Question: Does Religiosity Correlate Strongly to Charity?

Kaffinator gave us two questions in the comments section, which I am dealing with separately. One deals with health and religion, while the other deals with charity and religion.

Question 2:
Mr. Atheist, if you had your wish and all of the Christians in the United States suddenly joined you, the result would be that many charities would starve for funds. Other charities, schools, local governments, and other volunteer-based organizations would suffer as well...

So here is my question. What kind of warped morality would wish this upon a nation?


Again, we ought to examine Kaffinator's premise for veracity before accepting his conclusion.

"The differences in charity between secular and religious people are dramatic. Religious people are 25 percentage points more likely than secularists to donate money (91 percent to 66 percent) and 23 points more likely to volunteer time (67 percent to 44 percent)." [link]

First, in Brooks' work, he goes off on a tangent concerning what we are discussing here: Democrats and Republicans, Left and Right, and correlating those with "secular and religious". So it is a little difficult here to separate the various secularists from the various religionists, and that makes this source artice a little ambiguous. I mean, Buddhists may be either "secularists" or "religionists", depending on criteria, which Brooks does not clearly delineate overall. Each of the studies he cites use slightly different definitions and self-identification criteria to distinguish the groups.

Now, it has been amply demonstrated that aside from church attendance, factors like prayer and belief in God do not fall along "party lines". See here for more. The author wrongly conflates politics with religion, a fairly egregious intellectual error, especially considering the shifts of religious identification within parties over the decades, but let's stick to the topic...

That said, let's just consider Brooks' work as Kaff, and others, probably want it to be, and let "religious / people of faith" = Christian and "secular" = atheists. I will freely say at the outset that I find myself agreeing that persons of faith tend to be more charitable than those without, as a simple measure of reported giving of income to general non-profits, including, especially, their church. However, and I think this is important, how much of the money given to the average church goes for a charitable work?

Let us think for a moment about charity in effect versus charity in intent.

For instance, the fiercely secular AmeriCares reports that 99% of its income go to its programs! In fact, a secular organization I belong to, CFI, links to this charity for hurricane relief. Those who give $1 will see $0.99 go to help people there. On the other hand, the Red Cross, which is also secular, only sees $0.95 of every $1 go to the people, and there have been many accusations of corruption there. Furthermore, the CEO of the Red Cross pulls down $600K, which is a ridiculous salary for a charity admin. Given this information, I would much rather give to the Salvation Army before the Red Cross, and I could care the less that they are spreading what I consider to be a false message along with their help [although Charity Nav doesn't have data on them, since they don't have to file a 990], and to the AmeriCares organization before either one of them.

In this sense, we need to think about what you really want to do -- just evaluate people's giving, or evaluate the effect of that charity. I don't think you'd cry your eyes dry if corrupt and inefficient charities were bumped out and replaced by or subsumed by those of integrity and efficacy, secular or religious, would you? If you care about people, you wouldn't. If all you care about are the actions done [charity] and not what faith [or lack thereof] the acting parties maintain. So, at the outset, I would like a little clarity in your question -- do you want to ask us atheists what would happen if everyone became atheists, insofar as clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, giving medical care to the sick, etc., are concerned, or insofar as churches are concerned? Because we will need to define "charity" and think about how churches relate to charity.

Now, in the case of the average church, the church maintains land, a building, insurance, a staff (sometimes a large staff as a ratio of parishoners), vehicles, and all the overhead associated with all of those things. In that sense, a realtively HUGE portion of every $1 given as a "tithe" goes to do nothing but serve "the church" and not someone in need. Let's be honest, here, most Christian giving is in tithes to their own church -- 10% of their income, according to the OT. If we want to look at how much that 10% can be considered charity, I would love to consider the argument anew. In fact, let's think about this for a moment -- every church in america shuts down tomorrow, every mosque, every house of worship of any kind. Now, suddenly, 10% of the income of 80-90% of the population (yes, I know this is estimating, but the gist remains) is free and available to be given to organizations which do nothing but feed the poor, clothe the naked, and bind up the wounds of the sick.

Hmmmm...this issue is a little more complicated than you want to make it out to be, isn't it?

So, let's look at what your study says about non-religious causes:
Religious people are more generous than secular people with non-religious causes as well as with religious ones. While 68 percent of the total population gives (and 51 percent volunteers) to non-religious causes each year, religious people are 10 points more likely to give to these causes than secularists (71 percent to 61 percent) and 21 points more likely to volunteer (60 percent to 39 percent).

Now this is impressive, but for a totally different reason:
While Christians [and others] have a commandment from God to give, and fear of hell, and hope of heaven, to motivate them, a mere 10% difference is observed in what we can objectively call "pure charity work" insofar as money is concerned, and a slightly more substantial 21% in volunteering. Would you wave this as a banner of triumph for your religion? Pretty shoddy statistics to soapbox from, especially considering the organizational factor behind churches, etc., and that the prevalence of stay-at-home-moms among religionists is much higher than secularists, and thus more available volunteers to pool from, etc. Now, I won't defend those of us who are irreligious and have no empathy, nor rational self-interest extrapolated to altruism, as I believe it logically does. Those people who do not care for their fellow human beings, religious or nonreligious, are a blight to those of us who do, and those of us who will take care of these apathists through our giving and volunteering at some point in the future.

Back to the question at hand, though -- if all the churches in the country shut their doors tomorrow, would private schools and "pure charities" really suffer? Those people who already demonstrate their willingness to give without religious motivation would continue to do so, and it is logical to infer that those who are currently religious would follow the trend observed once the churches shut their doors -- that a sizable chunk of them would continue to give, if not nearly all of them. In fact, the sudden effluence of wealth created by the shutting of church doors would be available to do "pure charity work" = feeding, clothing, medical care, etc., with no "strings attached".

So, your burden is, at this point, to rationalize how any people would actually suffer a loss of food, clothes, or medical care if all churches were shut down tomorrow, and to consider your own question carefully, and perhaps to rephrase it to be more specific. Atheists and other secularists really have an onus to do a better job in organizing and making a public spectacle of their giving, to "rally the troops", and to continue to maintain the moral high ground that we have: when we do good, it is unquestionably and unequivocally because we care, have compassion for, and empathy for, our fellow human beings, and not for hope of reward [heaven], fear of punishment [hell], or the prodding and guilt trip of a pastor.

Thus the issue is not as clear-cut as you would have it, and I will concede that secularists/atheists need to do a better job of promoting naturally-grounded ethics and morality and charity [humanists do a pretty good job here, but we need a broader front]. So do some more research and thinking, and please reformulate your question to consider the effects of charity, versus the facade of charity [church/tithing].

