Forget Prayer; This Is How You Can Do Something Useful Regarding the Wildfire Crisis in Colorado

One of the benefits of Foundation Beyond Belief is that we can coordinate a response in the case of a crisis. The Colorado wildfires are no exception. While some people are just talking about sending their prayers, we atheists know that prayers won’t help anybody.

But there is a way to actually help.

Here’s what we’ve learned about this specific tragedy:

Every disaster event has a different profile and a unique set of needs. In Colorado, the most pressing funding need is not for food, shelter, first aid, or rescue, but for immediate support of seriously underfunded and understaffed first responders.

Several local funds have been established to support the current emergency needs of these firefighting units, as well as the extensive restoration efforts that will follow. Donations made on this page will be distributed among the following agencies:

If you can chip in to help firefighters in Colorado, please donate here. Not only will 100% of your donations (minus PayPal fees) go to the fire departments, you’ll be doing it as a group of atheists instead of simply by yourself. You’ll be disproving the notion that you need god to be good.

Please help out.

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://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

    I think its great that your response is so good. You’re first sentence alludes that the church nor Christians are capable of responding when a crisis hits though. That’s ridiculous considering since religious organizations have championed relief efforts all over the world. 

    How many times have you actually gone to a disaster area to help lend a hand as well as your money? I’m not talking about just $20 here and there either. I’m talking about giving until it hurts: taking money from your savings to help out in times of global stress.

    I’m so glad that you are  giving, but please do not even try to act like your organization is so much better than organizations such as Samaritan’s purse or the many other religious charities that go at relief efforts with all of their might. 

    Stop comparing yourselves to organizations like this is some kind of a competition. If it was, you would be getting owned. 

    Just simply say that your organization would like to help with a need, describe the need, and explain how it help. There’s no need to try and cast stones. Especially since it would be a sad, one-sided comparison if we started comparing numbers.

    • M J Shepherd

      In case you missed the previous article that laid out where this one was coming from, your fellows covered by the media were busy bemoaning their lack of godly intervention–they’ve been praying SO HARD!–instead of what can be done materially through fellow human beings, proving our point.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

        I think I did miss it. When I scroll down the next article I see is about some guy  not liking condoms or something and spinning statistics :/

    • fett101

      How much of that time and money goes towards directing these people in bad situations towards the “proper faith”?

    • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

      If you’re going to tell others not to cast stones, perhaps you should refrain from doing so yourself. 

    • Annie

      Momma J- Put your money where your mouth is, and give through this atheist organization.  It’s all just helping others, so what does it matter which group you give through?

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

        Done. Wish as always that I could do more. My dad worked as a volunteer firefighter when he was younger. Days like these, since I have summers off anyways being a teacher, makes me wish I was trained and could physically help as well.

        • Annie

          Awesome!  Doesn’t it feel good to just give… with no strings attached?  My dad was a volunteer firefighter too.  I’m a teacher as well, and try to fit in as much volunteer work as I can during the summer (only because the school year is so hectic, as I’m sure you know). 

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

            It’s so true about the schedule thing! 

            I often do just give as well when causes come up and on a regular basis. The biggest thing that I “just give” to is MDA every year. I had a close friend in elementary/ jr.high school who suffered from it and passed away when she was in 8th grade. 

            I’m pretty sure if I didn’t give up so much then my house would have been paid for by now and I wouldn’t be worrying about my budget so much. With my first kiddo on the way it’s hard to give (time and/or money) these days, but we keep on pushing right?

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      While I agree this shouldn’t be a pissing match, I’ve also a little annoyed at the number of times I’ve had people telling me to pray about the CO fires.  I’m sure you don’t see that as ‘pissing’ but I find it tiresome.

