Reader Question: Atheist Blood Drive

I willing to bleed for my fellow man (and woman).

I used to donate blood fairly often, when I lived in Houston. I got my gallon pin and then donated a few more times before I moved to a little mountain town in California and it became much less convenient.

I’ve been thinking for years I should get back into it.

But the way I imagine it happening is through an atheist blood drive. I did a little research and found that freethought/atheist groups all over the U.S., possibly the world, have already had the idea and made it happen regionally.

What I’m picturing, though, is a coordinated international blood drive, on some particular significant date, with atheists everywhere donating.

Darwin’s birthday, February 12, seems like a good date. It’s also Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, significant in the U.S. for its association with slavery and emancipation.

But then again, that’s less than 3 weeks away, at least for this year. Is it possible to put something like this together in that time? Or is it better to put it off and really get it cranking for next year? I know it would require some powerful organizational talent — possibly from an organization already in existence. FreethoughtBlogs? Dawkins Foundation? Someone else? (Or, knowing my ability to totally miss things that everybody else knows about, is someone already doing it?)

I’m imagining the PR pitches:

100 Percent Pure Atheist Blood

Or maybe

No Red Crosses. Just Red Blood.

Or how about the slightly more wicked

Maybe we can’t get into their heads, but we CAN get into their hearts.

So: Ideas, anyone? Thoughts? Volunteers?

(Just FYI: I know for a fact that I can’t be the main organizer. I’m hamstrung by debts and the struggle to make a living right now and, in the midst of focusing on that, it’s all I can do to manage the blog.)

Thoughts on “Privilege”
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  • Phledge

    Hank, this is an AWESOME idea! (Although I would like to think that you would also donate for your fellow woman too.) I’m definitely not the one to do it either–similar circumstances in the finance department–and I don’t have a huge voice, but I hope PZ or gets wind of it. I’d totally donate!

    • Hank Fox

      “And woman” correction noted and made!

  • Katherine Lorraine, Chaton de la Mort

    I’d love to donate blood, except for that I’m banned cause of living in Germany for several years and that whole silly MSM thing…

    • Hank Fox

      Heh. I had to look that up. I read it as “mainstream media.” I figured they wouldn’t let you donate if you’d watched FOX News, for fear of passing along bloodborne ignorance.

      • Katherine Lorraine, Chaton de la Mort

        Haha, no no. Just a recent ex and the fact we did only what’s natural when you’re in a healthy relationship with someone… which apparently means I’m now permanently banned from ever giving blood.

        Except the Creuztfeld-Jakob disease part is probably more why I’m permanently banned.

        • Hank Fox

          You wouldn’t have to donate yourself. We could set up a Needle Pit, like those ball pits in MacDonald’s, and you’d just find someone else to throw to the needles.

          If we could get that actor who played Argus Filch, the keeper at Hogwarts (“God, I miss the screams.”), he’d make a really good Needle Pit proctor.

    • the gamekeeper

      I emigrated from the UK 20 years ago, used to give blood regularly there but now cannot (mad cow indeed!!!!).

  • Randomfactor

    Ironically, it’s a Sunday and the blood bank’s closed…

  • Randomfactor

    Oh, and as for the “No Red Crosses” slogan, ixnay. The Red Cross, also ironically, is completely secular.

    (Seven-gallon donor here, on the marrow/organ donor list as well. And my late wife was a triple transplant recipient who needed a LOT of blood, so I’m wildly enthusiastic about the idea.)

    • Leo Buzalsky

      Drats, you beat me to my Red Cross comment by a minute! Yeah, so I think the Red Cross has to do with some country’s flag…Switzerland, maybe? So, not a Christian cross.

    • Hank Fox

      Thanks for the heads-up on the Red Cross. I probably knew that, but in my search for a graphic to accompany the post, the crosses kept jumping out at me, triggering my atheist knee.

    • fredricmartin

      I got the email from the marrow registry yesterday, I’m a match for someone.

      • Leslie

        Wow! That must be exciting. Do let us know how it goes with the donation. Good luck!

    • ‘Tis Himself, OM

      I’ll be donating blood tomorrow. My company sponsors a blood drive every eight weeks and I usually donate.

  • Trebuchet

    By all means donate, organized drive or no. My late mother was kept alive by transfusions for 2-1/2 years. It’ll take me a while to make up for all that. Especially since I haven’t been able to donate for a year or so due to anemia. I seem to have a clean bill now and will be going in later this week.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    I’m thinking Thursday, May 3, 2012 would be an excellent date for an atheist blood drive. The motto could be: “Give blood, because prayer doesn’t work.”

  • Randomfactor

    Or maybe just “Red-Blooded Atheists.”

    (I have a tee-shirt which proclaims “I have not exchanged sex for drugs or money since 1977.” Alas, I can’t fit into it anymore…)

    May 3 works for me…although the next day, Star Wars Day, might be even better.

  • greg penza

    I try to donate every time the blood center mobile unit comes to town. I am up to 5 gals, but just gave monday. I’m sure many other atheists who donate regularly need 8 week notice to participate in a drive like this. I like the idea though

  • Randomfactor

    Planning on donating Friday, but would work around a future national-donation date.

  • Zinc Avenger

    Sadly my blood is deemed unfit, as spending over three months in England is enough to taint me with… um… monarchy? Or something. If they test my blood they’ll notice each cell has its own little British passport and throw it out.

