There ARE Atheists In Foxholes
December 9, 2008 - by Benjamin Tupper (an Army National Guard Captain)

I spent many cold nights in Afghanistan sitting on worn mats in cramped, smoky huts, drinking chai with Afghan and U.S. soldiers. As soldiers often do on quiet nights, we pondered many things, including religion. I was the lone atheist, surrounded by equally convinced Christians and Muslims. There was one thing they all could agree on: that I was going to hell.

Then there was Fayez, one of our Afghan interpreters, who was the most eloquent in explaining the pillars of Islam. One night, I described my faith, that men could do good deeds without interference from God, and my fear that religion caused much of the strife we witnessed daily in Afghanistan. This was met by a chorus of condemnation. Fayez floored everyone by interrupting to say that they all should consider the possibility that I was right. This was a brave thing to do in a country where, even today, people face death for questioning Islam.

Fayez was a soft-spoken teenager who seemed out of place brandishing an AK-47. In our country, he would have been the kid in the high school drama club, too skinny to play sports and too nerdy to get a girlfriend. But in Afghanistan, his intelligence and proficiency in English meant he was on the front lines in war, earning a high salary to support his large family.

To me, Fayez was a ray of hope for the future of Afghanistan. He was intelligent, tolerant and decent to others in all his interactions. Since my return home, I've gotten e-mail updates on Fayez and the rest of my Afghan colleagues.

I recently received an e-mail from another interpreter. He told me that Fayez had been killed in action. The Humvee he was riding in had been hit by a devastating IED. All of the American soldiers on board died instantly. Fayez survived the initial blast. But he was captured by the Taliban, tortured and killed.

News like this, of a friend cut down in the summer of his youth, shakes your faith to the core. That's equally true for a person like me, who holds no religious faith. I find myself hoping that there is a heaven, and that Fayez is enjoying all the rewards promised to the faithful in the Quran.

It would be dishonest to say that, in the shadow of his tragic and cruel death, I'm now a believer in the afterlife. But I can say, if there is such a thing as heaven, Fayez surely belongs there.

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Replies to This Discussion


Funny how the most dirty SOB's who follow a religion honestly believe that they are heaven bound. Then you have the good people who try to follow those teachings who get the shaft.
But like you say, if there by chance that place then that guy should go there.
That said, the dirty SOB's will end up in the other place.
And I don't mean New Jersey....
Yes, I'm going to reprint this and distribute it on leaflets in my neighborhood where they are praying to the alleged baby god Jeebus at our Fire Station 12, just 12 houses from my home. USN '71-'73 Dial An Atheist Larry Carter Center
If there was any kind of divine justice those ignorant zealots would be slowly shreaded like a threadbare sweater. Their kind destroys anything good that comes out of their miserable bullshit theocracy. Fayez was one of our brothers as far as I'm concerned and he deserves a place of honor in all of our hearts.
hey- thanks to all for liking my story. glad to hear it hit a nerve in the free thinking community. i just finished a book that should be out in about a year that has content about being an atheist in afghanistan etc, so keep your eyes open for it.
keep up the good work!

How many people like Fayez have died in the many wars of mankind? Do you know of any of them?
Are you tolerant without being submissive? Do you stand for yourself? Has he wasted his life?
It is one thing to praise someone within your own group. It is another to stand in public when need be.


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