Foxholes and Shoe Leather

Carnival of the Godless
We’ve all heard the expression “There are no atheists in foxholes”. As I understand it, it means something like:

It’s easy to be self-reliant when everything’s going well. But when times are tough, when the situation is desperate, you will find that you’re not able to fix everything by yourself, and will need to turn to someone else for help. And in really dire straits, you will swallow your pride and turn to God.

Yes, in desperate times people resort to desperate measures. But they’re called desperate measures for a reason: they’re things you normally want to avoid doing.

If I collapse and my heart stops, I’ll be happy for the EMTs to beep-beep-beep-clear!-Zap! me back to life. But that doesn’t mean that I want people to go around zapping me with 1000 volts through the chest.

Starving people will eat anything that looks even vaguely edible, including tree bark and shoe leather. It even helps a little, in that they feel less empty. But that doesn’t mean we should stop eating apples in favor of apple tree bark (though I’m sure you could charge a pretty penny for it in certain boutiques).

The thing about desperate measures is that they come with huge down sides. In certain situations, amuptation, lobotomization, and even suicide may be the best available option. But it’s a good idea not to resort to them before you have to.

And those are just the desperate measures that work. Many desperation measures don’t. In the Middle Ages, plague-ridden towns would exterminate the local cat population, under the belief that said cats had to do with evil magic. And, of course, desperate people have always prayed to whichever gods they thought might help.

As a rule, “If I had no option but to do X, so I’ll do X when I do have other options” is not a good way to live one’s life. And while I’m not so arrogant to say “fontaine, je ne boirai pas de ton eau” — who knows, I might one day resort to prayer in case there’s someone out there — in my right mind, I see no reason to believe that it does any good, and honesty compels me to atheism.

3 thoughts on “Foxholes and Shoe Leather”

  1. In the Middle Ages, plague-ridden towns would exterminate the local cat population, under the belief that said cats had to do with evil magic.

    …which, given that the cats were preying on the rodents, which carried the fleas, which harbored Yersinia, was one of the stupidest things they could have done.


  2. So, what kind of nutrition would you get from eating leather? Minus any dyes, I would think that leather could be at least a bit digestible. At least, better than most types of tree bark.


  3. Troublesome Frog:

    I expect you’re right. After all, it’s essentially an animal product. There might be digestible parts of tree bark as well. But of course at this point we’re arguing over degrees of negligible nutrition.


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