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Helping Haiti because it makes us feel good - Comments

Dhamma's Avatar Comment 1 by Dhamma

If, as others here have suggested cristians claim, God moves in mysterious ways and the disaster was in some way a good deed from god, then why do christians send money to aid the Haitians? God is doing all the good he can in Haiti and would surely not want his own followers to try ruin his benevolent plan in killing people.

Mon, 25 Jan 2010 15:32:00 UTC | #435071

sirmailbox's Avatar Comment 2 by sirmailbox

This article is persuasive. After reading it, I am less uneasy about the NBGA and its mixing of humanitarian and self promotional priorities.

The criticism can be made that atheists are only using the NBGA to further their own collective image, but even if this is true, so what? The moral inferiority of our "world view" is taken for granted in some discourse. We can argue against it from a theoretical standpoint, or we can SHOW the dubiousness of the claim through positive action. The latter seems a more direct and provocative route, and presenting evidence for one's good character in the face of unseemly accusations is nothing to be ashamed of.

Mon, 25 Jan 2010 15:40:00 UTC | #435073

root2squared's Avatar Comment 3 by root2squared

If helping someone made us feel bad, we would never do it. It's as simple as that.

Mon, 25 Jan 2010 15:48:00 UTC | #435075

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 4 by God fearing Atheist


The real facts, however, are very different. All humans, independent of their religious identity, fall along the normal bell curve of generosity, kindness, and caring.

Yep, but where does this come from? This pedant wants a reference!

Mon, 25 Jan 2010 15:58:00 UTC | #435079

hairybreeks's Avatar Comment 5 by hairybreeks

All humans, independent of their religious identity, fall along the normal bell curve of generosity, kindness, and caring.

Now THAT sounds like a scientific statement. Anyone know of any study that supports it? Or, as the case may be, falsifies it?

Mon, 25 Jan 2010 16:03:00 UTC | #435081

Alyson Miers's Avatar Comment 6 by Alyson Miers

As we handed out socks, gloves, soap, and such things to the 40 or 50 homeless people at 8.00am, a few yards away under the freeway was a church group setting up to give out food. Not without the sermon first, however. I never heard a single AHH volunteer ask if anyone was an atheist, tell them why they should be an atheist, or that atheism would lead them to happiness.

I guess this is what offends the theists so much about secular charity: we heathens skip the sermon and go straight to handing out the free shit to folks in need. The nerve.

Mon, 25 Jan 2010 16:07:00 UTC | #435083

Quine's Avatar Comment 8 by Quine

I hope we get more of these, and encourage folks here to write letters to publications along these lines. We don't know how this is going to shake out, but it is a good sign that the expected criticism mentioned by sirmailbox has only hit a few outlets. Perhaps the number of not-actually-believers out there is higher than we hoped, and they do know deep in their hearts that giving is a human thing, that does not require a supernatural cause.

Mon, 25 Jan 2010 16:16:00 UTC | #435086

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 7 by Tyler Durden

"The real facts, however, are very different. All humans, independent of their religious identity, fall along the normal bell curve of generosity, kindness, and caring."

Yep, but where does this come from? This pedant wants a reference!

Now THAT sounds like a scientific statement. Anyone know of any study that supports it? Or, as the case may be, falsifies it?
Leave it with me... we studied pro-social behaviour in Social Psychology last semester in college, I may have journal articles handy that show this.

Mon, 25 Jan 2010 16:16:00 UTC | #435085

Friend Giskard's Avatar Comment 9 by Friend Giskard


Holy crap. look at this:


[For those who might not know, Cherie Booth is Tony Blair's missus]

Mon, 25 Jan 2010 16:37:00 UTC | #435091

Dhamma's Avatar Comment 11 by Dhamma

Friend Giskard,

Who'd imagine she's married to the man who wants to "show how faith is a powerful force for good in the modern world". Absolutely despicable how she could let someone free with religious motives.

You should try to get it posted on the front-page. Preferably a longer article, but it's important people get to know about it.

Mon, 25 Jan 2010 16:46:00 UTC | #435097

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 10 by Tyler Durden

This study is interesting:

"Another possible explanation is that the religious prime aroused an imagined presence of supernatural watchers, and that this perception then increased prosocial behavior (for similar observations about supernatural concepts, see Dering, 2006, and Boyer, 2001). Although religions vary profoundly, central to all faiths is the idea of one or more omnipresent and omniscient moralizing agents who defy death, ignorance, and illusion; who demand costly sacrifice; and who arbitrate behavior in groups
(Atran, 2002; Atran & Norenzayan, 2004; Norenzayan & Hansen, 2006"

"If the mere presence of eyespots could increase generosity, it is very plausible that rousing belief in a supernatural watcher could produce similar effects, as was shown in an experiment by Bering et al. (2005) in which the belief that a dead graduate student’s ghost resided in the testing room reduced cheating. In sum, we are suggesting that activation of God concepts, even outside of reflective awareness, matches the input conditions of an agency detector and, as a result, triggers this hyperactive tendency to infer the presence of an intentional watcher. This sense of being watched then activates reputational concerns, undermines the anonymity of the situation, and, as a result, curbs selfish behavior."

