There was a strange letter to the editor in the Kentucky-based Glasgow Daily Times yesterday. Ronald W. Curry, a man who has apparently never used Google before, had a simple question for readers: How come no atheists are helping out in Houston?
Where are the atheist relief groups? Where are their fleet of trucks loaded with supplies? Where are their crews that help dry out and clean up? Where are their construction crews that rip out water-damaged carpet, floors and drywall and install new materials? If there is a single group of atheists involved in this effort — or for that matter, in any effort such as this, it is not known to the writer.
And how many hospitals and orphanages were founded by atheists? Where are the thrift shops, clothes closets or food pantries under the surveillance of atheist groups?
There are so many ways to respond to this…
One answer to this question is that you’re not going to see as many atheist groups because we don’t pressure members to give us 10% of their income and don’t have the sort of infrastructure that allows us to pool resources quickly for relief efforts.
Another answer is that there are almost certainly a lot of atheists helping out with relief efforts, but they’re doing it out of the goodness of their hearts and don’t feel the need to broadcast their lack of religion in the process. It’s not like every godless volunteer is wearing a shirt that says, “God didn’t cause this hurricane!”
But the thing I wanted to scream at Curry is that there are atheist groups collecting money for relief efforts and helping people on the ground. They’re not hard to find, either, if you just take a few damn seconds to look for them.
Here’s a brief rundown of what atheist groups are doing for victims of Hurricane Harvey:
- Foundation Beyond Belief has been raising money from atheist donors since the hurricane hit. The first group to receive a check from them is All Hands Volunteers, a non-profit that assists with disaster recovery. At least one more group will be receiving funds as well.
- The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s charity agency, Nonbelief Relief Inc., donated $10,000 to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. They’re also “collecting hygiene and cleaning products and donations” to give to a local Boys and Girls Club working with their national organization to help people in Houston.
- The Humanists of Houston are coordinating all sorts of relief efforts involving their members.
- Houston Oasis was cleaning strangers’ homes and serving food at shelters. They’re still accepting donations and volunteers for relief efforts.
- The South Texas Atheists for Reason have volunteered at a diaper bank and announced that they plan to “adopt” a family, providing them with whatever resources they need to get through this difficult time.
- The Beaumont Humanist Society is raising money for local supplies (like bottled water).
- The Corpus Christi Atheists are raising funds for “members of the secular community who have lost or sustained damage to their homes.”
- One man formed his own group — the Humanist Fire Ants (because we can work together just like them) — to raise money for resources and help people rebuild their homes.
And none of that includes individual atheists who are just helping out or donating money on their own.
I found all of that information fairly easily. How come Curry couldn’t find a single one? Or was his letter just written out of ignorance?
It’s all eerily reminiscent of what TIME magazine’s Joe Klein said in 2013 when reporting on relief efforts in Oklahoma following some deadly tornadoes. He wrote that it was “funny how you don’t see organized groups of secular humanists giving out hot meals” at ground zero. The sarcasm wasn’t appreciated since he completely ignored all the volunteer work done and donations made by atheist groups that were helping people in the wake of the disaster.
It’s not hard to find atheists in foxholes, and it’s not hard to find atheists assisting with disaster recovery. But some people don’t even want to look. They assume only religious people help out, and they run with it.
Don’t believe their lies.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)