This Post Makes Christians Look Good… and They Totally Deserve It

***Update***: Hey, look! New information! Joe Zamecki points out (in the comments) that at least one group of atheists *has* been trying to raise money for Patrick Greene. Joe writes:

The fact is, I and some other Atheists HAVE been there for him, raising money for him online for the past couple of days. He didn’t mention any of this church news to me, but some Atheists have been helping. Here’s the donation page he set up, at my suggestion: http://www.gofundme.com/h44q0

It doesn’t include my $20. donation because I mailed that to him.

I didn’t know about this and it basically makes my whole point moot. My apologies to all of you for that. Thanks to Joe for pointing out the omission.

So now, I’m wondering why (or if) Greene didn’t mention that to the reporter (Betty Water) and why Water didn’t include the information in her piece

Last year, Henderson County (Texas) officials put a nativity scene on the courthouse lawn.

When the Freedom From Religion Foundation wanted to include a display of their own on the lawn — or have county officials remove the Nativity Scene altogether — there was a kinda big rally in support of Jesus:

Last month, Patrick Greene, an atheist from San Antonio, told county officials that if they did it again, he would file a lawsuit against them.

Patrick Greene with his cat (The Athens Review)

Greene said, “… If they do not respond to my email by … Monday, February 20, 2012, I will assume that they have no intention of responding at all. In which case I will begin filling out the necessary forms, and file the lawsuit on the day they put up the nativity display.”

When asked his reasons for becoming involved, Greene said “to show that Christianity does not rule my state of Texas, the Constitution does. Christianity is only one of the many faiths represented in this state.”

But then, just a few weeks after sending out that email, Greene backed off. He said he couldn’t go through with it because he needed to focus on his health:

Greene revealed this weekend that he believes he has a detached retina, which he expects will leave him blind in the very near future.

In early February, Greene emailed several county officials promising to sue Henderson County if the traditional nativity scene is displayed on the courthouse lawn this Christmas. But because of his health, he has decided to back away from his threat to sue.

“There is no way for me to go up there if I’m blind,” he said.

He had intended to represent himself in the lawsuit, something he has done multiple times.

Greene said he has no insurance to pay for an operation that might save his sight, and can’t even pay for the exam that will confirm the diagnosis.

“Why waste the money if I can’t do anything about it,” he said.

It’s really sad that Greene would have to step away from his potential lawsuit for reasons that have nothing to do with the law, but it’s not hard to understand why he’s making that decision.

And that’s when some decent Christians stepped in:

“I knew of his lawsuit and threats and thought how sad it was for him to be so bitter toward Christians,” Jessica Crye, of Athens, said. “I thought he must have never felt the love of God through Christians. I also thought about how scary that must be.”

Upon hearing about Greene’s plight with his eyes, Ms. Crye spearheaded a movement for a collection to send Greene.

Ms. Crye said she knows most people in Henderson County see the condition of his eyes as a “victory because he is leaving us alone.”

But Ms. Crye saw the situation differently.

“Why not turn this into something else? This is a great opportunity to turn the other cheek and show God’s love,” she said.

Ms. Crye contacted her pastor, the Rev. Erick Graham, of Sand Springs Baptist Church, and the drive for a collection for Greene gained momentum.

“We didn’t have to think about it or pray about (it). We saw the need,” Graham said. “We don’t discriminate on who we help, whether they are Christians or non-Christians, church members or not. We just help those with a need.”

Crye’s reasoning is not only wrong, it’s insulting. To suggest that Greene is bitter toward Christians because he asked the local government to obey the law? To suggest his life must be desolate and depressing without God’s love? None of that is accurate.

But, dammit, her church was there for him and we weren’t.

They sent him a check for $400, an amount we could’ve raised for him in a heartbeat. (Yes, I’m aware that could open the floodgates for something that may not be a good idea — giving away money to anyone who asks for it — but just work with me here…)

The Christians ended up looking great. Meanwhile, atheists who were there for Greene in his time of need were nowhere to be found.

I don’t know if a fundraiser would’ve been appropriate in this situation, but this is a serious issue that we don’t talk about (or act upon) very often: How should we respond when people in our community (online, local, whatever) need help? Are we going to be there for them emotionally? Do we take them into our homes if they need a place to go? Do we offer them financial support if they can’t pay their medical bills?

You can criticize Crye and all the other Christians for their faulty reasoning, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that they have answers to all of those questions: Yes. Yes. And Yes.

In their mind, that’s what it means to be a Christian.

Unless we find a way to replicate that sense of community without the need for supernatural nonsense, churches aren’t going to dwindle in number anytime soon.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001627228091 Alexander Ryan

    I think the Churches may have the ability to give away money at will, something we may not be able to, because they have a stable, solid, tight-knit community that’s basically devoted to both helping people and following the word of God – even if it means only being nice for the sake of ‘helping someone understand God’s love due to their current bitterness’. Perhaps that’s what keeps them going, and why Churches can be there for all of those public events and charity organizations. Christians no doubt outnumber Atheists, so if we wanted a, ‘Church’, we’d be outnumbered probably 10 to 1, and out ability to help in large scale could only come from either help over the interwebs, or by rallying people from a larger area – not something that can easily be done at the drop of a hat. We may be somewhat of a community, but just about every city has a community of what’s probably thousands, versus… well, a much smaller number, especially when you factor in other Faiths. We’re not in especially great numbers – something only time will (hopefully) help.

    • http://www.facebook.com/joe.zamecki Joe Zamecki

      Well we were here this time. Not in huge dollar amounts, but the fundraising has been going on for 4 days now. The Atheist Community was there for Patrick and continues to be. 

