Wise Words – The Argument Against Foxholes

“The phrase, ‘There are no atheists in foxholes,’ is not an argument against atheism, it’s an argument against foxholes.”

James Morrow

We sometimes get distracted by the wrong spiritual questions. The flashy ones can take us away from the real inquiry.

“Do you believe in God?” is not a useful question. It leads to an exercise in rhetoric around the words “believe” and “God.” Linguistic precision is rarely the best road to spiritual insight. Too often, atheism is a reaction to a cartoon version of God, an action-figure straw man who bears little resemblance to the deeper well most serious spiritual people want to drink from.

The interesting question posed by Morrow’s quote is not, “Is there a God?” but, “Why are there foxholes?” a question that implicates us all.  

The comforts of our modern world rest on a system of consumption, resource extraction, global trade, financial markets, and all of the geopolitical power positioning that goes along with them. Add to the mix the inevitable egos and ambitions of leaders in various countries and we can see why wars happen. There are currently armed conflicts in Ukraine, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria, Mali, Somalia, Myanmar, Afghanistan, and many other countries. 

We are all a part of this complicated web; our morning coffee or the rare-earth metals in our smartphones link us to bloody conflicts abroad.  

Given human nature, are foxholes inevitable?


A look at history tells me that our consciousness evolves. At each stage of development, we humans have discovered deeper levels of our connection with each other: socially, psychologically, spiritually, existentially. As we continue to evolve in the centuries ahead, consciousness will reveal even deeper levels of interconnectedness. More and more of us will realize this truth until war will become unthinkable. Future historians will look at us in horror and shake their heads at the scale of waste and suffering we inflicted and endured.

When will this day arrive?

That’s another distracting question. It arises naturally because the weight of humanity’s current suffering seems so heavy and so senseless. 

But to spend time pondering how long the road of foxholes will continue can cause despair and sap my strength. I don’t know when foxholes will end, but I can’t let that slow me down. I am faced with the world as it is and I want to take the steps now to move it forward without needing to know when that day will arrive. 

What are those steps? To demonstrate the fact of our connectedness by my actions.

If we are truly connected, then every time my actions reflect that connection, I reinforce the good: kind words, undistracted listening, generosity, acts of care and concern, forgiveness of wrongs, letting go of grudges. This is how consciousness has evolved to where we are today, through the loving actions of many who have gone before us.  

Perhaps our interconnection and the growth of consciousness point toward a better version of “God,” one even my atheist friends would welcome.

Photo by Levi Meir Clancy on Unsplash

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