A compilation of articles and books on giving and faith:
Faith and Philanthropy
Two really good resources for those interested in the topic of charitable efficacy:
Charity Navigator
Charity Watch

The latter resource is most useful only if you are a member, write off and send $3 for a written report, or if you just want the top-rated charities. The reason is that they don't report this information freely on their website for every charity they research.

In my agreement with you about the general trend of charity and faith going hand-in-hand, you ought to read this article by an atheist who praises Christians for their charity work.

First posted on 4/23/06

39 comments:

Daniel said...

I had a resource that people should check out, before getting into a question about morality and faith. It was passed along to me by an anonymous source on our student atheism group (AAFSA) blog: Psychology of Religion: An Empirical Approach, authors: Ralph W Hood, Bruce Hunsberger, Richard Gorsuch, Bernard Spilka. The text is available in limited format on Google Books HERE

See esp. ch. 13: Religion and Morality, which has a summary on p. 443. I have screen captured a chunk of this page, which you can view HERE. Unfortunately, p. 444 is unavailable, but a few pages from the chapter are available.

The findings? Well, unsurprisingly, there is no hard and fast correlation between general morality and religion. To the theist's credit, some behaviors are inversely correlated to religion: substance abuse, nonmarital sexual behavior, and crime/delinquency. The authors caution that "the relationships are not always strong, but they do seem to be reasonably consistent, albeit qualified by various relevant factors as research progresses."

Some behaviors are totally unrelated to faith, including cheating/dishonesty, domestic violence, child abuse, etc. So, I strongly suggest that before we get into a serious discussion about this, that people do some homework and read over some good reviews [commentary by experts on topics using lots of primary literature]. Just a thought.

One thing for theists to think about -- a question to them -- is how much the reinforced dogma, "there is no morality outside X" (X = God, Jesus, Bible, religion, Christianity, etc.) and "those 'in the world' are going to hell" and etc., lead those who lose faith to lose faith in their own power of morality? How much does church thought and teaching hobble those who limp away from Xianity? Something to mull over.

Francois Tremblay said...

For a lot of statistics on the correlation between atheism and morality, see :

http://www.objectivethought.com/articles/religionsdevils.html

Ken B. said...

In any case, the criticism of atheism is based on a logical fallacy, the argument from final consequences. "Since Christians give more to charity, we should accept that christianity is true".

I don't know if the premise (Christians give more to charity) is true, but in any case the argument is flawed.

Ken

Kaffinator said...

Hi Danny,

There is no sense in trying to compare a church, which undertakes as its primary ministry the preaching of the word of God, with a para-church philanthropy. They are two different types of organizations with different (but often complementary) purposes. So it is strange, at best, to consider wild what-if scenarios regarding shifts of resources between the two.

Brooks points out that 10% more “religionists” give to strictly non-religious causes than “secularists”. This is enough to demonstrate my original point but strangely you want to turn it into some sort of victory because the difference doesn’t seem high enough. A crippled line of argument to be sure. But even if the difference was 0% we still have religionists already giving to their churches. If you want to mount an attack you are going to have to determine what percentage of church offerings are indeed diverted to ministries of compassion and care, and add that to the difference. I suggest this difference would be significant.

You mentioned stay-at-home moms. I would pay good money to see you go into a room with women who are sacrificing everything for their families and lecture to them that they ought to have more time to devote to secular philanthropic work. I don’t think you would last six minutes.

You believe I have a burden of showing exactly how many people would be affected if all people became secularists. The only claim I made is that the effect would be detrimental. I would support that by saying, if people suddenly converted from religionists to secularists (as you wish they would), then we would quite naturally expect them to start behaving like other secularists. Meaning, they would volunteer and/or contribute substantially less of their resources to causes outside their own self-interest. If you agree with me that this would be a bad thing then my statement of fact is established and you can proceed to the question I asked: what kind of warped individual would purse this course?

Are you ready to address that question, Danny?

A note to Ken B. It was never my argument that because Christians give, therefore the tenets of Christianity are true. As if one could purchase truth! My criticism of atheism here is that it knowingly pursues a result that is detrimental to humans.

Anonymous said...

"So here is my question. What kind of warped morality would wish this upon a nation?"

Your response is great, but he's not asking a question about truth. He's asking a question about wish fulfillment?

DagoodS said...

Interesting question, Kaffinator. It presumes that a statistically significant portion of Christians do the right thing for the wrong reasons.

If you look at the statistics provided, there are people that are humanitarians in spite of no belief in God. Presumably, many Christians would continue to be charitable, in spite of no belief in God.

On the opposite end, I would venture there are many people, regardless of belief in God or not, that will choose to not give to others. So the only ones that your questions focuses on are the Christians that are ONLY being charitable because they believe in God. For your question to work, you presume that taking away this belief will result in their not being charitable.

What is it about solely the belief in God is making these people charitable? Is it that they are reluctantly following God’s mandate? Is that a “good thing” or a “bad thing”? Or are they doing it simply to get in God’s good graces? Is that a “good thing”? Are they doing it because their parents force them, society forces them, the environment they find themselves in forces them?

As near as I can tell, every reason that a person would only be humanitarian because of their belief in the Christian God is not a “good thing.”

Would you prefer they are humanitarian for the right reasons, and not the wrong ones? Then welcome to my warped little word—I do too!

Kaffinator said...

If you want to talk about motivations, Dagood, then we can only speak anecdotally. Before I became Christian I donated very, very little to humanitarian causes. Now I contribute a fairly large amount. Yes much of that goes to my local church (which has compassion/care ministries) but I also chipped in for direct Tsunami relief, I’m sponsoring a child’s food/medicine/education in a developing nation, I’ve donated time to local philanthopies, brought meals to people, blah de blah. I’m not perfect and I’m not trying to toot my horn here--I could do a lot more. I only say this to illustrate that at least in my own life, the secular/religious distinction with regard to humanitarianism has been night and day.

So why do I do what I do? Because I’m afraid God will pound me into the ground if I don’t? No. I believe Christ paid my sin-debt, so I do not need to fear God’s wrath. Because my parents forced me? They weren’t forcing me before and they aren’t now, so that’s not it. Because my Christian friends “pressure me” into giving? No, actually very few of them have any idea how much I give.

So I guess the answer to “why?” is, because I believe in a loving, generous God and I want to become more like him. Because God has entrusted me with a lot of material blessings and I want to use them the way He would want them used. Because I’m grateful that God pursued me and saved me, and I’m excited that I might be used as part of the same effort to reach others. Because I want to be an authentic example to my children. And so forth.

Maybe in your opinion those are bad reasons but without them, why would I bother? I would be much more likely to think as I used to: if this brief life is all we have, eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. Let other people take care of their own problems, I have enough of my own.

I’m interested if you could explain what you consider to be the “right reasons” for humanitarian involvement?

Daniel said...