      • Annie

        I just went to the website provided in the update and it states that he
        has decided not to have the surgery, as it is too expensive in the U.S.
        ($20,000).  After a quick google search, I found a couple hospitals in
        Mexico that perform this surgery for less than $3,000. It would seem the surgery could be performed there for a fraction of the cost, even if you figure in airfare and hotel accommodations.  Just an idea.

        http://www.health-tourism.com/retinal-detachment-surgery/mexico/

        It’s such a shame that it has come to this for so many US citizens.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1607022278 Anonymous

    A tip of the hat to Crye and her community!

  • guessed

    I thought the punchline was going to be that they offered to take up his lawsuit for him where he is leaving off…

    • Popeyewooly

      hahah, i kept hoping for that, too. Alas, disappointed though not surprised, once again.

  • Tyler

    It’s not a competition. 

  • gski

    I do not think it is a good idea to raise money for individuals.  It will foster a popularity contest among those who can make their plight widely known to the public.  Instead, I advocate universal health care via a type of government program.

    • Chip Cherry

      In the absence of government programs (on that point I completely agree with you) this is the only means for some people to get the care they need.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.zamecki Joe Zamecki

    Hemant – Why do you say: “But, damnit, her church was there for him and we weren’t.”
    and:  “Meanwhile, atheists who were there for Greene in his time of need were nowhere to be found.”

    I didn’t see any indication of that in these articles you posted. 

    The fact is, I and some other Atheists HAVE been there for him, raising money for him online for the past couple of days. He didn’t mention any of this church news to me, but some Atheists have been helping. Here’s the donation page he set up, at my suggestion: http://www.gofundme.com/h44q0

    It doesn’t include my $20. donation because I mailed that to him. 

    I just hope that no one thinks that Atheists haven’t been helping him. We have.

    Joe Zamecki
    Austin

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      I updated the post. Thanks, Joe!

  • Mommiest

    I think it’s very nice of them to send $400, but hardly overwhelming. I imagine it would pay for the exam.

    That said, I work with religious people as part of a fundraiser I do: I raise seedlings to sell, and donate a portion of them to a group who grow them out for local food pantries. The woman who founded that group is doing it in part because of her religious faith, and last year they produced over 800 pounds of fresh food for our hungry neighbors. I’ve also donated to a church working to teach people to grow their own food. I consider it an honor to work with all of them.

    If we really want to be effective and influential in our communities, we should find ways to work with the majority. It might be the best way to demonstrate that we are not atheists because we are bitter towards Christians, nor are we scared because we’ve never experienced a god’s love. No baby-eating either.

  • http://twitter.com/jesterpilgrim Jesse

    Can I ask the Atheists here in response to this post (which displays towards Christians exactly the same kudos which in my personal experience is reciprocated in the opposite direction) – what then is the main agenda for Atheists? I ask because in my experience it has been to counter what is seen as a perceived destructive nature of religion generally, where in the post here and in the following comments, it’s clear that everyone, from both camps, believed that doing this simple thing for a man in need was a good thing to do. Who cares why?

    Jesus shocked many of his followers by saying that he would deny knowledge of any person who failed to help a person in their desperation, with no reference to creed. Christianity has its misrepresentations as I’m sure Atheism also does, but ultimately we all seem to want the same thing – for real compassion to be the defining characteristic of our humanity. Let’s all just live together in peace and good happiness stuff.

    • Shouldbeworkin’

      IMHO, in the US, anyway, it is to live in equality, both legally and culturally, with our fellow (religious) citizens. It’s hard to “live together in peace and good happiness” when you feel like a second class citizen…

    • Mommiest

       I somewhat agree with you, but I do care why someone is doing a good deed. If the only reason is because he thinks a supernatural being is watching, then he hasn’t figured out why the difference between good and evil is important. He really hasn’t grown up.

      Some of the most egregious lies about atheists are probably projections by people  who only do good works because they believe a god is watching. I actually hope such folks continue to believe, if that’s all that’s keeping them from bank robbery and pedophilia.

      You won’t find one main agenda universal to all atheists, but here is mine: I want us to determine goodness through observation, not superstition.

    • Xeon2000

      Hmm. Matthew 15:22-26 seems to run directly counter to what you claim about Jesus.

      • Ellie9600

        Thought I would share with the readers here your example of Christ not helping someone in need…however, you only cited part of the story:

         Matthew 15:22-26
        22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son
        of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and
        suffering terribly.”  23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
         24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
         25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
         26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

        Verses 27-28 show the Rest Of The Story:

         27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
         28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

        He did not turn her away. He did heal her daughter.  He did help those in need. 

    • shramana

      As a non-theist Jain, I agree that we should strive to act compassionately towards others, regardless of our own beliefs, and applaud those who do so.

      The issue here is not so much their fundraising, but their explanation for their actions. The person quoted in the article claims that planned lawsuit was derived from a sense of “bitterness” and his personal deficiencies, rather than a principled stand based on the Constitution. He has now decided not to pursue the lawsuit, but his legal concerns surely are still valid.

  • http://www.facebook.com/vessey.andrew Andrew Vessey

    Thumbs down.  Even if you are complaining about not helping him, which many Atheists have been, most Atheists I know are more focused on the big picture. If I had it my way, we’d take care of both this gentleman’s vision, and the more important cause of filing suit.

