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May 24th, 2013
04:46 PM ET

Has the Oklahoma atheist been saved?

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

(CNN) - Just days after she announced to the world from tornado-ravaged Moore, Oklahoma, that she is an atheist, it looks like Rebecca Vitsmun has found salvation.

Not from the Lord, mind you, but from other atheists and friends of atheists.

An Indiegogo campaign titled “Atheists Unite,” launched late Thursday by stand-up comic Doug Stanhope, is raking in dollars to help her family rebuild. Less than 17 hours after going live, it met its 60-day goal of $50,000. A little more than an hour later, as we prepared to publish, donations were at $55,000 - and growing.

“Holy @#!%!” Stanhope said, by way of hello when he answered his phone Friday morning.

Vitsmun, whose home was destroyed in Monday’s deadly tornado, unwittingly became a sensation Tuesday after participating in a live TV interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. When Blitzer asked if she thanked the Lord for the decision she made that saved her and her 19-month-old son, she stammered before saying, “I’m actually an atheist.”

She and Blitzer laughed and moved on. But that TV moment took on a life of its own, spreading online and through social media.

It also inspired this outpouring of atheist love.

“It's important that our community shows that we have your back when you come out publicly as an atheist,” Stanhope wrote on the Indiegogo page. “Let's show the world that you dont 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.”

While a serious matter, the campaign offers “Perks” for giving – including a “Get Out of Hell Free Card” for a $50 donation, a “First Class Upgrade” on “the flight to the afterlife” for $500 and, just because, “Full Access to God’s Planbook” for $5,000.

Stanhope said he often weaves his beliefs, or lack of belief, into his stand-up routines. While Christian missionaries run around Third World countries – feeding the poor, Bibles in hand – he bemoans how atheists do nothing.

“We sit around in a dark bar and mock them,” he said. Meantime, “that book [the Bible] is a lot more appealing when there’s a bowl of rice under your nose.”

He saw this as an opportunity to do something, and his 2,021 contributors – and counting – clearly did, too. This wasn’t the only group to get into the atheist-supporting game.

On the website for FreeOK, Oklahoma's freethought convention which is scheduled for June 22, T-shirts are being sold to benefit Vitsmun and her family. The shirts are emblazoned with her quote, "I'm actually an atheist."

And as Stanhope's Indiegogo campaign reached its goal Friday afternoon, a press release came in from the American Humanist Association – announcing that it just forwarded to Vitsmun a whopping donation of $10,000.

“Rebecca Vitsmun’s courage to speak forthrightly about her atheism inspired humanists and others who are good without a god across the country to help her through this difficult time,” said the association’s executive director Roy Speckhardt, in the written statement. “Natural disasters are a product of our environment, not supernatural forces, and we have a responsibility to help those affected by them.”

While we are in contact with Vitsmun through sporadic e-mails, we were unable to get a reaction from her before publishing.

But the American Humanist Association shared a statement from her in its press release.

“People from all around the world have reached out to us and the people of Moore and Newcastle and we don’t know how we can ever thank everyone enough for their generosity,” she said. “It is really hard to even know where to begin, but having so many here to embrace us while we figure it out makes the path ahead less intimidating. Thank you all so much.”

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Atheism

soundoff (453 Responses)
  1. angel moronic

    So God spared an atheist and her family.
    So God accepted atheists.
    So if Christians who had accepted God.
    Christians shall accept atheists as part of God's

    May 26, 2013 at 11:00 pm |
  2. Jacks

    I honestly thought Blitzer's questioning way out of line. When he mentioned thanking "The Lord" and she didn't respond he virtually interrogated her? Well? Do you? DO you thank the Lord? HOW RUDE!!!! This Mr. is a diverse country and for him assume anything..he is getting too old be be reporting.

    May 26, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
    • faith

      i used to be a religitard. i was so intimidated by nazi god hating fascists threatening to end me, i joined em.

