Jewish Atheists in Foxholes?

Existential Beliefs and How War Feels

In: Secular Studies
Stacey Gutkowski King's College London

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War and other forms of collective political violence raise existential questions for those touched by them. Recent advances in the study of ‘atheism in foxholes’ have been hitherto overlooked in the sociology of war. But they can further illuminate the relationship between war and existential questions. Bringing these literatures into conversation for the first time, this article analyses a sample of young, secular Jewish-Israelis (hilonim) interviewed in the aftermath of the 2014 Israel-Gaza War. It shows how speakers borrowed from both Jewish and Western secular formations to answer existential questions and ‘manage luck.’ Contributing to the theorization of war as social practice through a case study of ‘foxhole atheism’, the article also invites us to think of war as having a ‘secular’ ontology.

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