There Are No Foxes in Atheist Holes

I read an absolutely fascinating and terrifically-written article today:

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/28/my-faith-what-people-talk-about-before-they-die/

First of all, this lady is my new favorite chaplain.  To be fair, I didn’t have a favorite chaplain before this, just a favorite Chaplin.  But now I have a favorite chaplain, and it’s her.  Her absolute compassion and humanity shine through in this article, and I truly wish that more people were this thoughtful about their faith.  But aside from the inspiration I drew from the article, I also reflected on a most-likely-unintentional point that Ms. Egan (if there’s a more proper title for a chaplain, feel free to inform me) made here.

One popular fallback of the self-righteously religious is the oft-heard phrase, “There are no atheists in foxholes.”

Before going on, I’d like to direct everyone to http://militaryatheists.org/, where you can learn all about the many, many atheists serving in our military.

This phrase is always invoked to get the stubborn atheist-on-the-street to realize that, in the direst circumstances, they’ll figure out that they really believed in a god all along.  The general myth seems to be that in our last moments, everyone abandons the convictions they held in life (no matter how important they were) and embraces Jesus.  I say Jesus, because I’ve never once heard this tripe from a non-Christian (which may just have to do with my geographic location).  So what I find amazing about Ms. Egan’s experience is that it not only shatters the myth of the repentant atheist, it turns the myth on its head and makes it do a little dance.  We don’t have any images of atheists breaking down in tears and realizing that they’ve wasted so much of their life fighting the inevitable acceptance of a personal lord and savior.  Instead, we find a much different narrative: the faithful on their deathbeds looking to the earthly and very tangible loves that they’ll be leaving behind.

I think it’s truly beautiful how Egan ties this narrative in to her idea of a god, and I completely respect her faith.  And one of the reasons I respect it so much is that it makes her god very real, in the way that matters most.  She doesn’t care if everyone shares the exact same ideas she does, nor does she seem to care if we all interpret a very old book the same way she does.  Instead, she finds her god in the common experience of love and human bonding that we all share.

And I don’t have any problem with that god.

Up next: Dolphins, friend or foe?  Tonight at 11.

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