A Person Did That
A dear friend of mine, who is into every kind of woo out there, posted this link today on Twitter: NYPD Cop Buys Homeless Man Boots. It’s a nice story about a person doing something for someone in need. I like this kind of story; I think good stuff should make the news too.
What my friend said in her tweet was “THAT is the god I worship.” She did not credit this action to the person, the human being, who made a generous gift to a cold stranger. She gave the credit to a god.
This really annoyed me. A person did this. This is how humans should behave, and it’s incredibly frustrating to see good actions credited to a god who had nothing at all to do with it. The belief system of the cop is unclear and not referenced in the link, so we can’t even say that he did this out of some religious belief. Even if he did, it’s still a person who took that action, not their religion or their god.
This kind of language does real damage to nonreligious people like me. Crediting kind actions to gods, instead of the humans who actually did those actions, makes it seem as if nonbelievers cannot also do good deeds. We do, and we do them without crediting those deeds to any religious belief. We do not need to be instructed, bribed, or threatened into generous actions by religion or supernatural beings.
Good for this cop who did something kind for his fellow man. He deserves credit for his actions.
A year or so ago I was driving on a busy piece of freeway, right about sunset. I saw a woman flagging for help, so I pulled over and (carefully) walked up to her. She asked to use my cell phone to call for help, so I let her, but she wasn’t able to reach anyone. Her problem was a flat tire, and she hadn’t been able to break the lug nuts loose. Her passenger was a man, quite large, and dependent on a wheelchair to get around. While I changed the tire for them she told me that they had been there about an hour, and that the man had been praying that someone would stop and help. I told her that I’m an atheist and try to help people when I can because it’s a better world if people help each other. The man is probably still sure that his god sent me to help them. I don’t expect or want any special credit, but any credit given should come to me (and possibly my parents, who raised me) and not a mythical being. I’m not holding my breath.
I saw this same tweet, and I read it very differently. I don’t doubt that you got the message the way that the poster ment it. But what I brought away from the tweet was “THAT..god” was humanity. I have my faith in the goodness of people.
It is however a reminder that some people can not see morality without religion. That is the part that makes me sad.
My sister had a bout with cancer a couple years back. After a successfully completing the Cut, Poison and Burn Triathlon, she sent out a couple messages letting everyone know how she was doing. An acquaintance mailed back thanking God for her health. My awesome sister said, “No, thank my doctors and scientists who researched my treatments, they’re the ones who did all the work.”