Friday, June 01, 2007

A Tolerant Atheist

Via Heart, Mind & Strength, an account of an atheist who gave a major contribution to Catholic education.

According to the New York Daily News:
The wealthy philanthropist who gave $22.5 million to help Catholic schools doesn’t think much of theology - in fact, he’s an atheist.

But even though Robert Wilson doesn’t believe in God, he does believe in giving poor kids a chance at a quality education.

“I am an atheist, [but] it’s far more than about religion,” said Robert Wilson, who was raised as an Episcopalian. “It’s about getting an education. The donation has nothing to do with religion.”

The statement didn’t exactly sit well with Edward Cardinal Egan, who joked that Wilson might need a bit of an education himself about what goes on in Catholic schools.

“Mr. Wilson and I are going to [be] spending a lot of time together,” Egan quipped.

The donation - the biggest in Archdiocese of New York history - will help 3,000 kids from poor families pay for Catholic schools in New York City during the next five years.

Wilson, 80, suggested he would have considered supporting public education, but wanted to sink his money into what he considers a higher-quality school system.

The former Wall Street investor, who is listed among BusinessWeek’s “50 Most Generous Philanthropists,” blamed the teachers union for crippling public schools with what he termed selfish and greedy demands.

“They oppose any effort to help private schools,” said Wilson, who usually shuns the limelight. “They’ve opposed any kind of help to the Roman Catholic system.”
According to Bloomberg, Wilson said:
“Let’s face it, without the Roman Catholic Church, there would be no Western civilization,” Wilson said. “Shunning religious organizations would be abhorrent.”
As the culture war has heated up, expressions of venomous hostility toward Christianity on the part of atheists have been front and center in the media, and even in the local leftist blogosphere.

But people who simply don’t believe in God are not necessarily bigots, nor necessarily enemies of Christians.

As for people like Wilson: Christians are going to pray that they will find Jesus. But regardless of that, he’s a good guy, and deserving of love as a generous and compassionate fellow.

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