  • hauntfox

    Once my 12 months since a tattoo timer is up in December, I’d definitely be in. I went with my grandma when she was getting chemo and needed a transfusion; the difference in her energy levels before and after was astounding. (I tell people ‘god’ didn’t save her: the scientists, lab techs – who are scientists too, they just usually get taken for granted – and doctors who slaved away finding effective cancer treatments did!)
    @Reginald Selkirk, that’s an awesome motto :)

  • Randomfactor

    Hauntfox, and one or more anonymous blood donors…

    • hauntfox

      You’re absolutely right… I don’t know why that didn’t occur to me to add to the list. Thanks :)

  • hkdharmon

    I’m not allowed to donate. :(

  • F

    If you aren’t allowed to donate, you can always prod people who are when you know about a blood drive and they don’t.

  • bad Jim

    I used to donate regularly, even though the long list of questions tended to make me feel defensive about my lack of a sex life, until the blood bank abandoned its office and became exclusively mobile.

    Ultimately, my sister put an end to my donations by pointing out that my thick smoker’s blood might not be all that desirable, what with a substantial fraction of the hemoglobin being clogged with carbon monoxide.

  • Randomfactor

    I doubt that the CO would matter much in the long run, badjim. They’re mostly worried about pharmaceutical and infectuous contaminants.

    But you might want to keep that crap out of your OWN bloodstream.

    For what it’s worth, my local blood bank used to have a much longer series of questions (recently shortened) but I never felt bad about answering “no” to any of the few sex-related ones.

    And I’ve been celibate for five years, widowed for four.

    Every couple of years they announce that it’ll be only a couple more years until artificial blood becomes a reality. I suspect that it’ll always be a couple of years off–until then, the only blood manufacturers roll up their sleeves voluntarily.

  • kennypo65

    We have a blood drive here in my small town (Finleyville, PA) every couple of months. It’s run by the Central Blood Bank of Pittsburgh. We hold it in the social hall of the local Catholic church(they have the space for it)and I volunteer every time. I pick up donors and take them back home, as well as donate myself. I’m also a marrow donor and I encourage everyone who is able to be one also. The priest at the church knows I’m an atheist, and he joked with me once that due to my active participation with local charity drives(Food bank and clothing drives as well as the blood drive), I’m going to enter heaven through a side window. Whenever there is something going on involving charitable work, he calls me. He knows that I’ll be there to lend a hand, unlike, he once lamented, most of his parishoners.

  • geocatherder

    When I was younger I donated regularly, but the last three times I tried to donate I was rejected due to borderline anemia. And a) I’m past menopause, b) I do eat my spinach, and c) I take a multivitamin with iron. Go figure.

    OTOH, If I can drum up some support for this thing, I will!

  • abb3w

    I’ve tried to encourage this at the local university Atheists group. Unfortunately, more than half of the regulars are ineligible for one reason or another (body weight, low iron, sex with a gay/bi male at least once, too much time in Europe).

    More unfortunate, the local blood collection outfit no longer has an office actually at the U; the nearest is now about a 4+ mile drive off. Not impossible with free bus service, but given how few students have cars, much more difficult than the previous two-block walk.

  • earlycuyler

    Y’all might want to look into apheresis where only the needed component plasma, platelets, or red blood cells are donated and the rest returned to your system. Except for red blood cells, you can donate every 2 weeks and it takes about 90 minutes for the process. Advantage: In the case of platelets, you can donate 3 times the amount found in a pint of whole blood. And, yes, I am a 10 gallon donor.

    • Leslie

      I used to “do” apheresis with a friend. She and I were A+ and A-respectively and were asked if we’d be interested in doing it as type A blood is especially good for this? Wow, this was back during the OJ Simpson trial as I remember we’d watch the proceedings while we were hooked up to the machine.

    • carlie

      90 minutes??? I never got done in less than 2 1/2 hours.
      But yeah, it’s a great thing to do. Just don’t go overboard on hydrating ahead of time, or you’ll quickly find out that pure torture is having to go to the bathroom so, so badly but if you stop the donation the whole thing has to be pitched.

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  • rturpin

    As usually happens with these special drives, I find out about them a few days after a donation. My own suspicion is the eight-week required wait between donations is on the conservative side.

    But. It likely should be. ;-)

  • Chuck Lunney

    Why not do it on the National Day or Reason (May 3rd, 2012)?

  • Randomfactor

    Let’s do it. How bout a bloodmobile at the Reason Rally, too?

  • Sheila Crosby

    I’m another one banned due to mad cow disease, but I think it’s a great idea.

  • Vasha

    I agree with the suggestion of May 3, and like Reginald Selkirk’s motto; although I can’t give myself, I hereby pledge to bring 5 other people to the office.

  • jbhodges7

    I’m all in favor of the general concept. I have made a practice of donating a pint of whole blood four times a year; I won’t be eligible for Feb 12, since I have already donated in January. The Red Cross is an ideal secular charity; it has a list of founding principles, one of which is “Religious, Political, and Ethnic neutrality.”

    The founder of the American branch, Clara Barton, was described as an “advanced rationalist” by her British friend Robert Owen. The Unitarian church claims her as a Unitarian, because she attended for a few years, but she was not a leader or organizer there, and did not stay long. The Virginia Tech University library has a thick tome of her collected speeches about the history and work of the Red Cross, and looking them over I find no “casual piety” in them, no references to “Our Lord Jesus” or anything similar. She kept her mouth shut about her personal beliefs.

  • JohnnieCanuck

    Not everyone has been happy that the symbol of the organisation is a cross. Turkey was the first to reject the Cross and adopt the Red Crescent symbol instead. It’s no coincidence that Islamic countries are where the Crescent is in use. Regardless of the history of non-discrimination by the Red Cross volunteers in the field, no way was that flag going to go over in countries where competing religions held sway.

    It’s good to see that they are able to cooperate as much as they do and that both symbols are used side by side by the parent organisation, the IFRC

    For some reason, Israel was unable to get approval from both the Cross and Crescent member states for their Star of David symbol. Finally after half a century, a compromise was reached and they can now use the Red Crystal symbol, a diamond pattern.