Leonard Pitts Responds to His “No Atheists in Foxholes” Comment June 2, 2010

Leonard Pitts Responds to His “No Atheists in Foxholes” Comment

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.

Yours Truly,

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.

That’s disappointing.

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  • SpencerDub

    That really is disappointing.

    Whether or not he meant to pack meaning into the phrase, his use of it contributes to the climate of intolerance.

    Shame on you, Mr. Pitts.

  • sarah

    So if it is a familiar old saying, that is ok?

    How about “Just as Christians believe in an imaginary friend…”

  • Bob

    Maybe you ought to refrain from using cliches in your columns, Mr. Pitts.

    That’d work, too.

  • 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.

    Oh, he does, does he? And just how does he know this?

    His response is really disappointing and very dismissive of people who have a genuine concern. As others have pointed out, if the “familiar old saying” had been one that was derogatory to any other group, there would have been an uproar (or, more likely, he wouldn’t have used it at all). This response (it doesn’t seem like a genuine apology to me; more like a half-baked response to placate the whiny atheists) makes it worse. I didn’t really feel compelled to write to him yesterday when I read the original article…but NOW I’m frustrated and angry.

    So sad.

  • Jordan

    Just as Catholic priests have their hands down the pants of so many children, so too should BP have their hands covered in crude oil.

  • Parse

    To me, he’s saying little more than “I’m right, and I’m sorry you were offended by what I said.”
    Unless and until he recognizes why he should be apologizing, he should consider his apology not accepted.

  • plutosdad

    Just as christians assume they can use the law to force their religion on everyone else, so BP assumes the plants and animals want cheap oil too and gave it to them.

  • Personally, I’m not offended. He wasn’t using the phrase, as some have, to deride non-believers, but to make a point I agree with (that ‘small government’ people change their tune when faced with the reality and benefits of living under a stable government that has the ways and means to provide if necessary).

    If we’ve got to pick our battles, this one isn’t even worth considering.

  • ihedenius

    Maybe I should’ve said, “there are few atheists in foxholes.” Maybe that’s what I’ll do in the future.

    What would depend on what country the army is from. A swedish or chinese army will have few theists whether in foxholes or not.
    The provincial assumption that the world revolves around jebus or even the single-god theistic paradigm everywhere you go is one of many annoying things about theists.

  • Kristian

    My dogtags didn’t stop saying “Atheist” just because we were in dangerous waters.

    How about “There is no religon in logic.”

    “there is no theology when things are going well.”

    “There are no believers without the threats of hell.”

    “There are two kinds of people in this world, those who believe in fairy tales, and Atheists.”

  • TychaBrahe

    More like “I’m right and you’re stupid/petty to be offended by what I said.”

    The implication is really not that atheists do not serve their country, but that atheists are so weak-willed that they will not hold onto their skepticism in the face of mortal danger. Frankly, I find that much more offensive. Many people do not choose to serve, and while there is no glory in it, neither is there shame.

    An atheist who chooses not to serve is no different than a Christian or Jew or Muslim or Hindu who chooses not to serve. But no one would dare to suggest that in the heat of battle a Muslim will suddenly accept Jesus as the Messiah. To suggest that an atheist would do so, or adopt any other religious belief, is patently offensive.

  • Jerzy Mike

    maybe we DO have all the money… : )

    (yes, I’m Jewish)

  • synergy

    ’small government’ people change their tune when faced with the reality and benefits of living under a stable government that has the ways and means to provide if necessary

    To draw that parallel then is to say that athiests don’t believe in gods until they come to the reality of their/its existence when faced with death in a foxhole.

    I can see both sides, though, I suppose – why some are offended and why he used the phrase the way he did.

  • Silent Service

    Disrespectfully Mr. Pitts, F#$k You!!!

  • triscele

    Had to write Mr. Pitts

    I’m really bothered by your bigotry on the “no atheists in foxholes” slur. I’m more bothered though by your non-apology since at that time you had had a chance to think about what you said. I guess it is still ok to say disparaging things about atheists in our society, but it seems a bit lazy and shiftless to cast a claim with nothing to back it up to belittle the beliefs of a large group of your fellow citizens. Based on your non-apology, I guess I could say that makes sense, shiftless and lazy is after all “just a cliche”. Not all blacks are shiftless and lazy, but then again we “know” some of them are. Does that help you at all to grasp why your comments were offensive and how pulling “knowledge” out of your ass might be offensive?

    We’re all in this together and it’s harder to feel that way when some choose to show less respect for one group than they would demand for themselves. Hope you get it now.

