I’ve always heard that “there are no atheists in foxholes”… According to Wikipedia this means:
“The statement “There are no atheists in foxholes” is used to imply that atheists really do believe in God deep down, and that in times of extreme stress or fear, such as when participating in warfare, the belief will surface, overwhelming the less substantial affectation of atheism.”
Is this true? Do all atheists eventually call out to God – like when they are on their deathbeds?
I have to say no. And, I say this because of the one atheist that I knew very well… and whom I watched die slowly… and all that went with that. My father. And, did I ever see him wobble on this? Suddenly admit he was wrong and ask for God’s help? No. I didn’t.
Matter of fact, I watched him once go into surgery. It was pretty major surgery (aneurysm repair) and considering all his health issues – he had a good chance of having complications, or death. They told him it was a more difficult surgery than open heart surgery. Anyway, I was with him at the hospital. And, after they had him all prepped for surgery I was talking with him. When, in walks a priest and he says to my father, “hello. would you like me to pray with you?”. My father, said, “no. thank you”. Part of me was thinking, “oh come on Dad. What could it hurt?”…. but I just stood there, as the priest said, “oh. ok. are you Catholic?”. And, I’ll never forget, my dad looked up at him and without a hint of defiance or hesitation, he just said, “nope. I’m an atheist”. The priest looked at me… I looked back and shrugged my shoulders at him. He left the room… and my dad just continued our previous conversation, like nothing at all.
At the time, I wasn’t sure if that was a wise thing to do or not, but, I did think, that took some pretty big balls. It also shot that “no atheists in foxholes” theory to hell for me. I mean, here was my dad… and he knew he could die, and he didn’t think twice.
And, it makes sense… I mean… if you REALLY don’t believe in God… why on earth would you want to pray to him – even at death’s door.
By the way, my dad survived that surgery…. although, it wasn’t easy… and he didn’t actually pass away until a few years later. When he did die, he knew he was going to die for a few months before he actually did. He was on hospice care in my home… and we had time for many many many talks… about life, and death. Never once did I see him act like he was changing his mind about being an atheist. I’m sure that in a way, he probably wished that he could. I mean, lets face it, dying has to be a bit easier if you think you are going to a “better place”. So, why NOT just repent and ask God into your heart at the last moment? I tell ya why not… Because he just didn’t believe. Period.
Now, what really always amazes me… is how so many Christians will tell you about people who DO repent on their deathbeds. TI can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve heard that go something like this:
Christian 1: “did you hear Billy’s uncle so-and-so passed away?”
Christian 2: “No, he did? Oh, that’s too bad. Was he a Christian?”
Christian 1: “well, he wasn’t… but, so-and-so prayed with him just before he died and we THINK he asked Jesus into his heart just before he died”.
Christian 2: “really? Hallelujah!”
It amazed me, even when I was a child, how many times this happened. No matter how “bad” the person was, this always was the case. Somebody always prayed with them on their deathbed, and we were always either 100% or 99% sure that they were saved “just in time”. Don’t you think that’s a little bit convenient? Both for the dying person, and for all their Christian relatives/friends? I don’t think I ever remember anyone in church ever asking that question “were they a Christian?”, and the other person saying, “no. they are probably in hell”.
People believe what they want to believe.
My own brother, (the one who went to church with me for years and isn’t all that religious anymore but, seems to have hung on to parts of it ) – tried to tell me that he thought our Dad might have done this. ?!? I was like, “what? when!?”…. He said, he talked to him and they talked about whether or not there was an afterlife and that he (my brother) asked him why he didn’t just ask God into his heart, “just in case”.
Interested, I asked what my dad’s response was and my brother told me that he didn’t say too much, but, he THINKS that MAYBE he DID think twice, and maybe he did ask him into his heart. I disagreed, and told him about some of the conversations I had with dad where he was very matter of fact about his disbelief in heaven and hell.. and, about what he did believe happens when you die… which was nothing. We even talked about his former near death experiences, when he did actually die on an operating table when he was 12 but was revived. How I never got the feeling from him at all about having any doubts. But, my brother didn’t want to hear any of this really… and he tried to shrug it off and say, “yeah.. well.. ya never know.. I think, maybe he did believe”.
I just looked at my brother in awe… I dawned on me that he just really wanted to believe this. I guess, maybe… he really needed to believe this… Just like all those other people at church when they spoke of Billy’s Uncle so-and-so or whatever.
I started to think that if my father didn’t argue with him, or tell him how he really felt – that maybe he did it for a reason. Maybe he knew that my brother needed to have this hope. That would be just like my Dad… not to lie… but, to let you believe what you want to believe.
So, who am I do try to take that away from him?
But, you can’t make me believe he wasn’t an atheist to the end.
I’m sure, there are atheists who DO change their mind… and call out to God when in their final hours… or accept Jesus into their hearts “just in case”, but I know of at least one atheist who did not.
And, apparently, he’s not alone… I found a few websites dedicated to atheists in foxholes…