mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Atheists in Foxholes

The foxhole atheist community is alive and well at Fort Bragg and is getting ready to hold an event on the central parade ground. Rock Beyond Belief, an organization of atheist soldiers, after long bargaining has gotten permission to hold a kind of atheist Woodstock on March 31.

“This just might be the turning point in the foxhole atheist community’s struggle for acceptance, tolerance and respect,” Sergeant Griffith wrote on the Web site. “It’s an amazing time to be a nonbeliever in the U.S. military on the cusp of a major breakthrough.”

A spokesman for the fort, Benjamin Abel, confirmed that Colonel Sicinski had approved use of the parade field because Rock Beyond Belief had come up with enough money to pay for a stage, lighting, sound system and other expenses involved in setting up the grounds. He said he understood that Rock Beyond Belief had obtained the money, more than $30,000, from a donor.

Mr. Abel added that the fort would provide electricity, water and security for the event but not any direct financial assistance.

This is all exactly as it should be.  The United States is a constitutional republic; its citizens and soldiers are free to profess any beliefs or non-beliefs they choose.  They are also entitled to speak about those beliefs on public or private property.  “Foxhole atheists” are as entitled to hold events as are foxhole Presbyterians.

That said, it’s a good thing most US soldiers and citizens aren’t atheists.  Many atheists are upstanding citizens and fine people, but now as ever most of us need the comforts and the guidance of religion to keep our lives on track.  The country would be in trouble if ‘foxhole atheists’ weren’t able to hold public events — and it would be in trouble if too many people attended them.

Features Icon
show comments
  • christopher

    “Many atheists are upstanding citizens and fine people, but now as ever most of us need the comforts and the guidance of religion to keep our lives on track.”

    I think if you replaced guidance with ignorance the quote above would be more accurate.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @Christoper: I find it fascinating that so many atheists feel such a great need to attack and denigrate religion and religious believers. Not sure why this is true, and not sure what if anything it means, but one often finds a lot of passion connected to atheist ideas.

      Not a put-down, an observation.

  • hanmeng

    I find it fascinating that so many religious believers feel such a great need to attack and denigrate atheism and atheists. Not sure why this is true, and not sure what if anything it means, but one often finds a lot of passion connected to religious ideas.

    Not a put-down, an observation.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      again with the feisty atheists!

  • Creid


    Okay, that was freakishly patronizing. I’m going to ignore the actual post (kudos for not confusing Atheists with Satanists, that’s the best I’ve got for you, really…) and respond to your comment responses thus far.

    1. On “passion connected with Atheist ideas”. There is only one “Atheist” idea. Atheism does not have a doctrine. We are often forced together in our common non-belief for political and social purposes. We get kicked around A LOT, and we will continue to unless we speak up against bad ideas and idiotic assumptions about us and who we are and what we (don’t) believe.

    I actually think that hanmeng’s response was apt, and it’s too bad all you got out of it was “ooh, feisty”.

  • thibaud

    I would respectfully submit that moral behavior does not depend in the slightest upon one’s attitude toward the supernatural. There may be _cultural_ tendencies attendant to certain communities of believers — for ex., all the evangelicals I did business with in Dallas were upstanding people, true to their word — but I’ve had equally pleasant interactions with people who have no inclination whatsoever toward religion, religious observance or even religious feeling and who grew up in the completely atheist regimes of the former communist bloc. Perhaps religion helps and comforts wayward souls, but it’s simply false to say that it’s necessary for either learning or teaching or adhering to a robust code of ethical or moral behavior.

    fwiw, I’m not one who believes that, on balance, organized religion in the Western world today does more harm than good. In fact, I used to be inclined the other way, and believed that the good done by the Catholic Church outweighed, by a large measure, any harm done by overzealous doctrinaire clergy. However, the massive evidence of institutionalized lawbreaking, of obstruction of justice and protection of felons, accumulated in recent decades in regard to pedophile-priest cosseting has changed my mind.

    In any case, regarding the merits of a political candidate, his views on the afterlife are irrelevant to his expertise, judgment, and character as they relate to major political issues. Santorum strikes me as a decent man, but I believe his approach to abortion to be mistaken, inappropriate to the national political consensus we’ve achieved since Roe, and potentially very harmful to millions of responsible and dare I say _moral_ women in this country for whom abortion is an exceptionally valuable, not to mention necessary and vital option.

    For someone to claim that his preferred policies are not only superior but guided by divine sanction is out of place in a democracy such as ours. If this is Rick Perry’s view, and if he’s the GOP nominee, I will hold my nose and vote for Obama next fall. Had abortion been outlawed in my state, many thousands of women would be invalids today, and no politician in America can or should have the ability to do that to the public. We settled that issue in 1973. Enough with the pontifex maximus stuff.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service