    • Joethecarpenter

      “The more important cause of filing suit”? More important than keeping this man from going blind? Nice reasoning, athiest. You’re a great representative. The law says people can express their faith anytime, anywhere they want, with NO restrictions. Again, NO restrictions; as in, no laws restricting the FREE expression of religion. You might want to actually read the laws before you pretend you are standing up for any of them. No part of the U.S. has adopted an official religion, and no American is forced to read the bible or other religious book. No American is forced to pray or forced to participate in any religious practice. A nativity scene, the ten commandments, a bible; these things don’t come to life and force you to do anything. But, they are a part of history and a huge part of the founding of the U.S. and her success. You militant athiests who’s big picture is the elimination of churches and making religion a crime are only creating more and more religious fanatics, something neither side wants. The nativity scene is a celebration of a positive event. All through history, people have tried to celebrate the positive message the bible gives them; that everyone is equally precious, regardless of race, religion, non-religion, wealth, health, etc.; that every human should treat every other human like they want to be treated themselves. I admit it’s a fact that people have always misinterpreted and cherry picked phrases out of the bible to justify crimes and atrocities, and non-believers do this to blame God believers every thing bad that has ever happened. The bible literally codemns over and over the very things non-believers claim by a single phrase or a misdefined word that it promotes, and that hipocrates, fanatics, and  evil people carrying unopened bibles have used to justify atrocities and oppression against other humans. These Christians stepped up to help someone in need, despite the fact he means to do them harm and eliminate their freedom. Countries have banned churches and punished religion already. Should we copy China, Viet Nam, North Korea, the former Soviet Union states, Cuba, Mexico, too many third world suffering countries to list, or just hope a dictator arises and decides for us. Or should we all adopt one belief, athiest or theist, and ban and punish all others: like the fine countries I already mentioned, any athiest only country I haven’t mentioned, or any Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Taoist, Catholic, shaman, voodoo, or one-belief country where they persecute any other belief. The bible says we shouldn’t force one belief on everyone, so does our Constitution. They both say we should allow everyone to choose for themself and no one is better or worse. Why don’t athiests at least follow the Constitution which, for some reason they love to tout while they try to outlaw seemingly only Christians from practicing faith? Almost all athiests I’ve heard or read speak up, between bashing God and the bible, claim there is no God. Even though athiests go out of their way to bash God and those who have faith in Him, they claim there is no God. It’s not a belief that there’s no God, there just isn’t one you say. Fine, who’s forcing you to admit God is real? Who’s forcing you to pray, display a cross, or carry a bible? Who’s taking you to court or complainig to the gov’t because you say there is no such thing as [insert something or someone here]? No one forces their belief down your throat, like I constantly here people whine. Yet you are constantly trying to force your non-belief or whatever you call it down everyone elses. Why can’t you let every one choose for themselves, like you get to choose atheism. Why bash God, there is no God right? Why bash the bible, it’s moot, because there is no God. Right? Humans are to blame for all bad things, that’ s something an athiest and a believer will always agree on. Stop trying to prohibit people from improving their life by their faith or helping others regardless of faith. Why get all crazy over a nativity scene or anything else like that on display? You say there is no God. You’re free to put up a display of nothing right next to the nativity scene. Instead of spending so much time and money putting up websites, billboards,and traveling to conventions just to bash the bible and God; making people spend their money on lawyers and their time in court; why don’t you save your time and money over something you claim doesn’t exist and try doing something productive with it. Why do you force Christians to waste so much time and money on things like lawsuits when they they could’ve used it on something productive, like giving this poor fellow more money for his eyes? Athiests sue schools, hospitals, churches, police and fire depts., local-city-state and federal agencies, public and private groups,businesses, stores, YMCA, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Red Cross, Salvation Army, many other charities, adoption agencies, insurance companies, the list goes on and on. How many millions or perhaps billions of dollors in attorneys fees and wages have atheists made people spend on lawsuits when that time and money could have spent where it was meant, serving people? Is that human? Is that reasonable? Is that the character that”free thought” leads you to? The weird thing about this is that you do it over something you claim doesn’t even exist. Why do you do it? Because you insist on cramming your way down EVERYONE’S throat. Sorry, I admit I stole your whine. In this case though, it’s finally true. The strangest and, frankly, the creepiest thing about your agenda is that you do it over something that doesn’t exist, as you assert. Every athiest I’ve ever heard or read speak up insults people of faith, it seems to tell others if they become a believer you will insult them relentlessly. It seems to also tell people’ if you join us you too can insult believers and make yourself feel better than them’.  You create your own websites, and you stalk Christian websites in order to call Christians insane, claim they are supestitious or believe in myths or fairy tales, and in many cases to say they hope all die a horrible death. Maybe that last part is the exception and not the rule for atheists, but I read it quite often. The first two accusations seem almost unanimous among atheists. I’m not insane, nor are almost all Christians I’ve  met or heard of. I’m sure one is here and there, we’re all people. It happens. I have never heard of one who is superstitious or believes in fairy tales and myths. The bible pretty much warns against that. A lot of Christians have faith in God and just don’t need to find a certain number of evidences as proof. I’ve done tons of research into secular documents that corroborate the bible, as well as archaeolgy and science. I’ve read about thousands of people who’ve seen Heaven or Hell and come back, mostly they had been to Heaven. A lot are children, and they meet brothers, sisters, or other relatives and describe them perfectly, even though they’ve never been told about them. I’ve read about thousands more people who’ve seen impossible things. Unmovable things being moved to save someone. Tumors, unsurvivable injuries, and fatal diseases completely heal after treatment totally fails. Many times people are seconds from death. I’ve read about countless people who have been dead for minutes and even hours come back to life. No vital signs, sometimes under water or buried or even crushed with most or all organs destroyed. I’ve seenpersonally a speeding truck go full bore into a wall with a person there. They were frozen with fear, they didn’t budge. The truck flew into the person as I watched. Nothing happened for a few seconds. Then the person walked right out of there unhurt. I went to look and there was no space between the wall and the truck. You couldn’t have pulled a dollar bill out of there.  Iknow a child who told someone a relative had just been in his room and told him he had died and he loves him. He told the little boy he’d see him in Heaven someday. It was several hours after that the man was found dead. He was healthy and not old. The boy was told about 5 days later. I have a relative who had something weighing thousands of pounds fall on him. His teenage sister and his mom lifted it completely up and off of him. Millions of people give up drugs, alcohol, smoking, crime, and perversions when they ask for God’s help. People who never knew Him, hated Him, or just said there is no God. Some ask for His help right away, some wait years trying everything else; rehab, patches, counseling, free thinking, reason, science, the universe, rationality, and blaming religion. What if those millions of people hadn’t given up these things? I’m sorry for getting preachy, I just need to make a point. You say there is no God, I can’t make you say different. But the horrible thing is, outspoken atheists want to make everyones choice for them. Bash the bible and God so that people who know nothing about either hate both just because you show them a word here or a phrase there. A cherry-picked word or phrase which in modern times has a horrible meaning doesn’t some up the bible’s hundreds of thousands of words. It’s fine for you, but their life is their’s. They’ll die someday, what if they discover they’re wrong? What if everything doesn’t go black and then they are thrown in the dirt? What if it is horrible, unbearable? You’re alright with forcing someone else to cross their fingers. If a Christian died and foumd out they are wrong, they lose nothing. They cease to exist. Millions of people have gone on and come back. The point I wanted to make earlier is I know God is real for sure. I’ve seen proof in my life and others’. I’ve seen proof in the world everywhere, in science in historical writing, in thousand of people’s testimonies. I’ll read about them forever and never scratch the surface. Many are atheists who were saved by God from something or just opened their eyes and minds and did research. I’m not preaching to anyone. Your life is yours. I’m just saying how  about letting others decide for themselves whether gambling on on a possible horrible outcome is worth it? Anyway,  why do people spend so much time and money on something they say doesn’t exist? Is that sanity? “Such and such doesn’t exist, yet I’m gonna create websites to trash people and sue people to force them to not have the right to discover the truth for themselves. Wow!

