While there have been plenty of comments from tornado survivors in Moore, Okla., praising God and thanking the Lord for their survival, apparently not everyone has the same sentiment.
CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer found that out Tuesday while talking to storm survivor Rebecca Vitsmun, a wife and mother of a young boy whom she was holding while being interviewed by the CNN anchor.
“Well, you’re blessed. Brian, your husband, is blessed. Anders (you son) is blessed,” Blitzer said. “We’re happy you’re here. You guys did a great job. I guess you gotta thank the Lord, right? Do you thank the Lord for that split-second decision?”
“I-I-I’m,” she laughed. “I’m actually an atheist.”
“Oh, you are? All right,” Blitzer said with a chuckle. “But you made the right call.”
“Yup – we are here,” she said, laughing. “And, you know, I don’t blame anybody for thanking the Lord.”
“Of course not,” Blitzer responded.
The exchange is going viral on the Internet, with one YouTube clip already collecting some 200,000 views.
“He found the only atheist in Oklahoma, and he didn’t know it,” opined top-rated radio host Rush Limbaugh. “That’s just too rich. He thinks everybody he talks to is being ‘all God all the time.’”
The trend-monitoring site Topsy.com noted that as of Tuesday afternoon, more than 75,000 people have used the Twitter hashtag #PrayForOklahoma, including pop starlets, pastors and politicians.
President Obama tweeted, “Our prayers are with the people of Oklahoma today.”
CNN reported Tuesday that the push for online prayers has created an backlash from non-believers and even some religious scholars.
“A prayer is supposed to have a consequence for you,” said Elizabeth Drescher, a lecturer at Santa Clara University in California. “It’s not an act of magic.”
British comedian and TV star Ricky Gervais, an ardent foe of organized religion, was more abrasive.
After MTV tweeted that pop stars Beyoncé, Rihanna and Katy Perry were sending their prayers to Oklahoma, Gervais responded, “I feel like an idiot now … I only sent money.”
Gervais and other atheists also kick-started a counter-trend, using the hashtag #ActuallyDoSomethingForOklahoma.
“If all people are doing is praying, it is worthless,” Hemant Mehta, an Illinois math teacher who writes the blog “Friendly Atheist,” told CNN. “If they are praying and donating to the Red Cross, that’s more like it.”