May 24th, 2013
04:46 PM ET

Has the Oklahoma atheist been saved?

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN
[twitter-follow screen_name='JRavitzCNN']

(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. Red

    There are no tornados on the next plane anyway. Or any other atrocities. It's just part of being here. If you do right, you'll get better than here. A place where debates like this cease to exist. There's a place where Earth's atrocities are dwarfed also. Whichever way you go, you earned it.

    May 25, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • Sammy

      North Korea is place where debates like this also cease to exist. Why would you want to go to a place where freedom of speech isn't allowed?

      May 25, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
  2. Lamb of dog

    Made my donation. Love you Rebecca. Keep it Real.

    May 25, 2013 at 11:48 am |
  3. mama k

    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.

    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 25, 2013 at 11:11 am |
    • Science

      Update :

      Hello mama k...............like cap'y ass wipe always says below....................But the sh-it does NOT work prayer that IS !

      Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things,

      May 25, 2013 at 7:18 am | Report abuse | Reply


      May 25, 2013 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |



      May 25, 2013 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |



      About 17,300 results (0.36 seconds) ..........google

      298,000 results Any time ................Bing...........for this article interesting.



      May 25, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |


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

      May 25, 2013 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |

      May 25, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
  4. Vic


    May 25, 2013 at 10:59 am |
    • Vic


      May 25, 2013 at 11:02 am |
    • Vic


      May 25, 2013 at 11:05 am |
    • Our Lady of Whirlpool Model# WTW4800XQ


      May 25, 2013 at 11:09 am |
    • Reality

      As with all NT passages, Mark 13: 24-27 = Matt 24: 29, 30a have been thoroughly analyzed for historic authenticity by many contemporary NT scholars. The result: said passages are historically inauthentic. See for example, Professor Gerd Ludemann's analysis in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 91:

      "The historical yield is nil, since this is speculation by the community. Jesus never said these words. "

      See also

      ttp://www.faithfutures.org/JDB/jdb056.html Mark 7: 6-7,

      May 25, 2013 at 11:39 am |
  5. John Stefanyszyn

    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.

    Mr. Stanhope, BUT YOU DO believe in a 'god' ( a way which rules your life, which you serve)...it is called the "religion/ god" of freedom of self-rights.

    This 'god of fortresses' dictates that it is right to be FREE...to establish and justify what is right in one's own eyes, one's own way of life...to be "like a god".

    This is the SAME 'god of freedom' that all the religions also worship as their first love. Mr. Bergoglio has clearly confessed this in his recent statements.

    President Obama has placed this way of freedom, this god of freedom, this god of fortresses, above all beliefs....dictating that the fruit of the tree of disobedience to the One Will of the Creator is a good and right fruit for one's own wisdom.

    Mr. Stanhope, one either serves the Will of the Creator or serves the father of self-will. The later will be brought to an end at the return of Christ as the One and Only King.

    May 25, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • Lamb of dog


      Blah blah blah. Mumbo jumbo.

      May 25, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • SkepticalOne

      What a huge pile of deeply confused nonsense.

      May 25, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • G to the T

      I love the "we all worship something" argument. It doesn't need any proof and the mere confirmation bias of believe it will allow you to "find" what everyone's "god" is.

      Face it – the 10 commandments were written when the jews were still a monlatrisitc society. They didn't believe the other gods didn't exist (or else why would they keep going back to them?) – the only believed that their god, yahweh was the only one worth of worship.

      It's only later interpretations (working backwards, that classic christian methodology) assume that they couldn't have meant other gods because they only believed in one. So anything a person is interested in outside of "god" must be that perons' "god" from a chrsitian point of view.

      May 29, 2013 at 11:43 am |
  6. mama k

    Bill Moyers interviews Daniel Dennett, an American philosopher, writer and cognitive scientist whose research centers on the philosophy of mind, science & biology. He is a professor of philosophy at Tufts University.
    Dennett: "[not all, but for many, the dangerous thing about religion is that] it gives people a gold-plated excuse to stop thinking."

