There’s no doubt about it: atheists get a bad rap.
According to a 2006 national survey, nearly 79 percent of Americans believe that atheists don’t share their vision of American society. Nonbelievers are branded as immoral, hedonistic and rebellious.
With the rise of the Religious Right, we’ve seen ever increasing attempts to equate religion and morality as mutually exclusive. We hear our politicians talk about their faith and how they believe it positively impacts society. We are marginalized by rampant assertions that belief in a god is a prerequisite for American patriotism.
So, it’s no surprise that with all of the negative stereotypes nontheists have to combat, we have a long way to go in proving that we can indeed be “good without God.”As the nontheist movement grows –both in size and public awareness—nontheists are taking the opportunity to show fellow Americans that we don’t need religion to be good people.
Following the monster storm Sandy that ravaged the East Coast, Americans of all religious backgrounds, and none, began pitching in to help with disaster relief. The nontheistic community was willing and eager to help with relief efforts.
For example, the offices of American Atheists were damaged during the storm, as were some of the homes of the staff—many of whom are living without access to basic resources like electricity, heat, water, and gasoline. Despite its personal hardship, American Atheists was one of many groups to quickly step up to help others.
Some of the organized efforts are underway in the nontheist community to assist in disaster relief and included:
•Encouraging nontheists across the country to donate blood
•The New York City Atheists will host its “Gift to Life” blood drive this coming Tuesday in New York City
•The Freethought Society partnered with the Texas Freethought Convention, the United Coalition for Reason and American Atheists to collect and distribute money to help where needed.
•The Society for Humanistic Judaism has encouraged its members to donate to the Jewish Federations of North America, which will disperse funds through its Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund.
•Foundation Beyond Belief organized a donation drive for Team Rubicon, a disaster response organization that unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with medical professionals to rapidly deploy emergency response teams into crisis situations here in the U.S. They also organized donations for International Medical Corps to assist with disaster relief efforts in Haiti.
•Members of local chapters of Secular Coalition for America member organizations and endorsing organizations have been encouraged to check with their group leaders to see how they can help with local relief efforts
As devastating as natural disasters are, they highlight our ability as Americans to recognize our shared humanity and come together to help those in need. For some Americans that includes prayer. As nontheists we don’t pray, instead we believe that the burden falls on us to act.
All of us, regardless of our religious beliefs, should take action by donating blood, supporting relief efforts and helping to rebuild the communities devastated by this storm.
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Lauren Anderson Youngblood is communications manager for the Secular Coalition for America.