  • Cincinatheist

    Since you specifically called out Samaritan’s Purse as an example, I will use it as an example of what is atheists usually hate about Christian-centric relief organizations. The aid usually comes with a healthy dose of Jesus. Here’s your food and water…and bible or pamphlet. God loves you. We don’t like to give our money to these organizations because bibles don’t feed people. Bibles, pamphlets, and tracts don’t provide supplies that these firefighters need. However, bibles and other outreach materials do cost money. Money that could have been spent on stuff that actually helps. Like food and water. And let’s not forget evangelical shenanigans like Samaritan’s Purse pulled in 2001, where they made earthquake victims sit through prayer meetings before the villagers could receive their aid.

    That’s why we like to give our money through efforts like this FBB one. The funds go to help people on the ground with stuff that will keep them alive. Not spent to send prayer warriors to disaster sites to hand out paper with nonsense printed on it.

    ETA: this was of course supposed to be in reply to mommaJ above. But my godless fingers are apparently too fat for my phone’s intelligently designed virtual keyboard.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

      I just used them as an example. Of course there are organizations that do things that you mentioned. It varies. That is not usually not how they work, but apparently the regional director there thought it was a good idea. I didn’t read the article and I wasn’t there to experience it so I admit my ignorance of this story. I’d love to read a link if you have time to find it though.

       In studying the Bible, Jesus Himself would sometimes provide for the physical hurt first and then address the spiritual issues at hand  and at other times it was reversed. So either one can be Biblical. What Christian charity does not want to be known for is a free hand out. The Bible shares a story of Jesus Himself, turning away a group of people because they were more interested in a free meal than they were of actually addressing heart issues. The crowd in particular was a crowd of moochers. On the other hand, there are stories of Him providing just what the crowd needed too. I suppose it’s situational. My church spent all week putting on 3 three roofs for free for houses being re-constructed down in Joplin, MO. We never did talk about our beliefs unless someone asked us first. That’s kind of the way I roll. I’m not going to run down the streets shoving material (tracts, videos, pamphlets) in people’s faces, but if someone asks what my motivation is then I’m prepared to answer with a Bible based answer. Believe it or not, just because a group of people call themselves Christian, it doesn’t mean that their charity has than less than authentic. The norm is actually quite opposite usually from my experience. Go and help some people out in need and if the conversation turns to my belief system then it’s the icing on the cake. If not, just plain cake is good too and has value in and of itself. 

      • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

         ”What Christian charity does not want to be known for is a free hand out.”

        FSM forbid people be given something simply because they need it, with no strings attached. 

        “The Bible shares a story of Jesus Himself, turning away a group of
        people because they were more interested in a free meal than they were
        of actually addressing heart issues.”

        In other words, the people wanted to get the food without listening to a sermon.  What selfish ninnies they were. 

        “The crowd in particular was a crowd of moochers. ”

        Yes, people in need who don’t want to have somebody’s religion forced on them as a condition of receiving charity are “moochers”. 

        This is one of the things I most detest about religious “charity”.  It so often comes with strings attached (listen to my sermon, take these tracts, attend services at our church).   It also comes with a heaping dose of judgement as to who is or isn’t “worthy” of receiving services.  These people are “mooches”.  We don’t want to serve icky gays because they violate our beliefs.  Those people brought situation X on themselves so let them deal with it.

        The Colorado fires affect an area that’s chock full of anti-gay, extremely conservative Christian groups.  If we operated the way many Christian charities did we’d declare that they weren’t worth our concern because everything they say and do goes against our moral principles.  Or if we did help we’d pair our money with sermons on how gods and prayers are useless and copies of Dawkins and Hitchens books.  But instead we’re organizing efforts to help them *because it’s the right thing to do*, and nothing more. 

        Why don’t Christians realize that “charity” that comes with strings isn’t charity at all?  Charity should come from the heart, and from a genuine willingness to help.  If it only comes from a desire to appease a god, to promote one’s religion, or from some other selfish desire, it’s not charity.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

          How is desire to appease God selfish?