  • Tracker

    I knew of his lawsuit and threats and thought how sad it was
    for him to be so bitter toward Christians,” Jessica Crye, of Athens,
    said. “I thought he must have never felt the love of God through
    Christians. I also thought about how scary that must be.”Why is this person making such a leap that the Atheist is bitter against Christians?  I really can’t stand the attitude that you don’t know love unless it is Jesus love. 

  • Horrified

    Goodness your country is brutal.  Anywhere else in the developed world, a person with a detached retina would be looked after by some form of national medical service without ever having to fear that they’d lose their sight, and without having to rely on the ‘kindness of strangers’!

    • Anonymous

      If you are receiving a Social Security check, you have Medicare at minimum, and it probably covers 80% of the surgery, and certainly the exam.   

      • Anonymous

        Remind me again how much 20% of $30,000+ is… I forget.

        I imagine it would be rather large when compared to say.. a monthly social security check.

        • Gunstargreen

           I had to receive a colectomy  and ultimately my colostomy reversal for my out of control Ulcerative Colitis that had me on disability and unable to earn a living. Medicare backed up by Medicaid covered all of my costs.

          Granted this help wasn’t easy to get and we do need a new system of doing things but it’s still out there. The safety nets in this country are still in place though I fear it may not be much longer the way things are going.

          I also don’t know how Medicaid varies from state to state. Still, I consider myself an example that the poorest of the poor in this country can still be taken care of.

          The problem is most people don’t know how or aren’t able to fight for it or wade through the bureaucratic mess to get it. The problem with most government programs is we have people who don’t need them abusing them and people who do need them not knowing they exist.

          • Rebecca Sparks

            Medicare, Medicaid and Medi-Cal can be really helpful, but I don’t think that their there for everyone who puts the effort into it.  There’s a lot of gaps-especially along the boarder of having too much to qualify but not enough to get good coverage.  For the year I was on unemployment, I had too much in assets to qualify for these programs (I had $3000+ in the bank and I owned my car)–but thankfully Healthy families program covered my son.   Contractors,temp workers, part time laborors aren’t required to be covered by their employers.  Self-employed people also struggle with insurance. I’ve had many friends who have fallen into this category–My mom while teaching C++ at Devry, my friend who taught pre-k, myself when I was temping right out of college.
            Even the fully employed with health insurance struggle with medical costs – I can’t recall the number right now, but a sizable portion of the people who filled bankruptcy due to medical costs were people with insurance.  My parents ended up losing their home when my dad got brain cancer–even though he had health insurance at the time.  (Even though he also received help from his church).
            It would be bittersweet to point out where we weren’t taking advantage of easily available medical programs, but looking back we did look and fight for health coverage that simply was not there for us.   It is there for some people, sometimes, but not for everyone and all needs.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Elizabeth-Masters-Hiatt/1089954620 Elizabeth Masters Hiatt

            It really depends on the state where you live. Where I am, if you don’t have children under 18, you do not qualify for any kind of medical coverage beyond 3 prescriptions per month with a $20 each copay. Medicare obviously helps out, but you have to be old enough or disabled to qualify. 

