Doug Stanhope Raising Thousands for Tornado Survior Who Told Wolf Blitzer She's an Atheist

Categories: Religulous
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Comedian Doug Stanhope, a Bisbee resident, has helped raise more than $100,000 for a woman whose house was destroyed in the Oklahoma tornado last week.

Stanhope tells New Times that he started raising funds for Rebecca Vitsmun after her widely-seen interview on CNN, in which anchor Wolf Blitzer asked her if she "thank[ed] the Lord" for her family's decision to leave their house before it was destroyed by the tornado, and Vitsmun gave a response that became an instant classic -- she's actually an atheist.

See also:
Doug Stanhope Mad About Jesus' Presence at Bisbee's City Council Meeting

"I put out a tweet saying that it would be funny if someone set up a fund, just for her, as much as a reward as for charity," Stanhope says. "Then i just decided, fuck it, I'll do it, it can't be that hard. It then just went absolutely bat-shit."



Stanhope, who's not exactly shy about his distaste for religion in his comedy material or in public, started raising funds on a website with the hopes of getting $50,000 for Vitsum.

"It's important that our community shows that we have your back when you come out publicly as an atheist," Stanhope wrote on the website. "Let's show the world that you don't 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."

He's raised more than $104,000 at the time of this post, and wrote in an update that the website won't let him change the deadline for raising funds, which he initially set at July 22, so he'll keep raising money for Vitsmun.

"There is no reason for us to stop raising funds," he wrote. "The median cost of a home in Moore, OK is $125,250, and that was back when they had homes."

Stanhope tells us he didn't even get into contact with Vitsmun until after he'd already raised $50,000 for her.

If you donate to the cause (website here), there are various perks you can get from Stanhope, which are hilarious (as long as you're not real touchy about religion). They include a prayer from Stanhope -- "twice as valuable as a real prayer or your money back" -- for $10, a "get out of hell free card" for a $50 donation, or even a dishwasher-safe holy grail with "special powers" for your $10,000 donation.

For those interested, he'll be in Flagstaff for a show on June 23rd.

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Follow Matthew Hendley on Twitter at @MatthewHendley.


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37 comments
Kae Oz
Kae Oz

Stanhope is from Bisbee? How did I never know this?

pszymeczek
pszymeczek

I wish I were able to contribute, but we are broke and this week is a short check.

jacklaurajohnson
jacklaurajohnson

How about this......just be a good human being, and not label yourself! Isn't that how it should be? Are you an atheist? Or someone who believes in a higher power? Who cares, just be kind.

ke_vin814
ke_vin814

Let's not forget that in Mormonism it's a mandatory 30% of your household income. They even send a bishop over to your house to review your financial records.

Andi Gonzalez
Andi Gonzalez

What's wrong with being an atheist? I don't believe in god. Haven't since I could put two and two together and come up with b.s.

Josh Skora
Josh Skora

Dune McKay thought you might get a kick out of this...

mikefrombisbee
mikefrombisbee

Doug Stanhope is one of the nicest and most generous, warm-hearted people you would ever care to meet. You who enjoy his performances may know him as a superb standup comic - and he certainly is that. His friends and neighbors know him as a stand-up guy.

Author J-dot E-dot Boles
Author J-dot E-dot Boles

That child was far too young to know her own mind. Clearly, she was parroting her parents.

yourproductsucks
yourproductsucks

Atheists aren't generally known for donating to others.  Kudo's to anyone pulling money from their own coffers in order to assist those in need!

WhoKnows
WhoKnows topcommenter

I wonder if our fine AZ Representative, Steve Smith, donated to help this woman.  

That would be true "repentance", StevieBoi!

Tommy_Collins
Tommy_Collins

I ordered the "Get Out Of Hell Free2" card. The only problem is NOT knowing where one goes when being released from hell. It may be from the frying pan into the fire. Not so good, I suppose. But, if one is truly dead, does any of it matter?

valleynative
valleynative topcommenter

@jacklaurajohnson I don't call myself "an atheist". I am atheist.  Literally: "without god(s)".  I don't like labels, but there are times when I need to identify my position.  One example of such a time might be when a reporter is trying to get a sound bite from me about thanking god.

dmbhendricks
dmbhendricks

@yourproductsucks 

You're aware that Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are both atheists right?  They were the two biggest philanthropists of 2012.

god.made.me.do.it
god.made.me.do.it

@yourproductsucks er.. 2 words mate. Bill Gates. He's an atheist and runs the largest transparent charity in the world - he and his wife have given over $36.8 billion dollars to charitable causes. Last year the two greatest philanthropists in America - Warren Buffet ($3.1b) and Mark Zuckerberg ($498.8m) are both non-believers. So yeah atheists do give to charity, I think the thing is most atheists give simply because altruism makes sense to them. Bill Gates doesn't feel obliged to get into heaven or pressured to do what he does, he does it because he thinks helping people is the right thing to do with obscene amounts of wealth.