          And yes, the people in the Biblical account were literally moochers. They chose not to work, yet wanted a free hand out. The previous crowd who Jesus helped were actually in need. It had nothing to do with them not wanting to hear about religion or not.

          • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

             ”How is desire to appease God selfish?”

            When you’re engaging in “charity” with the intent of getting brownie points from your god, you’re not actually engaging in charity.  Quid-pro-quo isn’t charity.   There’s nothing benevolent in giving just so you can receive.   

            • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

              You really don’t understand Christianity at all do you? There are no brownie points to earn. I think you’e confusing Christianity with Catholicism or maybe  Islam. 

              The Bible teaches that no amount of good works can earn you fellowship with God. Instead you accept Jesus as a personal Savior. That’s all one has to do. I don’t try to earn “brownie points” at all. The idea of doing so doesn’t make sense. How could I, a person who consistently does wrong in His sight, ever do enough to appease a perfect God? Answer: I can’t. For if I’ve broken only a single point in God’s law, I am technically, undeniably guilty of breaking His law. 

              But He provides a way out as the punishment has already been taken.

              • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

                 Ah, one of the classic Christian canards.  Either tell me I took the Bible verse out of context or that I just don’t understand Christianity.

                I understand Christianity just fine.  I was a Christian for 20 years.  Then I woke up. 

                • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

                  Clearly you were not. You just went through the motions and pretended to be one to make someone (maybe your parents) happy or just conformed to what you thought were societies standards. 

                  No where in my Bible talks about earning credit with God and no you didn’t even quote a verse so you couldn’t have taken it out of context. However, context does matter. How could it not? If you say context does not matter than you will have lost any credibility.

                  I thought atheists were supposed to be able to “reason” ?!?!

                • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

                  There’s the other Christian fall back “You weren’t a True Christian”.  You’re so bloody predictable.  It’s OK, it goes with the territory.    Have a Blessed Day now.  

                • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

                  You’re predictable too though. I typed this knowing that you would go to this argument, but thought that MAYBE you wouldn’t go there. But alas, you did. 

                  You too are predictable. Did I ever say that MY form of Christianity is the only one that is the True one? PLEASE quote me on this. 

                  No? Didn’t think so. Stop putting words into my mouth for a change and focus on what people are saying, not what you want them to say. 

                • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

                   You’re the one who used the No True Scotsman fallacy and you whining about me “going there”.  Rich.  You go Yaweh and I’ll go mine.

                • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

                  Nope.I didn’t use the Scotsman fallacy at all. It’s calledCalvinism deary. 

                  Maybe you heard something about it during those 2o years?

                  If you had, then you wouldrealize that I’m just appling it ratherthan using the fallacy. 

                  And exactly wherein my posts did I whineabout you bringing up the subject? 

                  I love me some logical debate when people actuallys slow down and read what the other person is saying ratherthan dismissing as “oh hear we go again” and applying some third grade argument to try and escape the issuesat hand. 

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  Did I ever say that MY form of Christianity is the only one that is the True one?

                   I think you’e confusing Christianity with Catholicism

                  I have both both RC and Protestant family.Trust me, I get the schism.  But from my POV, it’s really hilarious to see one group waving the bible saying that the other group waving the bible aren’t doing it right.

      • Cincinatheist

        I didn’t have anything immediately on hand. I just remembered reading about the incident a few years ago. Most reliable and expository reference that I can come up with at the moment is this NY Times article:  
        http://www.nytimes.com/2001/03/05/world/05SALV.html?pagewanted=all

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

          No problem. Thanks. I know it can be a problem. There are actually several books on the subject: When Helping Hurts and another one that I have added to my need to read list, Toxic Charity.

           Charity can be done wrong. That’s for sure. I’m not going to deny that at all. Just saying that some, possibly FBB as well, are capable of doing a good job is all. I just hate it when people paint pictures with such broad strokes. 

