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← Atheists are the most generous—even without heavenly reward!

Atheists are the most generous—even without heavenly reward! - Comments

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 1 by Neodarwinian

Didn't Dinesh De Souza just say the opposite in a debate that was shown on this site recently?

Of course atheist give more. The religious are always tithing and sending money to Creflo Dollar, so they don't have any money left over for real charity.

Sat, 26 Nov 2011 04:20:24 UTC | #893182

wisnoskij's Avatar Comment 2 by wisnoskij

Is there any proof of this? I know at the very least Catholics (I think) are supposed to give 10% of their income to the church and even if most don't go that far I would suspect that Catholicism and many other religions makes huge money in donations. Which are only fair to count as charities.

Many Americanised religions are anti charity but many are still charitable people. and I am sure it is easy to spin the numbers anyway you want. In particular I am sure most church goers donate to charity through their church. So even if you don't want to count donations to the church as charity (which is just ridiculous in my opinion) a lot more money probably comes form pasters who have set up special events and such and gotten donations directly form his "flock" for that particular charity.

So in two particular examples yes we excelled, but is far from rational, freethinking, or skeptical to say that is any reason to believe that we are fundamentally more charitable then the average religious type.

And we can disagree with them on a intellectual issue without constantly thinking of them as fundamentally worse people in all aspects of humanity.

Sat, 26 Nov 2011 04:41:42 UTC | #893185

MotherLodeBeth's Avatar Comment 3 by MotherLodeBeth

Christians started hospitals universities charities food banks and since we have more religious folks than atheists in the United States and in total they give far more than all the atheist combined how can you suggest atheists are more generous?

Most Hospice, homeless shelters, abused women's shelters are started and run by religious folks. Oh and Melinda Gates was both raised and remains a practicing Roman Catholic last I heard. And looking at the list of the wealthiest givers in the article one sees LOTS of church, synagogue attending folks. http://www.businessweek.com/interactive_reports/philanthropy_individual_2008.html

Anyone notice Jon Huntsman is #11 our of the top 50? WOW. The same LDS/Mormon who is running for President.

Sat, 26 Nov 2011 04:42:33 UTC | #893186

criddick's Avatar Comment 4 by criddick

This actually doesn't surprise me to know that atheist are bigger givers than religious folk. While religious people give mass amounts of money to the church, non-believers see a much greater need to give to those who are in great amounts of pain and suffering (quite the opposite of giving to a church). Also, we give because we know it's the right thing to do; not because some book written in ancient times told us to do so.

Sat, 26 Nov 2011 04:51:11 UTC | #893187

mmurray's Avatar Comment 5 by mmurray

Something is wrong with this extract. If you look at the original site it should say

First, the facts.

The current most charitable individuals in the United States, based on “Estimated Lifetime Giving,” are:

1) Warren Buffett (atheist, donated $40.785 billion to “health, education, humanitarian causes”)

2) Bill & Melinda Gates (atheists, donated $27.602 billion to “global health and development, education”)

3) George Soros (atheist, donated $6.936 billion to “open and democratic societies”)

A century ago, one of the USA’s leading philanthropists was Andrew Carnegie, atheist.

The section in the middle has been lost.

That said it appears he is wrong about Melinda Gates, at least if wiki is to be believed.

Michael

Sat, 26 Nov 2011 04:55:09 UTC | #893188

mmurray's Avatar Comment 6 by mmurray

Comment 2 by wisnoskij :

Is there any proof of this? I know at the very least Catholics (I think) are supposed to give 10% of their income to the church and even if most don't go that far I would suspect that Catholicism and many other religions makes huge money in donations. Which are only fair to count as charities.

Why would you count money donated to the RCC to support the local priest and put a new roof on the church as charity ?

Michael

Sat, 26 Nov 2011 04:59:24 UTC | #893190

wisnoskij's Avatar Comment 7 by wisnoskij

I am not sure what

Comment 5 by mmurray :

That said it appears he is wrong about Melinda Gates, at least if wiki is to be believed.

Michael

I am not sure what wiki you are talking about because THE wiki specifically says that she is a practising Roman Catholic. And Buffett is a agnostic.

