"There Are No Atheists in Foxholes"—and Other Examples of Religious Propaganda

About 10 years ago, I received a phone call from a total stranger—a man named David Williamson, co-founder of the Central Florida Freethought Community and a major activist for the separation of church and state. He invited me to meet with him for breakfast, noting that we seemed to share a number of values concerning religious liberty and associated topics. 

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://spectrummagazine.org/views/2023/there-are-no-atheists-foxholes-and-other-examples-religious-propaganda

Well written and well stated. I completely concur. The value of an idea is inherent in the idea itself, not because “God” or any other authority said it. To think otherwise is to potentially subject oneself to the whims of said authority. The same can be said of any action. Actions should be chosen because of the inherent value of the action. Just because I am a believer, does not remove the importance of these principles. Thank You James Coffin


Marvelous, Jim. One of my dearest friends in the past, as well as in the present, were/are both SDA’s who became at least agnostic, if not atheist. (I for one am not always sure which term most accurately characterizes a non-believer. To say I “know” God exists is different than I “believe;” in a similar fashion, I “know” there is no God is different than I do not know whether there is a God (theism) or not.). If one believes that the image of God resides in each person, why is it difficult to think that “atheists” do have moral insight based on principles transparent to any rational, sensitive person? So delighted you write for the paper (wish we all could) and interact with such quality people!


The only objection I’ve heard to the concept that we are punished by our sins rather than for them came, unexpectedly I thought, from an avowed atheist relative who dislikes the idea of karma because it doesn’t impose its punishments “fast enough”.

He also lamented the fact that relinquishing his faith in the RCC version of an eternal hell meant that a certain politician (whose name rhymes with “chump”) is destined to get off lightly!

Just goes to point up the similarities, rather than the differences between the groups discussed in this most excellent article!

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Thank you for a well reasoned presentation; this coming from a fourth generation (former) SDA (former) theologian, unbeliever/freethinker. One of the points of convergence I still share with my SDA friends and family is the absolute principle of religious/non-religious liberty and freedom of conscience, the liberty to act on one’s own judgment unless it impinges on someone else’s individual rights. It is apparent that when reason is allowed to flourish in a spirit of tolerance, there can be peace and understanding between people of differing views, allowing for betterment. But when reason is abandoned or suppressed, the result is usually conflict, since ideologies held on other foundations can only speak or shout out their beliefs and disagreements in an evidence and logic vacuum.

BTW, I also live in the Orlando area. Are you related to Richard Coffin?


Am I the only one who’s noticed that an article about a bisexual SDA pastor has provoked 75 comments in Forum, as of right now, while an “atheists are people too” piece has led to a total of four?!?!

Is this a coincidence, or does it tend to support the atheist argument that a preponderance of evidence shows that religion is predominantly about judging others and which nearly irrefutable fact also helps explain why all of them have failed in their self-assigned task of bringing peace into the world?

Also, how is it that while the Bible doesn’t have all that much to say on the topic, religious people seem to have an almost obsessively prurient interest in what people do with their genitalia? Kinda as if their personified god created a bunch of creatures who are overly concerned with other people’s creative (i. e., sexual) expression?

(And is the phrase “obsessively prurient” inherently redundant?)



You and I are Kantian in our concept of reason and moral autonomy.

I think sometimes we forget about 1 John 4:7-8. That God IS Love. Anyone who loves knows God and anyone who does not love does not know God.
Jesus came to reveal that God loves, that he is love embodied AND how we are to love others.
I wonder how concerned He is (in a world of confusion, complex backgrounds and up bringing) whether you label yourself an atheist, agnostic, or certain religion vs how you love others by the true definition of the word?
Certainly, however, I have found Jesus a deep well of inspiration. Though I fail often I know he loves me.

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As I read the content it came to me that the person writing this had never been in a fox hole under fire. From experience (2 wars) assigned to a front line unit that was constantly in Action and now as I chat with those that are still alive they each testify as to there survival was only by the grace of God. I too can testify to God’s protection and grace, after replacing two or three that were killed previously in the position that I was assigned and then as I left those that replaced me were killed as well. In a way I resent that the author who obviously has no experience in surviving a fox hole examines a situation in which he has no experience. It is interesting how many can make a determination based on book learning with little faith or the experience that allow them to present a thought with no experience and their lack of both understanding and faith.

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Strange that God would select some to protect, while destining others for death, maiming or atrocious suffering. Of course if god really had the “omni” powers ascribed to him by many, he could simply have prevented the war rather than “saving” a portion (but not all) of the combatants.


Firstly, thank you for your service.

The perspective that you are responding from is one of faith in a God. Not all share that, and I think many would not think fondly of a god that apparently had favourites. Many without a belief in a God will exhibit the lack of fear that causes them to put themselves in harm’s way. There are exceptions on both sides of the conversation. What the author is pointing out is that we can’t generalise.


Me Legault your position is interesting and it leads me to believe that you have a faith issue compounded by your position that you are on the same level of intelligence as God as you imply that God’s decisions are of no consequence and do not make sense. Yet you have no insight into the background of events and your premise that suffering and dying is the worst situation a human could face. Whereas those believe do fear those that kill and maim whereas as person of faith in God fears He that can destroy both their lives and eternal life. I perceive that you are not a bible believer—if you are you would understand the faith issue as noted Heb 11. To him that believes all is possible. Q

@RLLJ Who are you responding to?

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