  • No atheists change their beliefs in fox holes, some might pray, but their lack of belief is still intact.

    Think of it this way, I know I can’t fly, but if I am falling from a great height I will flap my arms just in case.

  • Deltabob

    This is a great example of what I’ve always called a “not-an-apology.”

    Rather than acknowledging that he was in the wrong, he came back with the “I’m sorry you took it that way,” approach.

    This attempts to removes any personal responsibility for doing something wrong and, instead, places blame on the person or persons who were wronged.

  • Ann

    He doesn’t understand why its hurtful, because he, like most people, probably adhere to the stereotype of atheists being unmoral and uncaring.

    He wouldn’t go out of this way to consider unmoral and uncaring people’s feelings, now would he?

  • SpencerDub

    No atheists change their beliefs in fox holes…

    I think that’s just as impossible a statement as saying “all atheists convert in foxholes.”

    It seems incredibly unlikely that in the course of human history, not one atheist has actually become religious when faced with war. Similarly, it’s incredibly unlikely to suggest that not one theist has lost his or her faith when confronted with war. I believe anecdotes can be found for either scenario.

    We should avoid making such blanket statements altogether.

  • Pitts issued a real cop out of an apology. While I agree that this is not a huge issue (let’s face it: we have bigger fish to fry than Pitts’ insignificant columns), he continues to perpetuate the myth to the few readers who value what he has to say. By offering to say “there are few atheists in the fox hole” he is only paying lip service to the real issue. I’m still offended that he continues to believe that atheists beliefs can be shaken in the face of adversity. As far as I’m concerned, the opinions expressed in his columns aren’t worth the paper on which they are printed (or the bandwidth on which they are electronically transmitted, for that matter). I believe Seinfeld’s Mr. Pitt would offer a better column than this troglodyte.

  • Alex

    There, there, atheists. Even an open minded and liberal Mr. Pitts, hasn’t yet thought about the right of conscience for atheists. That should be a wake up call that we have many more to reach. Ask yourself what you have done to change peoples minds and get their respect. Hemant sets a great example, have you clicked on the donate button on his site lately. CFI is in financial trouble will you support them? Contribute and speak out, we have lots of work to do.

  • 5ive

    I’m not offended by the statement either, arkonbey… I know it isn’t true and have empirical evidence to back it up. If it were said directly to me, I may feel insulted, and would likely rebut my own viewpoint, but using that phrase really just reveals the writer’s own willful ignorance.

  • MRL

    Reminds me of folks who use the phrase “rule of thumb” not knowing the origin of the phrase — the law allowing a husband to beat his wife with a switch no larger than his thumb — but stating that they “don’t mean it that way” but still insisting on using the phrase, despite the clear offensiveness of it.

  • sc0tt

    I think the phrase is just stupid… especially coming from a columnist; sort of like propogating an urban legend, eg “Just as George Washington chopped down the cherry tree…”

    I’m don’t use the term “offensive” casually, and I’m not easily offended anyway.

  • While I understand that there are “bigger fish to fry”, one bigger fish is the general attitude towards atheists that lead to statements like this in the first place. His privilege grants him the ability to say “you’re making a big deal out of nothing” – it’s not nothing. His statements represent a generally disrespectful attitude towards the beliefs (or rather lack thereof) of atheists and is disrespectful to atheists serving and dying in the military.

  • littlejohn

    If he had agreed to change “There are no Negroes in Mensa” to “There are few Negroes in Mensa,” would anyone regard that as a big improvement?
    For the record, my father, an atheist, was a combat veteran of World War II. He sure as hell was an atheist in a foxhole, and he said he knew plenty more.
    I understand it’s metaphorical, but why don’t they understand it’s insulting?

  • FrigidLizard
  • jon

    What happened to the idea that nobody has a right not to be offended? I would have thought that it was better to criticise the comment, ‘There are no atheists in foxholes’ on the grounds that it is pretty stupid (and it is)rather than that it is, ‘hurtful’. I await Hemant’s apology to the legions of hurt and offended Muslims who took issue with his support for and publication of the drawing of Mohammed.

  • Just as columnists are known to play with facts, BP is playing with repairs. Neither can be trusted.

  • matilda

    As the spouse of a former Army officer and Iraq war vet – both of us atheists – this just doesn’t cease to get me riled up. I want to send a continuous stream of F you’s!

  • mikespeir

    “But again, I was only using a familiar old saying to draw what I regarded as a useful parallel….”