Sat, 26 Nov 2011 05:09:10 UTC | #893191

mmurray's Avatar Comment 8 by mmurray

Comment 7 by wisnoskij :

I am not sure what

Comment 5 by mmurray :

That said it appears he is wrong about Melinda Gates, at least if wiki is to be believed.

Michael

I am not sure what wiki you are talking about because THE wiki specifically says that she is a practising Roman Catholic. And Buffett is a agnostic.

You misunderstood what I posted.

"he is wrong about Melinda Gates" = "he is wrong when he says Melinda Gates was an atheist"

"He" means the guy Hank Pellissier who wrote the original article.

Wikipedia actually also lists Bill Gates as an agnostic.

Michael

Sat, 26 Nov 2011 05:15:54 UTC | #893192

wisnoskij's Avatar Comment 9 by wisnoskij

Comment 6 by mmurray :

Why would you count money donated to the RCC to support the local priest and put a new roof on the church as charity ?

Michael

Because the believers are giving to at least what they views is a good cause, it does not matter if you disagree or if they use it to molest children the same as it does not matter if cancer research money gets redirected.

And in fact Kiva.org is a very good example of what a charity is not. It is a business you give out loans at near criminal rates (24% average) and make a killing off of poor people who have no other choice. And I am sure that the oversight is minimal, how you would even check on a business half a world away. I am sure more then a little bit of of these loans have been used secretly to fund drug operations or child prostitution.

Sat, 26 Nov 2011 05:18:35 UTC | #893193

wisnoskij's Avatar Comment 10 by wisnoskij

Does anyone even care if they are at all being fair with what they say. I cannot believe anyone considers http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiva_(organization) a charity. Sure I would love to donate to charity and double my savings but that is impossible. And since when is bloodsports a charity (and that is tame enough to actually be above board).

Sat, 26 Nov 2011 05:24:36 UTC | #893194

mmurray's Avatar Comment 11 by mmurray

Comment 9 by wisnoskij :

Comment 6 by mmurray :

Why would you count money donated to the RCC to support the local priest and put a new roof on the church as charity ?

Michael

Because the believers are giving to at least what they views is a good cause, it does not matter if you disagree or if they use it to molest children the same as it does not matter if cancer research money gets redirected.

And in fact Kiva.org is a very good example of what a charity is not. It is a business you give out loans at near criminal rates (24% average) and make a killing off of poor people who have no other choice. And I am sure that the oversight is minimal, how you would even check on a business half a world away. I am sure more then a little bit of of these loans have been used secretly to fund drug operations or child prostitution.

I'm confused in your first paragraph you are arguing that anything is a charity as long as the person giving thinks it is a good cause and in the second you claim the opposite ? Personally I think donating to support a bunch of Catholic priests who could easily go out and get jobs is not charity.

Any evidence for the involvement of Kiva in drugs and child prostitution that you are sure about?

Michael

Sat, 26 Nov 2011 05:25:11 UTC | #893195

mmurray's Avatar Comment 12 by mmurray

Comment 10 by wisnoskij :

Does anyone even care if they are at all being fair with what they say. I cannot believe anyone considers http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiva_(organization) a charity. Sure I would love to donate to charity and double my savings but that is impossible. And since when is bloodsports a charity (and that is tame enough to actually be above board).

Who do you mean by they ? The original article was written by a single person.

Michael

Sat, 26 Nov 2011 05:26:29 UTC | #893196

Kim Probable's Avatar Comment 13 by Kim Probable

Comment 5 by mmurray :

Something is wrong with this extract. If you look at the original site it should say

Fixed, thanks =)

Sat, 26 Nov 2011 05:39:02 UTC | #893197

wisnoskij's Avatar Comment 14 by wisnoskij

Comment 12 by mmurray :

Who do you mean by they ? The original article was written by a single person.

I'm confused in your first paragraph you are arguing that anything is a charity as long as the person giving thinks it is a good cause and in the second you claim the opposite ? Personally I think donating to support a bunch of Catholic priests who could easily go out and get jobs is not charity.

More then one idiot has called Kiva a charity.

that is fair, but there is a difference.

In donating to a church they are doing what they think is best and giving up something while getting nothing but good feelings in return (charity).

While the people at Kiva.org are simply investing and making money. They are getting physical rewards greater then what they sacrificed. it does not matter if they are delusional enough to feel good about it or to think that it is a charity. Now you could argue that at least some of the investments do help people (I am sure a lot of people are employed and are entertained by those blood sports), but by definition you cannot make money in an act of charity.