God Is Watching You

Mon, 25 Jan 2010 16:46:00 UTC | #435096

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 12 by Tyler Durden

Just found this one, but don't have the time to browse through it just yet:

"Although we have seen strong associations between giving and religious attendance, these associations do not necessarily imply causality. Nor do the results make it particularly clear as to what aspects of religious behaviour is associated with giving. Clearly religious identity alone is not important. But whether the religious variable that is related to giving is religious belief or whether it is the relationships and norms generated by the worshiping community we cannot say. It is likely to be a combination of both. We can however say that although there is a further expression of commitment to religion, volunteering for religious organisations, does generally strengthen the relationship between frequent attendance and giving, it is not the dominant variable suggested by some United States research."

"Is it religious belief or religious networks?

Finally, we need to discover whether the positive relationships between giving and religion is produced by frequency of religious participation, or whether it is mainly accounted for by those religious participants who are also active volunteers for their religion."

Religion and Giving in Australia

Mon, 25 Jan 2010 16:58:00 UTC | #435098

Dr. Strangegod's Avatar Comment 13 by Dr. Strangegod

I don't know, atheists handing out socks to homeless people? This is just distasteful and smacks of shameless self-promotion.

... and I'm kidding. Sheesh.

Seriously though, I do have some puzzlement about the assertions in the first couple of paragraphs. I'm just not sure I feel the same empathy that everyone else apparently does. I've been trying to keep quiet about it while this goes on, as I wouldn't want to discourage anyone from trying to alleviate the suffering of others. It's a noble activity and I'm all for it. Mad respect to the Red Cross, DWB, NBGA, and everyone else. I just don't have the same urge. Does that make me a cold bastard? If I was there, watching people cry and starve and die, I'd work tirelessly to help them and not tolerate any amount of inequality of comfort between myself and anyone else. But sending money from far away and not knowing how it gets spent just doesn't do it for me, no matter how much trust I have in the organizations administering the effort.

Mon, 25 Jan 2010 17:10:00 UTC | #435100

Logicel's Avatar Comment 14 by Logicel

Paula Kirby wrote this at asktheatheists:

There is a very interesting video of a conference talk on morality from an evolutionary point of view.

Tests performed on groups of people from the widest possible range of backgrounds, cultures, races, religions, ages, education levels etc, have consistently shown that 4 out of 5 of us will choose the ‘moral’ option. And, pretty consistently, 1 out of 5 will cheat if they think they’ll get away with it.

It’s pretty commonsensical, when you think of it. We have evolved as social animals, which means that, for Mr or Ms Average, doing what conforms to society’s values probably will give us our best chance of success in an evolutionary sense (ie. retaining our lives and our freedom long enough to be able to pass our genes into the next generation).

However, for those people who are cunning enough to stay one step ahead of the rule-enforcers and can therefore generally avoid getting caught – this is the 1 in 5 – BREAKING society’s co-operative ‘moral’ norms may well give them the best chance of success.

And so we find both traits surviving, in those proportions. The absolute consistency of the results of the ‘moral testing’, regardless of culture, age, religiosity, nationality, race, gender etc etc certainly points towards an evolutionary explanation rather than a cultural one; and certainly not a religious one, since whether someone is religious or not, and which religion they follow if they are, makes no difference whatsoever to the moral choices made by the people being tested.

This is the link to the video:

The link for the question and answers is:

Mon, 25 Jan 2010 17:19:00 UTC | #435101

Dhamma's Avatar Comment 15 by Dhamma


I perfectly understand you'd like to see exactly where the help is going, but is it really a better option to stay out of donating simply because you cannot see it for yourself?

I wish they'd report back in detail where the aid was going. Perhaps that'd better motivate people that reason like Lucas?

Mon, 25 Jan 2010 17:19:00 UTC | #435102

cat's Avatar Comment 16 by cat

After hearing poor Pat Robertson blaming the Haitians for befriending the devil, I can't stop wondering when will he predict another earthquake because the same Haitians accepted help from atheists...

How dare we, atheists, help others!

Mon, 25 Jan 2010 17:24:00 UTC | #435104

Alyson Miers's Avatar Comment 17 by Alyson Miers

Friend Giskard @10, that link makes me despair for humanity. The stupid, it burns.

Mon, 25 Jan 2010 17:28:00 UTC | #435105

Logicel's Avatar Comment 18 by Logicel

Lucas, I am the same way. I usually give one to one or to a specific group with whom I have direct contact. However, I do make exceptions for grand disasters like the Haitian situation.

