Iowa Atheists Team up with Local Church to Help Hungry Families on Thanksgiving

When the Upstate Atheists in South Carolina wanted to volunteer at the Spartanburg Soup Kitchen this past spring, they were told that atheists weren’t welcome.

When the Kansas City Atheist Coalition wanted to deliver meals to the hungry, the Kansas City Rescue Mission rejected their generosity.

When the Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers wanted to help families in need this Thanksgiving (brace yourself)… the Mount Hebron Missionary Baptist Church welcomed them with open arms.

The Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers group is collecting money to fund Thanksgiving Day meals for five Des Moines-area families in need from Mount Hebron Missionary Baptist Church.

“The point of this cause is to reach out to families in need, regardless of their religion.” Christopher James of Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers said in a news release. “Both parties put their beliefs aside for the greater good to help these families in need for Thanksgiving. It’s coexisting for a moment and working together to help our community.”

Volunteers from both groups will meet at 7:30 a.m. Thursday at the church, 1338 Ninth St., and will deliver meals catered by Dahl’s to the families.

The atheists raised $761 for the families will deliver the food along with gift cards to the needy families on Thursday, alongside one of the church’s deacons and his wife.

Glad to see this partnership work out after those disappointing ones in other states.

***Update***: I spoke too soon. I’m told that after seeing this item in the newspaper, the church deacon and his wife decided not to accompany the atheists as they delivered the meals and gift cards. I’m not sure why, other than they didn’t want people to know they were fraternizing with atheists…

(Image via the Des Moines Register)

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.

  • JBryson

    Any Atheist group interested in teaming up with a church in order to do things for needy people this holiday season should probably contact their local Unitarian Universalist congregation in order to see if they’re able to do so. U.U. churches have generally been supportive of the atheist and humanist communities since their founding.

    • A3Kr0n

      The UU church in my town meets at the First Congregational Church. Would that be considered odd, or not?

    • Carmin

      We wanted to think outside the box, and not go the easy route. We had many church people that were unwilling to talk to us. They’d rather have their needy parishioners go hungry than accept our help.

  • Jeff See

    In my opinion, any atheist group that wants to do charity work, should just go ahead and do it. Stop trying to gain any level of acceptance with the religious crowd; it’s never going to happen. Those of us who were religious first, know that, and prior religious types make up a large chunk of the atheist population. I’m not sure of the reasoning behind the desire to meld the two types, even temporarily?

    There’s no need to ‘team up’ to do charity work, necessarily. Does it help logistics and such? Maybe. But if you’ve only got $800 to hand out, then go to the local shelters and just hand it over. Doing any/all of this through attempted collaboration seems to be not about the giving, but about the forcing of public acceptance, especially from the religious demographic.

    The one demographic that will never be accepting, (exceptional instances not withstanding), and the one demographic who’s acceptance should concern us the least. There are more people in the populace that are less religious than those who are more religious, and they don’t go to church. Just be good for good’s sake, all by yourself; and then let it speak for itself.

    • John Fruetel

      A lot of Christians continually bash atheists as being evil, uncaring people that do no good. They quote Psalm 14:1

      “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.”

      We collaborated with this conservative church to show them that this is not true. The deacon may have changed his mind about being seen with us atheists but there are now five families that attend his church that now don’t think of us as corrupt people that never do good and hopefully they will spread that message among other church goers.

      • Jeff See

        Well, I don’t know the people in that church. But I know people in the churches I’ve been in, and there would have been a segment of THAT population, that would have simply figured that Satan is the one that compelled you guys to talk about sharing in charity with them, in the hopes that you could do Satan’s work and seed doubt in God and the church. You, yourselves might be okay people, but you’re atheists; you do Satan’s work. They forgive you though, no one REALLY means to help Satan, the great deceiver.

        You can wish in one hand, and crap in the other, when it comes to hoping that the church, as a whole, stops viewing atheists as evil. I’m going to let you guess which one I think will fill up first, and I’m willing to bet the farm on it. That’s why I was trying to make the statement that it’s the segment of the population, that you should just let die on its own. If you want to spread positive information among the populace, then spread it among those who would be receptive.

        The tons of work, that multiples of you would have to endure, to make ONE slight positive impression, could all be undone by one singular person, speaking for just a few seconds, on a Sunday morning; and mostly likely, WOULD be. Any positive speaking would be done in private, and would most likely die there.

        Am I making tons of assumptions? You bet your ass, but they’re based on reasons gleaned from personal experience. I’d also bet you, that mine would pan out to be more profitable, if we were to actually put money on them, than your hope of spreading positive impressions would be, if you got paid for every time one of those impressions was forwarded.

        Give it a few weeks, then try to re-establish dialogue with those five families. I guarantee it will be like starting over, completely, if you haven’t maintained contact the entire time. I should have purchased a lottery ticket today, I seem to be in a betting mood.