          The article says “officials of Samaritan’s Purse note that the group does not condition its help on acceptance of specific religious belief”,but I think your issue might be more with them using government funds to help their platform that they use to share the Gospel. I would tend to agree with you on that one Cinci if that is the issue. The fact that a charity gives a presentation prior to giving aid I do not have a problem with, IF it’s from private funds.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

            For whatever reason though, Samaritan’s Purse is one of THE few groups that have gone into difficult places such as N.Korea to provide aid and health care. I don’t understand exactly why that is, but I do know that there is some kind of a connection b/w government funds and this organization. What I do not know is how their budget breaks down. 

            Perhaps the funds the government gives them ONLY provides supplies while the donations from private funds goes to supplies and religious tracts or something. I don’t know because I’m not their financial guru, but it would be something worth investigating I think.

      • Donalbain

         What Christian charity does not want to be known for is a free hand out.

        Errr… moron. That is what charity IS. It is a free hand out. If it isn’t free and a handout, it isn’t charity.

  • Annie

    I almost didn’t give anything, as I am helping out a friend in need at the moment, which is rather costly and will be for several months.  But then I thought, ‘if everyone just gave $5, FBB would raise tons of money.’  When you get to the site, it appears that the smallest amount one can give is $10, but you can type in any amount you like.  It gladly took my fin.  Sure, it’s not much, and if you can afford more, I don’t want to dissuade anyone, but I wanted to let people know that any amount seems to be accepted.  Thanks for the link Hemant.

  • Randomfactor

    It’s come to this…bakesales for firefighters.  Sigh.

    Yes, I’m in.  And after the fires are out, maybe politicians can lower the taxes again so as to starve those soshulist fire departments.

    http://dontmesswithtaxes.typepad.com/dont_mess_with_taxes/2010/09/tax-cut-crazy-colorado.html

    • Randomfactor

       And PayPal is taking a cut?  I think maybe someone didn’t set up correctly for donations?

  • http://inandoutoftheditch.blogspot.com/ Matt H

    Though I disagree with mommaJ here, I think this whole thing/frame that people who pray don’t provide support is just trying to be inflammatory. If anything, by bringing it up you also want to use this tragedy to simultaneously help people (which is good and noble) while generalizing and putting other people down (whether or not they do stupid stuff on top of praying, or whether they do real and quantitative good and pray).

    That’s just stupid and shallow. C’mon man, just post about helping instead of those side jabs and crap.

    • http://www.facebook.com/chrisalgoo Chris Algoo

      Does prayer help put out fires in ways that secular methods can’t?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

      That was exactly my point of my original response which I believe has since disappeared for some reason. 

      Just talk about the need and how to help rather than trying to polarize us even more. We do that enough already :(

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    C-note given. Hope it helps. Residents and responders, please stay safe.

  • Mary P

    DONE! Thanks for the link!

    My dad was a professional firefighter for 38 years. His brother for 30. Dad was also a certified NYS instructor for 14 years and has his scanner on every day to listen to the county’s emergencies.

    When we see this kind of tragedy we have such concern for the first responders

  • Falconer33

    What disgusts me is for over a decade the Russians have offered us their large “fire bomber” aircraft (11,000 gallons spread 3000ft by 200ft) and they have been ignored. Their pilots are experienced in fighting fires in mountains even (Greece 1999 I believe). 

    • Randomfactor

      I am not a firefighter, nor do I play one on TV.  But I’d suspect that sources of water for such a plane would be problematical. 

      I’ve also recently heard the bomber flights called “CNN drops” because they look good on TV but aren’t necessarily effective on the fires.  (This was in connection with some folks trying to make political hay over a reduced number of tankers available in recent years.)

      • MaryP

        I’m just a private pilot, but, think it may have to do with load limit and the altitude in CO.
        The Russian plane sounds like a good idea,however.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          Also depends on a lot of other details, like how long to get the plane here, and is it in US standards flight condition, and who pays for repairs and do we really not have closer tankers (California e.g.) we can call on.


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