I have supported and also criticized American Atheists over the years. Today I’m frustrated and am offering some criticism. Criticism that I hope is listened too. I’m an atheist and I want atheist organizations to prosper, but I also want them to reflect my values.

Today AA issues a new press release announcing six new billboards.

American Atheists launched six billboards on Monday in central New Jersey attacking the non-helpful responses by some religions to recent natural disasters. These responses have included praying for the victims and sending bibles and rosaries instead of requested relief supplies that can save lives.

While at least $300 million has been pledged by nations around the world to help survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan, the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines, a billion-dollar non-government organization, has responded to the disaster by sending 1,000 bibles and 12,000 rosaries to survivors, according to CBS News. Additionally, the Pope tweeted for Catholics to pray for the typhoon victims. His message was retweeted 30,000 times.

“Imagine if the Pope had asked for people to send money to victims or to send needed supplies. How much more useful would that have been to the people of the Philippines? This is insulting,” said American Atheists President David Silverman. “Over 5,500 people have died, so Pope Francis leads people in prayer, and they send bibles and rosaries. This is repugnant; natural disasters should not be viewed as opportunities for proselytization.” Silverman continued, “Religion is not charity. It’s business masquerading as charity, and it needs to be recognized as such.”

The CBCP is indeed a catholic organization. It’s also in the Philippines, unlike American Atheists. If they distributed bibles and rosaries to their parishioners, what of it? They also called for and organized fundraising. Filipinos helping other Filipinos. Their news website has fundraising links all over the place.

The pope asked people to pray? How dare he do his job! He also called for “concrete help“, just like American Atheists is doing. He also announced $150,000 from the Vatican itself to support displaced people.

What I haven’t seen either of these organizations do is announce insensitive, self-aggrandizing, factually dubious condemnations of other people’s relief efforts. That seems to be American Atheists and only American Atheists right now.

So, as an ally I ask Dave Silverman and American Atheists to please reconsider these stupid billboards. I want a public face of atheism that is based on doing good deeds and caring about humanity. I do not want an American Atheism that thinks it’s a good idea to look like a smug asshole pointing (easily discredited) fingers over a pile of corpses.

EDIT: Nov 25, 2013 – 4:30pm PST:

This afternoon I was tipped to this RT on David Silverman’s timeline, which suggests that he now knows that the pope did in fact call for “concrete help” – Mr. Silverman seems happy to use that to mock the efficacy of prayer and also happy to still pretend it never happened to score a rhetorical point.


D. Cameron Webb ‏@dcameronwebb 3h
[email protected] asked for prayers and “concrete help” for disaster victims. A stunning admission that prayer is useless mush? @MrAtheistPants
Retweeted by David Silverman

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