    That’s the way I took it the first time.

  • ursulamajor

    I too got that reply. Wasn’t satisfied at all. This was the email I had sent to him:
    “While I hope that you were just using this old tired cliche to make a point about Jindal, I’d like to assure you that there indeed are atheists in foxholes. My father served honorably under very hard conditions in WWII. He was never been a believer and never felt the need to pray, even in the toughest of battles. Not everyone feels the need to call to imaginary sky daddies to get them through difficult situations.”

    Maybe he was offended by me?

  • Narvi

    @MRL:Actually, that’s an urban legend.

    Being offended by “Rule of thumb” makes YOU the ignorant one. Its origin is not offensive at all.

  • Gabriel

    I had to respond to his apology form letter.

    Here is a copy of my respone.

    Dear Mr. Pitts,

    I’ve been thinking about this since I received your apology. It bothers me. It bothers me that you dismiss my service to this country so cavalierly. You state “I also know there are those who do not.” How do you know this? Do you have evidence to back this up? There are other familiar old sayings. Would you use them so quickly and without thinking. You could have just as easily used “Greedy Jew”, “Lazy black”, “Woman driver”, or “Liberal bias in journalism.” Perhaps you could have written “Just as all journalists have a liberal bias that keeps them from reporting the news accurately.” I am disappointed.


    Gabriel Brawley

  • Dan Covill

    What are we, a bunch of Muslims, being “offended” and all? I agree with Pitt, it’s an old saying (even if it is wrong), and his casual use of it is no big deal.

    And some of us not liking the wording of the apology is no big deal, either. Lighten up, folks. If you simply must have a specific wording to your apology, then write it yourself and send it to him to sign.

  • Whooooaaaa. Ok no one is threatening his free speech or his life. But it’s well within our rights to comment on his apparent prejudice.

  • Russell

    Whenever someone uses the “no atheists in foxholes” quip, I always point out that they are lucky they are wrong. Should they ever end up in a foxhole, they’d be far better served by having the person watching their six be an atheist focused on maintaining this life than by getting stuck with a theist already looking forward to a second one.

  • I don’t know if this is “the” phrase to get offended, and go to war, over – but just as I was thinking “who cares”? – I remembered how I’m also not offended by lots of things feminists or gays fought for. But I acknowledge that if it weren’t for my predecessors in the equality struggle, I might find many more occasions to find offense. I’m glad that someone else is writing emails/fighting over words about these things. By the time I bother getting worked up, it’d be too late. 🙂

  • JohnCW

    Daniel Tosh said it best

    “If you got upset by this then you’re the problem with America. You get personally offended when someone has a different opinion then you instead of focussing on the bigger issue.” [why do you read sh*tty newspapers]

  • I sent him an e-mail and wrote a letter to the editor.

    Recently, Leonard Pitts wrote about Jindal embracing big government when it was convenient. In doing so, he casually threw out the old canard that there are “no atheists in foxholes.” When contacted by atheists, who explained that that was both untrue and offensive, he offered a non-apology saying he was just using an old saying and that wasn’t even the point of the article.

    Saying that there are no atheists in foxholes is no better than saying that all black people like fried chicken and watermelon, jews are greedy, or muslims are all terrorists. I don’t understand how he can fail to see how offensive that is. Not only does he insult the thousands of men and woman who have in fact been atheists in foxholes, serving in the military and dying for this country, he’s also insulting people’s whole approach to life by flippantly charging them with being either wishy-washy or cowardly.

    It’s exactly the same as if he’d said “Jindal loves other people’s money but hates spending his own, just like a Jew.” Oh sure, the point isn’t about the Jews, but does relying on a terrible stereotype to make his point do anything but undermine his legitimacy? That he can’t even see the bigotry in the statement and refuses to apologize or correct it makes it so much worse.

  • JohnCW: But this isn’t a matter of opinion – there ARE atheist soldiers. Fact. It’s not a matter of personal offense over something that could be true either way, it’s about someone promoting a falsehood and perpetuating a stereotype that is damaging to atheists and soldiers.

  • @Jon — There is really no comparison between this phrase and the Muhammad drawings.

    No one is threatening to kill Pitts over this, for one.

    He’s just factually wrong, and we want him to acknowledge and correct that.

    Yes, we’re hurt, but not because he criticized atheism. It’s because he’s willfully ignorant about the facts (which are undeniable).

  • Allie

    I just wrote another email to him:

    Mr. Pitts,

    I’m sorry to say that this non-apology cuts no ice with me. Allow me to tell you why.