There is no sense in trying to compare a church, which undertakes as its primary ministry the preaching of the word of God, with a para-church philanthropy. They are two different types of organizations with different (but often complementary) purposes. So it is strange, at best, to consider wild what-if scenarios regarding shifts of resources between the two.
I hardly think it "wild". I agree that churches and charities are quite different in scope and intent. That reinforces the argument I'm making that if people everywhere deconverted tomorrow, churches would obviously suffer, and, correlating this to charities is much shakier

The people who are already secular [even though the term is ambiguous, at best, as many Xians would call themselves "secular" in their political outlook of church-state separation] and give to charity would continue to do so. The same percentage, we can infer, of "new secularists" ought to give to charity. Questioning how much more or less the new secularists would give to charity, now that they no longer give to church, is indeed a matter of rampant speculation. And it is in this hole of vagueness that your argument slides out of factual basis.

This is enough to demonstrate my original point but strangely you want to turn it into some sort of victory because the difference doesn’t seem high enough. A crippled line of argument to be sure.
Not really. Brooks' sources don't distinguish how much these people do or do not give. The secularists may donate a larger perecentage of their incomes to charity than the religionists, which would imply, if we convert religionists to secularists and extrapolate the data, suddenly the charities would gain money, even if they lose a percentage of the population donating. Until we can resolve such factors, the premise is weak and unsubstantiated.

This is, of course, not to mention the ambiguity with generalizing "secularist" and "religionist" or whatever. Each of the studies Brooks cites is independent, and, I can guarantee, use different criteria for establishing their subsets.

You mentioned stay-at-home moms. I would pay good money to see you go into a room with women who are sacrificing everything for their families and lecture to them that they ought to have more time to devote to secular philanthropic work.
I am just making a point that sociological factors have to be considered between the two groups for fairness' sake. I hardly doubt that stay-at-homes are much more prevalent in the R group than the S group. Therefore, the pool of potential volunteers is higher from the get-go, in terms of warm bodies without defined work schedules. This is not a triviality, because volunteers at charities must have some flexibility in their schedules. I never said they ought to, I implied they already had more time to devote. I was in church for years, Kaff, and I can say that every church I ever attended had more women doing the "behind the scenes" work than men. Every time.

The only claim I made is that the effect would be detrimental. I would support that by saying, if people suddenly converted from religionists to secularists (as you wish they would), then we would quite naturally expect them to start behaving like other secularists. Meaning, they would volunteer and/or contribute substantially less of their resources to causes outside their own self-interest. If you agree with me that this would be a bad thing then my statement of fact is established and you can proceed to the question I asked: what kind of warped individual would purse this course?

Are you ready to address that question, Danny?


I wish that even those who have a religion would have a secular, church-state wall separated, philosophical and political outlook. I wouldn't go so far as to say I want everyone to become an atheist.

Notice that you conflate "less of their resources" with the "percentage of people contributing". I already pointed out that no numbers were thrown around, either in percentage of income or gross dollars. Until we see that, this whole line of argument is unsupported. If secularists give more of their income (gross or percent), even if less of them give, the charities could/would mathematically benefit from more secularists.

How many millions of dollars to Xians give to huge numbers of ministries that have nothing to do with charity, but instead, with promoting some aspect of the Xian worldview? eg anti-evolutionists? eg family-value-focused ministries and movements which do nothing but oppose obscenity and gay marriage and etc.?

Ever one of those millions would immediately get crunched into the equation of the secularists -- as the raw numbers of secularists increased, this effluent money would be plugged into the pie chart of income % that Brooks didn't discuss, and we haven't either.

The argument is weak at best, if not falsified, by the consideration of the raw financial data, rather than %population data.

paul said...

Hi Kaffinator,

Your original question: "What kind of warped morality would wish this upon a nation?"...seems to me rhetorical at best, but really closer to an accusation (i.e. the notion of the absence of religion=warped morality). Still, it's a question that cannot be answered even if it were an honest query. Who knows what the answer would be? We only can speculate, we certainly cannot substantiate, on one side or the other, what the results would be.

If your belief has motivated you to be a more giving better person, I'm glad you have it. It would seem your questions are born out of this personal result of your having believed? "I would be more likely to think as I used to...let other people take care of their own problems, I have enough of my own." So, you seem to extrapolate that since this is what you might do, others would do the same. Objectively, if you found one giving unbeliever that would foil that assumption. With some who have no religious conviction there is a tendancy to be concerned about giving because there isn't the belief that God will take care of it. In other words, we make the bed we sleep in, so it doesn't make sense to fill it with garbage. Am I making sense? "Right reasons for humanitarian involvement"? That probably differs from instance to instance, but simply, a right reason would be there's a need that I can help with...lots of unbelievers follow the golden rule, are their actions less giving or 'right' because they don't use the name Jesus?
paul

Kaffinator said...

Hi Paul,

> Your original question: "What kind of warped morality would wish this upon a nation?"...seems to me rhetorical at best, but really closer to an accusation (i.e. the notion of the absence of religion=warped morality).

If so many positive effects can be attributed to religion, then my question merely asks how someone can advocate the destruction of religion and call themselves moral. I do not need to level any accusation because in light of the facts, the irreligionist’s position is self-accusatory.

> It would seem your questions are born out of this personal result of your having believed?

I posted my initial question with links to articles discussing data on the topic. I am not so foolish as to rest my argument before you on unverifiable, unrepeatable, anecdotal data about myself.

> Objectively, if you found one giving unbeliever that would foil that assumption.

No, the crux of my argument is that religionists give more than secularists as a statistical whole. The crux of Danny’s response is that even though the authors of this site advocate a shift from religion to secularism, he hopes against hope that “deconverts” that become secular but not actually begin to behave like other secularists. This strikes me as not only irrational, but ignorant of the reasons that people behave the way they do. I had only hoped my anecdote would stimulate some thinking about how people respond to a healthful view of God, and how this naturally leads to philanthropic behavior, in a manner which is consistent with the observed facts.

> With some who have no religious conviction there is a tendency to be concerned about giving because there isn't the belief that God will take care of it.

If that is a tendency then why is it that secularists actually give less? Those darn facts can be annoying sometimes, can’t they? Read on to find out more.

Hi Danny,

> The argument is weak at best, if not falsified, by the consideration of the raw financial data, rather than %population data.

Except that you haven’t presented any financial data! You’ve only expressed your hope that even though fewer secularists donate, that maybe somehow they are donating more. But, they are not.

Let’s scare up some numbers to inform our conversation here. See a press release from a study in 2002, or read these excerpts (PDF).

The long and short of it is that people who give to their church also give more to secular causes in virtually every category. 81% of religious givers are also secular givers. Of those 81% giving to both categories, they contribute an average $958/year to secular causes (even though they also average $1391 of giving to religious congregations, which also do philanthropic work). But people who give only to secular organizations average out at $623/year, or 35% less than the people who give to both.

