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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Not all Newspaper Columnists are Created Smart

Yes, I have a blog.  And yes, it’s been a few months since I last posted.  Blame my hectic work schedule or my complete lack of motivation to post anything: your choice.

At any rate, I’ve gotten a tiny bump in motivation from this article:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/not-all-college-majors-are-created-equal/2012/01/12/gIQAfz4XzP_story.html

Now, Ms. Singletary seems like she has all her ducks in a row today.  I have no idea what she was like in college, but if she was even close to this ridiculously stuck-up, I’m sorry to hear that she missed out on all the fun bits of school (and life?).  She seems to be laboring under the impression that life is a game, and your score is quite literally based on how much money you’ve made.  If you have a job making a lot of money, you’re winning.  If you’re in the arts, you’re losing.  And who cares about the human element, right?  Life isn’t about whether you enjoy what you do every day.  It’s about whether you can get into pissing contests with your old friends at college reunions.

And I don’t wholly blame the author for her views.  She’s been conditioned by the relatively recent change in how we perceive a college education.  A university education was never supposed to be mandatory, at least not until recently.  University was where you went if you wanted to further your education and generally increase your knowledge.  When you went to school, you didn’t necessarily need to know what field you were going to go into, but you’d generally know that you were going to university in order to pursue an intellectually demanding career path, in medicine, the law, the sciences, and even politics (back in the day, that used to demand some intellect).  Today, you are expected to go to college if you want to work anywhere above the sales floor of a major retailer.  As a result, we have this cultural expectation that college is about preparing us for the “real world” (as opposed to the vastly underrated imaginary world), and that our professors are supposed to get us jobs instead of educations.

Jobs are great.  And there’s nothing wrong with centering your life around getting a good job to get more money so you can have better stuff.  Go for it.  If that’s what makes you happy.  This seems to be the crucial point that Ms. Singletary missed in her article.  Your job isn’t just about the paycheck (as someone who worked their way up through the newspaper business ought to know).  It’s about how you feel after a day of work.

Up next: Why that common household item not more than two feet away from you is giving you cancer.  News at 11.