      Bonni
      I have been an atheist for some time now. I donate to several charitable organizations when the need arises. I am certain that my donations have gone to many, many Christians. I suspect you don't understand what it's like to announce to everyone that you are an athiest, especially if you live in the Bible belt. I know many athiests who are silent because they are fearful that their religious community will reject their children by doing so. This is the reality of things. I am sure there are many Christians who would refuse to donate to this particular woman because she had the audacity to refute the existance of a God.

      c, it cuts both ways, u idiot

      May 26, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
  3. fantastyfreak

    I'm proud of both her and the extremely sharp-witted atheists that have created an intensely clever campaign surrounding her comment. This is so much more constructive than saying that God is somehow punishing these towns for the collective sins of America or other unsubstantiated metaphysical claims. There are more moderate/liberal members of Christianity that are starting to stop seeing doubt and intellectual inquisitions as not a sin, but a true reminder that being ethically active is better/more proactive than deluding ourselves with unnecessary dogma.
    As an agnostic/humanist (whatever.. I'm irreligious), I am happy that people are questioning things. I don't want people to believe things out of coercion, but to think for once more deeply, more earnestly about the beliefs that we hold. Our deepest existential concerns deserve more seriousness than just wishing them away with blind faith and unimaginative dogma. We're sick of being told that the supposed supreme intelligence of the universe seeks to sadistically punish those that do not restrictively fit with his demands.

    May 26, 2013 at 10:38 pm |
  4. tacotac

    Christians help believers & non believers.... Looks like in this case these atheists are coming out of the woodwork to help her because she is an atheist. I see...you want help from atheists? You have to meet the qualification of being an atheist yourself... Kinda makes me believe there are other intentions than just helping her that are involved with helping her. It's not about -only- helping her per say as it should be, but now you've got the hidden message "we are gonna show how much better we are than Christians" thing going on. Too bad, you failed in that respect. Maybe if you went out to help her & everyone else (not just her because she is an atheist), you would have showed yourselves as having better genuine intentions.

    May 26, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
    • GregScott

      *sigh*... you just don't get it,do you?....

      May 26, 2013 at 10:34 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      What "other intentions" do you mean?

      May 26, 2013 at 10:38 pm |
    • angel moronic

      Every time a religious organization engages in disaster relief works, I am wary that there are other 'intentions' behind it

      May 26, 2013 at 10:53 pm |
    • Funesto

      Do you realise that the largest group in the Kiva website are the atheists (Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster)?

      May 26, 2013 at 11:02 pm |
    • Funesto

      Correction: http://www.kiva.org/community?category=all&membershipType=all&sortBy=overallLoanedAmount&queryString=

      May 26, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
    • Bonni

      I have been an atheist for some time now. I donate to several charitable organizations when the need arises. I am certain that my donations have gone to many, many Christians. I suspect you don't understand what it's like to announce to everyone that you are an athiest, especially if you live in the Bible belt. I know many athiests who are silent because they are fearful that their religious community will reject their children by doing so. This is the reality of things. I am sure there are many Christians who would refuse to donate to this particular woman because she had the audacity to refute the existance of a God.

      May 26, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
  5. faith

    "Richard Cranium
    Are these random posts some sort of communication between spies or terror cells...they are pointless, way off topic and generally do not make sense....anyone else with a theory?"

    lol. u mean like urs, bill nye, dodo, rectum sambo, al quaeda, anvil breath?

    i love dodo

    May 26, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
  6. Over 40,000 sects of insanity

    Recently we learned from CNN of a child dying when their parents, members of a Christian sect in Philadelphia, as part of their faith, refused medical care. When incidents like this come to light, other Christians are only too ready to try explain how another Christian's interpretation of ancient "scripture" is not quite right. Hands down, the most conflicted, hypocritical people on the planet.

    One sect calls homosexuality an abomination while the next one (over 4,000,000 members) in the same denomination is already performing gay marriage.

    One sect, the Westboro Baptist Church believes Americans are being killed at war because America is too kind to "fags".

    One sect believes women to be subservient, while another sect in the same denomination promotes equality between the sexes.

    One sect believes that Jesus and Satan were brothers and that Christ will return to Jerusalem AND Jackson County, Missouri.

    Some believe the Pope is the Anti-Christ. Some believe Obama is the Anti-Christ.