    I grew up in rural Eastern Washington and it was common parlance in my family to use antisemitic slurs like “He jewed you down to a lower price.” and “You got kiked out of that money.” As a child, I never examined this; it was just the way everyone talked. However, as an adult, I moved to a bigger city and made some new friends. I remember vividly inserting the phrase “jew him down” into a conversation and one of my friends saying, “Wait, what?” He then explained to me that this was an incredibly offensive phrase, both because it implies that Jews are niggardly but also because that stereotype has been used for centuries to marginalize and essentialize the Jewish people.

    It doesn’t matter that it was a common phrase in my family. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t mean any offense. What I said was offensive and ultimately, I am responsible for what I say. How much true that is for a nationally syndicated columnist, who’s task is, ostensibly, to speak truth to power. You, Mr. Pitts, have a greater responsibility than I do to make sure that you are not using an “offhand comment” that is discriminatory to millions of people. And I think that, when you do use such a phrase and are made aware of it, you owe atheists an apology that is as public as your discriminatory statement was.

    If you are still not convinced, let me ask you this: Would you ever print the words “the U.S. dollar has been jewed down…” or “the President is acting like a faggot.” No? Consider this. Jews make up 2.2% of the population. Gays and lesbians 4-6%. Atheist make up 6-9% of the population of the US alone.

  • Luther

    Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!

    Chris Hayes of The Nation just said it on Olberman’s show.

    He used it as an analogy to all the big government haters calling for government action on the BP oil spill to “No Atheists in a fox hole”.

    That is two in one week. We are under assault by progressive media.

    All I can say is “there are no journalists in the media doing research”.

  • Justin

    How does he know there are atheists who don’t stick to their non-beliefs through their time in the military?

    There seems to be a consensus amongst people that if an atheist is faced with any real challenge in their life they immediately become religious and ask for help.

    I can’t begin to count the amount of times I’ve had to argue people out of this ridiculous notion.

  • “How about “Just as Christians believe in an imaginary friend…””

    Or how about “As there are no theists at funerals, it turns out there are no small-government disciples in massive oil spills.”

  • Casimir

    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.”

    Shorter Pitts: “I’m sorry I said all atheists are unprincipled, I should’ve just said most atheists are unprincipled.”

  • Dan W

    Wow Mr. Pitts. Thanks a bunch for your pathetic non-apology regarding your previous use of a stereotypical and inaccurate idiom. That makes me feel so much better. /sarcasm

    The phrase “there are no atheists in foxholes” is as offensive to atheists as any other comment towards other minority groups. Such as when people call something “gay” when they think it’s stupid.

  • Mikey

    Seriously? You’re getting bent out of shape over this?? Hemant, have you ever heard of the saying “Pick your battles”? Perhaps you should apologize to Pitts for making a mountain out of a molehill and wasting his time.

    My advice? Get over it.

  • Mikey

    @ jon

    I await Hemant’s apology to the legions of hurt and offended Muslims who took issue with his support for and publication of the drawing of Mohammed.

    Thank you jon for pointing out the obvious. Does anyone else see the hypocrisy in this?? Now I’m sure that there will be a flood of posts defending Hemant (couched in grandiose language, of course) explaining how different these two situations are.

    To that I would agree, they are different. Pitts did not mean to offend anyone and subsequently issued an apology. Hemant WENT OUT OF HIS WAY to offend Muslims, and to my knowledge has not issued an apology.

  • Brian Macker

    Leonard Pitts is another idiot. I doubt Jindal is a libertarian but there is nothing about the philosophy that does not require that those responsible for damages not pay for those damages. Since the government monopolized the courts, sold the leases, and since the platform is outside louisiana terrory as is BP, it is quite reasonable to ask the Federal government to make BP pay for barriers to protect the coast.

    This is not a call for big government. That’s asinine, and Pitts is a tool.

  • Brian Macker

    “Does anyone else see the hypocrisy in this?”

    No because it is not the same at all. Muslims have invented rules that go out of their way to generate offense. If Hermant had said, “There are no Muslims in foxholes” then that would be the same.

    If Nazis got all bent out of shape over any criticism of Hitler do you think we should respect that? If they insisted you only speak about his great oratory & painting skills, his anti-vivisection, his ability to make trains run on time, his organization skills, etc. then do you think they are justified in silencing you on other aspects of his personality, and “achievements”?