Sat, 26 Nov 2011 05:46:06 UTC | #893198

C.Case's Avatar Comment 15 by C.Case

That non-believers are more likely to be activists or be involved in philanthropy does not surprise me. The self-comforting thought process of those who tend to rely on intervention by a God, angels and such, which eventually rests on theories like "everything happens for a reason" and "God works in mysterious ways," does not come into play. Thus, it is obvious to non-believers that if people do not act to help with causes, there will be no help at all. .

Sat, 26 Nov 2011 05:53:11 UTC | #893200

Anonymous's Avatar Comment 16 by Anonymous

Comment Removed by Moderator

Sat, 26 Nov 2011 05:53:27 UTC | #893201

mmurray's Avatar Comment 17 by mmurray

Comment 14 by wisnoskij :

In donating to a church they are doing what they think is best and giving up something while getting nothing but good feelings in return (charity).

When I was a Catholic as a kid my father gave money to the church (my mother was an Anglican). He donated in different ways. Some went to the upkeep of the local chuch and priest, some to the upkeep of the wider church as an organisation and some to church charities. I would be happy to call the last of these charity but the first two are more akin to paying a club membership. In return for these payments my father got membership of the church, access to church facilities and services, some form of life insurance for all eternity and political advocacy by the wider organisation on behalf of members. I'm a member of a bicycle organisation which gives me similar returns. I wouldn't call that charity.

but by definition you cannot make money in an act of charity.

Actually every time I give to charity an amount of over $5 I get a tax refund next time I do my income tax. Does that mean it is not an act of charity ?

Michael

Sat, 26 Nov 2011 05:55:40 UTC | #893202

Anonymous's Avatar Comment 18 by Anonymous

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Sat, 26 Nov 2011 05:57:52 UTC | #893203

Anonymous's Avatar Comment 19 by Anonymous

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Sat, 26 Nov 2011 06:07:52 UTC | #893206

wisnoskij's Avatar Comment 20 by wisnoskij

Comment 17 by mmurray :

When I was a Catholic as a kid my father gave money to the church (my mother was an Anglican). He donated in different ways. Some went to the upkeep of the local chuch and priest, some to the upkeep of the wider church as an organisation and some to church charities. I would be happy to call the last of these charity but the first two are more akin to paying a club membership. In return for these payments my father got membership of the church, access to church facilities and services, some form of life insurance for all eternity and political advocacy by the wider organisation on behalf of members. I'm a member of a bicycle organisation which gives me similar returns. I wouldn't call that charity.

Actually every time I give to charity an amount of over $5 I get a tax refund next time I do my income tax. Does that mean it is not an act of charity ?

Michael

First off a tax refund does not equal a net profit and is not money, simply less taking away of money.

Secondly Paying for a charity worker or a priest to do his job or maintain his building or the headquarters building (or simply giving the headquarters money to spend at there discretion) is charity and as long as the donations are not mandatory and specific then it is charity. If a church makes you pay X dollars to week to join then it is NOT a charity, if they pass around a collection plate it is. And priests do do good, even intelligent atheists like Richard Dawkins have talked about how it would be good to have a non believer equivalent because they try and succeed in a lot of cases in helping out their "flocks" with problems.

Sat, 26 Nov 2011 06:19:55 UTC | #893207

mmurray's Avatar Comment 21 by mmurray

Comment 20 by wisnoskij :

Secondly Paying for a charity worker or a priest to do his job or maintain his building or the headquarters building (or simply giving the headquarters money to spend at there discretion) is charity and as long as the donations are not mandatory and specific then it is charity. If a church makes you pay X dollars to week to join then it is NOT a charity, if they pass around a collection plate it is. And priests do do good, even intelligent atheists like Richard Dawkins have talked about how it would be good to have a non believer equivalent because they try and succeed in a lot of cases in helping out their "flocks" with problems.

So you have a definition of charity. Maybe you should share it with us. Here is a definition from the internet

char·i·ty (chr-t)
n. pl. char·i·ties
1. Provision of help or relief to the poor; almsgiving.
2. Something given to help the needy; alms.
3. An institution, organization, or fund established to help the needy.
4. Benevolence or generosity toward others or toward humanity.