    Some believe that celibacy is the only option for certain people, or for people in certain positions. Many of the people from these same institutions advocate against abortion, but pretend not to understand the realistic benefit of the morning after pill or even basic contraception; their unrealistic wishful thinking is causing the death of many at the hands of disease.

    In the U.S. recently we learned of the head of Lutheran CMS chastising a minister of that church for participating in a joint service for the victims of the Newtown school shooting.

    Conflicted right from the very beginning, Christianity continues to splinter and create more extreme divisions as time goes by, constantly subjecting others in its crossfire.

    Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.

    (Thomas Jefferson, from Notes on the State of Virginia, 1785)

    May 26, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
    • Over 40,000 sects of insanity

      Bill Moyers recently interviewed Daniel Dennett, an American philosopher, writer and cognitive scientist whose research centers on the philosophy of mind, science & biology. He is the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University. Watch the video at:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUeQXmYVamA

      Dennett says that not for all, but for many, the dangerous thing about religion is that "it gives people a gold-plated excuse to stop thinking."

      May 26, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
  7. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things
    Proven

    May 26, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • Theresa

      You're right, prayer does change things. It's been proven that those who know they're being prayed for fair worse off than those who don't think they're being prayed for.

      May 26, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
    • Sam

      Proof finally! Please share your proof with us!

      May 26, 2013 at 10:35 pm |
    • Viaexcellence

      What proof?????

      May 26, 2013 at 10:57 pm |
  8. stldragon

    Every time there is a tragedy, we are asked to thank God for saving us but never question why God did not stop it.

    May 26, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • LinCA

      @stldragon

      You said, "Every time there is a tragedy, we are asked to thank God for saving us but never question why God did not stop it."
      Believers are by and large discouraged from questioning their religious beliefs. For good reason. Those that do tend not to remain believers.

      May 26, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • Science

      Hey stldragon...........the legal end ?

      Search
      Learn About the Law
      Find a Lawyer
      FindLaw Answers
      Legal Forms
      News
      Blogs
      ...

      FindLaw
      Legal Pulse
      Story
      ..

      CNN logo CNN 3 weeks ago
      When Christians become a 'hated minority'
      .
      Hey Buffy..............from Bing.

      When Christians become a 'hated minority'
      The point where religious speech becomes hate speech is difficult to define, though, scholars and activists say. The Southern Poverty Law Center in Alabama is a nonprofit civil rights group that combats and monitors hate groups. Three years ago, it... Full Article at CNN

      http://legalnews.findlaw.com/article/0bj7cdy2zIcqA?q=law+OR+lawsuit+OR+legal+OR+%28court+AND+law%29

      Hey Vic and Chadie

      Faith-Healing Churches Linked to 2 Dozen Child Deaths

      by Vince Lattanzio posted on May 25, 2013 02:45PM GMT

      http://www.richarddawkins.net/news_articles/2013/5/25/faith-healing-churches-linked-to-2-dozen-child-deaths#

      Have a great life.

      Peace

      May 26, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • stldragon

      It sounds like that they , the believers, are either not sufficiently intelligent or afraid of asking the question.

      May 26, 2013 at 11:38 pm |
  9. Kebos

    Thank the Lord? Thank the Lord!!!

    If the Lord had anything to do with saving anyone then the Lord had just as much to do with causing this. Thank the Lord?

    No, give "the Lord" a solid kick in the backside and send it packing.

    Blitzer.....learn from this that non-religion people (the rational part of our society) do live amongst you as well.

    May 26, 2013 at 9:17 am |
  10. Alias

    So where are all the boy scouts in all of this?
    IF, and that is one big if, theyare such moral, ethical, prepared, good christian people, than why do i never hear about that group helping disaster victoms?
    I guess doing gay tests takes all of their time.

    I know i'm off topic, but CNN is spineless and won't let me respond to the other article.

    May 26, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • midwest rail

      Amazingly enough, it was posted with comments disabled from the beginning.

      May 26, 2013 at 8:47 am |
    • Akira

      Probably to prevent Douglas from posting his "gay coitus" scenarios.