It appears from this data that the average secularist cares much less about secular causes than does the religionist.

Time to face facts, Danny. By advocating secularism you advocate something that, according to the data, is unquestionably poisonous to charitable giving.

Kaffinator said...

Permit me to correct a factual error in my post above.

I said that according to the Independent Sectory study, 81% of religious givers are also secular givers. However that number is incorrect. Approximately 86% of religious givers are also secular givers.

Francois Tremblay said...

"Now, I won't defend those of us who are irreligious and have no empathy, nor rational self-interest extrapolated to altruism, as I believe it logically does."

Thanks a lot, jackass. SOME of us like to be rational when thinking about things.

paul said...

Hi Kaffinator,
thanks for your reply, my orriginal response to you remains the same (nothing you said in your reply to me says anything really different). You did seem to miss most of it, i.e. you broke my reply up and left salient points out when responding. I was only responding to your original question, not your discussion with Danny or the article you site.
"those darn facts can be annoying, can't they?" if you can see your superior attitude in such a question you will see the point of my original reply to you. you may indeed have valid points, your generalizations and attitude detract from them.
paul
paul

Daniel said...

Kaff,

I will look over your sources, and attempt to find more research. If I cannot find more reliable information, I may have to concede your point.

Francois,

Let's examine what I said more closely, as I believe you must have misunderstood it to call me a jackass:

Now, I won't defend those of us who are irreligious and have no empathy, nor rational self-interest extrapolated to altruism, as I believe it logically does.

Maybe your reading skills misinterpreted this to mean that I have no empathy, nor rational self-interest extrapolated to altruism. That is not the case. I have both. Both are the inevitable result of my worldview. Let me render it more reader-friendly:
Now, I won't defend those of us who are irreligious and have no empathy, nor [will I defend those of us who are irreligious and have no] rational self-interest extrapolated to altruism, as I believe it logically does.
If those were my positions, I would defend them. And, I pointed out that I believe altruism is a logical result of rational self-interest. If you misunderstood, I will accept your apology.

If you didn't misunderstand me, you can take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut, my friend, for your comment. Or explain, or whatever. Cheers!

DagoodS said...

Kaffinator -

I am genuinely glad that Christianity has caused you to be charitable. I would hope that you would be a humanitarian, because you actually care about others, not simply as a response for what you think Christ did you for you.

And to, your credit, you are MORE than your God, not “more like him.” He isn’t doing anything to eradicate disease and poverty, at least you are.

It is distressing to read:

I would be much more likely to think as I used to: if this brief life is all we have, eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. Let other people take care of their own problems, I have enough of my own.

The “right” reason is genuine concern for humanity. Not “because Jesus did this for me, I will do it for others. If Jesus didn’t do anything for me, why should I do anything for anybody else?”

I am curious if you support Missionaries. Are they attempting to “get their wish” and eliminate all other forms of theism, except Christianity? Is this just as warped? I suspect other forms of theism also have benefits that disappear under Christianity.

The real point being that (I would imagine) you desire the whole world to be Christian, every man, woman and child, not because of any pragmatic effect, but because it is true. Missionaries do not assess the situation and say, “Hmmm. If we provide Christianity, it may cause detriments here, or may harm the society in this way.” No, missionaries assume that Christianity is true, and, if practiced correctly, would be a benefit to every society.

We operate on the assumption that atheism is true. We presume most people do not want to believe and live by an untruth. Atheism, has no “practice correctly.” All we can do is convince people of the necessity of helping others.

I read your original question, “if you had your wish and all the Christians in the United States suddenly joined you…” as if I had some “ultimate fact,” some thermonuclear proof that, once released would cause whole-sale abandonment of Christianity. It would become a historical anomaly, the equivalent of Aztec human sacrifice.

And I show it to you (eliminating your Christianity) and ask you, “What do I do? If I show this, all those people that only give to charities because of Christianity will cease. BUT, all the harm caused by Christianity will cease. All the people living a lie will see it for what it is. Many Christians, by virtue of being human, will continue to give to charities, but many will cease.”

See, the question is too narrow. There is detriment with Christianity. There are other benefits, as well. To just pick one benefit, and say, even though it is a lie we cannot stop the belief because of that sole benefit is too limiting. Better to concentrate on persuading humanitarian efforts regardless of religion, rather than supporting a lie, simply because of one benefit.

Kaffinator said...

Hi Paul,

Thank you for clarifying that you were responding to my original question. Of course you did specifically quote a response that I made to Dagood so perhaps I can be forgiven for thinking you were responding into the stream of discussion.

If there was a main point in your response to me, I guess I missed it. I directly quoted at least a third of your post. Maybe if there is a key issue in your response, you could present it more concisely so that I don't miss it?

I can see how you might take my comment as somewhat snarky. The attitude may spill from the fact that atheists on this board, when confronting the Christian claims, unremittingly demand evidence. But in an area where the evidence clearly suggests a benefit to religious behavior, the handwaving begins with intensity sufficient to generate enough wind to knock over a trailer park. (OK now in fairness Danny above is classy enough to admit the possibility of defeat, so props to him. But I couldn't resist the metaphor.) All the same I apologize for any undue offense my comment caused you, and I encourage you to look over the data.

Kaffinator said...

Hi DagoodS,

> [God] isn’t doing anything to eradicate disease and poverty, at least you are.

Are you familiar with the theology of “secondary causes”? If I do something for God in his name, by his command, for his glory, and in his power, then he is working through me, and he very much is doing something about it, through his people. This has been God’s plan and typical mode of operation from the get-go.

>The “right” reason is genuine concern for humanity. Not “because Jesus did this for me, I will do it for others. If Jesus didn’t do anything for me, why should I do anything for anybody else?”

I fail to see why you think it is wrong for me to do something good on Jesus’ account. My love for Jesus and my relationship with him naturally causes my love for others to increase as I model my life after his. Why is this wrong? Especially when this motivation is measurably more impactful on people than insisting people ought to have genuine concern for humanity because … well, just because?

> I am curious if you support Missionaries. Are they attempting to “get their wish” and eliminate all other forms of theism, except Christianity? Is this just as warped? I suspect other forms of theism also have benefits that disappear under Christianity.

I was wondering when this question would come up. Yes I support missionaries. They minister because they are called by God to reach out to the world. Some are involved in church-building so that people do not have to live their lives trapped by superstition and oppression. Others minister to indigenous people forsaken by their own governments by caring for their children and animals. Others provide counseling and care and advocacy to marginalized single mothers.

Yes I am biased but I know of no human benefit provided by religion that Christianity cannot provide.

> No, missionaries assume that Christianity is true, and, if practiced correctly, would be a benefit to every society.

