Atheist Activists Spin Out of Control

The “Friendly” Atheist is an angry atheist, apparently “pissed off” by the fact that the Murrow Indian Children’s Home, an orphanage, exceeded its fundraising goals this year despite the intense, smear campaign the internet atheist community launched.

Mehta, a career activist, furiously spins this news.  He begins as follows:

Remember the Murrow Indian Children’s Home?

That’s the Christian charity from Oklahoma that rejected Matt Wilbourn‘s donation of $100 on behalf of the Muskogee Atheist Community (which he and his wife Keli co-founded) — and then later rejected the $25,667.80 he raised for them online — all because the religious leaders said accepting money from atheists would “go against everything they believe in.”

Wrong.  There is no evidence that any “religious leaders” said “accepting money from atheists would go against everything they believe in.”

Lets deal in reality, shall we?

If you listen to the podcast where the Talking Atheist interviews Matt Wilbourn, you will get Wilbourn’s side of the story.  And in it, you will discover that Matt Wilbourn did not talk to any “religious leaders.”  He talked only to the “young lady” that came into his workplace that morning who then called him back an hour after he left.

It is the “young lady” who said (according to Matt’s account) that it “goes against everything we believe in.”  It was the “young lady” who described herself as the “middleman.”

Since this “young lady” is not a religious leader, and is the only one who allegedly told this to Matt, it is simply false that “religious leaders said accepting money from atheists would go against everything they believe in.”

What’s more, it is significant that Matt describes her as a “young lady.”  He himself is fairly young, so for him to describe her as a “young lady” means she was probably around the age of someone who might attend college.  Given the home relies heavily on volunteers, it is quite possible  the “young lady” was a college-student doing some summer intern or volunteer work.  As such, “goes against everything we believe in” is probably nothing more than the awkward wording of some 19-year-old volunteer who walked into an awkward position.  Yet Mehta has spun it to be some official pronouncement of “religious leaders.” Tsk, tsk.

Of course, those of us who value critical thinking know by now it was not about “accepting money from atheists.”  Wilbourn linked the acceptance of the money to having the orphanage publicly honor his tiny, secretive atheist activist Facebook group.  That was the sticking point.  Yes, a small group of atheist activists who wanted to keep their existence a secret from the world expected to be publicly honored by a Christian charity because of a $100 donation.  Looks like trolling, doesn’t it?

If you listen to the podcast interview, you will also discover that Matt Wilbourn, who describes himself as an activist, pounced on this with lightening speed.  After talking with the “young lady,” he contacted an editor at a local news website, then he contacted the TV station.  Activists are always looking for the nearest camera.  He emailed the director of the Home and explained “what had happened that morning“. He emailed that his secret group raised the donation to  $250 (although he did not tell anyone at the time his group was secret) and then threatened her by letting her know the email was being cc’d to the editor of the news site he contacted earlier. The director never replied, probably because she didn’t see the email until after Matt had gotten his narrative to go viral, given it must have been the late afternoon or evening of that same day when he sent it.

So Willbourn only talked to the “young lady” who came in to get flyers printed. Within hours of receiving her call, he collaborated with his secret atheist group, who came up with the idea to start the GoFundMe page to put pressure on the orphanage. He contacted two news organizations and then sent an email to the director about his group’s $250 offer and let her know his email was being cc’d to a media person.

There is no reason Wilbourn had to move so fast on this. There is no reason he had to contact the media. The best explanation for this odd behavior is that Wilbourn, an admitted activist, was engaged in activist street theater. Viewing him as an activist out to further his anti-religious agenda, the actions make sense.   In fact, at 10:22 in the podcast, he describes these events as “a success for the atheist community all over the world.”

Let’s get back to Mehta’s spin:

Even after the fundraiser, the charity drive’s biggest donor, the American Baptist Home Mission Societies, couldn’t stop trashing the atheists, as if they were the ones who did something wrong.

The spin is getting thick.  There is no evidence that the American Baptist Home Mission Societies “trashed” atheists.  The orphanage itself never trashed atheists.  The orphanage simply and merely did not want to take the donation because it was tied to them publicly honoring Matt’s secretive FB group and the American Baptist Home Mission Societies stood in solidarity with them.   And that’s not “trashing the atheists.”  The only ones who did the trashing are Mehta and the internet atheist community.  They couldn’t stop trashing the orphanage, where the hateful rhetoric became some bad that the orphanage had to shut down its FB group.  Even on Google reviews, the atheists are trashing the orphanage.  And Mehta  continues to trash them with his erroneous spin.