      May 26, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
  11. GOOD NEWS

    The Oklahoma Atheist has been saved,

    that she may clearly see the Signs now,

    and thus truly return to the LORD!

    http://www.holy-19-harvest.com
    UNIVERSAL MAGNIFICENT MIRACLES

    May 26, 2013 at 5:24 am |
    • Science

      Hey GOOD NEWS

      https://www.zotero.org/colleengreene/items/5XRFKX8N

      May 26, 2013 at 7:23 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      She is good evidence that no one needs the delusions of gods. Return to the lord...how can one return to something that only exists in imagination?

      May 26, 2013 at 8:17 am |
    • Who is god's god

      Stop being so delusional to think any atheists is going to think that the imaginary friend for grow-ups save her and her child. She saved yourself and her child. Get over yourself.

      May 26, 2013 at 9:06 am |
    • Kebos

      Bull crap!

      May 26, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • Bible beater

      Repent. Accept Jesus as your personal torturer or you will be sorry.

      May 26, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
  12. Baby Allah

    Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings!

    May 26, 2013 at 4:49 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      It is interesting because the technology that evolved, the rocket, to allow man to go to the moon was first used to kill many people .....

      ...and knock down a great many buildings. Then science decided that a few rockets weren't enough and science gave us the Nuclear bomb to play with.

      From that gift, mankind learned that a massive amount of buildings and people could be knocked down.

      May 26, 2013 at 4:58 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Also from that power Mark, clean safe electricity for millions of people every day. The scientists that were able to make nuclear power work, all regretted having anything to do with the bombs.

      May 26, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • evolvedDNA

      Mark ...And religions gift to the human race had been division,, and it a gift that keeps on giving..You talk about science as if it an evil force or something. It is a way, so far the best way, to understand the world around us. It is natural I suppose that when things are discovered that prove your assertions highly inaccurate, or even false, attacking the messenger (Science) in place of evidence to the contrary, is the only course of action.

      May 26, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • My goodness but you're stupid

      Mark from Middle River" the technology that evolved, the rocket, to allow man to go to the moon was first used to kill many people
      Just by itself vaccinations have saved hundreds of millions more lives than nuclear weapons, or rockets have ever taken.
      But if you really believe that a place with more religion and less science is preferable to what you have now...

      May 26, 2013 at 7:05 pm |
  13. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.

    May 25, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
    • UncleBenny

      No it doesn't. Go away.

      May 26, 2013 at 12:01 am |
    • Brian Boru

      "Prayer changes things"?? Really? please name 10 things.. no just 5..how about 3 things prayer has changed..oh and back up your statement with scientific research ie EVIDENCE!!!!

      May 26, 2013 at 5:07 am |
    • Who is god's god

      Sorry, it makes a crutch for you.

      May 26, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • j tuttle

      It amuses me to read the religious who believe Rebecca Vitsmun should be thanking this same lord who if he/she/it was powerful enough (or cared enough) to save, could have also prevented the disaster as well.

      May 26, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • Theresa

      Again, you're right. Prayer does indeed change things. A recent study showed that people who are sick and know they're being prayed for actually do worse than people who don't know they're being prayed for or aren't prayed for at all. Good try though.

      May 26, 2013 at 10:34 pm |
  14. Heretic

    God doesn't save. Man does.

    May 25, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
    • Alias

      God doesn't save?
      God could be a woman then.
      My wife sure as hell doesn't know how to save.

      May 25, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Well, that made me laugh.

      May 26, 2013 at 12:04 am |
    • pothead

      @alias. Hahahahaha

      May 27, 2013 at 10:57 pm |
  15. Topher

    Keep up the fundraising, atheists. She's not the only one who lost her home.

    May 25, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
    • Alias

      Athiests donate as much as anyone.
      We just dont have the need to feel self rightous about it.

      May 25, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Gopher, how much have you sent?

      May 25, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
    • Topher

      Alias

      "Athiests donate as much as anyone."

      Not according to the atheist in this article.

      May 25, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
    • Topher

      Alias

      " We just dont have the need to feel self rightous about it."

