So there are atheists in foxholes

Last week, my friend and colleague Rich Liebson, an Army vet, sent me a notice about a local church having a Mass for members of the Armed Forces.

Somehow, we started talking (emailing, really) about the old adage that there are no atheists in foxholes.

Rich recalled something he wrote a few years ago about an Army specialist who served in Iraq and was suing the Department of Defense, saying that his open atheism ruined his military career. He called the military a Christian organization.

The guy, a former Baptist, had become something of an atheist in a foxhole.

Oddly enough, Rich was reading Stars and Stripes yesterday, something he often does, and came across a letter from a staff sergeant in Iraq calling himself — you guessed it — an atheist in a foxhole.

He writes, in part:

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This is my second deployment to Iraq and I have traveled more than 8,000 miles “outside the wire” to several bases in northern Iraq. I’m a gun truck vehicle commander and responsible for securing personnel, supplies and equipment when in transportation between bases.

Every day that I leave the wire, I travel knowing of the inherent risks and, though I am confident that most risks to life and limb are negated by the armored MRAP and IED-defeating technology that protects me, I am not invincible; each new day could potentially be my last (literally). And although lately this has resulted in my near paranoiac fear of a catastrophic kill, I satisfactorily (and safely) complete the assigned task — as I have every intention of returning home to my lovely wife, who is also an atheist, and to whom I am faithful.

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There are more than 100 (pretty civilized) comments at the end of his letter, which are worth reading if you’re into that sort of thing.

Who is that Dalai Lama guy, anyway?

I’m not at all surprised that Americans don’t know much about religion in general.

But the findings of a new Pew Forum poll are still kind of shocking.

45% of Catholics don’t know that their faith teaches that the bread and wine become the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ during Holy Communion?

53% of Protestants cannot identity Martin Luther as the father of the Reformation?

47% of respondents know that the Dalai Lama is Buddhist?

43% of Jews don’t know that Maimonides was Jewish? (This might not seem like a big deal to non-Jews, but M. was one of the most significant figures in Jewish history.)

What do people know?

The Pew Forum asked people 32 questions about faith. The highest average scores went to…atheists and agnostics. This isn’t terribly surprising, given that non-believers tend to be very educated, but it’s still pretty embarrassing for all those who call the U.S. a “Christian nation.”

Catholics, on average, got only 14.7 questions right — fewer than Jews, Mormons and Protestants, not to mention atheists and agnostics. On the one hand, this is surprising because Catholics are generally a very educated group.

On the other hand, it’s well know that the quality of Catholic education for those who do not attend Catholic schools has been quite low for decades. And it’s long seemed to me that Catholics, in general, know less about faiths other than their own than other religious groups. Many Catholics, in fact, know little about Protestants — what they believe and why.

What else? I’m kind of surprised that 62% of Americans know that most people in India are Hindus. I would have expected 30% based on the other results.

And 51% know that Joseph Smith was a Mormon? Could have been worse.

Here’s a Pew Forum summary:

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Atheists/agnostics, Jews and Mormons still have the highest levels of religious knowledge, followed by evangelical Protestants, then those whose religion is nothing in particular, mainline Protestants and Catholics. Atheists/agnostics and Jews stand out for high levels of knowledge about world religions other than Christianity, though they also score at or above the national average on questions about the Bible and Christianity. Holding demographic factors constant, evangelical Protestants outperform most groups (with the exceptions of Mormons and atheists/agnostics) on questions about the Bible and Christianity, but evangelicals fare less well compared with other groups on questions about world religions such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism. Mormons are the highest-scoring group on questions about the Bible.

Will Fido be ‘left behind?’

Say you’re a Christian who believes that when it’s time for the Second Coming, you will be raptured away to a better place.

When the time comes, who will take care of Spot and Rocky?

A retired businessman in New Hampshire has come up with a business that will — are you ready for this? — arrange for atheists to care for pets when their Christian owners disappear.

You can read about it on the website of Eternal Earth-Bound Pets, USA.

At first, I thought it was a joke for sure. But the tone is serious (I think) and there is a mechanism for people to pay $110 for the care of their pet (as long as the Rapture takes place within 10 years).

A Bloomberg article in February said that the business had over 100 clients.

Over 100!

The Bloomberg articles notes that: “(Founder Bart) Centre must reassure the Rapture crowd that his pet rescuers are wicked enough to be left behind but good enough to take proper care of the abandoned pets.”

It also quotes a fella with a biblical prophesy website: “A lot of persons are concerned about their pets, but I don’t know if they should necessarily trust atheists to take care of them.”

EEBP says it has a network of atheist animal lovers in 22 states who are prepared to care for pets when the Rapture happens.

Of course, at that point they’ll know that they’re disbelief was a mistake and will be scrambling to become Christians and/or find a shortcut to salvation. So will they really have the time and will to take care of pets?

But, for now, they’ll take you money in preparation for an event they are sure will never come.

It’s worth reading the Terms & Conditions, which include this:

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If  subscriber loses his/her faith and/or the Rapture occurs and subscriber is not Raptured (aka  is “left behind”) EE-BP disclaims any liability; no refund will be tendered.

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Hey, this has got to be a joke, right?

Thanks to Religion News Service for alerting me to this extreme example of entrepreneurial spirit.