There’s a saying that you don’t find any atheists in a foxhole. I find statements like this glib because they attempt to do multiple things at once – this particular statement attempts to make a factual claim AND ridicule atheism as a pointless intellectual exercise that has no practical value…when the going gets tough, the tough find faith…or something along those lines.
I think it’s incorrect that atheists tend to reject their disbelief when they’re near death. But even if it was the case that every single atheist renounced their skepticism on their death bed, it still proves nothing, except the fact that humans are weak, and need comfort and reassurance, regardless of the absurdity that comfort and reassurance entails. Exploiting the death process to convert non-believers is a mean spirited thing to do, and it’s the height of dishonesty to claim proselytization by “converting” a person in that condition.
There is a reason why religion is pervasive, and exists independently across nearly all societies. It gives people a sense of togetherness, belonging, and purpose in a cruel, unrewarding, and inhospitable world. But there is a practical reason why religion must be taught to young children, as opposed to delaying introduction until young people can comprehend deductive logic. Children are impressionable, and they internalize information their parents and elders tell them. This internalization turns fairy tales into facts in childrens’ minds, and it’s precisely why the most zealous fundamentalists are so persistent in their rejection of facts and reason, and why there is such a doggedly anti-intellectual spirit across so many religious communities.
It’s a challenging exercise to let go of religion as an adult, especially when you internalized so many of religion’s teachings at a young and impressionable age. This speaks to how difficult it is to truly change as a human being, which is why people will fight wars and kill others who would disrespect or disagree with their illogical beliefs.
So is it any wonder that some atheists renounce their disbelief at their moment of greatest pain and suffering? I don’t think that proves anything except that brainwashing children is much more effective than anyone could have ever imagined.Follow @TimSteppingOut