There were no “undeserved” attacks on the home.

Yes there were.  Then again, when the orphanage had to shut down its FB page because of all the atheist hate, Hemant Mehta never once commented on that.  Interesting, eh?  That was one update that never got mentioned on his blog.  Hmmmm.

There was valid criticism from people who questioned why a Christian charity would refuse to accept money from atheists who just wanted to help the children in their care.

Wrong again.  Matt Wilbourn insisted his $100 bill be tied to the charity publicly honoring a small, secretive militant atheist FB group he runs.  Hemant Mehta, being the full-time anti-religious activist on record of encouraging others to write stories that trash religious people, spun this as the charity refusing to take any money if it came from atheists because it was dirty.  Given the anti-religious hostility of Mehta’s audience, along with their gullibility when it comes to anti-religious stories, they reacted in knee-jerk fashion with red-faced rage.  The rage became so bad that the charity had to shut down its FB page and some angry atheists even began to make nasty calls to the orphanage.

There’s nothing admirable about what the Murrow people did. It was selfish and unnecessary.

What is selfish and unnecessary is trolling a charity such that the acceptance of your $100 donation is linked to having the charity honoring  your secretive little FB group in one of its publication.  Then, when the charity refuses to play along, immediately run to the media, play victim, and get them to help facilitate your efforts to trash the charity.  Atheist activist street theater is what is selfish and unnecessary here.

Even if they received a windfall from other Christians celebrating their persecution, it wasn’t the right move.

The subjective opinion of an activist with an axe to grind.

There’s absolutely no reason to think a Christian group accepting money from non-Christian people were doing something blasphemous or contrary to their mission. This wasn’t dirty money.

There’s absolutely no reason to think the Christian group refused the money because they thought it was dirty and blasphemous simply because it came from non-Christian people.

In the end, we are left with the simple fact that Matt Wilbourn and Hemant Mehta, in the name of their precious atheist activism, harassed and trashed an orphanage.  You have to stoop pretty low to target and harass an ORPHANAGE.  But these atheist activists went there.  It defines them.

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23 Responses to Atheist Activists Spin Out of Control

  1. Kevin says:

    This is the only reasonable interpetation of events. Mehta is the Al Sharpton of atheists – he is not the one you go to for advice, he’s the one you go to for heavily biased spin and widespread smear campaigns.

    This right here is the face of New Atheism, where even attacking an orphanage is acceptable collateral damage in the war against religion. But that’s a hate group for you.

  2. Dhay says:

    Hemant Mehta’s blog post titles look very like typical click-bait titles; an impression which is supported by the typical click-bait post content.

  3. Lucas M says:

    This post was so satisfying. I’m happy it ended well for the orphanage. I have more of a distaste for Hemant than other outright hateful atheists simply because of his fake “friendly” persona. I still can’t believe love is put to the wayside in favor of a belief for these guys. Atheists activists really are pathetic.

  4. Gottfried says:

    “a success for the atheist community all over the world.”

    Sometimes you don’t know whether to laugh or cry or vomit. Of course, these folks will continue to be puzzled (and angered!) by the negative attitudes people have toward “the atheist community.”

    Good work documenting this repulsive sideshow, Michael (and Dhay, and everyone else who contributed).

  5. Billy Squibs says:

    I had thought (or at least hoped) that Mehta would have seen the folly of his ways. But he appears to be a slave to the narrative he has helped create.

    Not only does this continued course of action possibly negatively impact the staff and the children in the orphanage, it also reflects very poorly on Mehta as an individual. He may derive some satisfaction from sling mud at the old enemy and reveling in the fiction of persecution (and let’s face it, Christians engage in both of these types of behavior as well), but I really don’t see how he is helping raise the stake of atheists in a country like America. I’m flabbergasted that the self-styled Friendly Atheist (AKA the Belligerent anti-theist) thinks that he comes out looking good or that any of this helps his cause. I suppose it plays well amongst his crowd and perhaps he is hoping to score a few points amongst those not willing to do a little research. But at what cost to decency and truth? My guess is that Mehta has been hanging around too many belligerents for too long to see the humanness of his enemies.

