On Using Devastating Crises Like The Fort Mac Fire To Push Your Agenda

Fort McMurray FireOver a year ago, I posted a story about a conversation I had with an elderly woman in the hot tub at our local aquatic center. You can read that here. I’ll give you the gist. The woman had confided in me that her grandson had just suffered an aneurysm. She was distraught over it, and unsure he would survive. She explained to me that it was a miracle he was still alive, and attributed the cause to all the prayers her daughter had solicited on Facebook. I forced myself to bite my tongue and keep my lack of belief to myself. I forced myself to say nothing about the fact that it was medicine, science and hardworking doctors who kept her grandson alive. I forced myself to shut up in this moment, because there is a time and a place to debate whether god exists or not, and this certainly was not it. Here’s a woman whose crippled with worry about her grandson and that’s all that matters in that moment. Everything else can wait.

I’ve been clear, with that post and through many of the discussions I’ve had online, that arguing with people about the existence of God in times of crisis is bad form. You won’t get any support from me if you’re doing this. Hijacking someone else’s devastation, fear and anxiety to push your own beliefs is the behaviour of a fucking loser.

In these moments, we support. I stand firmly in my conviction that encouraging true action over prayer is important because true action is what actually helps, but that’s where it ends. We can encourage others to take action rather than pray, so that real help is on the way. We can set an example by taking action rather than praying ourselves. We can be there as a source of real, tangible support and if someone, in their moment of despair, needs to turn to God for comfort, you let them without getting in the way. You certainly don’t show up in their mentions or in the comments of their Facebook post, questioning the existence of a God. If your neighbour is claiming God helped him find his keys, by all means, but when a city is literally being wiped off the earth in a wildfire, you let it, the fuck, be.

I know I’m not the only one critical of this behaviour. I’ve read plenty of opinions on both sides of the God debate, that point at atheists and complain about a lack of tact some of us have in these situations. I’ve seen it just about every time a tragedy affecting a great number of people strikes. What I haven’t seen though, and this pisses me right off, is people being critical of believers who do the exact same fucking thing.

Here’s a tweet from the Canadian Bible Society:

This isn’t an uncommon sight, from people showing up in Haiti with Bibles after the devastating earthquake, to missionaries bringing in mountains of resources to build churches in famine-stricken areas of the third world. These people are here to push an agenda more sinister than anything any atheist could dream up: do nothing, take no action, trust in God.

They’re like parasites who latch on in the most desperate of times, knowing their host is at their most vulnerable. They know they have the highest probability of bringing more people to their faith in times of need. They have absolutely no interest in actually helping anyone as they sit there in their plush office chair bought with the dinner money of tithing blue collar families. All these vultures want is numbers. The numbers are what gives their god power. The numbers are what makes their faith a force to be reckoned with. Without the numbers, they have an ineffectual cult in a pop-up tent somewhere in the backwoods of America. Without the numbers they have nothing.

That’s why they appear, in your most desperate times of strife, pushing their Bible verses and encouraging you to turn to god. They don’t give a fuck about you. If they did, they’d offer real, tangible assistance. They just want that extra number.

While I have always seen people call out atheists who pull this bullshit, I rarely see anyone call out the Bible pushers, and I think I know why.

Their propaganda is so powerful that they even convinced non-believers that when they post BS like the tweet above, that they’re doing it out of the goodness of their heart. They’ve convinced damn near everyone that this Canadian Bible Society tweet and messages like it are not pushing an agenda, and instead, are posted solely out of a desire to help. But they’re not about a desire to help. It takes seconds to find out the real, tangible ways to help. If these message were truly about wanting to offer help, they wouldn’t be about God, because not everyone affected by the Fort MacMurray fires is a Christian or believes the Bible. If they truly wanted to help, they would donate or volunteer, or even just tweet ways that their followers can do so. This tweet is only for two types: People who believe already, and people who are vulnerable enough to be swayed into belief by propagandists like this. The Canadian Bible Society has alienated anyone who doesn’t fit these descriptions.

It is clear as day to me that these people are using this tragedy to push their agenda; to up their numbers; to bring people to belief. They’re hijacking anguish as a means to shove their beliefs down your throat. While everyone seems willing to call out atheists when they do this, they seem to clam up when theists do. Well, I have no qualms calling out the godly on this despicable behaviour. If you do this… if you push your fucking agenda in times of unimaginable strife, whether you’re a believer or not, you are a douchebag. You’re not worth the air you breathe.

Instead of talking about God, we need to be helping. We need to get off our asses and actually move muscles and do something. We need to offer shelter and sustenance, places to keep rescued pets and ways to unite separated families. We need to donate money, water, food and clothes.

We need to get to the business of being humans.

Not atheists.

Not Christians.

Humans.

This is the only agenda we should be pushing: get out there and actually help your fellow human beings. Here is a list of the ways you can do something real to help those who have fled Fort Mac:

  1. Donate to the Red Cross who are supporting evacuees. Text ‘REDCROSS’ to 30333 or click here to donate.
  2. Offer a place for evacuees to stay: ymmfire.ca
  3. Donate to the food bank in Edmonton, who are preparing themselves to feed the evacuees arriving in the city. Click here.
  4. Volunteer. Sign up here.
  5. Donate to the Fort Mac SPCA: Click here.
  6. Visit this Facebook page to find other ways to help.
  7. Get involved in other ways: fortmac.recovers.org
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  • Ms Vee

    Fortunately most of what I saw on Twitter last night was focused on “What can we do to help” and much sharing of info on places to go. There were some prayer messages mixed in but surprisingly few. It was very satisfying to see people opening up their homes and offering whatever they had to complete strangers. We should allow follow their example.

    • Yes, so many people have just put in so much effort to help out. It’s amazing. The power of people is a beautiful thing.

  • Keri Masse

    I am dealing with this x 100 right now. Flint Michigan is my adopted city (being a country bumpkin myself) I have lived just outside of Flint for the past 10 years, my husband and his family all grew up in Flint. We have never had a shortage of need for charitable services here, so I’ve been involved as a volunteer and donate as many resources as I can for years now.

    When the water crisis came to light I had to do something to help so I started distributing water with a church when they added a new location seperate from the church. Many times certain people would stop just to ask who we were associated with, and how could they become included in recieving donations to become a distributor. These people were pastors, and clergy of other local churches. You see they wanted donations and recognition from sister churches around the country too. By the third week I came to distribute the church I was working with had printed up cards to be passed along to each car that stopped for water. On one side it listed the days, times and places they distribute each week. On the other side was a picture of the pastor the church info, times of services, etc. So now the church was using the distribution as advertising and giving the appearance that in order to recieve their donations you should come to their services. I have pictures of the cards. Some of the church volunteers were becoming very pushy about being sure to give people their ads. When our site started to get slower I stopped coming to volunteer. I never personally handed their cards out, but a church vol would put one in each case of water.

    I saw churches from Detroit who were supposed to come up and volunteer, show up with a truck of water dressed up in high heels, suits, to the nines. They would take a bunch of pictures with volunteers and the water they brought donated from their church members and leave. It was/is becoming a spectacle for religious orgs to get notoriety and up membership.
    Here I am an atheist stuck in the middle just wanting to help my adopted city’s people but finding it at odds with my moral and ethical worldview.

    • Wow, Keri. You know, I know that a lot of church charity operates this way, but it’s still shocking to hear stories like this. it’s just such bullshit but I guess that’s what you’re grooming people for when you push a belief on them that they should only be doing good for personal reward in the afterlife.

      Good on you for volunteering and trying to help, though.