When taking Haidt's moral test, my answer of predominately giving aid to people close by was mis-interpreted as my not being parsimonious enough and not seeing the other on the same footing as myself. But that was not the reason. I have no problems seeing all humans on the same footing. I am just cautious about how the money is spent as much can be gobbled up without aiding the targeted audience.

Mon, 25 Jan 2010 17:29:00 UTC | #435106

bethe123's Avatar Comment 19 by bethe123

All humans, independent of their religious identity, fall along the normal bell curve of generosity, kindness, and caring. Some are generous, some are not, and it has little to do with whether or not they are religious.

I think this is a little too generous. Initially a pristine population could be expected to fall along a normal bell curve, but I would not predict this to hold after a population had been indoctrinated with religion, which as we know can be quite cruel.

If such a study was done, I would predict the curve for atheists would be skewed , and show atheism either selects for kindness, generosity, etc, or it encourages these traits.

I would expect the opposite trend for some religions.

Mon, 25 Jan 2010 17:57:00 UTC | #435112

ColdFusionLazarus's Avatar Comment 20 by ColdFusionLazarus

From the article

I never heard a single AHH volunteer ask if anyone was an atheist, tell them why they should be an atheist, or that atheism would lead them to happiness.

I should bloody think not, because to tell anyone that atheism leads to happiness would be a lie.

I hope I never see an unbliever pasting on unreal vacant smiles - similar to that seen on some of the religious.

I'm reasonably content with my dour life, thankyou very much.

Mon, 25 Jan 2010 17:58:00 UTC | #435115

carbonman's Avatar Comment 21 by carbonman

Nice article. Reminds me of the converse, i.e. when theists do or say blatantly immoral things. It seems they have their consciences turned off because they perceive themselves as permanently morally OK on account of their theism. It's as if they don't monitor their actions the way most of the rest of us do. Seen it time and time again. Where I live we all have to park on a small patch of over-parked wasteground, and dents from carelessly opened doors are common. If my car gets scratched I usually leave a stern note on the offender's windscreen. A theist friend, who's always banging on about his moral superiority, deliberately scratches them back with his keys.

Mon, 25 Jan 2010 19:07:00 UTC | #435141

jackal's Avatar Comment 22 by jackal

I'm somewhat mystified over all the criticism NBGA is receiving. All of the money being raised by NBGA is going to charity, with $0.00 (zero dollars) being used for self promotion. When you donate to the charities like the Red Cross, you have the option of receiving a "thank you" gift. That's self promotion, both for the org and the person donating, and it reduces the amount of the donation used for actual charity work. NBGA isn't even doing that. They're supplying an extra outlet for non-believers donate to a good cause while allowing them to take credit by occasionally announcing how much money was raised. NBGA's existence can only bolster the Haiti relief effort.

Mon, 25 Jan 2010 20:58:00 UTC | #435167

Kmita's Avatar Comment 23 by Kmita

"If, as others here have suggested christians claim, God moves in mysterious ways and the disaster was in some way a good deed from god"

There's nothing mysterious about Haiti. It's quite obvious that his supreme noodliness planned the destruction of Haiti in order to get back at them for making deals with Fettuccine Alfredo. Those of us who did not stray shall be rewarded in the hereafter with an infinite supply of meatballs. Everything clear now?

Mon, 25 Jan 2010 21:39:00 UTC | #435185

Steven Mading's Avatar Comment 24 by Steven Mading

I don't care whether or not religious givers are giving out of alterior motives or not. What I *do* care about is whether or not their giving is in the form of actual help or in the form of proselytising. I don't call them self-serving hypocrites if their donations are in the form of real material aid. I DO, however, if their donations are in the form of attempts at religious recruitment.

In other words:
A religious donation going toward sending food packages to Haiti = good.
A religious donation going toward sending solar powered talking bibles to Haiti = bad.

It's when the *OUTPUT* of the "charitable" donations is religious that I ridicule it as self-serving, not when the INPUT is.

Mon, 25 Jan 2010 21:46:00 UTC | #435188

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 25 by Jos Gibbons

Comment #454635 by jackal

It reminds me of critics of The Atheist Guide to Christmas. I remember thinking, why are these people giving this a hostile review, thus discouraging its purchase? 100 % of its proceeds go to a charity that works to prevent human death! I get the feeling that many vocal critics of atheism truly are willing to let others die for the sake of atheism not improving its PR. Worse still, it's possible that on a small scale that does indeed happen.

BTW I like your cat.

Comment #454656 by Steven Mading

That's a pretty sensible approach - judge by the consequences, not the motives. Sadly, the output isn't always that great either.

Mon, 25 Jan 2010 21:54:00 UTC | #435190