    It’s worth mentioning again that the focus of his chest-thumping indignation is an orphanage, one that serves children coming out of abusive homes.

    Let that sink in.

  6. Billy Squibs says:

    @Godtfried – you beat me to it.

  7. stcordova says:

    Mehta and friends hates the way the orphanage does business, then they can fricken give their money to orphans of their choice directly or some other organizations if they really cared about orphans. They don’t have to make an issue of this like they are doing.

  8. Doug says:

    @stcordova,
    Yes they do (have to make an issue of this)! That’s what “activist street theater” is all about!😉 They’ve demonstrated quite convincingly that they aren’t actually concerned about orphans.

  9. AB says:

    You said “Wrong” to the suggestion that the Christian group rejected the money because it goes against what they believe in. But isn’t that what they said? http://www.kjrh.com/news/local-news/muskogee/childrens-home-denies-donation-from-athiest-group-group-starts-gofundme-to-raise-money “Once again, we thank the Wilbourns’ for their generosity to Murrow and we understand their rights to their beliefs. We also hope that in turn the Muskogee Atheist Community and the Wilbourns’ will respect the Biblical principles of the Murrow foundation for over 100 years and understand why our principles are different and that we must Honor our God.”

    The gofundme campaign has now raised over $28,000. I don’t see any good reason to reject the money, do you? Whatever the reason, it can’t possibly justify depriving orphans of substantial support. In my view, anyway.

  10. Dhay says:

    AB > You said “Wrong” to the suggestion that the Christian group rejected the money because it goes against what they believe in. But isn’t that what they said?

    First, thanks for the link, I’ve not seen this 23/24 August report and interview of Matt Wilbourn before now.

    Please do read the whole of your link, and the whole of what they said, and in particular note the word, “advertisment”:

    To accept money for an advertisement which would indicate “In Honor of the Muskogee Atheist Community” in the advertisement, would be contrary to those Biblical principles upon which we at Murrow stand.
    [My emphases.]

    > I don’t see any good reason to reject the money, do you?

    Read on:

    … the Atheist community will donate the money to Camp Quest, a non-religious camp.

    Not non-religious, but a specifically atheist camp; which got the lot weeks back. There’s plenty of earlier posts and responses if you want to educate yourself further.

  11. AB says:

    Dhay: I did read the article, and you’ll notice I quoted from the last paragraph. You think not having to say “in honor of” is a good reason for depriving orphans of over $28,000?

    Also, on a mere logistical level, it is best to assure contributors that their money went where they intended. The “in honor of” serves that purpose. This is how charities work in general.

    There are different kinds of anger and not all are entirely negative, moral outrange being one of them. I would say that depriving orphans of over $28,000 for such a frivolous reason is morally outrageous. But that’s just me.

  12. Doug says:

    @AB,
    I’m sorry — you are wrong on two counts:
    1. The orphans were never offered $28,000. There is no evidence that they were ever offered anything more than $100. Sure, there is a GoFundMe with a $28k number on it, but as that number grew, it became clear that no more than $5k would ever be offered to the orphanage, and it was not clear that that offer was ever made.
    2. The way you spin “in honor of” is disingenuous. The form didn’t have “in honor of”. It had “in memory of”. Not the same thing.
    You can take your faux-moral-outrage elsewhere, thanks.

  13. Michael says:

    You said “Wrong” to the suggestion that the Christian group rejected the money because it goes against what they believe in.

    Quit twisting my words. I quoted the activist Mehta who asserted, ” all because the religious leaders said accepting money from atheists would “go against everything they believe in.”

    I then demonstrated Mehta was wrong.

    But isn’t that what they said?

    No, they did not say taking money from atheists goes against everything they believe in. If you had bothered to read the blog entry, you would have noticed that I identified the sticking point. The link you provided supports my point:

    Mr. Wilbourn asked that his donation be noted in the ad, “In Honor of the Muskogee Atheist Community”. Murrow cannot Honor the Atheist non-belief in God our father, and Honor God our Father under our Biblical principles. Those two positions are totally opposite of each other. Therefore, we must respectfully decline the donation and the request to Honor the Atheist Community with the donation in an advertisement for a Murrow fundraising event.

