How Can Atheists Help in the Aftermath of the Oklahoma Tornado?

The death toll from the massive tornado in Oklahoma is already above 50 and climbing and the damage financially and otherwise is likely to be staggering, too.

Like other natural disasters, people of all faith backgrounds are affected by the devastation, and while you can always donate to the Red Cross, the Foundation Beyond Belief wants to offer atheists a way to donate as a group to relief organizations that directly help the people in Oklahoma who need it the most. As always, 100% of your donations will be passed along to relief organizations:

We will name a beneficiary tomorrow, but the window for donating is now open.

Whatever you do, please do something.

God won’t make things better in Oklahoma; it’s up to us.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    The guys on the weather channel tonight told me to pray before going to bed. So I think I’ll just make a prayer donation and let the ISW choose what to do with it.

    • http://twitter.com/WoodwindsRock Emma

      I can’t fathom why believers think that praying would do anything. The all-knowing God let the tornado go straight through two elementary schools, and 20 children are reported dead. If he did care, he certainly would have done something earlier.

      Of course, such a God is imaginary. I just can’t understand how they rationalize this.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

        A man recording video supposedly came out of his storm shelter which saved his life as well as his families and said this.

        The Lord giveth and Lord taketh away.

        Those supposedly where his first words after coming out and looking around at everything being gone.

        Edit: Here is the video: http://youtu.be/dCbhnPfEvF8?t=27s

        Now if someone said that line to me after I just lost my daughter to the storm I would end up in jail for assault.

      • primenumbers

        Prayer does does something – it makes the pray-er feel better while not actually doing anything. It resolves their dissonance of thinking they should be doing something and knowing that they’re not going to lift a finger.

    • JET

      Prayer for god’s guidance might result in donations to the Red Cross, food banks or shelters. Funny how quiet time thinking about a situation (and conversations technically with one’s self) might cause god to suggest a way to help. Sad that some adults need to be told by an imaginary father figure to do the right thing.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Donation made. Thank you Hemant, and Foundation Beyond Belief for doing this.

  • randall.morrison90

    Good post, and then you had to take a swipe at theism at the end.
    Never let it be said that atheists let a tragedy go to waste and lose a chance to make some internet points for atheism; if you are so concerned why would it make any difference if the money went to the Red Cross, which already has people at the scene or an atheist organization which does not yet?

    • Stev84

      The Red Cross is a secular organization. They don’t do religious woo.

    • SeekerLancer

      I went to the comments specifically to see if this tired old post about “Internet points” was here. You did not disappoint.

      There’s a link provided to donate directly to the Red Cross (which isn’t really religious anyway). I don’t see how that’s a swipe at theism. Also some of the money is probably going to go to the Red Cross anyway. This is just a way to donate as a group.

      Maybe it is “Internet points” but we’re sort of damned if we do, damned if we don’t. If we do donate as a group people like you bitch that we’re taking advantage of a tragedy for PR purposes. If we don’t donate as a group people will say atheists are heartless, selfish people who don’t donate to charities like religious people do.

      Personally I’ll take listening to your cynical banter in exchange for solid proof that atheists care as much as anyone else.

    • Gus Snarp

      “God won’t make things better in Oklahoma; it’s up to us.” That’s not a swipe at theism, it’s a simple fact.

      How about you find all the people in Oklahoma who are willing to rely on prayer alone without any human action or donations.

  • Lurker111

    The spouse & I were talking about how one could rationally live in Tornado Alley. I said the only way I’d live there is if I had an underground safe room for supplies, important papers and one-of-a-kind keepsakes. Everything above ground would have to be replaceable. Sort of a semi-bunker mentality.

    • Gus Snarp

      The Gulf and Atlantic coasts have hurricanes, the midwest has tornadoes to varying degrees, drought, flooding, and landslides. The west has wild fires, volcanoes, earthquakes, landslides, and tsunamis, everyone can experience massive storms of one kind or another. I’d love to produce a map of the United States, maybe even the world, but probability of death or loss due to any natural catastrophe. We could all do a risk benefit analysis of where we choose to live, but almost no one does, until there’s a catastrophe, at which point they over weight the risk. I happen to live in a place with minimal earthquake risk, far from the coast, with plentiful supplies of fresh flowing water and fairly average storm risk, not in tornado alley. But it’s still the midwest, and tornadoes still do significant damage from time to time, and the weakened remnants of a hurricane that made landfall hundreds of miles away knocked an oak tree onto my house.

      Knowing what’s valuable to you and how best to protect it from nature at reasonable cost is important for everyone, and anyone could find themselves in need of help.

      • allein

        I live in New Jersey; I suppose I prefer hurricanes – at least you get some notice to prepare for them. I’m relatively inland, though, so I’ve been spared the worst of the hurricanes I’ve lived through (though I still went a week without power after Sandy, partly due to the numerous big old trees in my town). My best friend half an hour away nearly lost her house to Sandy, though; they just moved back in a couple weeks ago and are still in the process of putting it all back together. Still, something about a tornado terrifies me more.

        • Anna

          I’ve always been terrified of tornadoes!