Nothing about it being voluntary.

The line between giving to the Church and being required to give to the Church is pretty thin when you are sitting in the pews being told that if you don't donate you are a sinner.

Michael

Sat, 26 Nov 2011 06:23:30 UTC | #893208

mmurray's Avatar Comment 22 by mmurray

As an ex-Catholic this line from wikipedia interests me

(Melinda) Gates was both raised and remains a practicing Roman Catholic

But she is also a founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Here is part of the work done by an organisation they are partners with

Condom Distribution
Condoms are highly effective in reducing the spread of HIV. Each month, Avahan’s partners distribute approximately eight million free condoms in communities at greatest risk. They achieve this distribution through a dynamic peer network and vending machines at truck stops, health clinics, and roadside restaurants and shops.

http://www.gatesfoundation.org/avahan/Pages/meeting-the-challenge.aspx

There is also this

http://betanews.com/2008/08/15/gates-foundation-and-bbc-distribute-free-condom-ringtone/

So how can she be a practicing Roman Catholic and also work to overturn the Churches teachings ?

I'm not surprised. I know lots of practicing Catholics who bend all kinds of Church rules, most commonly contraception but I always wonder how they reconcile it in their minds. The RCC has never allowed members flexibility in what they believe.

Michael

Sat, 26 Nov 2011 06:30:15 UTC | #893209

drumdaddy's Avatar Comment 23 by drumdaddy

Giving to a professional preacher is not the same as giving to a charitable cause.

Sat, 26 Nov 2011 06:34:48 UTC | #893210

Kim Probable's Avatar Comment 24 by Kim Probable

I always appreciate reading responses to articles from various people - I honestly learn a lot from the collected knowledge of everyone here. This one especially has generated some food for thought. I'd like to really help people more, but often it's hard to make sense of what is worthwhile out there and what isn't.

Sat, 26 Nov 2011 07:04:24 UTC | #893212

clarkie's Avatar Comment 25 by clarkie

Serious question. Why is generosity "better" than not giving? Why should I send resources to people I don't know rather than providing the best I can for my family?

And btw, "I’m gleeful that the irreligious are the most altruistic" is the sort of smugness that I find repulsive whatever the worldview. Get real.

Sat, 26 Nov 2011 07:20:43 UTC | #893215

ColdThinker's Avatar Comment 26 by ColdThinker

Charity is a difficult thing. It's not the way things should be. Poor people shouldn't be depended on the charity of the rich. One shouldn't be required to live in a constant humility and gratitude for receiving alms from the luckier fellow humans. Priding over giving charity is a sign of a malfunctioning society.

This is why we have taxes, and this is why taxes should be high enough. And this is why I, as an atheist Scandinavian, am happy to pay the high taxes, in my case about 30 percent of my income. I expect no gratitude from the less fortunate for my doing my duty as a human being. 

However, the society is more chaotic in many other places on this globe. With this in mind, I give quite a bit of money to foreign charity, not really thinking about being an atheist. I have also given money to Kiva.org, and certainly expected no refund, let alone profit. So that was certainly charity on my part, and denying that is outrageous. If it was misguided, that is another matter.

Giving money to churches is another complicated matter. For instance, as an international organization, the Vatican led RCC is contuinuosly proven to be a morally corrupt, homophobic, misogynistic, power hungry old boys' club. However, many local priests and churches arguably get some good practical things done locally, and in all fairness that shouldn't be ignored either.

But there seems to be a philosophical difference between religious and secular charity. The very goal of a secular charity is usually the same as taxation, to build a lasting infrastructural system which would actually end the need for charity. But the religions seem to cherish charity as a good thing for the giver, they seem to imply that the need for charity is a good thing in itself. It's not. Charity is an emergency pain killer, not the cure.

Practical helping today is of course more important for the needy than arguing about political intentions or philosophies, but I still think it's fair to see the difference. 

Sat, 26 Nov 2011 08:26:14 UTC | #893228

justinesaracen's Avatar Comment 27 by justinesaracen

But the religions seem to cherish charity as a good thing for the giver, they seem to imply that the need for charity is a good thing in itself. It's not. Charity is an emergency pain killer, not the cure.