    May 25, 2013 at 8:55 am |
    • Science

      Agree ...............mama k............. everybody do a simple search for Prof. Higgs............the church hates that .

      A box does not work well for thinking.


      Hey faith/chad... and sally too........Thanks have a great life.






      Heaven for atheists? Pope sparks debate

      By Dan Merica, CNN







      May 25, 2013 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |

      May 25, 2013 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |

      Hey doogie you too !

      Hey Chad,faith the peach and all creationists what color JELL- O you stuck IN. ? Star Dusts (chondrites) and water !

      Scientists Offer First Definitive Proof of Bacteria-Feeding Behavior in Green Algae

      May 23, 2013 — A team of researchers has captured images of green alga consuming bacteria, offering a glimpse at how early organisms dating back more than 1 billion years may have acquired free-living photosynthetic cells. This acquisition is thought to have been a critical first step in the evolution of photosynthetic algae and land plants, which, in turn, contributed to the increase in oxygen levels in Earth's atmosphere and ocean and provided one of the conditions necessary for animal evolution.



      Game over .................god(s) did NOT create US !

      NO red horn-y devil either........ NEVER has been one.!

      The DINOSAUR ?...............Chomp Chomp !...Evolution WINS hands down...time for the horn-y red devil to get the

      HELL out of the way.....................Stem Cell research !

      Allosaurus Fed More Like a Falcon Than a Crocodile: Engineering, Anatomy Work Reveals Differences in Dinosaur Feeding Styles

      May 21, 2013 — The mighty T. rex may have thrashed its massive head from side to side to dismember prey, but a new study shows that its smaller cousin Allosaurus was a more dexterous hunter and tugged at prey more like a modern-day falcon.



      Better than Comedy GOLD................it is THE PEARLY GATES !.............what a JOKE !

      Heaven for atheists? Pope sparks debate

      By Dan Merica, CNN


      May 25, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  7. Alias

    So why doesn't CNN grow a set and allow comments onthe boyscout article?

    May 25, 2013 at 8:51 am |
  8. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things,

    May 25, 2013 at 7:59 am |
    • SkepticalOne

      Yes your prayer to an imaginary being changes our opinion of you. It makes us think you are not very bright.

      May 25, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • Who is god's god

      Prayer changes things only in your mind

      May 26, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • G to the T

      Odd I didn't see you on the article about the couple that let their 2nd child die because they chose prayer over medical treatment... I would have thought it would be right up your alley...

      May 29, 2013 at 11:48 am |
  9. required

    How much money did it take to form the universe?

    May 25, 2013 at 7:39 am |
  10. Colin

    I love how quickly the donations poured in. It might just be me being hopeful, but I am sensing a real swing in public opinion in the USA away from believing in gods and other supernatural bullsh.it. I certainly hope we atheists are putting our feet on the throat of Christianity and consigning belief in God to the same historical scrap heap as belief in Apollo, Zeus and other sky-fairies.

    May 25, 2013 at 6:03 am |
    • avoid colon

      bull sh it

      May 25, 2013 at 7:59 am |
    • R.M. Goodswell


      Looks like you have your head buried in yours.....

      May 25, 2013 at 11:09 am |
  11. happybrooks

    My favorite part of the bible is when Elijah uses his divine influence to summon bears that slaughtered a crowd of small children, simply because they called him bald. Ah, the good ol' stories

    May 25, 2013 at 1:52 am |
  12. waitletmegetthisstraight

    Doug Stanhope is a stand up guy. This is a wonderful cause, please join in.

    May 25, 2013 at 1:25 am |
  13. Rusty Yates

    What a great story. Brave girl to come out like that in Oklahoma. She deserves every penny.

    May 25, 2013 at 12:06 am |
    • Roland

      Christians help everyone, regardless of faith. Atheists help themselves. This article couldn't make it any clearer.

      May 25, 2013 at 12:29 am |
    • Athy

      Oh, get real, Roland.

