I'm a college student with no job and no insurance, fresh out of homelessness, with a wisdom tooth coming in and causing debilitating pain. That said, I can't afford to see a dentist to remove it (or do any of the other work I need done).
There is a free dental clinic nearby, but they are part of a religious organization called the Union Gospel Mission. These people run the only free medical clinic in the area, as well.
On this base, I have two questions:
1- Would you, as an Atheist, feel uncomfortable or even wrong turning to a religious organization for help in a time of need, like mine, knowing that to not would mean continuing in extreme pain? Why or why not? Piggybacked onto this question, assuming that you did receive the treatment, would you later donate money back to this organization to help them keep running the free service that helped you? Why or why not?
2- Do you think it would be possible to have a secular equivalent to this sort of organization? I mean, Dawkins commented on Athiests being a political minority due to their lack of organizing together, but do you think that it would be realistically possible to put together a group of secular do-gooders for giving back to the community (Would you feel differently if it was specifically for secular people, vs having the public school DADT policy regarding religion)?
1. Personally I would take the treatment....period
2. Yes, although speaking from the UK, it is not too hard to setup and run a charity based on current UK tax and corporation law. If that charity is a group of Atheists then so be it. http://www.southhamps.humanist.org.uk/
This is an interesting question, and I'm personally familiar with similar circumstances.
On one hand, the large amount of real life charity to homeless (etc.) is evidence of good intentions of a significant number of religious people. On the other hand, we atheists would also be known for our good intentions if we had numbers large enough to organize at local levels for good causes.
I wouldn't feel bad about donating time and/or money to any organization that has a net positive effect. I would feel even better if I could help an openly atheistic organization do good things for the world. So I feel it's ok to partake of religious charity when in need, with the intention of paying humanity back someday in whatever way works best.
Take the treatment. This will relive your pain, and allow you to get on with the business of being a free-thinking, productive member of society (hard to do when demons are drilling your mandible). Deliver your payback however you see fit - you'll know when it is appropriate and sufficient.