        • Anonymous

          Thanks for the made up numbers, sunburned.  Actually, the most anyone on Medicare has to pay for any outpatient surgery is $1158.  Thankfully, the Medicare payment to a hospital for repair of a detached retina is actually $1508-$2872.  So out of pocket, this surgery would cost a patient less than $600.

          However, not everyone has Medicare outpatient coverage, only inpatient coverage is automatic.  So if he can’t afford a simple exam, he probably can’t afford the Part B outpatient premiums.  But on the other hand, if he can’t afford that, he likely qualifies for Medicaid.  Ultimately, I think this fellow needs a social worker to help him navigate the healthcare system rather than a fundraiser.

          • Anonymous

            Huh, that’s cheap.  Does that include facilities and other services such as anaesthesia, recovery, etc?

          • Anonymous

            In more civilized countries you do’nt even have to think about the paperwork. A surgery like this one would cost less than 150$…

            • Anonymous

              You do have to worry about eventual governmental collapse along with near zero rates of private savings to cover the continued needs. In other words you have to worry about governmental economic incentives causing individual errors to cluster and be exposed in one large mess. Of course the US system is a very long way down this path too and has been for a long time. Well actually you don’t have to “worry” if you are a leftist who doesn’t understand any of this. Eventually you run out of other people’s money in the “civilized” world.

              • Anonymous

                These left wing nuts welfare lovers are not aware of the hamster wheel that they are running on.

    • Wintermute

       Fuck right off, please. Many Americans detest that we have a system that lets people down like this. Many of us are politically active to change that. Many of us also donate and work to pick up the slack when people are in need.  None of us have the power to unilaterally impose a system that would make this sort of grassroots social support unnecessary.  And I suspect most of us don’t need to be told how brutal we are.

      • Chip Cherry

        He said ‘your country’, not ‘your people’. 

        Horrified is right.  My dad had a detached retina and it was routine surgery and good as new.  No expenses except for prescription pills.  We’re in Canada.

      • heliflyer

        Horrified is right, it’s a terrible system, as someone who was born in Europe and now lives in the States I can relate to his remarks.  Just because he was attacking the system don’t take it personally.

        • Anonymous-Sam

           It’s even better when you know the system was created specifically to rip people off — that it was marketed as such to the then-president of the United States, who shrugged and couldn’t care less — and people still defend it to this day as the Best Medical System in the World.

      • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

         Whoa…”Fuck right off”…for pointing out the obvious truth? This country IS brutal compared to other developed countries when it comes to medical care. This is just a fact., like it or not.
        If it wasn’t true, then why are so “(m)any of us…politically active to change that”?
        Seems a bit contradictory to me.

        • Anonymous

           well it’s not uncommon for Europeans to use the problems with our govt to slander us as a people, which clearly wasn’t the intention, but I think the guy just took it the wrong way.

          • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

             I’ve been around the block a few times and have spent some time working overseas as well. I’m more than aware of the reputation that we Americans have, thanks.
            I might add that our reputation is well deserved. As we are a constitutional republic and elect our government, then who else should the rest of the world blame for our issues? Space aliens?
            In regards to this:
            “…I think the guy just took it the wrong way.”
            Yes, and that’s why I responded to his comment the way that I did.

        • Anonymous

          Awww… you want free education with that! What about welfare? Keep running on the hamster wheel, and let us know how that goes for you welfare lovers.

      • Aaron Scoggin

        Haha, that’s so right. In America, we have to pay for healthcare, and in many situations, even then, they say, “Sorry, we don’t cover that.” 

      • Mr.NeedtoKnow

        Keep running on the hamster wheel.

    • Anonymous

      Use your real name and I’ll discuss the realities of having to rely on a system that uses other people’s money, and the kindness of politicians. In the long term you’ll be screwed and you won’t have a clue why. We have a system which is a mess precisely to the extent that market has been hampered by government, and it was bound to get worse and worse too. The difference being that your system will hide it’s flaws right up till the very end until a Greek collapse, or via a Cuban style rationing.

    • http://twitter.com/yenmano Yen Mano

      Absolutely. Even in those developed countries, many religious organizations WERE the only social and health support for clients in trouble. These organizations became secularized (or lost contracts, couldn’t keep up with the pace of healthcare) as the state took over and demanded accountability and was as adding managed competition. 

      The U.S still has a lot of gaps, which gives religious groups a niche to fill – helping the homeless, uninsured etc as there is a huge patchwork of social care funding. It’s a bit easier for religious groups as they have the tax benefits and they can get revenue for these initiative and easily maintain non-profit status/charitable status. 

    • http://www.nationalhospitalityresources.com Joseph

      That is what makes our country great because people helping people, and not government helping people. This is what parts us from the rest of the world. While others awaiting for their mommy governmnt to take care of them, while here (USA) people rely on people.

      Perhaps you and the rest of the world can see that Americans take care of their own.

      • http://twitter.com/DangerousTalk Staks Rosch

         Mommy government IS the people!

        • Anonymous

          Keep running on the hamster wheel and let me know when you reach the destination.

      • http://www.facebook.com/ben.tousey Ben Tousey

         Hey Joseph, you seriously need a civics class. We ARE the government:
        OF the people, FOR the people and BY the people. That’s us.

        Second, you are so profoundly misinformed about how “great” our healthcare system is. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, our Healthcare system ranks 37th to the rest of the world.