      May 25, 2013 at 12:31 am |
    • Barry

      And Christians priests help themselves to the congregation's' children, right Rolly ?

      May 25, 2013 at 2:16 am |
    • GodFreeNow

      Funny Roland... I was just reading how the Christians destroyed one of the most valuable libraries of knowledge and enlightenment of the day at in Alexandria, and stripped Hypatia (a notable woman astronomer and mathematician of the day) nude and flayed her body with pieces of broken jars before dragging her out into the street to burn her for witchcraft.

      May 25, 2013 at 3:20 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      "Christians help everyone, regardless of faith. Atheists help themselves. "

      Not true. Christians do help a lot but in doing so shove their belief in the faces of people. Atheists don't have an agenda and DO help all-Dr's Without Borders, Red Cross, UNICEF (to name a few)-all secular and no propaganda to go with it.

      May 25, 2013 at 6:40 am |
    • bobdouat

      Roland, check out Foundation Beyond Belief. Maybe make a donation while you're there.

      May 25, 2013 at 9:51 am |
  14. HarryGP

    This article is boring. What it really needs is more talk about God existing, and Jesus dying for our sins.

    May 24, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Why? Are you having trouble believing without someone else telling you why you should?

      May 24, 2013 at 11:15 pm |
  15. OMG

    What they don't show is after the interview was over – the lady ate that baby boy. Heathens!

    May 24, 2013 at 10:50 pm |
    • happybrooks

      I want my baby back....baby back...baby back...

      May 25, 2013 at 1:49 am |
    • Who is god's god

      Your dumb

      May 26, 2013 at 9:39 am |
  16. Vic

    I thank the Lord that Rebecca Vitsmun and her family are taken care of!

    May 24, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      thank the people that helped her instead. giving an invisible sky fairy credit for hard work done by humans discredits them.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
    • Athy

      Why would the lord help an atheist? Isn't that forbidden by the rules? Otherwise, what good is religion? Don't you have to believe to benefit?

      May 25, 2013 at 1:26 am |
  17. author

    This is amazing. Good without god, and proud of it. Gotta love the sense of humor in the indiegogo campaign as well! Kudos to her for admitting shes an atheist too. It can prompt a lot of hate from ignorant people who automatically think atheists eat babies or some rot. Love this!

    May 24, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
    • OMG

      – Good without god, and proud of it.

      Ehhhh... I don't know if pride is a good thing. Proud to be good?

      Humility – whether religious or non, a great quality to possess.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
      • author

        proud to be aware that goodness and religiousness can be mutually exclusive.

        May 24, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      we tell our children to be proud if they win a baseball game. we say we are proud to be american (or whatever nationality). we say we are proud of a job well done. being proud isn't always a bad thing. it's not that black and white. and i've never seen people so proud as christians.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
    • OMG

      Pride usually comes after comparing yourself to another person – and deeming yourself more worthy.

      We tell our kids to respect their opponent. Be proud if you did your best – win or lose.

      There is no shame in losing.

      May 24, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
      • author

        now you're just splitting hairs. In this context I meant pride not as in ego, but as in satisfaction from the consciousness of morality not being inextricably linked to religion.

        May 24, 2013 at 10:35 pm |
  18. Eric

    "While Christian missionaries run around Third World countries – feeding the poor" - Don't forget telling poor people in countries with 30%+ HIV rates not to use condoms. These same missionaries are often against one of the most important weapons against poverty: the ability of women to control the size of their family. As Christopher Hitchens noted about Mother Theresa: "She was not a friend of the poor, she was a friend of poverty."

    May 24, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      The republicans have the same problem.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
    • Angel Moronic

      Xtreme Xtians only care about what happens in heaven. nothing down here on Earth matters (suffering/injustices etc) as long as people can be convinced that they are on their way to heaven.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Aid as long as you convert to our religion.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
    • OMG

      Sometimes they ask for Christians.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
  19. faith

    "Every day, after I wake up, I spend at least two hours in the Bible." bobby mcferrin

    My surprise was not simply that he was a Christian, which I thank God for immensely, but that he was not afraid. He chose to come and speak to us honestly. He was asked a question and he replied truthfully as he should have. He told us without fear that we should each believe in God and thank Him daily for our gifts, our lives, our heartbeats, and our next breaths. He was not simply honest, he was direct and imposing. He had no reservations about telling people there was an absolute truth and he knew it. Thank God for him.