    You can sort of understand them getting all insulted when you point out the facts about a guy they adore because it says something about them. It says that either they are evil or they are dupes. Nazis would get upset, just as Muslims would if you point out the glaringly obvious evil aspects of Mohammad.

    However Hermant wasn’t even doing that. He pointed out no disturbing facts about Mohammad.

    Muslims go further even than these hypothetical hypersensitive Nazis and require that no one even make a stick figure of Mohammad. This is far more intrusive, and is tantamount to forced reverence for their religious figure. Well, here’s a hint, not only don’t I worship your false prophet but I realize he was one of the most evil men in history.

    Hermant was only promoting the violation of this rights violating ban that Muslims have unilaterally made.

    What would be hypocritical would be if Hermant started worshiping me and insisted that nobody draw stick figures labeled “Brian”.

    Now do you understand? Herman’s behavior is in no way analogous to what these hypersensitive Muslims are doing.

    I’ve found one of the very best ways to piss of a Muslim is to take one of the many bigoted and intolerant quotations from the Qur’an and reverse names. Replace Jew with Muslim, or Idolator with Muslim. Or another great one is to replace Jew with Black. It really irritates them because then it is quite clear how bigoted their text really is. They are the true hypocrites.

    Qur’an (5:51) – “O you who believe! do not take the Muslims for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely God does not guide the unjust people.”

    Qur’an (109.001-006) “The Niggers”
    Say, “Oh ye that reject white supremacy.
    I have not skin color that you have.
    Nor you skin color that I have.
    And I will not have skin color that you have.
    Nor will you have skin color that I have.
    To you yours and to me mine”

    The above passage is often quoted to show that Islam is a tolerant religion. However the title of the chapter “The Disbelievers” is used through out the Qur’an as a derogatory term. Disbelievers are referred to a liars, cheats, evil in endless repetition throughout the Qur’an. This is the context one must take the passage in. It’s not a peon to religious tolerance but in fact the opposite, a segregationist rant.

    Muslims have quite a bit of nerve to go around being hypersensitive to insult when they believe the claim that an infallible deity has stated in writing that everyone else is a bunch of demented criminals.

    So stop carrying water for them. You’re looking like a fool … with your pants on the ground.

  • SpencerDub


    It’s one thing to criticize beliefs.

    It’s another to perpetuate false, hateful rhetoric.

  • Mikey

    I wrote this under the Chris Hayes entry, I thought I should post it here as well.

    To everyone on Friendly Atheist, I would like to apologize for my previous comments. I’m sorry, I wish hadn’t written those comments in the first place, and I am ashamed of the tone and the content. I let my emotions get the best of me, and I really wish I could take those comments back. I have asked Hemant to remove them, hopefully he will.

    Once again I apologize to all of you, I know what I said was offensive, and I hope that you can forgive me.


    hopefully that was a better apology than Pitt’s 🙂

    Once again, sorry guys…

  • Danny

    So if Mr. Pitts lived in the 1800’s I suppose he would have no problem whatsoever using the N-word?

    Edit: Damn, seems my idea of an example was already taken.

  • brent

    plllleeeeeeeeeease get over this.

    This is the sort of pissiness that religionists use to upset people.

  • Valhar2000

    Did anyone expect him to say anything different? Honestly, the only thing that surprises me is that he did not use this to claim that he is being violently persecuted by the Atheist Conspiracy that controls all government, education and media.

    Faux outrage, of the kind Mikey is putting on, was what I thought Leonard would do.

  • cypressgreen

    I exchanged a couple more emails with his assistant myself, after my initial email. She humorously yet seriously relates that she’s unhappy that we were encouraged to inundate her with emails.

    All I can say to that is that Pitts should field his own damn emails. Why should she have to do it?

  • JohnCW

    @kimbo the fact that you take a quote from a comedian literally enough to pick apart the wording speaks volumes about this entire conversation.

  • Jasel

    I’m confused why people are promoting the “Get over it” mentality. As if individuals are going on national television to complain, sending death threats, or forming a protest. A few people have sent some emails complaining and are talking about it on a blog. THAT is overreacting to some of you??

    If you don’t think it’s a big deal, then you don’t think it’s a big deal. But I really have a problem when people tell others what they should and shouldn’t find offensive and what they should and shouldn’t bother responding to. If you don’t see the point, then don’t do it. But please don’t lecture others who actually DO feel offended and want to express to Mr. Pitts why they feel what he said was offensive (intentional or not) and tell them to “Get over it”.

    That is beyond immature.