        America is not “great,” and it’s due to the ignorance of people like you who chose to listen to Fox “news” rather than look for actual facts.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/6TMWGADCHW3VVQNLI3PRTGFSRY Cynthia

    Remember when the Stiefel Freethought Foundation, which, among other things, provides financial support to atheist groups, made a matching grant offer of $250,000 to the American Cancer Society? The Cancer Society turned the Foundation down. The Society knew that, in accepting a donation from an athiest-affiliated group, it would risk losing donations from religious folks and religious institutions across the country. Can’t have an athiest group appear in a charitable light: it might damage the narrative that only religious people are capable of charity and self-sacrifice. :(

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/cuttlefish Cuttlefish

    The rally in support of the nativity scene drew 5000 supporters.  If each Christian at that rally gave a dime, they’d have raised $500.  I wonder how many of them prayed for him instead of donating.

    The difference is not the people; the difference is the structure.  The very first I heard of this man’s problems was in an article describing the Christians’ gift to him.  (I must admit, I was expecting a larger, not a smaller, amount, but that sort of counterfactual thinking doesn’t constitute an argument.)  The church has a standing structure (expensive to maintain) that allows them to help (or, true, to merely pray and still feel they are helping).  So does the Red Cross, or Doctors Without Borders… but atheist organizations are fewer, further between, and less centrally connected.

    It is very good, what the Christians who donated have done.  If the average contribution was a dollar, then under 10% of the crowd at their rally gave.  If the average donation was $10, then fewer than 1% gave.  Those people are good people.  They had a structure in place to allow them to help quickly.  

    But I really don’t think they are what we want to emulate, and I really don’t think their example is what we should compare ourselves to.

  • http://nadiawilliams.wordpress.com/ Nadia Williams

    “In their mind, that’s what it means to be a Christian.” In my mind, it’s what it means to be human.

    When we become aware of a need, we move to fill it. Some of us feel driven to start charities (such as Responsible Charity), others to quietly support such charities, or to simply reach out to those who cross our paths. We each act in our own sphere, and don’t make a huge song and dance about it. Perhaps that’s why religious people are associated so often with doing good – they advertise. Big time. That doesn’t mean they have a monopoly on altruism.

    • Xeon2000

      Isn’t there something in their bible about advertising your generosity?

      • Gunn_rota_skuld

        Yes, Matthew 6:4-1

        • Gunn_rota_skuld

          Oops. Matthew 6:1-4

  • http://twitter.com/RonSly Ron Sly

    Why not raise the money to continue his lawsuit?

  • Anonymous

    Should we also sing the praises of all the great Catholic work being done in Africa, you know, the condemnation of birth control and condoms and such?
    Pardon me for being a cynic, I’ve actually done work with the Baptist Brotherhood after hurricane Katrina, and I know that everything they do has at least two purposes, one of which is the furthering of their sect. 400 bucks buys some pretty good P.R. in this case, even, disappointingly, with popular atheist blogger(s).
    I just noticed your **Update** but I’m posting this anyway because I’m all grumpy and shit this morning.

  • heliflyer

    The Atheist movement needs more people like Patrick, people who are willing to put themselves in the front line as plaintiffs.  I donated $25 and hope others will too.  Even if everyone sent just 5 bucks it would not take long to raise the $20k he needs.  I know some people have said this sets a bad precedent, but not everyone is willing to take a stand the way Patrick has.

  • http://twitter.com/happy_skeptic David

    However “good” it may look, they’re ultimately doing it in order to proseltyze, to show him the “love of Jesus.” How condescending is that!? However, you’re spot on Hemant. Where were the atheists to take care of their own? 

    • Xeon2000

      Where were the atheists to take care of their own? Your question sounds bizarre to me. I think it’d be better to ask: where were the fellow humans to take care of their own? Or perhaps, why didn’t government healthcare take care of this? (we already covered this extensively in other comments)

  • Rwerdja

    The part of the story I had the most trouble with was Mr. Greene willing to buy a star for the nativity scene.  Can someone be so easily “bought?” All it took was $400 and he’s willing to contribute to the thing he was originally fighting against?  What happened to the Constitution?  What about other Atheists or other members of the community that are not followers of Jesus? I found this story sad all the way around. Sad that they only raised $400 for this man, and sad that he was  so quick to change his stance.

    • Gus Snarp

      Yeah, that’s more than a little weird. Some Christians help him out financially when he has a need, so he buys a star for the nativity he’s been fighting against because it’s clearly unconstitutional? Something frankly doesn’t smell right about this story.

  • Gus Snarp

    The fundamental problem is that there are too many people in need. As you note, we cannot help everyone who needs help, even churches acknowledge that. In this case it appears that even with the help he’s gotten, he still can’t get what he needs, which means its really no help at all. 

    Perhaps people who make an effort to base their decisions on reason prioritize a bit differently. That doesn’t make us less good than Christians. I prioritize my giving by donating to a local (secular) food bank and homeless shelter who are far more capable of using my money to help more people in need than I ever could, as well as to local institutions that educate and inspire interest in science including the science museum, zoo, and library.

    Meanwhile, I advocate for single payer, universal health care every chance I get, and I advocated for Obama’s health plan in the mean time. In the end, we can end situations like this entirely simply by switching to a more humane and cost effective mechanism for health care distribution, and not by any other means.

    So I hadn’t heard of this guy or his problem, and it still isn’t going to go on my donation list. That doesn’t make me evil, nor does it make me evil to say no to a homeless person asking for spare change. I can’t help everyone who needs it. Atheists all acting together can’t help everyone who needs it. Churches acting together can’t help everyone who needs it. What I can do is prioritize my giving and work to achieve a system that will insure that no one has to go without health care the only way that can realistically be achieved.