I cannot speak for all missionaries but I would say, worshipping and bringing glory to God is our highest calling. Jesus said that when even a cup of cold water is given to a child in his name, he is served and is glorified.

> See, the question is too narrow. There is detriment with Christianity. There are other benefits, as well. To just pick one benefit, and say, even though it is a lie we cannot stop the belief because of that sole benefit is too limiting. Better to concentrate on persuading humanitarian efforts regardless of religion, rather than supporting a lie, simply because of one benefit.

Of course, my original post did not assert just "one benefit" but many. As an atheist, you are saying one of two things here in response to my question. Either:

1) You have weighed the pros and cons of Christianity’s effect on humanity and found that the cons outweigh the pros, therefore Christianity should be debunked; or

2) You have not weighed the pros and cons of Christianity but presume that because it has no truth value, it should be eliminated -- regardless of any humanitarian effect.

Which is it, in your case DagoodS?

John W. Loftus said...

Kaff. We can talk about disease and poverty if you want to, but the Christian must try to find someone other than God to blame for these things. Do you want to talk about the problem of suffering? Then we will....soon.

I suppose it matters most to you that Christians are helping, and it means less to you what their motivations are for doing so.

Let's say I believed an alien abucted me and then released me and told me to share the wealth with the less fortunate (why they are less fortunate is another matter, which, as I promised, we'll get to). But does the fact that I believe an alien told me what to do prove that this alien really exists? And does the fact that I'm sharing the wealth proof that I am a better person than those who do not believe in this alien?

Kaffinator said...

John, nice try, but I already addressed this question on the other thread. “It was never my argument that because Christians give, therefore the tenets of Christianity are true. As if one could purchase truth! My criticism of atheism here is that it knowingly pursues a result that is detrimental to humans.”

> I suppose it matters most to you that Christians are helping, and it means less to you what their motivations are for doing so.

No. I think God cares very much why we do what we do. But from an atheist perspective it must be troublesome to see people motivated by a lie who appear to exhibit far more generous behavior than those who are blessedly free from religion’s evil influence. So do you advocate the lie, sacrificing your commitment to truth in order to achieve a morally good end? Or do you speak out against the lie, knowing that the data suggest that the result will be less charitable giving? It's an uncomfortable dilemma that I simply don't have. God is good!

DagoodS said...

Nice talking with you, Kaffinator,

I am familiar with secondary causes. Yes, remarkably it IS the way that God has operated through the ages. He communicates by humans telling other humans that God told them something. By humans writing down things that later other humans declare came from God. He helps humans by other humans providing their labor, encouragement, and money. God never provides “surprise” money in a bank account—he has humans do it.

God heals by allowing humans to attend school, get good grades, go to graduate school, research, test, experiment, learn, study and develop methods and medicines that heal. God reduces natural causes by humans that test, experiment, learn and develop methods to predict, prohibit, and reduce the disastrous causes.

It is almost as if…..God wasn’t there at all.

If missionaries are to be commended for not wanting others to live under a system of superstition and oppression, despite any benefits of doing so how are we any different?

Yes I am biased but I know of no human benefit provided by religion that Christianity cannot provide.

But there is no detriment provided by religion that Christianity cannot provide, either. And there is no benefit or detriment provided by atheism that any religion couldn’t provide. Why? Because they are ALL made up of humans. Some good humans, some bad humans, some neutral humans.

Even assuming that more Christians give to charities than non-Christians, this is taking one small benefit, to the exclusion of other benefits/detriments. Mussolini made the trains run on time. Does that mean his dictatorship should not have been toppled? Of course not! Obviously I hope that more people give to charities than not. And I would agree that (regardless of statistics) there are some Christians that would not give to charities if Christianity was proven incorrect.

It still does not justify its existence.

Kaffinator, I don’t know you. I don’t know what books you read, what the color of your hair is, or anything. But even with that, it saddens me to think of any person that could see the travesty occurring in New Orleans, and NOT think to help fellow humans. Yet you freely admit, outside of your belief in (what to me is) a non-existent God, you would not do so. To some extent, that is incomprehensible to me. I understand that people are like that, I just find it hard to conceptualize why.

Yes, I have weighed the pros and cons. But I recognize the world does not revolve around me, so what I find a “pro” or “con” others may not. Oppression of women, for instance, is particularly distasteful to me. Not the best selling point for Christianity. Placing perpetual fear of eternal torment in young children’s minds is the equivalent of psychological abuse. Again, not Christianity’s finest hour. Causing children to cry over their parent going to hell is tough to give my stamp of approval. Prejudicial perpetuation of disassociation of others that do not “believe” correct is not my bag.

Giving a lot of money to build mega-churches in white neighborhoods and push this belief to others that are perfectly happy without it does not offset the detriments.

But most importantly, I hold truth to be cherished, sought after, fought for, and something to be constantly within one’s grasp—held onto enough that we treasure it, lose enough that we are willing to modify it upon new information.

For me, I do not see that in Christianity. (I have talked on this before.) I do not see Christians giving people both sides of the equation, and letting them chose. I do not see issues openly discussed, modified and molded based upon new facts.

Interesting that you have only focused on the monetary and labor aspect of charity. Ask non-believers on the street if they are having troubles whether they would turn to Christians. A church is the last place they would go. Christians may do better at charity with money and labor. They tend to stink with the charity of acceptance, forgiveness, love, encouragement, and support.

Kaffinator said...

I have likewise enjoyed the dialogue, Dagood.

> But even with that, it saddens me to think of any person that could see the travesty occurring in New Orleans, and NOT think to help fellow humans.

Oh I’m sure people feel bad when they see that sort of thing happening on the TV, the same way people feel hungry when the ad shows a nice juicy hamburger. Some people will respond to either message, either to assuage their guilt or to feed their tummies. But Christians have a duty to always respond to humanitarian crises, because we are not operating off of nice feelings, but rather nothing less than divine command of Jesus Christ to mobilize and help the needy.

>Yet you freely admit, outside of your belief in (what to me is) a non-existent God, you would not do so.

I’m telling you that before I believed in God, I had insufficient motivation and now I do. I don’t think my story is uncommon either. But I would love it if you could paint a realistic picture of the alternative: “I used to believe in Jesus Christ so I spat on poor people all the time but now that I have abandoned faith in him I am donating much more of my time and money to needy people.”

>Giving a lot of money to build mega-churches in white neighborhoods and push this belief to others that are perfectly happy without it does not offset the detriments.

I didn’t realize that megachurches were herding people at gunpoint. Silly me, I thought people were voluntarily attending because they find that faith in God makes a real difference in their lives.

>[Christians] tend to stink with the charity of acceptance, forgiveness, love, encouragement, and support.

I’m sorry you feel that way. For every Phelps running around stinking up the place it takes 20+ actual Christians to combat the negative image. Fortunately, real Christians pursue God rather than public opinion or we would quickly go insane.

