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Atheists in foxholes

The first use of the statement "There are no atheists in foxholes" has been traced to Lieutanant-Colonel William J. Clear in a story of Bataan's final weeks, delivered during the "Army Hour" program over the NBC Red (Radio) Network in 1942. It was apparently intended to mean that all atheists become religious in foxholes. The statement may have been technically true during WWII because atheism could not be specified as a religious preference in official documentation. Some atheists apparently listed "Buddhist" as the best alternative.

While there is no universal agreement regarding the feelings of atheists after death, the opinions of those who have served in foxholes or have been otherwise under fire or injured in war have sometimes been obtained. They strongly imply that the statement is not true, and that few, if any, atheists adopt any religion in foxholes.

The statement has since been used increasingly as a canard to imply that American atheists are unpatriotic or disloyal or do not join or support the military. This usage frequently elicits responses from atheists who have served in the military. Statistically, it appears that atheists serve in the military services and are injured or killed in numbers proportional to their representation in the civilian population.