The butter knife at the gun fight

While Tom Kratman doesn’t assert there are no atheists in foxholes, in the afterword of the Tuloriad, he expresses his doubts about the survival prospects of a culture that relies on putting large quantities of atheists on the front lines.

Where was Secular Humanism at Lepanto?
The moral of this story, this afterword, is “Never bring a knife to a gunfight.” Keep that in mind as you read.

In any case, religious fanatics? Us? We don’t think so.

We’re not going to sit here and lecture you on the value and validity of atheism versus faith. We’ll leave that to Hitchens and Dawkins or D’Souza or the pope or anyone else who cares to make the leap. One way or the other. Hearty shrugs, all around. A defense of the existence of God was never the purpose of the book, anyway, though we would be unsurprised to see any number of claims, after publication, that it is such a defense.

Sorry, it ain’t, either in defense of Revelations or in defense of Hitchens’ revelation that there was no God when Hitchens was nine years old. (Besides, Dinesh D’Souza does a much better job of thrashing Hitchens in public than we could, even if we cared to.)

Moreover, nope, we don’t think it’s unethical to be an atheist. We don’t think it’s impossible, or really any more difficult or unlikely, to be an atheist and still be a highly ethical human being. The same, sadly, cannot be said for governments. Thus, consider, say, the retail horrors of the Spanish Inquisition which, from 1481 to 1834 killed—shudder—not more than five thousand people, few or none of them atheists, and possibly closer to two thousand. Compare that to expressly atheistic regimes—the Soviet Union, for example, in which a thousand people a day, twenty-five hundred a day by Robert Conquest’s tally— were put to death in 1937 and ’38. And that’s not even counting starved Ukrainians by the millions. The death toll in Maoist China is said to have been much, much greater. Twenty million? Thirty million? A hundred million? Who knows?

Personally, we’d take our chances with the Inquisition before we would take them with a militantly communist, which is to say, atheist, regime. The Inquisition, after all, was a complete stranger neither to humanity nor to the concept of mercy.

But that’s still not the point of this book or this afterword. Go back to the afterword’s title. Ever heard of Lepanto? Everyone knows about the Three Hundred Spartans now, at least in some form or another, from the movies. Not enough people know about the battle of Lepanto….

Now let’s suppose, just for the moment and just arguendo, that God doesn’t exist, that He’s a pure figment of the imagination. What then won the battle of Lepanto? No, back off. What got the Christian fleet together even to fight the battle, for without getting together to fight it it could never have been won?

The answer is, of course, faith, the faith of the pope, Pius V, who did the political maneuvering and much of the financing, and also the faith of the kings, doges, nobles and perhaps especially the common folk who manned the fleet. And that answer does not depend on the validity of faith, only upon its sincere existence. Faith is, in short, a weapon, the gun you bring to a certain kind of gunfight.

If you’ve got any interest in the atheism/religion debate or military history, you simply must read the whole thing. And then reflect upon the likelihood that the West’s secular humanist culture will survive either the challenge of Islam in the Dar al Harb or the third world’s Christian revival.