Lesage said...

Kaffinator,

Just compare the countries with a lot of atheists like Japan or Europe with America. You’ll see that welfare is often much more organized and murder rates are much lower in these countries. Granted, it’s only a correlation, but this contradicts the assumption that going to atheism would kill the charity works and goodness.

That said, charity is somewhat a Christian tradition, so it’s not really a surprise that Christians are doing well in that field. But the well being of a society or humanity is merely attributable to charity. Charity should also be a last resort when something is wrong with the way the society is working. It’s interesting to note that America is politically dominated by a Christian party and is one of the less generous governments among the wealthiest country in the world.

If I have to weight the charity against all the evils provided by religions (psychological damages, sectarianism, ostracism, and so on), I have to say that I’m really not convinced that we should let the lies goes on just because they create some good some times. I am more convinced that if humanity wants to grow up, it should abandon religions or any irrational thought.

paul said...

Kaffinator,
I think maybe I got the brief part of "concise", but maybe I was too subtle. One of my flaws is I often don't explain enough, so I'll give it another shot. If you have the time and inclination, go back and re-read my original response. No where to I dispute the content of your argument, rather, I spoke to your approach. As to the content, I have already conceeded you may indeed have valid points. Truth is, I am already in the middle of 4 long studies (and I, sigh, am one of those nuts that checks footnotes in an attempt to find truth), so I am loathe to pick up yet another right now, though I admit the idea you posit is intriguing.
The form of your original question is what I am attempting to address. Why are you here? On this site? Are you here to win an argument or save that one lost sheep that has gone astray? I am suggesting that your approach is offensive (i.e. you atheists are a warped lot, and here's how). There's a saying in the sales trade:"win an argument, lose a customer." Not that I'm offended, that's not the point, the point is: isn't a Christian supposed to be an example of love and humility? Hey, of course we're not givers, after all, we're heathen...what do you expect? Since there is none righteous, no, not one. Isn't it odd that so many unbelievers, lacking the righteousness that can only come from God, gives at all? If you expect to win people over to Christianity by superior argument, doesn't that contradict the notion of faith? Faith being the gift of God, lest any man should boast? Do you "come to [us] with eloquence or superior wisdom..." ICor.2. What I am saying is, I see no difference between you and the rest of humanity. I see no evidence of God within you. You give me reason to disbelieve, not believe. Sorry, I am not wanting to be harsh, just honest.
paul

Kaffinator said...

Hi Lesage,

> Just compare the countries with a lot of atheists like Japan or Europe with America. You’ll see that welfare is often much more organized and murder rates are much lower in these countries.

In these two threads I’ve suggested that if American religionists became secular, we would logically expect them to behave like other American secularists. But this idea has been met with friction. Surely you don’t mean to suggest that American religionists would somehow start behaving like Japanese secularists? Even for a deluded Christian like myself that seems pretty far-fetched.

> Charity should also be a last resort when something is wrong with the way the society is working.

Well, that’s your opinion. I would argue that charity should be the first resort when we see someone in need. Waiting for “the society” (via government intervention?) to step in and cure every ill is not exactly my idea of utopia. In fact it sounds more like a prison.

> I am more convinced that if humanity wants to grow up, it should abandon religions or any irrational thought.

Again, your opinion. But if it can be shown that religious practice is associated with increased giving, more volunteerism, improved health, longer life, better marriages, stronger families, etc., then I don’t see how a secular humanist could stand against it.

Hi Paul,

> The form of your original question is what I am attempting to address. Why are you here? On this site? Are you here to win an argument or save that one lost sheep that has gone astray?

I’m here on this specific thread because Loftus posted a challenge and I thought it would be interesting to engage it. I’m glad that you find it interesting, too. But more generally, I love the passion for truth that many of the posters here exhibit. In my heart of hearts I would like to show them by example that it’s possible to have that same passion for truth within the context of faith, and to see that passion accomplish so much more.

> I am suggesting that your approach is offensive (i.e. you atheists are a warped lot, and here's how). There's a saying in the sales trade:"win an argument, lose a customer." Not that I'm offended, that's not the point, the point is: isn't a Christian supposed to be an example of love and humility?

Well, in argument there is always the risk of offense in pursuit of the truth. I used the term “warped morality” with care, applying it only to those who would concede that religious practice makes a better person, yet would discourage religious practice. As Danny himself said, “If Kaff was correct in his fundamental premise, it may indeed be more ethical to promote churchgoing.” If I win my argument, then I will have given atheists cause to rethink their position and I believe that would be a good thing.

Christians should stand as an example of love and humility, but also we have a responsibility to bear the truth. Jesus, the one I follow, didn’t just claim to know the truth, he claimed to be the truth. So I take the truth very seriously.

> Hey, of course we're not givers, after all, we're heathen...what do you expect? Since there is none righteous, no, not one. Isn't it odd that so many unbelievers, lacking the righteousness that can only come from God, gives at all?

An important aspect of Christian theology is God’s “common grace”. You, Paul, were made in the image of God and so there are elements within you that crave godliness. You have an inherent sense of right and wrong. And, charity does confer its own benefits to the giver. So what I would expect is that secularists would give somewhat, but that those who have fused their intentions with God’s would give a lot more. And this appears to be the case.

> If you expect to win people over to Christianity by superior argument, doesn't that contradict the notion of faith? Faith being the gift of God, lest any man should boast? Do you "come to [us] with eloquence or superior wisdom..." ICor.2.

I do not expect to argue anyone into faith. Only the Holy Spirit convicts. But make no mistake, faith rests on information. As your namesake wrote in Romans 10, “How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?” If by a reasonable and sustained argument I can provide information that helps lower the artificial barriers to faith that atheists raise, I will have done my part.

> What I am saying is, I see no difference between you and the rest of humanity. I see no evidence of God within you. You give me reason to disbelieve, not believe. Sorry, I am not wanting to be harsh, just honest.

Well I thank you for your honesty. It’s disappointing to me to hear you feel that way. Alas, my hope to differentiate myself as a mere blog commenter may be unrealistic. But I will continue to try.

Be well, Paul.

paul said...

Hi Kaff,
"well, in argument, there is always the risk of offense." "I used the term "warped morality" with care..." (sorry to keep hammering this, but we are after truth, so hammer we must)
In regards to using you the term with care, if it is there, i missed it. This is what I read (did you write this?: "So here is my question. What kind of warped morality would wish this upon a nation?" You addressed your question to "Mr. Atheist" and assumed that said "Mr. Atheist" would "wish all of the Christians in the United States suddenly join him..." So my response: hey, I'm an atheist, I don't want all the Christians in the United States to join me (that would be their choice, and i don't proselytize), i take exception to the suggestion that my morality is warped just because i'm an atheist (given your take that my morality is a gift of "common grace", it can't really be warped no matter the form or extent, no?). Am i missing something? Can you admit that this is a broad generalization and poor choice of words?
as far as the risk of offense in argument. My understanding is that "the preaching of the gospel is an offense...", but you're not preaching the gospel, your arguing charity. as well, there's a difference between content offending and method of delivery offending.
"I don't expect to argue anyone into the faith..." (btw quoting my namesake here doesn't carry weight, i'm an unbeliever, remember?) My read on Romans 10 is Paul is referring to preaching the 'gospel' ("...how beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace")[was pauls thorn in the flesh a foot fetish?], Paul was not speaking of arguing the finer points of morality. Going back to ICor.2, he talks again of the "foolishness of preaching the cross" vs. arguments? It seems to me that if the "Holy Spirit" is going to convict me, it will be from hearing the gospel, not a challenge to my warped morality.
paul

exbeliever said...

I haven't had time to comment on any of this (and, really don't have time to do so now), but I wanted to make a few brief passing observations and then crawl back into the shadows.

This conversation is founded on a category mistake. As I've previously argued, atheism is not a worldview. Atheism is a belief on one subject--viz. the belief that there is no evidence of the existence of a god.

Atheism does not come with a moral code any more than monotheism does. A monotheist could believe in ritual sacrifice, temple prostitution, etc. Only a particular religious system/worldview provides an ethical foundation.

Similarly, an atheist can be extremely religious. Buddhists do not believe in a god and participate in religious activity as much as (or more than) any other religion. An atheist could have any number of "religious beliefs" that do not include the concept of a god.

It makes no sense, then, Kaffinator to address a nebulous "Mr. Atheist," because that term says nothing about that person. You can have a libertarian Objectivist atheist on one hand and a socialist atheist on the other. Just as different monotheists have different ethical codes, so can different atheists can have a different ethical codes.

You need to define further if you really want to compare like to like. I, personally, think we would be worse off if all Christians converted to libertarian Objectivist atheists, but that is because of my problems with libertarian politics and Ojectivist meta-ethics. It has nothing to do with the "atheist" part.

Kaffinator, if Christians stopped believing in a god, but still held all of the same ethical standards (but for different reasons), there would be no reason to expect a change in charitable giving.

Anyway, the point is, atheism can have as many different ethical codes as monotheism. It is impossible to predict how charitable giving would be affected by people becoming atheists because we don't know anything else about them except their belief in a god.

[As an autobiographical aside, I am a special education teacher in an infamous inner-city high school. I also give regularly to charitable causes. If I were able to convert Christians to atheism AND to my ethical beliefs, I think we would have a better world.]

Your question is wrong from the beginning. And your statistics mean nothing. For all we know, it counts atheistic Buddhists who also give generously.

"Atheist" says no more about me than "monotheist" says about you. It doesn't tell me how charitable you are or what else you believe in.

There's more, but my lunch is over and I probably won't have time to finish this today. Mull this over.

Kaffinator said...

Hi Paul,

> hey, I'm an atheist, I don't want all the Christians in the United States to join me (that would be their choice, and i don't proselytize)

If you will check the context, I was posting the question to the atheists who run this board. Who do proselytize. So, don’t take it personally.

> i take exception to the suggestion that my morality is warped just because i'm an atheist

I didn’t just label atheists as “warped”, I explained why. The atheists of this site advocate a certain shift in thinking, which I argue would cause a certain shift in behavior, which in turn would result in detriment to the individual and his society. Naturally this explanation attracted criticism and some interesting discussion, just as I (and Loftus, I suppose) intended.

> given your take that my morality is a gift of "common grace", it can't really be warped no matter the form or extent, no?

If I gave you a music CD and you left it on your seat in 100 degree weather, it would become warped. Would you then complain to me about it? In the same way, our sin-nature can warp what is given to us by God.

> Can you admit that this is a broad generalization and poor choice of words?

Not really. If I genuinely think something is warped, what would you like me to call it? It’s part of my argument. You are free to disagree, and tell me why, but why bicker about the term?

> It seems to me that if the "Holy Spirit" is going to convict me, it will be from hearing the gospel, not a challenge to my warped morality.

Perhaps, but an atheist is dead-set against the existence of God. No theos means no logos which means, nothing for me to preach. BUT, if I can show you how atheism on its own terms contradicts itself, or accuses as immoral its own morality, then perhaps you will seriously entertain other possibilities.

Exb – I’m addressing all of the atheists of this board. If you want to show how your particular brand of atheism does not suffer from the “warped morality” I perceive, or show how my premises or reasoning are invalid, be my guest. But to simply beg off on the fact that I have not sufficiently identified exactly WHICH sort of atheist I am addressing (up to and including “religious atheists”!?) seems more like wordplay than a response.

exbeliever said...

Kaffinator,

I did show how your premises were wrong.

You still don't seem to understand that when you compare Christianity with "atheism" you are not comparing like to like.

Atheism is properly compared to monotheism or polytheism, etc., not to worldviews.

You subscribe to a worldview, Christianity. That worldview is monotheistic. Christianity is not a "brand" of monotheism; monotheism is an aspect of the Christian worldview.

There is no comprehensive name for my worldview. In one sense, I lean toward a posteriori physicalism. In meta-ethics, I am a moral relativist. In normative ethics, I believe in moral bargaining. I have variety of different applied ethics values. It doesn't come in a ready-made package.

You're point was that if people became atheists, they would be less likely to give. In speaking this way, however, you are using the term "atheism" to describe a worldview and a specific moral code.

The fact of the matter is that if we did get our "wish" and people stopped believing in a god, there is no telling whether or not "charities, schools, local governments, and other volunteer-based organizations would suffer. . ." Not believing in a god says nothing else about a person than that they do not believe in a god. It doesn't say anything about their ethical system.

Let's say that I made the bold claim, "If you had your wish and everyone became monotheists, the result would be that many babies would be sacrificed to Zoroaster."

You would rightly say that being a monotheist doesn't make you a Zoroasterian. Monotheism doesn't identify what worldview you subscribe to.

In the same way, atheism doesn't identify my worldview or my ethics.

Anyway, I'm sorry if you still don't see your mistake.

If you really want to get picky about it, there are others. For instance, you say that if Christians converted to atheism (which is an improper way to speak as I pointed out), then charities would starve.

So how did you support this conclusion? Did you cite a study on Christians giving? No, you cited a study about "religious people." While all Christians are "religious people," not all "religious people" are Christians. The support you offer, then, fails to substantiate your claim.

It seems that you feel free to stomp across categories willy-nilly.

Like I said, though, no time to do this now.

paul said...

