Rebecca Vitsmun struck a chord with people. Maybe it’s because she was so forthright, yet so harmless, when she told Wolf Blitzer she was an atheist. Maybe it’s because she was a breath of fresh air after seeing victim after victim of the Oklahoma tornado thanking God for anything and everything (except, of course, the tornado). Maybe it’s because we hope that we, too, can be as comfortable in our atheistic shoes as she was in the face of a famous newscaster asking her about her faith on national television.
Chris Trejbal found something else to admire in her interview:
Atheists are questioners who rely on reason. Her skepticism saved her life. Had she blindly accepted the Oklahoma dogma that you stay put, she and Anders would probably be dead. Instead, she analyzed the circumstances and made a rational decision. She is a woman with no need of gods, only her own quick thinking and courage.
All of that goodwill had to go somewhere and it’s truly amazing how people are coming together for her family.
The American Humanist Association quickly set up a fund to support Vitsmun:
The response from our membership to the CNN story was already overwhelming: many American Humanist Association members saw the CNN interview and wanted to support Rebecca directly. Humanist Charities’ recently made contact with Rebecca, and we’ve created a special fund for her and her family, money that will be used to rebuild her home and support her family during this difficult time.
Yesterday, they raised $10,000 in a matter of hours and immediately PayPal-ed that money to Rebecca. And they’re not done collecting yet.
Similarly, comedian Doug Stanhope began an Indiegogo campaign for Vitsmun with a lofty goal of $50,000, a goal that was blown out of the water in less than a day:
As of Friday 24th May we have cleared the initial $50,000 target. In truth, we had no idea how generous and giving our community would prove to be. We reached our goal within 17 hours of starting. An Indiegogo deadline cannot be changed once it has been set. So this campaign will continue until July 22 2013. At that point the financial cogs will turn and the moneys raised will be delivered to Rebecca Vitsmun. There is no reason for us to stop raising funds. The median cost of a home in Moore, OK is $125, 250, and that was back when they had homes. More importantly, the more money we raise the better the example we set.
(Be sure to check out the perks for contributing!)
What’s even more amazing about Stanhope’s campaign is that, as I write this, only one person has given $500 and no one has given more. The $50,000+ was raised in much smaller increments, courtesy of many, many people.
To be sure, I admit to feeling a little uncomfortable donating to someone only because she’s an atheist. In the wake of a crisis like this, I would much rather raise money with other atheists that could go to everyone who needs it, atheist or not — but that’s not to say you shouldn’t donate in this case. Like I said earlier, Vitsmun’s comment did much more than just make Wolf Blitzer feel awkward — she made us look good! — and it’s a very good sign when our community can come together to help one of our own.