    The gofundme campaign has now raised over $28,000.

    The money has supposedly been sent to Camp Quest. Update your info.

    I don’t see any good reason to reject the money, do you?

    The end doesn’t justify the means. I realize this is a hard concept for atheists to grasp.

    Whatever the reason, it can’t possibly justify depriving orphans of substantial support. In my view, anyway.

    They were not deprived. When other Christians and local businesses saw the way the orphanage was being targeted and harassed, they stepped up and raised $40,000.

    Look, this orphanage has been quietly serving the needs of these orphans for over 100 years. You think the atheist GoFundMe campaign of The Day is supposed to earn you a pat on your self-righteous back?

  14. AB says:

    Well yes, $28,000 is the amount on gofundme now, but last month it was $25,667.80 and that is technically the amount that was rejected. Correction noted, thank you. Whether it’s $28K or $25K makes little difference to the point, of course.

    So here is the moral question facing us: a group offers you $25K to help orphans, but the group holds a different view than you. As with any other donor, there would be an “in honor of” note. Do you accept the money and help children with it, or do you reject the money, forgoing the help that could have been done with it?

    To me, the answer is clear. There is no situation in which accepting the money would somehow undermine the organization, if that organization is truly committed to helping children. Rejecting the money is simply morally reprehensible, if the organization is truly committed to helping children.

    But therein lies the issue: the orphanage has other goals in addition to helping children, namely the goal of helping their religion. And there is the next moral question: given the choice, do you help children or do you help your religion? To me, the answer is clear: actually helping children trumps all. I would even say that helping children is my religion, so the choice is a false one. I am sure that many Christians would say the same, except of course the particular Christians in question who rejected the money.

    I think this issue highlights the complications with religious charities as opposed to regular, secular ones. Had the orphanage been secular, there would have been no problem in accepting the money. Somewhat ironically, the morally reprehensible decision to reject the money had its root cause in the religious nature of the organization.

    P.S. Doug, check the news link I gave. According to the children’s home it is “in honor of”. “In memory of” is for the deceased.

  15. Doug says:

    @AB,
    The news link got it wrong. We’ve been tracking this from the beginning…
    Technically, the amount that was rejected was $100.
    “In memory of” is for the deceased. Exactly.

    Incidentally, where do you get your ideas of what is “morally reprehensible” from?

  16. Doug says:

    @AB,
    Here’s the deal: the good folks at Murrow have devoted their entire lives to looking after the disadvantaged. Have you ever spared a cent, let alone a second doing such service? Please do us all the favor and spare us your ridiculously hypocritical judgment of their actions.

  17. TFBW says:

    @Dhay:

    First, thanks for the link, I’ve not seen this 23/24 August report and interview of Matt Wilbourn before now.

    I’m surprised. Usually you are quite the bloodhound when it comes to tracking down these things. That article was linked from Hemant’s original blog post, and I linked to it in one of my comments on the first related blog post here. By the way, that blog post isn’t tagged “muskogee-atheist-community”, and won’t show up in the link you provided.

  18. TFBW says:

    @Doug:

    The news link got it wrong. We’ve been tracking this from the beginning…
    Technically, the amount that was rejected was $100.

    This is compatible with what the news article reports. $100 was rejected initially, then $250 was offered in an email to which there was no response (thus technically never accepted or rejected, and possibly not even received in a timely manner, if at all). There’s no evidence that any offer higher than that was ever directly communicated to the charity, let alone explicitly rejected by them: it was all Matt Wilbourn putting on a public fund-raising performance and making claims about what he was going to donate. I provide a more detailed summary of this in a couple of comments elsewhere.

  19. Michael says:

    So here is the moral question facing us: a group offers you $25K to help orphans, but the group holds a different view than you.

    But that moral example exists in your fantasies and did not apply in this situation. This is a situation where an activist troll decided to put a charity’s principles to the test. When the orphanage refused the $100 donation, the activists decided it was time for some street theater. Mehta himself let the cat out of the bag in his original posting:

    “Everyone has a price,” Matt told me.
    It was almost a mind game: How much cash could atheists raise for a Baptist charity before the employees finally said, okay, okay, we’ll take your dirty heathen money?