    Churches are very good at taking on a few local charity cases to create a good impression, but while any individual involved may be helping out of the kindness of their heart, the overall effect of this kind of giving is to convince people to say: “look how good these churches are because they did this”, while millions of other people go without needed health care every day. It looks like they’re just great in terms of PR, but it doesn’t make them better. Even if some atheists weren’t trying to raise funds in this case, your argument is dead wrong.

    • Gus Snarp

      Let me revise my first paragraph after reading the linked story, apparently the donations were never for surgery, they were to help him financially while he got his social security income started, so it helped in that way.

    • Rebecca Sparks

      I think Mehta is wrong in the details, but he does touch on something I do miss about churches–or at least comes close to it.  Churches work much like a kinship network-meaning that resources are pooled to help all members and the surrounding community.  My dad as a counciling pastor was very adept at using this network–he helped people find housing, cars, short term care, cheap mental health services, babysitting, moving help, etc.  Churches aren’t the only social network where this happens-neighborhoods and families are other examples.  Social networks are not mutually exclusive either, so you could be getting help from a variety of sources when in need.  However, when you leave the church, you give up one of these potential networks, and atheists don’t have a similar structure to replace it.

      That is not to say that atheists don’t mobilize.  This gentleman does have a fundraiser going for him.  Mehta has himself started several fund drives like scholarships or the donations for the vandalized church.  And on a larger scale, there are several secular charities.  And on a even larger scale, atheists do advocate for long-term solutions like SLP or other humanitarian causes.   However, since most of my experience with atheists are through blogs, they can’t really meet more flexible needs like an emergency babysitter or bringing over food after a family death.  Whether you think the atheist community should meet these needs or not, if the atheists can’t point to a secular replacement to these services, the people who depend on the churches aid cannot really afford to break away from the church.

      -edited, because Disqus deleted my paragraph break

  • signedout

    This post really pissed me off. I don’t have any money to give, barely to live. When I called the local help line for some charity towards my utility bill they told to call [ x org] but also recommended I ask a church. Really? That’s my options? And atheist blogs are constantly asking for donations or scholarships towards people who have more money than I do, and a bright future. 

    Don’t yell at us, man. I can’t help this guy out.

  • Anonymous

    “I thought he must have never felt the love of God through Christians. I also thought about how scary that must be.”I’m sooooooooo scared without the love of the toothfairy, how can i sleep at night while i am uncertain whether or not i get a buck if i put a tooth under my pillow….

  • Nude0007

    I dunno, it seems to me they were hoping he would drop the case if they were nice to him (and it worked), which makes me question his atheism. What’s right and the law should not be negotiable.  I would have never sold out the truth and the law just because they were nice to me. Also, I don’t think the atheist community was given a proper chance to donate.  Seems rather fishy to me. This is all a little too pat for me, especially since someone here posted he decided not to get the surgery after all, but apparently the case is still dropped. I smell a rat.
    I hope the FFRF finds another plaintiff and continues the case.

  • anon atheist

    I sympathize with the guys condition, but he is probably not the best
    representative for atheism:
    http://atheistexperience.blogspot.de/2008/07/patrick-greene-checks-in.html

  • kjbu

    The Christians here did this to show God’s love to this gentleman.  As a Christian myself, I  am motivated, compelled and driven by God’s  love.  Understood, this love isn’t always shown in Christians’ actions, but that is the reason why Christ died for the world – to save sinners – and Christians are sinners, just saved sinners.  Praying for all who are involved with this blog tonight!! :)

    • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

      “The Christians here did this to show God’s love…”
      Your god could have just prevented the retinal detachment from happening in the first place. Of course, that would be too fucking easy.
      “Praying for all who are involved with this blog tonight!! :)”
      What specifically are you praying for? What do you wish to happen? 
      So…you have a wish for all involved on this blog tonight and you appeal to your deity to grant you this special request. You must be special to have the confidence that an all-knowing, all-powerful being will change his cosmic plans just for you.

      • kjbu

        I am praying for you as I type this.  It really sounds like you have a lot of anger.  God wants everyone to know Him through His Son, Jesus.  That is not changing God’s plans just for me.  Those have been God’s plans for a long time.  Understand my heart.  I have no agenda except that you hear from a Christian who is truly concerned about you and others.
        Thanks for reading this.

        • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

          “It really sounds like you have a lot of anger.”

          If I had a penny for every time I’ve heard that from a butt hurt theist who just got stumped by one of my tough questions, I’d sell my businesses and retire. Can’t answer a question? No problem! Just call the individual asking the tough questions “angry” and the problem goes away. It’s magic!
          Of COURSE it SOUNDS that way to you because you aren’t used to having someone
          rational call you out on your silliness. You thought you were going to prance
          into our living room, take a giant shit on the carpet and flit out again
          without anyone saying so much as “boo” to you. You made a conscious
          decision to post your idiocy (and that’s exactly what it is) on an atheist
          blog. Don’t be surprised when one of us decides to call you to account for what
          you write. 

           “That is not changing God’s plans just for me.  Those have been
          God’s plans for a long time.”

          If this is the case, then why do you need to pray?
          Notice how you managed to completely avoid answering my question in the first
          place? How convenient. If you have such conviction and faith, answer the
          question.

          “… a Christian who is truly concerned about you and others.”

          If you’re REALLY concerned, how about letting us do as we wish and you go on
          doing what YOU wish and leave us alone? How about convincing your brothers and
          sisters to abide by the U.S. Constitution? If you want good relations
          with atheists, gushing on about how you love Jesus and are praying for us isn’t
          the way to do it.

          • Ndonnan

            My,somone needs a hug.xxx

            • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

              Only if you’re under 40, attractive, female and not looking for something permanent.

