Comedian raises money for tornado victim to prove 'atheists care, too'
Stand-up comedian Doug Stanhope is an outspoken atheist. (Source: atlantabravz/Wikimedia)
(RNN) - A stand-up comedian has raised more than $100,000 for a victim of the Moore, OK, tornado to prove that atheists can take care of each other, too.
It all started because of CNN's Wolf Blitzer. While interviewing Rebecca Vitsum, a Moore, OK, resident who escaped the vicious tornado with her baby, the CNN anchor asked her if she would like to "thank the Lord."
"I guess you gotta thank the Lord, right?" Blitzer asked Vitsum. "Do you thank the Lord for that split-second decision?"
Vitsum smiled and said, "Actually, I'm an atheist … but I don't blame anybody for thanking the Lord."
The interview clip went viral. Although most people just saw it as an awkward moment between interviewer and interviewee, many atheists saw it as a public profession of their lack of a belief in God. Others saw it as a famous news anchor being condescending to people from America's heartland because he expected them to be religious.
But what wasn't a matter of debate or perception was that the woman and her family were without a home. That's when Doug Stanhope, known for his comedic rants against religion, government, political correctness, and anything else that bothers him, started an online fundraiser for Vitsum in an effort to show that atheists, like religious people, can help each other in times of crisis.
"It's important that our community shows that we have your back when you come out publicly as an atheist," Stanhope said on the campaign website. "Let's show the world that you don't need to believe in a god to have human compassion nor does all charity fall under the banner of religion. Let's get this courageous woman and her family back in their own home."
Naming the campaign, "Atheists Unite," Stanhope hoped to raise $50,000 within two months.
"I put out a tweet saying that it would be funny if someone set up a fund, just for her, as much as a reward as for charity," Stanhope told the Phoenix New Times. "Then I just decided, [that] I'll do it, it can't be that hard. It then just went absolutely [crazy]."
He ended up getting more than $100,000 in donations in less than a week. But he can't deliver the funds to Vitsum until the full two months of the campaign are over, as per indiegogo.com rules. So he plans on raising more money, maybe even enough to buy Vitsum a whole new home instead of repairing her old one.
"There is no reason for us to stop raising funds," Stanhope wrote after reaching his goal. "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."
Proving that atheists can be compassionate is important to the vocal non-believer, and possibly a form of atheist proselytizing.
"The impact of getting Rebecca and her family properly housed by the atheist community will do far more good than sitting in bars or chatrooms mocking people of faith," he wrote. "Like religion, free-thinking will be more easily spread through compassion and decency."
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