Miami Herald syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts recently wrote the following passage:
As there are no atheists in foxholes, it turns out there are no small-government disciples in massive oil spills. No, with BP oil soaking the sands of his coastline, Jindal turned righteously to that big, sometimes bloated, often intrusive federal government, and asked for help. He said: Send money, send resources.
Was it purposely anti-atheist? I didn’t think so. Just an honest mistake — using an unfortunately common cliché that really should be done away with altogether.
I expected an apology or retraction.
This is how Pitts responded to people who wrote him about this issue (via his assistant):
I think you’re reading a little more into that offhand comment than I ever intended to pack.
While I have no doubt there are many principled atheists who stick to their non-belief even in the face of great trial and danger, I also know there are those who do not. Maybe I should’ve said, “there are few atheists in foxholes.” Maybe that’s what I’ll do in the future. But again, I was only using a familiar old saying to draw what I regarded as a useful parallel and intended no deeper meaning. I apologize to you and any other offended atheists.
Leonard Pitts, Jr.
I get that he was using a common phrase as a literary device and he wasn’t actually making the case that there were no atheists in foxholes.
But I’m not happy with the “apology.” Pitts doesn’t get how the phrase is a slap in the face to atheists who honorably serve our country and how we’re actively trying to change that stereotype.
Many of you have said this, but there are other offensive stereotypes that no columnist would use because of how untrue and hurtful they are.
Pitts never would’ve written:
Just as Jews have all the money, BP has all the responsibility of fixing their mess.
He has no problem, though, using a phrase that is offensive to atheists. And he doesn’t get why we find it hurtful.