On this day, May 31st, we remember those who have fallen for our country. Sadly, it seems very few know this and see it as simply another Veteran's Day. I can't number how many mom and pop restaurants I passed by today that read "we thank our Veteran's for all they do!" They're apparently quite ignorant that it's more a day to remember what our veterans did. Two different holidays.
You may ask, what does this have to do with religion and the lack thereof? A lot. I had a lot to think of today, mainly surrounding a very difficult question: What is it that causes us to be so moved by those who gave their lives for a cause such as their country? I don't know about others, but something inside me moves me to tears when I stand by the grave of a 22 year old boy who died in war. It's a feeling of reverence and thankfulness.
Certainly this is nothing new. And certainly it is nothing exclusive to Western thinking nor Christianity. Even less foreign to Atheism. I did a simple google search of "Veterans and Atheism" and was surprised to find an organization for this very same idea. http://www.maaf.info/news.html
There has also, as you'd find on that page, a long fight by this organization to deny the charge that "there are no Atheists in foxholes." For the longest time, even I bought this catch-phrase, believing that something in us still looks up at the skies when death comes knocking. This is far from true.
So then, what value is there in a man who does not believe in God and spirituality and the second-coming and all that jazz dying for his country? What value is there in an Atheist man who remembers such people dying for the country they now live in?
There is some value. For whatever reason, we evolved in such a way that caused us to be mindful of our history. For whatever reason, we remember and we record. We're sentimental, and we learn from lives we did not live but that came before us. This can easily become another philosophical debate on morality, seeing that the soldier is fighting for the ideals of his country and who's to say the other country isn't right? But I think it goes deeper than that still. This is a man, many men, thousands of men who willingly die for a cause.
Why? And why does this move us?
Unfortunately, I have no answers only emotions. I just hope it stirs the reader to think and feel as well.
For further reading, I found a article on the issue of Atheists in foxholes: