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You don’t need God to be good . . . or generous (also in Polish)

See bottom for Polish translation

A cut down version of this article is published in the Washington Post On Faith section here


Freethinkers, atheists, agnostics, secular humanists – whatever name non-believers go under, they are not America’s most popular minority. They are also, by the way, not a small minority. According to Gallup in 2011, and Pew in 2012, they comfortably outnumber Mormons, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists all put together. One reason for our unpopularity is the widespread belief that you need God in order to be good. Going along with that bizarre misconception is the further belief that atheists are less generous than religious people, less philanthropic, less likely to donate to charity. Even if that were the case it would of course have no bearing on the veracity of religious beliefs. But as a matter of fact it probably is not the case . Not only are America’s three most generous philanthropists non-believers , there is good evidence that subscribers to atheistic group fundraising efforts are at least as generous as religious donors. I would hypothesise that the difference in giving between the religious and nonreligious is negligible if you only count donations to pure charity and discount donations to atheist advocacy organisations, or to churches (including tithes) and “charities” that unscrupulously use their resources to proselytise rather than bestow real charitable benefits.

Incidentally, the automatic exemption of churches from tax is a disgrace. Nobody denies that some churches do charitable work. But that doesn’t mean that any organisation should automatically qualify for tax-free status simply by calling itself a church. Each church organisation separately should make the case that it does charitable work, just as anybody else has to when seeking tax exemption. Fat-cat evangelical pastors with tax-free mansions and private jets are an obscenity. Indefensible.

Examples of charitable relief efforts set up by non-believers in recent years include the Skeptics and Humanists Aid and Relief Effort, organised by the admirable Center for Inquiry; and the Humanist Charities operated by the American Humanist Association. At the time of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science set up Non-Believers Giving Aid (NBGA). Entirely through the website RichardDawkins.net, NBGA raised more than half a million dollars (for Doctors Without Borders and the Red Cross) in less than a month, almost all of it in the form of small donations from thousands of individual subscribers, passed on in their entirety, with no deductions for expenses, handling changes etc.

The most ambitious example of such an initiative for non-believing donors has just been launched by the atheist activist and philanthropist Todd Stiefel. The Stiefel family has pledged to match up to half a million dollars, which would bring in a target total of a million dollars in aid of cancer research through Foundation Beyond Belief.

Such generosity, you might have thought, would have been welcomed with open arms by any cancer charity. The fact is, however, that the American Cancer Society turned it down – for reasons that, to say the least, are unclear. Could this be revealing? Mr Stiefel himself has been too polite to draw the obvious inference, but the twists and turns of the ACS’s mysterious refusal of money are dissected in two articles by Greta Christina, in AlterNet: "Is Atheist Money Too Controversial for the American Cancer Society?" and "Has the American Cancer Society Been Caught Covering Up a Rejection of Atheist Money" . If Christina’s thesis is even half right, the fact that atheists are so generous is even more remarkable. Could it be that they achieve their generosity in the teeth of difficulties put in their way by charities who ought to be welcoming their money with gratitude? Could it be that, far from deserving their uncharitable reputation, atheists have that reputation undeservedly thrust upon them in a way that is almost comically ironic.

Fortunately this particular story has a happy ending. Unlike the American Cancer Society, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society are only too happy to do the right thing and accept Mr Stiefel’s offer in the spirit of happy to do the right thing and accept Mr Stiefel’s offer in the spirit of selfless generosity with which he made it. In addition to ordinary donations, Todd Stiefel has set up Foundation Beyond Belief (FBB) as the rallying point for local freethought, atheist and secular humanist groups to create teams to participate in “Light the Night” walks. I am proud to say that the US branch of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (RDFRS) is an official supporter of the project, and I am also delighted to learn that FBB has decided that their 2012 effort will be dedicated to the memory of my friend Christopher Hitchens. Details of the project can be found here. I encourage all non-believers to go to this site and donate, or better yet, join the team as a fundraiser to multiply the power of our efforts.

You can contribute to the Freethought Beyond Belief team, secure in the knowledge that the Stiefel family will double your gift to a very good cause – a charity which is happy to accept that atheists and freethinkers are full human beings whose generous impulses are at least as sincere as those of the religious.


Nie potrzebujesz Boga, żeby być dobry… lub szczodry

Autor tekstu: Richard Dawkins
Tłumaczenie: Małgorzata Koraszewska

Wolnomyśliciele, ateiści, agnostycy, świeccy humaniści — jakakolwiek jest nazwa niewierzących — nie są najbardziej popularną mniejszością w Ameryce. Nawiasem mówiąc, nie są oni niewielką mniejszością. Według Gallupa z 2011 r. i Pew z 2012 r. są liczniejsi niż mormoni, muzułmanie, żydzi, hindusi i buddyści razem wzięci. Jednym z powodów ich niepopularności jest powszechne przekonanie, że trzeba Boga, żeby być dobrym. W parze z tym dziwacznym, błędnym wyobrażeniem idzie przekonanie, że ateiści są mniej szczodrzy niż ludzie religijni, mniej dobroczynni, rzadziej dający na cele charytatywne. Nawet gdyby była to prawda, nie miałoby to znaczenia dla prawdziwości wiary religijnej. W rzeczywistości jednak tak nie jest. Nie tylko trzej najhojniejsi filantropi Ameryki są niewierzący, ale istnieją silne dowody, że ludzie należący do grup ateistycznych zbierających fundusze na dobre cele, są co najmniej równie szczodrzy jak darczyńcy religijni. Zgadywałbym, że różnica w dawaniu na takie cele między ludźmi religijnymi i niereligijnymi jest nieistotna, jeśli policzy się tylko dary na organizacje czysto charytatywne i pominie organizacje propagujące ateizm oraz kościoły (włącznie z dziesięciną) i organizacje „charytatywne", które bez skrupułów używają swoich środków na głoszenie wiary, zamiast na przynoszenie rzeczywistych korzyści potrzebującym.

Nawiasem mówiąc, automatyczne zwalnianie kościołów z podatku jest skandalem. Nikt nie zaprzecza, że kościoły wykonują prace charytatywne. Nie znaczy to jednak, że każda organizacja powinna automatycznie kwalifikować się do zwolnienia z podatku po prostu dzięki temu, że nazywa siebie kościołem. Każda organizacja kościelna powinna osobno przedstawić swoją działalność charytatywną, tak jak każdy inny, kto stara się o zwolnienie z podatku. Grube ryby z kościołów ewangelikańskich ze zwolnionymi od podatku rezydencjami i prywatnymi samolotami odrzutowymi są nieprzyzwoitością.

Przykłady działań charytatywnych, zorganizowanych przez niewierzących w ostatnich latach, obejmują Skeptics and Humanists Aid and Relief Effort, zorganizowany przez godny podziwu Center for Inquiry; oraz Humanist Charities kierowane przez American Humanist Association. W czasie trzęsienia ziemi na Haiti w 2010 r. Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science założyła Non-Believers Giving Aid (NBGA). Tylko poprzez portal RichardDawkins.net NBGA zebrała ponad pół miliona dolarów (dla Lekarzy bez Granic i Czerwonego Krzyża) i to w mniej niż miesiąc, a niemal wszystko w postaci niewielkich donacji od tysięcy indywidualnych ludzi, co zostało w całości przekazane, bez żadnego odliczenia wydatków itp.

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TAGGED: ACTIVISM, HUMANITARIAN EFFORTS, RICHARD DAWKINS


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