I'm a Military Blogger


Friday, October 1, 2010

No Atheists in Foxholes

I was trying to stay away from certain religious and political topics on this blog, just because I thought my personal beliefs were irrelevant to deployment.

But then I thought about it. Are they *really* that irrelevant? First I was bombarded with a barrage of emails from my FRO advertising chaplain services on base for "deployed spouses". Then I attended a unit spouse function that opened and closed a with prayer. Then I got an email from my husband about how his roommate requested a transfer out of their barracks because he couldn't "room with an atheist". My husband's own rear detachment once told me "There are no Atheists in foxholes".

And then someone asked me the burning, dying question:

"How do you cope with deployment, knowing that your husband could die? If you don't believe in God then you believe there's nothing after life, so why even bother living? How do you deal with knowing you will never see him again?"

Interesting I've actually struggled with near the beginning of the deployment.

Because I do not have religion, I do not use it as a coping mechanism like I used to. I do not pray for my husband's safety, lean on church groups for support, or derive comfort in knowing that even IF he did die that I might one day see him again.

What I take comfort in, and what gets me through my life, is knowing that it is my only life. It is the one chance that I have to experience the marvelous universe and be alive. I want to understand as much as I can about this Earth and this universe, how it works, because it's the only chance I have to do so. I was non-existent for billions of years prior to my birth and it didn't bother me, and I will once again be non-existent for billions of years after my death. Death is not an experience, it is a lack of experience, and once I am dead I will no longer have the consciousness with which to realize it.

In other words, death is meaningless to me. 100% of people die. It is unavoidable. My husband could die in combat. Or he could come home and get hit by a car, develop lung cancer, have an aneuyrism...

But does it scare me, knowing that my husband could die and I would be thousands of miles away? Of course. Even when I believed in a higher power, thinking that I wouldn't have the chance to say goodbye was very painful. And that's usually where people's religious beliefs come into play.

If you believe in a God and an afterlife you no doubt derive comfort knowing that if your spouse died without warning that you would one day see them again..goodbye's are essentially unnecessary because once your life is up you will get to say "hello" again.

Where I stand on amount of faith or belief will ever be able to take away the pain of losing a spouse. Whether I believe in a God or not, having DH die without me being able to say goodbye would be absolutely horrible. But I don't feel the need to believe that I'm going to one day see him again. That, to me, is trickery. It's basically just using nice stories and ideas and speculations to trick yourself into temporary comfort.

Belief in an afterlife isn't going to bring my spouse back. Believing in an afterlife isn't even going to make that afterlife real. People believe in a lot of things that aren't real...chupacabra, big foot, fairies, demons, dragons. Belief in those kinds of things does not force them into existence, it merely manipulates their conscious life. Afterlives comfort us.

I don't pretend to know what happens after death. NO ONE does. I choose to live my life trying to understand the universe and how it really works, as opposed to using nice stories and ideas and speculations to make myself feel better.
So how do I deal with the reality that my husband could die and I would never see him again? The same way anyone else would. I tell him every single day that I love him. I cherish every moment I get to spend talking to him. I don't dwell on the what if's.

And to the people in the rear detachment who don't think their are no atheists in foxholes:

Tell that to Pat Tillman.


AF wifey said...

All I have to say is WELL SAID!

Chantal said...

Wonderful post!

Anonymous said...

My lady hasn't been deployed yet but I know it's a matter of when, not if.

As someone in a dyke relationship it's not like I'll get to go to any of that spousal support crap, but I feel like that Christian default is INCREDIBLY insensitive to people who don't share those beliefs.

Kathleen C said...

Absolutely wonderful post. My hubs is retired USAF, atheist, and we both know the myth of "no atheists in foxholes". Thanks for sharing your story!