    May 24, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
    • hee hee

      The majority of people in the united states are Christian. What's so brave about going with the crowd?

      Why do Christians imagine themselves to be persecuted?

      May 24, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
    • faith

      I think we listen to music because we want to transcend the moment somehow. I know for myself it's true: I want to go to a performance and be changed. I want something to be different. Music is not solely for our entertainment. I think it's a divine instrument for healing in the body, mind, soul, spirit. I sincerely, truly believe that."

      "Music has such tremendous power. To me, that's our job as artists. That's the job description. You must bring joy. Not happiness, not a groove, whatever. You must bring joy. I think that's the assignment. I think that's it. I have no doubt about it." ~ Bobby McFerrin (USA Today)

      May 24, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Hey, faith, how do you feel about Samuel Barber?

      May 24, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
    • ..

      Oh, well, Bobby McFerrin? Okay, I believe now, if Bobby McFerrin does. Thanks. I've seen the light. Eye roll.

      May 24, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
    • The real Tom

      No kidding. faith thinks Bobby walks on water.

      As if Mr. McFerrin were the end-all and be-all of music.

      Says much about faith's taste. And even more about its educational level.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
    • Akira

      Isn't Bobby McFerrin the guy who sang the annoying "Don't Worry, Be Happy" song?

      May 24, 2013 at 11:39 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I hate that song. So. Much.

      I always thought it was dreadfully irresponsible and dismissive of personal responsibility. It comes as no surprise that Mr. McFerrin is a christian.

      May 25, 2013 at 12:57 am |
    • The real Tom

      Oh, I don't have any issue with McFerrin-he's a very talented and interesting musician. Watch some video of him creating an improvisational piece with other musicians. He's no hack. But pretending that because he is a believer it means he's better than a musician who isn't one is idiotic. And so typical of the fundies.

      May 25, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • Akira

      Oh, I've seen him do his improvisational pieces before, and he IS clearly talented; he just didn't show it with that horrendously annoying song.

      May 25, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • LinCA

      Even great artists produce duds sometimes, and mediocre ones may occasionally produce great works. Great artists may never get recognition by the masses, while some without hardly any discernible talent will rise to stardom.

      Don't equate a song being popular with it being good. It simply means that it had just enough appeal, and was sufficiently promoted, to achieve hit status. Even the artist may not consider it worthy of the attention it receives, but the money it brings in may be too hard to dismiss.

      May 25, 2013 at 12:38 pm |

    Thank the LORD who gave a heart even to His atheist/agnostic servants.


    May 24, 2013 at 8:21 pm |
    • neutral

      Um...didn't GOD create the tornado too? Or does he only do good stuff?

      May 24, 2013 at 9:10 pm |
    • hee hee

      Hey GOOD NEWS, that lord of yours seems like a nice chap. Never heard of him until now. I looked up the information and it's pretty convincing. Thanks!

      Probably all you need to do to now is knock on people's doors and ask them (1) have you ever told a lie? (2) have you ever cheated? (3) have you ever stolen something? Then let them know the shocking logical consequence: they are lying cheating thieves! They're bound to convert out of sheer shame.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
    • Angel Moronic

      So God did give hearts to agnostics/atheists. When will he do the same for the most devout ? They don't seem to have hearts in a lot of matters.

      May 24, 2013 at 9:21 pm |
    • tallulah13

      The god of "good news" is the god of spam.

      May 25, 2013 at 12:58 am |
    • Sammy

      That "Good News" would be the same as going to a group of people and telling them that you've just infected all of them with a terrible disease, one that you can cure, for a price.


      May 25, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6
About this blog

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.