Endurance of the saying "There are no atheists in foxholes"

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Reverend William T. Cummings is famous for declaring There are no atheists in foxholes.[1]

The testimonials of people who claim to have been atheists in foxholes is unconvincing to many and the phrase "There are no atheists in foxholes" remains to be a popular and enduring saying.

Causes of the endurance of the saying "There are not atheists in foxholes"

See also: Atheists and the endurance of religion

The new atheist Sam Harris said concerning the label of atheist, "It's right next to child molester as a designation."(see also: Distrust of atheists)[2][3] See also: Distrust of atheists

There are several reasons for the endurance of the saying "There are no atheists in foxholes".

1) A very significant portion of the population distrust atheists and therefore individuals claiming to have been atheists in foxholes is unconvincing to many. Many individuals dislike atheists as well (See: Views on atheists).

2) Atheists are a minority of the world's population. Therefore, combined with the fact that many people distrust/dislike atheists, this insures the saying has a receptive audience to propagate the saying.

3) Many people turn to God in times of trouble. Hannah More wrote: "In agony or danger, no nature is atheist. The mind that knows not what to fly to, flies to God."[4]

4) Many people associate belief in God with courage/hope/morality and atheism with cowardice/hopelessness/immorality (see: Atheism and anxiety and Atheism and cowardice and Hopelessness of atheism and Atheism and morality). Therefore, many people find it natural that atheists would turn to God in times of trouble and not have any true/firm convictions regarding their claims of unbelief/nonbelief in the existence of God.

5) Many people find the saying humorous and/or enjoy mocking atheists - especially since many people find atheists to be arrogant (see: Atheism and arrogance).

Sam Blum, wrote at Inverse.com, concerning the Atheists in foxholes monument that the Freedom From Religion Foundation built: "The old aphorism 'there are no atheists in foxholes,' has served to spark the ire of the Freedom From Religion Foundation time and time again...".[5] Often when people know something gets under a particular groups skin (particularly an unpopular group), they will use it repeatedly to taunt them.

6) It is widely believed that theism is the natural/reasonable state of affairs for mankind. Therefore, when faced with external pressure, many believe atheists will turn to God. See also: Arguments for the existence of God and Evidence for Christianity

In Japan, researchers found that Japanese children see the world as designed.[6]

Researchers at Oxford University have reported finding children who, when questioned, express their understanding that there is a Creator, without having had any such teaching from parents or teachers about this matter.[7]

According to Dr. Olivera Petrovich who lectures at Oxford University, there is now a “preponderance of scientific evidence” indicating that “children believe in God even when religious teachings are withheld from them”.[8]

In Japan, researchers found that Japanese children see the natural world as designed and purposeful and believe some kind of intelligent being is behind that purpose.[9]

Related quotes:

" “A slew of cognitive traits predisposes us to faith.” - Pascal Boyer, in the British science journal Nature [10]

Atheism is psychologically impossible because of the way humans think. … They point to studies showing, for example, that even people who claim to be committed atheists tacitly hold religious beliefs, such as the existence of an immortal soul.” - Graham Lawton in the New Scientist science magazine [11]

Furthmore, there are denials that atheists exists.

In addition, atheists have a low retention rate in many geographic areas such in areas where communism formerly prevailed (see: Atheism and its retention rate in individuals)

Also, there have been notable cases where prominent atheists declared their doubts on the validity of atheism (see: Atheists doubting the validity of atheism) or have become ex-atheists.

7) Many atheists reject testimonial evidence as a form of valid evidence. Many atheists, such as many new atheists, only accept scientific evidence as a valid form of evidence[12] and reject testimonial evidence (See: Atheism and evidence). Therefore, using their "logic", these atheists cannot convincingly argue using testimonial evidence that atheists have been in foxholes.

See also


  1. Archived Discussion on Linguist List - Listserve
  2. Roberts, Jessica, et al. (June 19, 2007). "Interview with an atheist". News21. Retrieved on July 30, 2014.
  3. NEWSWEEK Poll: 90% Believe in God, Newsweek 2007
  4. Hannah More quotes
  5. Atheists in Foxholes' Are Honored With Monument in Wisconsin by Sam Blum at Inverse.com
  6. Children see the world as designed
  7. Children as designed.
  8. Children as designed.
  9. Children as designed.
  10. Graham Lawton in the New Scientist
  11. Graham Lawton in the New Scientist
  12. The New Atheists, Internet Enclopedia of Philisophy