MARTIN: So, what do you do as a minister, as a member of this community? What’s your role in this? What have you been doing?
DONAHUE: Well, it is to do whatever we can. To be honest, this is not a one-man team. This is not a one-organization team. We have got people spearheading all different areas right now. We’ve got donations. We’ve got people taking care of displaced people. We’ve got people preparing food. But we have had just an unbelievable outpouring of community love and support.
MARTIN: I imagine you’ve been talking with your own congregation, people in the community. How are people coping?
DONAHUE: You know, I think a lot of this is just shock. We’ve never seen anything like this. And as they are just coming to grips with it, you’ll see people who just come in wondering what do I do next, because they’ll have a home that is absolutely gone and they had no insurance on it. So, my hope and my experience as we just minister to them is you’re here and things can be replaced. And we’re going to be here and your community is going to be here and we’re ready to help you and get back on your feet. But it’s going to be a one day at a time. This is not a couple of days and we’re back. You see so many things on the news like this, and at the end of the day you forget about it a week out. So, this is going to be an opportunity for our community to really rally around our people and love them and continue just to minister to them.
MARTIN: This will be a profoundly different kind of Sunday. How do you minister to people on this day?
DONAHUE: We don’t have a service. We have totally shifted gears. And so there are no regular services. This is around the clock. And so we – our church has turned into a totally different thing at this point. We are a command post and we are going to continue to serve this community. And so for many days to come, we have the opportunity to lift Christ in this community.
MARTIN: Pastor B.J. Donahue of Piner Baptist Church. He spoke to us from his community, Piner, Kentucky. Pastor Donahue, thanks so much for taking time.
From Bryan Appleyard’s New Statesmen essay about the radicalism of the New Atheists:
De Botton is the most recent and, consequently, the most shocked victim. He has just produced a book, Religion for Atheists: a Non-Believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion, mildly suggesting that atheists like himself have much to learn from religion and that, in fact, religion is too important to be left to believers. He has also proposed an atheists’ temple, a place where non-believers can partake of the consolations of silence and meditation.
This has been enough to bring the full force of a neo-atheist fatwa crashing down on his head. The temple idea in particular made them reach for their best books of curses.
“I am rolling my eyes so hard that it hurts,” wrote the American biologist and neo-atheist blogger P Z Myers. “You may take a moment to retch. I hope you have buckets handy.” Myers has a vivid but limited prose palette.
There have been threats of violence. De Botton has been told he will be beaten up and his guts taken out of him. One email simply said, “You have betrayed Atheism. Go over to the other side and die.”
De Botton finds it bewildering, the unexpected appearance in the culture of a tyrannical sect, content to whip up a mob mentality. “To say something along the lines of ‘I’m an atheist; I think religions are not all bad’ has become a dramatically peculiar thing to say and if you do say it on the internet you will get savage messages calling you a fascist, an idiot or a fool. This is a very odd moment in our culture. Why has this happened?”
Religion is not going to go away. It is a natural and legitimate response to the human condition, to human consciousness and to human ignorance. One of the most striking things revealed by the progress of science has been the revelation of how little we know and how easily what we do know can be overthrown. Furthermore, as Hitchens in effect acknowledged and as the neo-atheists demonstrate by their ideological rigidity and savagery, absence of religion does not guarantee that the demonic side of our natures will be eliminated. People should have learned this from the catastrophic failed atheist project of communism, but too many didn’t.
Happily, the backlash against neo-atheism has begun, inspired by the cult’s own intolerance.
Hmm. If a tornado comes out of the sky and destroys my family’s house, I doubt I’d see any of P.Z. Myers’s followers, or Richard Dawkins’s, coming to my aid. I am certain I’d see Methodists, Baptists, Catholics, Episcopalians, and Pentecostals.
UPDATE: No, the willingness of people to help in crisis does not make their religious beliefs true. And yes, there are moral atheists. Agreed.