        • Christopher James

          Jeff,
          We accept your “give it a few weeks challenge”.

          • Jeff See

            Good, because I honestly am curious to see how well your impression lasts. I hope I’m wrong. I really do. But you’re asking the Redskins to think and speak well of the Cowboys.

  • lottopro67

    Not surprised christianity is a horrible religion not interested in tolerance or the teachings of jesus it’s all about indifference and bigotry

  • RegularJoe

    Atheist groups can certainly find a church willing to accept them and their desire to do good works in their community and the greater world around them. Just look for your local Unitarian Universalist church.
    I’m not generally a church-goer, and certainly not one to buy into the hooey-hucksters’ rantings. Still, I find acceptance, fellowship, friendship, and enjoyment in my church here in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. We’ve got your basic Christians (of many flavors), Muslims, Jews, Wiccans, Druids, Buddhists….and a bunch of Humanists. We do much good within our own church community, and the community at large. It’s worth it to me to drag my butt out of bed on Sunday mornings to go and participate.
    If some church doesn’t want to associate with atheists, agnostics, free-thinkers, Humanists, etc….it’s likely because they’re afraid their members will learn that the hooey isn’t necessary to being good and caring beings….and it’s hard to fleece a flock that has decided the shepherds are only in it for their own benefit.

  • $925105

    Perhaps the church was only interested in the free publicity.

    • nope

      Perhaps the atheist group was only interested in the free publicity.

      See how that works?

      • $925105

        The Atheists went and did the charity work, while the deacon and wife did not. See how the facts work?

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    If we’re not sure why the Deacon and his wife decided not to accompany the atheists as they delivered the meals and gift cards, let’s wait for reliable information before seizing upon the assumption of bigotry, or their being craven about being seen with atheists.

    There has been a series of incidents lately where I’ve come to regret jumping to conclusions and expressing my how-dare-they outrage and indignation. It might be the more rational thing to ask politely what was their reason.

    • John Fruetel

      We’d love to politely ask them but the pastor isn’t returning my phone calls

      • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

        That’s disappointing. Into a void of information, usually negative assumptions will fall. I guess you could just walk away not knowing about him, but as you said below, you know that the families received you with good will, and helping them is what really counts. Thank you, John and the Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers, for your caring and your wonderful work. I hope your own Thanksgivings are happy.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, TOWAN

    i don’t have any problems with atheist groups trying to work with churches of any stripe. it shows another important humanist value at work: the spirit of community. it’s a shame these church groups are so cowardly; i’m with Richard and i’ll wait for more information in this case but i won’t be surprised to learn that the church leader did so for fears of ‘contamination’ in the eyes of his flock. still, these good deeds only put more holes in the theory that atheists can’t be good. good job iowa atheists.

  • John Fruetel

    The deacon may not have appreciated us but the families we delivered the meals to sure did. One of them specifically thanked our organization for doing this.

  • Christopher James

    My wife and I headed this cause for the purpose of reaching out to families in need within the community of Des Moines. Churches welcome families in need with open arms, feeding them with their lies and deceit. Why not show a family in need that you don’t have to have faith or church to help you? The IAF graciously accepted helping a family in need and supported our cause. We began by contacting five different inner city churches. We knew this would prove to be a challenge. Four of the churches never returned our calls and one church said that they didn’t want to affiliate themselves with atheists. In other words, they would rather have members of their congregation go hungry than to coexist with an organization that thinks differently. The stigma of atheists within most religious organizations is that we are the devil. That needs to change. I have a friend whose father is a deacon from Mt. Hebron. I contacted him, told him who I was, what organization I represented and asked him if his church had anyone within their congregation that might need some help during Thanksgiving. His response to this endeavor was positive and very enthusiastic. He called me back within a matter of hours and gave me names and phone numbers to five families. My wife and I talked to the families over the next couple of days. When we called, we introduced ourselves as atheist. They didn’t seem to mind. The families were definitely in need of some assistance. The sponsorship started and so did the donations. Two weeks before Thanksgiving, the IAF raised $761.00.
    I kept up to date with the deacon on two occasions. The first was the initial introduction. The second came before the article hit the Des Moines Register. The deacon accepted our invitation to join us in delivering the meals. I also told him that there might be some media involvement. His response was an enthusiastic “okay”.

    After the article was published the deacon called me and was extremely upset. He called me a “back stabber” and a “liar”. He told me that I never mentioned a word of the media getting involved. The deacon proceeded to tell me that his pastor is a “political figure in the community”. I was clear in my communications with him. I believe that the decision to not help deliver the food was driven by the pastor because they were more worried about their image associating with atheists.
    The families welcomed us. Invited us into their homes and spent time talking with us. We believe that the purpose was achieved.


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