  • Gabriel

    To everyone who say “get over it” you are wrong. I served. I was deployed to Kuwait and lost a year with my family. I am an atheist and I am insulted by the comment.

  • I got that reply email so here’s my response:

    Dear Mr. Pitts and Miss Smith,

    This response is worse than the initial use of the cliche.
    When called out on calling all atheists insincere, you responded by saying “most atheists are insincere”. I wouldn’t say all journalists are bigots. I wouldn’t even say most journalists are bigots. But I will admit there are bigoted journalists.

    How about saying there are no Protestants in foxholes? Would then saying there are few Protestants in foxholes make the situation any better?

    Here’s a suggestion. If someone points out that you are using a very old cliche that insults a minority, apologize. Just say sorry, I’ll try not to use inaccurate and offensive cliches in the future. For one thing it will also make you a better writer.

    Vincent Lyon

  • Thank you jon for pointing out the obvious. Does anyone else see the hypocrisy in this?? Now I’m sure that there will be a flood of posts defending Hemant (couched in grandiose language, of course) explaining how different these two situations are.

    To that I would agree, they are different. Pitts did not mean to offend anyone and subsequently issued an apology. Hemant WENT OUT OF HIS WAY to offend Muslims, and to my knowledge has not issued an apology.

    They are different in a manner that requires apology from Pitts and no apology from Mehta. Mehta was making a point in an ongoing, public event about a specific belief that he was ridiculing. Pitts made an off the cuff insult to a minority in an article about something entirely unrelated. If Pitts had written an article specifically about how there are no atheists in foxholes, then no apology would be necessary. He would have been dealing directly with the issue and it would have been subject to disputation.

  • jon

    Just to clarify: I wasn’t criticising Hemant over the drawing of Mohammed. I supported that and sent one in to him. It was the demanding of an apology due to how hurtful the foxhole phrase is that I was questionning. The analagy I was trying to make was not do do with any Muslims who were seeking to prevent any drawing of their prophet (and certainly not those who issued threats of violence) but rather those who would complain after the fact about the offensiveness and hutfulness of the action and demand an apology. I’m not saying Hemant should apologise for supporting and publishing the Mohammed drawings but that our hurt feelings as atheists (if we really feel the need to be offended rather than just point out that actually there are plenty of atheists in fox holes)are not somehow more precious than anyone else’s hurt feelings. I’m with Philip Pullman on the principle that nobody has the right not ever to be offended.

  • plutosdad

    But there is a difference, these two mentioned were saying “atheists are not commited to their beliefs” it made a statement about atheists.

    Drawing a stick figure of Mohommed does not make a statement about Muslim or even about Mohammed.

    The definition of an insult is not whether people feel offended, nor is it even intent, but rather the statement itself: is a negative claim made about another person? A stick figure of mohammed says nothing at all about Muslims or even Mohammed, therefore there is no need to apologize because there was no insult.

    Talking about subjects you know another person is sensitive about may result in hurt feelings and that person may take offense; but that does not mean you owe them an apology or should apologize, or did anything wrong.


    In my humble but brazenly irreverent opinion please minimize the “sensitivity” of this vestige of religiosity in the brain. It is like using the cliché, “having a nervous breakdown” remember how people would say that in such mystifying fashion and sort of leave at that, which really was just trash gossip. I can assure the school of psychiatry or it’s patients, never took such offense. Managing crisis in any endeavor reveals character and the means by which we persevere or dwindle. This “foxhole” rhetoric and cliché is presented as a “coup de grace” of religious rationale. Remember this is actually not a process of reasoning and the reference to “logic” is contained within a finite set of dynamics; Alpha=Omega. There is no brooking a defense of such position unless he is trying to appease a hot Jewess because of his other remark but it is not altogether offensive as much as it a tell. If there is anything, anywhere near extraordinary in the universe it is likely yet another healthy skeptical mind using a rigorous reproducible process will be the one to bring it to “light!” What may very well happen while looking up from a trench, while in a state of war, is simply an opportunity to muster courage!”

  • The funny thing is (as I alluded to in my earlier comment), I was mostly in the “what’s the big deal?” camp when I read the first post. That he used the phrase didn’t seem so huge to me, because as others have pointed out, maybe he just didn’t *think* about it.

    This non-apology, however, makes it obvious that now he *has* thought about it and has come to the conclusion that it’s okay to be a dick and offend millions of people. While the original use of the stupid cliche could be chalked up to thoughtlessness or ignorance, his explanation and dismissal (that he’s trying to pass off as an apology) amount to him being a total ass. That’s what pisses me off.

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