Friday, July 24, 2015

ATHEISTS IN FOXHOLES

As a philosophical objectivist, I am an admirer of the fiction works of Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism. I participate in three discussion boards, Rebirth of Reason, Objectivist Living, and Galt’s Gulch Online. The producers of the Atlas Shrugged movies created Galt’s Gulch to promote the films. With the release of Part 3, the site had over 20,000 subscribers and hundreds of active writers and commenters. Of necessity, many of them are political conservatives, which Ayn Rand was not (here). They tend to receive Atlas Shrugged as a political novel condemning the Obama Administration, and to have less interest in formal philosophy.  

Preparing to evaluate a TXSG dive team
at the TMAR annual drill
April 11, 2015.
Not prior military when I volunteered
on November 22, 2014,
I was enlisted as a Petty Officer Third Class.
Today, contributor Inpuco, a 30-year USMC veteran posted a discussion topic linking to an American Legion article about saving the cross at Mt. Soledad Memorial. A Congressional bill authorized the sale of the federal site to a private association. That shunted aside an on-going lawsuit filed by the ACLU and the Jewish War Veterans. In my reply there, I granted that a privately-owned memorial for Christian soldiers could have a cross if they wanted.

The problem is that Jewish veterans also are buried there. Searching for the string “stein” revealed Col. David G. Epstein (plaque hereSgt. William Rothstein (plaque hereand Navy Radioman Third Class Herbert A. Steinert (plaque here). Their memorial plaques all display the Magen David. It is easy to find other common Jewish family names. You can see why the Jewish War Veterans called on the ACLU to help remove the cross. It is the only religious symbol, and it dominates the landscape.

We have no easy way to know how many of the others interred were non-believers, freethinkers, agnostics, or atheists. Easily, the US military reflects the general population, with some skews. For instance, southerners are over-represented, and women are far less common. About 21% of the current military force self-identifies as “atheist or no religion.” In the general population, the number is 19%.  (Population Reference Bureau, 2004, Table 5.   cited in Wikipedia “There are no atheists in foxholes” here)

On the Rebirth of Reason website, Byron E. Garcia, posted an essay in 2005, "Atheists in a Foxhole" about his interactions and observations as a hospital corpsman in the US Navy. 

The Military Atheists and Freethinkers is an active association of over 200. Their website provides a wealth of statistical information and reporting.  
“Besides the MAAF members below, keep in mind atheists in foxholes whose stories have been in feature stories and documentaries: Pat Tillman, Afghanistan war Army Ranger and football player, Hans Kasten, WWII POW leader, Phil Paulson, Vietnam Veteran and activist, Kurt Vonnegut, WWII POW and author, Ted Williams, WWII Veteran and baseball player, Ernest Hemingway, WWI Vet and author, Sherwin Wine, Founder of Humanistic Judaism, Major Sidney Excell, who arrested Heinrich Himmler, Bob Kerrey, former Governor and Senator, Navy Seal, and Medal of Honor recipient.” See more at: http://militaryatheists.org.
In response to "there are no atheists in foxholes," Ayn Rand asked: "Who created the foxholes?" Wars are caused by political collectivism, which rests on moral altruism, which is derived from epistemological and metaphysical mysticism. It was the Age of Reason that led to the Enlightenment and capitalism and 100 years (1814-1914) of surprisingly low-level conflicts. It was not perfect, because the capitalism was not firmly grounded, but it indicated a truth we all know: when people can obtain what they want by production and trade, they have no need for war.

Christopher Hitchens is famous for his debates on atheism and his book god is not Great. Significantly, Hitchens also abandoned his former secular religion, Marxism. Ayn Rand, of course, often equated communism and Christianity for their identical moral codes. Rand did claim that Christianity was the first religion to center on the individual. I think that Buddhism was first, but the point remains that loving yourself is antecedent to loving your neighbor.

Also on Necessary Facts

No comments:

Post a Comment