    Er, it was a mind game. The atheists came up with a scheme to play an orphanage’s commitment to the children against its commitment to principles. That’s why the activists immediately sought media attention – let the show begin. It was never about the children.

    To me, the answer is clear. There is no situation in which accepting the money would somehow undermine the organization, if that organization is truly committed to helping children. Rejecting the money is simply morally reprehensible, if the organization is truly committed to helping children.

    Ah, so the end always justifies the means, eh? If we are to engage in fantasies, for starters, what if the money was stolen money? $25K, stolen from elderly people who were financially well off. If the organization is truly committed to helping children, they should take it, right?

    But therein lies the issue: the orphanage has other goals in addition to helping children, namely the goal of helping their religion. And there is the next moral question: given the choice, do you help children or do you help your religion? To me, the answer is clear: actually helping children trumps all. I would even say that helping children is my religion, so the choice is a false one. I am sure that many Christians would say the same, except of course the particular Christians in question who rejected the money.

    Er, the particular Christians in question have been quietly serving the children for decades. We have plenty of evidence that they have been helping children long before the atheist activists preened for the camera with their latest street theater episode. And just who are you to judge? You tell us “helping children is my religion,” but those are just empty, hollow words you have typed on a computer screen. There isn’t the tiniest scrap of evidence that you are oh so concerned about any children. None. Zilch. So please. As someone who values evidence, I dismiss your self-righteous posturing as empty words precisely because there is no evidence they are anything other than empty words.

    I think this issue highlights the complications with religious charities as opposed to regular, secular ones.

    What secular ones? Can you name the atheist orphanages out there? Then again, the atheists finally got around to building their first orphanage in 2015.

    Which raises another moral question. Why did Matt Wilbourn donate the money to an atheist organization run by one of Richard Carrier’s lovers instead of donating it to the world’s only atheist orphanage? Did they have something against African children?

  20. Dhay says:

    AB > You think not having to say “in honor of” is a good reason for depriving orphans of over $28,000?

    You think Matt Wilbourn’s not getting the charity to say “in honor of” is a good reason for depriving orphans of “over $28,000?”

    > There are different kinds of anger and not all are entirely negative, moral outrange being one of them. I would say that depriving orphans of over $28,000 for such a frivolous reason is morally outrageous. But that’s just me.

    I would say that Wilbourn’s depriving orphans of “over $28,000” for such a frivolous reason is morally outrageous. But that’s just me.

    > Also, on a mere logistical level, it is best to assure contributors that their money went where they intended. The “in honor of” serves that purpose. This is how charities work in general.

    This particular charity works by publicising the names of donors (and those “in honour of” names) of sums between $100 (initial value of donation) and $1,000 (initial GoFundMe target) at its annual fund-raising event. This applies only to its annual fund-raiser, and there’s a form specifically for that event.

    (Other sums (or the same) can be donated at any time via PayPay using the Home’s site’s link, receiving confirmation back but no publicity.)

    I’ll also point out, on a mere logistical level, that if you donate to a charity, you can be sure the donation went to the charity because you donated to the charity. Or because you bid highest for a beaded buffalo head at their annual event. A receipt is a nice courtesy. Anything else is for the auditors and whatever in the US corresponds to the Charities Commission.

  21. Dhay says:

    Michael > Why did Matt Wilbourn donate the money to an atheist organization run by …

    Clarifying that Matt and Keli Wilbourn didn’t donate to Camp Quest, they donated the whole nett sum to Camp Quest Oklahoma, a ‘branch’ of Camp Quest and with separate management, although CQO promptly donated $5,000 to its Camp Quest ‘parent’ organisation.

    Hemant Mehta and AB are not the only “Atheist Activists Spin[ning] Out of Control” (this post’s title); take a look at Camp Quest’s Wiki report of the incident:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camp_Quest#Murrow_Indian_Children.27s_Home_donation

  22. Doug says:

    @Michael,

    Then again, the atheists finally got around to building their first orphanage in 2015.

    Strangely, the website for that orphanage (www.bizoha.org) has expired.
    Clearly the “parent project” (Kasese Humanist Primary School) is still a going concern, but odd that an enterprise originally funded by a GoFundMe should let its internet presence lapse…

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