Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, “animists”, etc. in foxholes, only people appealing to a Christian conception of god. And as you point out, war can make people abandon the moral sense that their religion or non-religious upbringing gives them. And in some cases, religious ideas can give people the justification to commit atrocities (as can political ideologies, fear, etc. etc.).