              • Ndonnan

                No,No,No andNo,darnit

              • Kjbu

                My agenda here is not political here. I can only speak from my heart. My intention was not to hurt you in any way, and nothing you post here makes me the least bit upset at you or anyone else. I really do care for you as a person, and will still pray for you. You asked me to answer your question. You asked two, and I will do my best.

                “What specifically are you praying for?”

                I am specifically praying for you, the person I am exchanging posts with – you have identified yourself as “The Godless Monster”. I am praying that God would reach into your life and touch your heart and show you His love. I am praying that, even though I am far from perfect, I can write something that demonstrates His love.

                “What do you wish to happen?”
                I wish that you would know that there is a real God who loves you. So much that He sent His Son to die on a cross and rise from the dead for you. I wish that you would turn to Him and become a Christian.
                Mr. Godless Monster, I truly do care about you and wouldn’t have taken the time to respond if I didn’t. I have no political, social or any other agenda in writing this other than to let you know that God really does love you, and I really care for you as a fellow human being.

  • Ndonnan

    Sounds to me when he saw 5000 people protest his action it put it into perspective exactlly what it was he was doing and the people he was affecting.It might be a legal point he was making,not that i belive it was why the law was made or in the spirit of the law,but remember,you can be 100% right and still be wrong.That is why the churches response in the natural would have been to say ,”serves him right”,instead they showed a better way.This has been a win/win,well done everyone.

  • Anonymous

    Had they removed the nativity scene and donated money then they would have looked good. I donated $100 with no religious strings attached so he can pursue his own beliefs without worrying about his health. I did NOT identify my own personal religious beliefs to attach to this donation. The point isn’t to make a religion “look good”. I don’t expect him to pursue his lawsuit either. He is in no financial or health condition to do so.

    I view the Christian behavior here the same way I view the use of mobster money to put on fireworks displays. The have used the real power of government to institute true privileges for their beliefs, and a token amount of $400 contributed by their entire community isn’t getting them off the hook for their criminal behavior.

  • Will Riddle

    Your post echoes the same problem that the Emperor Julian faced when he wanted to return the Roman empire to paganism.   As we know, he failed.   The entire premise of Christianity is that an external diety demands that you care about other people.   You can’t replicate that in a non-creedal system.     

    This corporate dimension of Christianity is one of the reason that it outperforms other systems and has a viral dimension that no one has ever successfully stopped over the long run, and I would suggest no one is likely to do so.  With perhaps militant Islam coming closest.   Which, really, is that a step forward?   Some atheists seem to think so, which really boggles the mind.   

    Furthermore, the removal of Christianity from Western culture is not being replaced successfully with atheism.   It’s being replaced by a variety of other belief systems.   Atheism functions best as a critique of Christianity, and poorly on it’s own. 

  • Chris Goodson

    Churches like to give money to people. Especially when it makes them look good, or when they can use it to bribe people to their cause.

    True story. Recently My dad heard a story from someone in our little rural community about how a man and his wife had shown up at a church one Sunday. After the service a few members of the congregation approached them to welcome them to church. They struck up a conversation and soon learned that the couple had been through some hard times. The man had been in jail and they were having trouble making ends meet. So they took up a collection and gave them $50.

    Of course it turns out that this was the guy who had broken into my parents home and stolen their cameras, stereo, and computer with a year’s worth of pictures of my daughter that we can never replace. My mom and 3-year-old daughter arrived while he was leaving the home, endangering them. When the cops caught him, he confessed but refused to tell where my parents’ items were. That’s why he had been in jail.

    But it’s all okay because he loves Jesus too. I’d like to think skeptics would have been a little smarter.

  • http://twitter.com/az90125 A Z

    If the christians really cared about the man, they would give anonymously.  Instead, they 
    are
    bleating about it in public, sneering in a sing-song voice 
    that “We’re better than yo-ou!”

    Good deeds don’t need rewarding, no matter if that reward is money, gifts, or improving your public image.  This was not a “good deed”, it was self-aggrandizing.

  • SMOG

    If any of you voted republican then you have no right to complain.

  • Sam

    I had a somewhat related experience to Mr. Greene recently. About 3 weeks ago, a tornado hit my little town of Henryville, IN & my house, like many, suffered significant damage. 

    Over the course of the following week, I had many surreal moments of christians delivering free meals to my door.  I couldn’t help but feel sincere appreciation towards these people who, I believe, were motivated by & felt genuine compassion, even if cognitively they may have rationalized their motivations in religious terms.

    I could not bring myself to accept their generosity, however well-intentioned.  My sincere appreciation was contaminated by a feeling of vague unease.  I couldn’t give these people validation for what consciously motivated them, and while their good example brought me shame over my own lack of significant community support, I still feel that any altruism, no matter how well-intentioned, is sullied somewhat by any attached advertising.

    That goes for secular groups, too.  No doubt, any help is better than no help; however, the moment you try to correlate you benevolence with a group label, you are engaged in advertising & propaganda.  We should be doing good for goodness’ sake, right?  Not trying to improve the image of a group or set of ideas from which benevolent acts do not logically follow.  Perhaps that mild criticism does not apply to humanist groups.

  • http://twitter.com/DangerousTalk Staks Rosch

    I don’t think you have the full background here. Besides, it seems like Greene’s beliefs are for sale to the highest bidder and I’m not bidding on that. Here is my article on the media coverage on this: http://t.co/jwWa5HI5 

  • Anonymous

    Keep running on the hamester wheel buddy let us know how far you can go. The current government is socialist therefore it not the people, but a powerful bunch of morons like you who are narrow mind and welfare lovers like you.


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