JohnQ.Public
JohnQ.Public

@yourproductsucks Actually, I think that the stats show that atheists are more likely to donate to others while more religious folks are more inclined to donate to themselves.  Statistics show that almost 1/3 of all charitable contributions are to churches, temples and other religious institutions.  I'd argue that a person donating to their own church is donating to themselves because their donation is paying for the building, utilities, clergy, administrative staff, programming, etc.  that they rely on for their own personal religious observance.  I want a church to go to so I while donate to build and sustain a church so I have someplace to pray - notice the number of "I"s in that statement.   While this is classified as a charitable contribution for tax purposes, it is really a very self-centered contribution because it is really paying for the individual's own religious observance.  Atheists, on the other hand, don't have a church or temple to donate to so most of their charitable donations go directly to causes that directly impact others like educational institutions and social service organizations (yes, the Red Cross may have once been a religious organization but it is as secular as the United Way now and is a social service organizaiton and not a religious one).  So while those who practice religious observance may give more charitable contributions generally, ahteists tend to give money in the same, if not higher, proportion to charities that help people other than themselves.

robbiecahill
robbiecahill

@yourproductsucks Atheist can't be bundled together as a group like that. The only thing they have in common is they do not believe in any of the 3000+ gods we as humans have created over the years. And when they do give top charity it's out of kindness, not to buy a ticket into some form of afterlife. 

robbiecahill
robbiecahill

@yourproductsucks Atheists are not a group you can bundle together. the only thing they have in common is they don't believe in any of the 3000+ gods that we as humans have created. Religious folk are charitable because they think they will get rewarded after death. Non religious do it out of Kindness. Also worth noting prisons in America are full of Religious folk with only 1% of them being non religious.

Tommy_Collins
Tommy_Collins

@yourproductsucks Interesting, indeed. I wonder, by contrast, how many active and retired police officers contribute to the 100 Club of Arizona? 


JohnQ.Public
JohnQ.Public

@Tommy_Collins On the bright side, if you ever find yourself at a Taylor Swift concert you can show it to an usher and the usher will immediately help you find your way to the nearest exit door for free.

paul813
paul813

I Donate All The Time! It's.The Humanist Thing To Do To Help Those In Need!

yourproductsucks
yourproductsucks

@mikefrombisbee @yourproductsucks generally speaking, of course.  I'm sure there are individuals out there that break the mold.  This fella seems to be one of those mold breakers.

I'll bet that this woman also received aid from the Red Cross and other Charities (most of which are Christian based) that respond to situations like this one despite her beliefs.  It would be my argument that those who giv,e regardless of the receivers like-mindedness are truly the generous ones. 

yourproductsucks
yourproductsucks

@mikefrombisbee @yourproductsucks

Finally, the single biggest predictor of whether someone will be charitable is their religious participation.

Religious people are more likely to give to charity, and when they give, they give more money: four times as much.

http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=2682730&page=1

"States like Utah and Alabama and Mississippi all end up very high on our list," he says. "And states where [there's] more of a secular mindset, particularly in New England and all along the coast, tended to show up lower on the list

http://www.npr.org/2012/08/20/158947667/study-reveals-the-geography-of-charitable-giving

Tommy_Collins
Tommy_Collins

@JohnQ.PublicJQ, as usual your point is valid. That said, however, I have to wonder how I might EVER happen to be at a Taylor Swift concert? I can say she is pleasant to look at...

pszymeczek
pszymeczek

@yourproductsucks The Red Cross will be shortly sending her a bill for "Services Rendered."  It's a little misleading to call them a charity.

beckett959
beckett959

@yourproductsucks Atheists are just as generous as religious folk, and morally superior, as they're not angling for a reward.

dmbhendricks
dmbhendricks

@yourproductsucks @mikefrombisbee I was under the impression that this was only true if you counted their church as a "charity".  Which is pretty questionable considering that if you are a Mormon, some of your donations went to promoting Prop 8, if you are Catholic, some of it went to paying off abused kids, and no matter what you are, a large chunk of it went to rent, upkeep, and utilities for your church and a paycheck for your pastor.  

mikefrombisbee
mikefrombisbee

@yourproductsucks@mikefrombisbee

So, you have a feature story done by ABC News - the same news organization that did such a superb job recently handling the Benghazi non-story regarding White House involvement in handling the incident. Here's a couple of scientific studies that contradict your links:
 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/01/religious-compassion-atheists-agnostics_n_1468006.html.

http://grisham.newsvine.com/_news/2011/11/08/8691971-are-religious-people-more-charitable-than-atheists

Church goers tend to give money to causes that have religious undertones. Seem to have more to do with expressing religious beliefs than serving as an expression of generosity. So you bring out your survey and I'll bring out mine. I flatly disagree with any assertion that says those who believe in supernatural beings are less generous than those who don't. Church-going, conservative states like Mississippi and Utah - and Arizona - also rank among the lowest per capita spending on education. How is that an expression of their generosity?

My wife and I are non-believers. We donate a substantial portion of our incomes to such organizations as the Boys and Girls Club of Bisbee and the Friends of Warren Ballpark. We likewise volunteer our time and labor to those and to other causes. We do it because we have strong moral values and a sense of community identity rather than because our priest, minister, rabbi or imam urged us to do so.

 Atheists displaying generosity are not breaking the mold. They are people displaying the best of human attributes - as I hope those religious folks are doing when they give. But we refuse to believe that others who don't believe certain superstitions are doomed to eternal hellfire.

 Bisbee, with its large population of secular humanists, gays and liberals, is the second smallest community in the U.S. to have a Boys and Girls Club. Church goers AND atheists can be generous it would seem. 



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