Dear Kaffinator,
ah well, I'm not trying to beat the heaven out of you. when i read exbelievers posts i see he is saying some things i was trying to relate and seems your question hit him the same as it hit me in some respects. No matter, my main point is missed. It's not such a hard point to see, but it is very difficult to accept and harder still to acknowledge. What i see going on is an effort to be top dog. That seems to be an instinct we all have. The tone of your original question was the firing of the first shot. It was not an invitation to grace, which it seems to me is the prime directive for Christians (i.e. "go into all the world and preach the gospel..."), rather it was a casting of the first stone because you caught some atheists in the act. I tried to point it out because it seems a true observation to me, your continuing to justify yourself underlines it by my seeing. This is what i meant when i said i see no difference between you and the rest of humanity. To me, you appear as just one of the pack trying to dominate, be top dog. The story may be different, the methods are the same. One of the reasons many here have left Christianity is because they didn't see Jesus in themselves or anyone else...one can't follow what one cannot see.
paul

Daniel said...

Enough has been said on this thread already, so that I just have a last point, echoing some already made:

if "religionists" do indeed give more than "secularists", then the wish fulfillment we should be concerned with here is how to further promote ethics among secularists, and reduce the need for charity among everyone, before considering the effect of conversions either way.

Interesting question, and it has sparked some good dialogue. Thanks for the participation, Kaff, even though you've been left out on your own. Where are your Triablogue buddies and such? I guess since they couldn't find a way to argue against universal laws of logic, they kind of felt left out ;)

exbeliever said...

I think it goes further. Even if we did grant the unfounded premises of your argument, Kaff, that still wouldn't mean that one would have a "warped morality" if they sought conversions.

In HG Wells' The Time Machine, the Eloi had a very peaceful society. There was no disease and widespread societal peace. Would it be a warped morality to point out that the Morlock are fattening them for dinner?

A more difficult question would be whether or not the aggregate good of Christianity outweights the aggregate good of a particular worldview of which atheism is a central tenent.

It's interesting that you find it laudable when Danny admits an error, but how you attempt to squirm out of yours. You were careless with your terms and you don't like being called on it. Okay.

Kaffinator said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kaffinator said...

Paul, thanks for contributing and sorry we weren’t quite able to connect on the content of your actual objection.

Exb, an interesting question concerning the aggregate effects of Christianity. Of course my main point was more about religionism vs secularism in general (despite my opener, “Mr Atheist” which was mostly for effect). This necessarily involves making some broad generalizations. But in the future I promise will keep my eyes open for religionist-atheists and will do my best to exempt them from any poorly worded critique that I happen to slop together in the future.

Danny, thanks for the gracious close to the thread. I wish I could call the Triablogue folks my buddies but I fear I stepped on some nerves a while back. Plus I think my line of approach here makes Christians a bit nervous, by seeming to advocate religiosity in general rather than just Christianity.

Thanks to all for the conversation, and, goodnight.

insaner said...

hmm, interesting, i dont think i have EVER heard a pastor preach about or even mention giving to charity as something we christians should do.. i guess thats just insider information, but however, the fact that the numbers are so high must mean something else. also insider information, "not giving to charity" is in no way implied to be something that would send you to hell, not in the bible does it say this, nor have i heard anyone say this. second, there is no way to "win" your way into heaven, its a free gift God offers of Himself, and to those who choose to accept it (or were you plugging your ears when Christians talked to you about the Gospel?) so, where again does the motivation, whether it be fear of hell or reward of heaven, come from?? or is this just another of your fantastically made up reasons to criticize and make a mockery of christians and their beliefs? again, im an insider, but i dont really know what is being preached in mosques so i cant speak for them.. i have been to one or two synagogues, and they didnt preach either of these two things.. but again, i cant speak for them. however, is their inclination to giving perhaps out of gratitude for already having received that gift that God offers? or perhaps simply because something inside them motivates them?

also, it is interesting to see your mental gymnastics in trying to spin doctor the facts into saying that it would be better if people stopped giving their tithes.. because then we would give more(???) to give to other causes.. even tho the studies mentioned and ones ive heard of actually do make that distinction of money donated to non-religious causes as opposed to money going to their churches.. and THAT is where the difference shows, they still on average are more likely to give.. and thats on TOP of their tithe..

also, i doubt anyone is proposing that because christians give more, their beliefs must be true.. but thanks for the example of a strawman fallacy

Leah said...

I generally agree with you, John, but I do have one bone to pick and that is this statement: "The prevalence of stay-at-home-moms among religionists is much higher than secularists, and thus more available volunteers to pool from."

I'm not sure where you get the idea that stay-at-home moms have oodles of time to do volunteer work. I happen to be both an atheist and an at-home mom. I would love to be able to do some volunteer work, but I have a 24-7 obligation, unless I arrange otherwise, usually well in advance, and often at a personal financial expense. Sure, I could bring my kids with me, but the result would be more getting in the way and being a nuisance than really helping and contributing.

So your argument that more at-home moms equals more "free time" to pitch in for charitable work doesn't fly with me.

Harlan Quinn said...

Hi Leah,
John is away at a conference so he has some posts (like this one) scheduled for automated publishing. I help him with the technical tasks such as moderating.

this post is a "reprint" from 4/23/06 and it was written by a guest contributor that goes by nsfl.

any opinions expressed in the article are the authors and do not necessarily represent the viewpoint of John W. Loftus.

Anonymous said...


Just compare the countries with a lot of atheists like Japan or Europe with America. You’ll see that welfare is often much more organized and murder rates are much lower in these countries. Granted, it’s only a correlation, but this contradicts the assumption that going to atheism would kill the charity works and goodness.

That said, charity is somewhat a Christian tradition, so it’s not really a surprise that Christians are doing well in that field. But the well being of a society or humanity is merely attributable to charity. Charity should also be a last resort when something is wrong with the way the society is working. It’s interesting to note that America is politically dominated by a Christian party and is one of the less generous governments among the wealthiest country in the world.


This was something I was considering.

As a liberal atheist I do give to charities. However I also vote to have our society (through our government) provide for the needy many of the things that in this countries charities currently provide.

I believe food, clothing, healthcare are human rights that our society should provide systemically and we should not have to rely on charity to provide these things to the needy.

I contrast this with many christians who seem to believe it is not societies duty to do this and who vote against such support.

ZDENNY said...

The fact that Christians not only give more but also volunteer more is a proven fact.

The NE of the country is the least charitable and the South is the most charitable.

The fact that you feel the need to write this post undermines atheism itself.

Atheism is about the empowerment of self. You only do things to get a good feeling (because love is a feeling). You can get the same feeling by taking a shower.

Atheism is not about love and never will be.

Vicki in Alabama said...

Did not have time to read all comments but did anyone point out that biggest philanthropists currently are atheists? Ted Turner, Bill Gates, Brad & Angelina...the latter two very hands on.