          I live in earthquake country, and I’m honestly not afraid of them at all. Yes, there’s a very small chance your house could be damaged or even collapse, but at least everything you own isn’t going to be swept off the face of the earth.

          • allein

            I think tornadoes are so much scarier because they come with much less warning, no time to evacuate like a hurricane. If you’re in the wrong place a hurricane can flatten your house just the same but you can at least have time to assess the likely level of danger and make arrangements to not be there. I love thunderstorms but when they start talking tornadoes I get really nervous. We’ve had a few small ones in recent(ish) years in my general area, but no major damage.
            .
            I’ve experienced one earthquake (well, 2, if you count the one I slept through when I was in high school). The Virginia earthquake a couple years ago shook me just a tiny bit here in NJ. I was just hanging out on my couch and it took me a minute to realize what had happened.

            • Anna

              We had the Loma Prieta earthquake in San Francisco in 1989. That was the strongest one I’ve ever felt. We didn’t really have time to be scared since it was over so quickly, and we were lucky not to have any damage.

              I used to have nightmares about tornadoes growing up, and I think it’s their sudden appearance and high potential for total destruction that makes them so frightening. They can just come along and blow everything away leaving no trace behind.

  • BadKitty

    Every time I see a post asking for prayers on behalf of the victims of the Oklahoma tornado, I reply with a link to the Red Cross. I think of all the people trying to understand why God would allow something like this to happen, and I wish they would understand that disasters such as this are proof that their God doesn’t exist. Disbelief eases the burden of wondering, “Why?”

    • FaithfulFollower

      Its interesting that people are always angry with God or discount him when disaster strikes. Bad things happen and its not God’s fault that they do. We all have limited time on this earth and we feel as though it is our right to live to 100+ That’s just not going to happen..You life is like a vapor…You are just not going to be here that long. When Christians say that they are praying for people, do not be so small minded to think that prayer is all that they do…almost all, as myself, give time, talent, and TREASURE to help when things like these happen..Just cause they don’t brag about it so that all can see they do, doesn’t mean that they don’t..

      James 2:14-18..We Christians (believers of God) do it!! Stop being judgmental as stereotyping based on you myopic view of faith.

      • BadKitty

        It’s interesting that all you got out of my comment was the absolutely wrong idea that I think Christians don’t physically help outside of praying, and it’s ironic that you accuse me of judging when you belong to one of the most judgmental religions on the planet, and proceed to do nothing but judge me. It’s also obvious that you don’t have the slightest idea of what I was talking about, but thanks for sharing.

        Your stereotypical comments just confirmed what you call my “myopic view” of faith. You had a chance to teach me good things about Christianity, but all you did make accusations. Do you even know how to share your faith with a nonbeliever without calling them “small-minded, “judgmental” and “myopic.” Obviously not.

  • sideshow billybob

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2013/05/21/god-religion-tornado-column/2346461/

    The cognitive dissonance is strong in the face of tragedy, sadly.

    • Miss_Beara

      It usually is.

      “In fact, God intervenes and comforts us in our darkest times.” If someone tells me that if I had a child die in a disaster, they should expect a fist in the face and many expletives.

      PEOPLE are the ones that are helping, not this god thing in the sky who seems to never do anything to stop tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, bullets, rape, abuse, etc. He still manages to get credit for intervening. I don’t get it.

      • FaithfulFollower

        God uses people to help…..That is how it works and how He set it up….Luke 6:38 is proof that God uses people, not money falling from heaven to make it work….We do not understand why bad things happen to good people..As a Christian, I do not fully understand, but I do know this, if your focus is on what happens to you here, you will will always be disappointed….How you choose to respond to it is something that you decide… Natural disasters are going to happen, but the thing to do it, come together and work to help one another to get through it …..

  • jcmmanuel

    The only credible, and honest, way for ‘atheists’ to help is in exactly the same way credible theists should do: by NEVER connecting any ‘humanist’ (humanity-wide) activities with a particular mind state such as theism or atheism, and just DOING the f*cking great humanist stuff, and cooperate with anyone in the field. Theists may perhaps pray, others may meditate – all of this can be done while doing good. All exclusivism has to be banned – at least that’s what grown-ups would do.

    The whole framework of thought that tends to sometimes ‘milk’ a good purpose (like gay support, or support in times of disaster etc) for the benefit of promoting a mind set narrower than humanism (= pertaining to all humans) is immature. Atheists do not have to copycat this from theistic fundies, they can do better, just like many reasonable, reliable, good ‘religious’ people do.

    Just my 2p on this.

  • Jim

    To Hemant (and all that donate),

    Thank you! I live in the southwest part of OKC (SW 134 and S May Ave). This is the second big blow that has been less than a mile from my house (the last one was May 3rd, ’99). When I poked my head out of my neighbors storm shelter and saw the tornado (about 1.5 miles away), I realized this was going to be bad.

    I’ve been fortunate. No family or friends were injured…however, several co-workers and friends have lost their houses or had severe damage. I’m just happy they’re safe.

    My electricity was on again about 15 hours later…and my ISP was up about 4 hours after that. You want to thank someone. It’s the rescue workers (like OKC Firehouse #35 near my house!!!) and the utility workers. They represent the best of humanity.


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