The expression is not a metaphor for facing reality, there is a very real origin.
If using a “fox hole” in combat does not scare us what will? The thought of inhabiting a ‘foxhole” or “DFP” (defensive fighting position) to engage in Warfare is, I hope, beyond most people’s imagination.
Imagine, crouching, hiding, digging a hole in the dirt, motivated by frantic survival instinct, jumping into a crumbling hole to avoid small arms fire or mortar explosions while waiting to peak out and contribute your armament and killing to the chaos. Imagine the absolute terror at having a tank roll over your hole while you are in the hole and surviving.
We can only imagine to what base level a human mind would resort to when faced with this reality. All intellectual thought would be stripped away. Nothing to do but cower in disbelief while an endorphin rush illicits a “fight or flight” response. Human intuitive thought, responsible for our evolving, would rule our thinking not an intellectual consideration of a “god”.
I would suggest we would revert to an animal state that was human nature long before religion told us there was a “god” above that controlled everything and had our best interests at heart. The “believe in me” proposition is just a little hard to believe at the moment the cacophony of a tank engine and clattering tracks combine with my breathing dirt when the tank roars over my not yet dead head! My “best interest” is in taking one more breath, trying to stop the uncontrolled shaking of my body and wondering if I am still alive.
At this moment of terror, does a soldier consider “Pascal’s Wager” which states, “believe in a god just before you die because there might be one and what’s the downside?” If there is no god, you are no worse off, if there is a god you are about to meet him or her or be re-incarnated as a fish, why not pick an ideology to subscribe to. Again, I might question whether this is my thought process while in a foxhole or if survival is a little more important to me. What are the implications for honesty if you have lived your life believing in mankind and at the last minute decide to give up your independence and transfer ownership of yourself to a, supernatural, no proof guru from the sky? Lets hope you pick the right one as most need a lifetime of your obeying their rules as a price of admission.
I feel offended by a leader, religious or otherwise, trivializing my survival. I want to live, breed and eat another meal. To suggest a god has designed my best interests at this moment is profane. To suggest my life is better used as a sacrifice to ask for rain and better crops or to further the objectives of war is obscene. But now that I am able to think, now that I am looking out of my foxhole, don’t take advantage of my raw state and dictate to me that “the development of humanity” or the fictitious “ether of my soul” is best served by the carnage around me or the blood of my brother whose foxhole collapsed under the tank and whose horrific death I will dream about, forever. My best interests are mine, this was true before religion and it is true today.
The premise of my suggesting there are only “non-believers” in fox holes is predicated on a state of mind that comes from the “limbic system” of the brain. And if the study of the Limbic System is scientifically nebulous, the actuality of neurological functions delivering emotional response is obvious in our reactions. Where else might our responses come from? Please don’t suggest we were hard wired, chemically, by an omnipotent and supernatural being. We evolved because we could. Our survival has been messy and statistically probable only due to the immensity of the time we have had to fail and then succeed against the odds. Damn asteroids etc. Our Limbic system or natural responses determine our evolution, with survival a core tenet.
The Chinese War philosopher, “Sun Tzu” outlined political and tactical approach’s to the handling of Wars machinations. His prescient remarks regarding a soldiers motivation to a cause do not include their sacrifice to a deity as a necessity, unless advantageous to the cause of the moment. Nor does he suggest the last thought of the participants should be directed to a made up god as part of their training. Warriors are too busy killing to be distracted by thoughts of immortality at the time of battle. That external “conditioning” is reserved for other moments when reflective logic questions the veracity of the reason for War. Sun Tzu does offer that a soldiers “commitment” to a cause or leader is desirable to foster a passion that offsets man’s natural reluctance to annihilate its own species. Already I see contrived paradigm being developed.
Did soldiers, come up with the idea to kill and be killed, probably not? They may well have preferred to evolve. Their leaders made up the reasons for War, they died.
Think of the incredible progress mankind might have accomplished with the resources of the world if religion had not said that it was acceptable for soldiers, (atheists?) to belong to a religion in their foxhole as comfort just before their bodies were torn apart. The justification here is beyond comprehension. This “end” ignores the “means” that got it to this point. There can be no intelligent reason for converting or adhering to praying when we reject the cause for the need to. War is counter evolutionary, converting or praying at the last minute ignores the reason for being in that position in the first place.
While we have a natural tendency to be an aggressive species, indeed our survival has required it; it seems a bit trite to suggest our evolution demands that we transfer the purpose of our life to an external source.
Medicine, science and peace may extend our life, supernatural forces will not. The inevitability of death makes us face our own reality. We have the “courage of our convictions” when we have lived our life as moral contributors to our species. We need only to drive ourselves, our children to make our world, evolve.
We are less than honest if we change our reason for living when stressed. I suggest, at a base level, we do not change.
The “atheists in foxholes” debate becomes a non-argument as the world acknowledges mankind’s obligation to control itself.
There are soldiers in foxholes, not gods,
Lest we forget.
Revised, November 2015