The latest billboard campaign from American Atheists goes right to the heart of how we ought to respond to natural disasters: Do you pray and send Bibles? Or do you volunteer or send money?
AA says, over the course of six billboards in central New Jersey going up today, that we should stop asking for supernatural help. It doesn’t do anything of value to help the situation:
“Imagine if the Pope had asked for people to send money to victims or to send needed supplies. How much more useful would that have been to the people of the Philippines? This is insulting,” said American Atheists President David Silverman. “Over 5,500 people have died, so Pope Francis leads people in prayer, and they send bibles and rosaries. This is repugnant; natural disasters should not be viewed as opportunities for proselytization.” Silverman continued, “Religion is not charity. It’s business masquerading as charity, and it needs to be recognized as such.”
Well, to be fair, Pope Francis tweeted two things about Typhoon Haiyan. One asked for prayer, yes, but the other specified the importance of sending “concrete help,” too.
But point taken. Just cut out the middleman. Why pray and send money when you can send money and save time? The victims of natural disasters need far more than intercessory help and reading material. They need food, water, shelter, and medical help. The billboards direct people to atheists.org, where they’ll find a link to a page with information on how to offer real relief.