First, Hemant wrote a great piece on this. But now it’s my turn.
I saw this story while I was on the road and was so pissed I couldn’t immediately write about it. Mostly I was just so pissed. The Upstate Atheists in Spartanburg, SC wanted to volunteer at the local soup kitchen. Sadly, the kitchen’s director Lou Landrum said she would not allow atheists to help because the soup kitchen was “a place of god”. Then the group said they would help without atheist apparel or any attempts at deconverting people. The answer was still no. Apparently god has sent the Spartanburg soup kitchen all the volunteers they need to alleviate the problem of the hungry/homeless (a problem god conspicuously hasn’t done shit about), so the soup kitchen doesn’t need the extra help.
What’s that? Volunteers and resources are needed, and they were turned away because of religious differences? Yup.
… Landrum, executive director of the Soup Kitchen, told the Herald-Journal she would resign from her job before she let atheists volunteer and be a “disservice to this community.”
“This is a ministry to serve God” she said. “We stand on the principles of God. Do they (atheists) think that our guests are so ignorant that they don’t know what an atheist is? Why are they targeting us? They don’t give any money. I wouldn’t want their money.“
When Christians feed the poor it’s a service to the community. When atheists do it, suddenly it’s a disservice. That logic makes about as much sense as, well, Christianity. If you think that feeding the poor can be a disservice, in a sane world you’ve just disqualified yourself from running a soup kitchen.
And they stand on the principles of god? What principles are those? That it’s better to feed fewer people than accepting help/resources from atheists? That’s a shitty principle, and even if it did come from god, if your allegiance is to human well-being then god should be defied. The woman running a soup kitchen turned away resources and volunteers, ensuring that the kitchen would be less able to feed the poor, and somehow it’s the people who wanted to help who are doing the disservice to the community (and the homeless people in it)? That’s, frankly, stupid as hell. It’s also immoral: are you there to feed the poor or to discriminate? This sends the message that your soup kitchen will feed the poor to the greatest extent possible, unless it can trade some of its capacity to feed to poor to discriminate. Then feeding the poor takes a back seat. That’s despicable.
And though I’ve been reading around the internet on this story, do you know what I haven’t seen? I haven’t seen any religious people condemn this. When an atheist beat a pastor in Ohio (as provocative as that pastor was) I and countless others condemned him immediately. How refreshing would it be to see that same reaction here from Christians – to hear them say “Atheists can be good people, and anybody who would be less efficient at feeding the poor in an attempt to claim otherwise is a bad person.”
One can hope, right? At least there are plenty of atheists saying it. What a reprehensible person Lou Landrum is, and her faith in Jesus has done nothing to make her better. If she’s the type of person who I can expect to find throughout heaven, send me anywhere else after I die. And if that’s the kind of person god thinks deserves paradise, the one who’d rather turn her nose to good people than better feed the hungry, I wish to be as far from that god and his principles as possible.