      No. You only do it at the opportunity to make fun of believers. You have to offer things like "Get Out of Hell Free Card” a “First Class Upgrade” on “the flight to the afterlife” and a “Full Access to God’s Planbook" to get any money.

      May 25, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
    • Alias

      No, I would have sent money just the same. But why waste an opportunity to show how hypocritical and stupid your religion really is?

      May 25, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
    • Austin

      Topher, is that me?

      May 25, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Why's that bother you, Gopher? Your sort deserves ribbing for all the nonsense you spew about those who don't believe as you do.

      May 25, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Topher: Here's the way this goes...if you're a member of a church, you have a place to turn without feeling uncomfortable because of that connection you share in believing in god; an Atheist doesn't have that same safety net. So while I recognize that others need help, this lady didn't ask to be singled out like this and she does deserve the help regardless of where it is coming from. And BTW: The Red Cross was in there immediately helping out-they are secular; numerous Secular charities have also collected. The fund is now at
      $79 792 with 58 days to go. 🙂

      May 25, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
    • Queen

      I don't see that the atheist said anything of the sort, Topher. It sounds as if you're pissed because your little deeply-held belief that atheists are not generous has been blown out of the water. Keep up your shitty, snarky comments, Topher. Jesus digs that and you'll get extra holy points for being a dick.

      And since you obviously don't know humor if it bites you on your ass, those "perks" were jokes, asshole. Hummorless git.

      May 25, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
    • Rick

      Gopher, how much have you sent?

      May 25, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Queen, you rock. Gopher is tone-deaf.

      May 25, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
    • Rick

      Gopher is a snivelling, cowardly sycophant

      May 25, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
  16. ahappyfarmer

    What a sad day when something like this makes news. Who cares if she is a atheist or not. She is alive and her son is alive. To the media that pushes one religion over the other go punch yourself in the face and make sure it is square in the mouth so that it shuts you up.

    May 25, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • I agree

      A person's religion shouldn't matter and getting special treatment for being an atheist is just as wrong as being treated better than everybody else because you are Catholic or whatever else.

      May 25, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • Bostontola

      It is sad that this is news. Why did a news person ask the woman if she thanked god in the first place. It's news because so few atheists feel comfortable publicaly stating their atheism. Tis is because they can easily be subjected to prejudice in the workplace and among friends.

      May 25, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
  17. Sammy

    Testament that atheists make great parents too.

    May 25, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
  18. Vic

    Can't pass this up!

    http://news.yahoo.com/thousands-walk-run-final-mile-boston-marathon-161841836.html

    That's the Spirit

    God bless.

    May 25, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • Science

      Hey freed you to...........go now you are free to take a wild walk where the BEAR sh-its fred you to VIC

      soundoff (2,965 Responses)

      faith

      say good bye perverts

      May 25, 2013 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse | Reply

      faith

      sambo tom science bill nye

      u r finished u filthy animal

      May 25, 2013 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |

      Scienec

      You know faith you are stuck in a big pile GREEN SLIME with NO horn-y red devil to save your ass.

      Hey Chad/faith too.................Thanks Bob peace

      add it to your favorites tool bar !

      https://www.zotero.org/colleengreene/items/5XRFKX8N

      Peace

      May 25, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |

      May 25, 2013 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/05/23/heaven-for-atheists-pope-sparks-debate/#comments

      May 25, 2013 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse | Reply

      May 25, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
  19. Ken Colwell

    According to Gods word...no

    May 25, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Of course, that's not what the article is saying, and as she doesn't believe in your god, I'm pretty sure she wasn't looking for a handout from your god anyway.

      May 25, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
  20. Nexus

    As a human being I am happy to donate to a fellow human(and atheist) in need. However I have no interest in showing up religion or the religious. I donate because I want to help, not because I want to prove I'm "good without gods". I have no need or desire to prove anything to anyone.

    May 25, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Misanthropy

      Personally I think my fellow man sucks. I might be motivated to help them if I could convince myself that a diety of some sort existed because then atleast there would be someone worth helping.

      May 25, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.