Practical helping today is of course more important for the needy than arguing about political intentions or philosophies, but I still think it's fair to see the difference. <

Excellent observation, Cold Thinker. It's true that in an enlightened and balanced society, there would be little or need for charity since charity, by definition, is assistance to those who cannot make a decent living on their own. The point of an enlightened society is to create paths for everyone to make a decent living.

But of course, that is theory. In reality, no society takes care of all of its own, though the quasi-socialist countries of Europe make an effort to do so.

I also like your point about religion's glorification of charity itself, as if to say misery will always be here, so you should earn points for the hereafter by personally donating (rather than working for a larger solution). It reminds me of what Chris Hitchens said about Sister Theresa, that she did not love the poor, but their poverty.

Sat, 26 Nov 2011 10:06:55 UTC | #893246

BowDownToGizmo's Avatar Comment 28 by BowDownToGizmo

Comment 10 by wisnoskij :

Does anyone even care if they are at all being fair with what they say. I cannot believe anyone considers http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiva_(organization) a charity. Sure I would love to donate to charity and double my savings but that is impossible. And since when is bloodsports a charity (and that is tame enough to actually be above board).

Massive flaw, there is no interest earned on Kiva loans. Kiva provides capital for micro-finance. Micro-finance has been shown to be a very powerful tool for helping communities become self sustaining, working their way out of poverty, often in areas where conventional charity operations have failed.

Therefore, Kiva would be considered a charity because it is more effective at reducing poverty.

Sat, 26 Nov 2011 10:37:08 UTC | #893253

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 29 by Nunbeliever

First, this article really shows nothing about whether atheists in general are more likely to donate to charities than christians. It just shows some atheists do donate and they donate a lot. To just look at one single organization and a few rich individuals really just says that some atheists donate. This is of course interesting since it shows that the Christians who say you can't be good without god clearly are wrong. But, you can't say anything about atheists in general. And the author should know better than to insinuate you can do that.

Second, the statistics that actually show how much believers and atheists donate in general are in my opinion most likely to be very misleading. A lot the donations Christians make are not entirely voluntary. They collect donations every Sunday in church. I would assume there is a pretty strong social pressure to donate something. At least I remember when I was in church as a young boy everyone donated something. You were suppose to.

Since USA is a very religious country most of the charities are religious by nature and the treshold for a religious person to come in contact with and donate to these organizations is much lower than for a non-believer who does not attend religious meetings. I am pretty sure many religious people also donate just because they have always done that. It's a tradition. Their donations might not be a expression of true compassion, but a formalized habit.

Hence, it is very hard to say whether atheists are more generous than believers. I personally don't think we are... although I don't think we are less generous either. On the other hand I think secular charities are much more likely to fulfill their goal of helping people in need. There are of course many wonderful religious charities out there, while some secular organizations are probably quite mediocre. But, religious affiliations are in my opinion always to be considered a liability. There might be hidden agendas or other variables that affect their actions in a negative way. As said secular organizations can of course be run by people who just want to steal people's money or by people who are incompetent to run an organization efficiently. But, I have yet to hear about a secular charity that tries to convert people into socialism, libertarianism, fascism or some other political dogma. Although, some environmental organizations are a bit dubious in this regard which is why I personally don't donate to organizations like Green Peace for example.

Sat, 26 Nov 2011 10:47:46 UTC | #893255

BowDownToGizmo's Avatar Comment 30 by BowDownToGizmo

Comment 25 by clarkie :

Serious question. Why is generosity "better" than not giving? Why should I send resources to people I don't know rather than providing the best I can for my family?

And btw, "I’m gleeful that the irreligious are the most altruistic" is the sort of smugness that I find repulsive whatever the worldview. Get real.

"Providing the best I can for my family". This is an awful sentence because 'providing the best' is purely subjective, using it disguises what you really mean behind a veil of this societally well accepted good principle. Do you mean spending every penny ensuring they are sheltered, well fed and educated? Or do you mean spending the excess after that is achieved on buying your teenage daughter than £3000 handbag so she can be the envy of all her friends?

Nothing inside you tells you that you could have spared £100 to help Manuel buy a new drill for his handyman business and earn enough to feed his family? Get the £2900 handbag instead?

Sat, 26 Nov 2011 10:49:28 UTC | #893256