The Samaritan Strategy For Skeptics

Atheists, skeptics and freethinkers lack their own kind of Samaritan Strategy...

To people who were aware of Colonel Doner's book, The Samaritan Strategy, which I bought hot of the press in 1988, here is a 1988 summation of it's goals and uses:

The following is from the Origin of the Samaritan Project;

Chesapeake, Virginia — Earlier this year, with great fanfare, Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed announced the formation of the Samaritan Project. Ostensibly formed to bring Christian social relief to the inner city, the project, just like the Christian Coalition, was conceived years ago to advance the radical religious right's agenda.

When Pat Robertson ran unsuccessfully for president in 1988, Florida physician, Dr. Max Karrer, coordinated Americans for Robertson in that state. At the end of the campaign, the Florida organization was so solid that Karrer and others decided to keep it going, naming the group the Conservative Christian Coalition.

About the same time, a book by political strategist Colonel V. Doner was published by a subsidiary of the Thomas Nelson Co. The book drafted "a new agenda for Christian activism." Doner wrote, "What would a Christian conservative coalition [emphasis added] in power really do about the economy, national defense, nuclear war, hunger, poverty, AIDS, etc?"

Doner rejected the religious right's efforts to capture the White House. Instead, he described a bold new plan to bring the Christian Right into the next century. His 1988 book is called The Samaritan Strategy.

Then, exactly one year later, Pat Robertson launched the Christian Coalition with Ralph Reed at the helm. The Conservative Christian Coalition in Florida became part of the fledgling organization.

The Christian Coalition and the Samaritan Project appear to mirror Colonel Doner's "Christian conservative coalition" and The Samaritan Strategy. Much of the Christian Coalition and Samaritan Project game plan appears in Doner's book. So, it seems reasonable that these movements will play them-selves out in a similar fashion. Doner failed to respond to a request for an interview from the Freedom Writer.

While strong on social action, Doner's Samaritan Strategy advocates the same moral agenda as the Christian Coalition. For example, although Doner takes a sympathetic approach to people with AIDS, he refers to homosexuality as a sin, and calls for gays to be converted to Christianity, thus "liberating" them from homosexuality.

Doner assails abortion in his 1988 book, particularly the procedure widely known today as "partial birth abortion." Now, for the first time, this procedure is close to being outlawed.

"Pornography is not just poor literature," Doner wrote, "It is the fuel for almost unlimited sexual exploitation, sexism, homosexuality, and the rape and molestation of thousands of children." He adds that "soft core" pornography leads to violence, and calls for its elimination.

In conclusion, Doner wrote, "The Samaritan Strategy is the only method that will lead us to the results we desire...we need to urge Christian activists to volunteer their time in the community, meeting its real needs. In ten years, by the beginning of the twenty-first century, it will be Christians who are looked to in the local community for leadership and guidance."
What I'm thinking is that atheists, skeptics and freethinkers can easily adopt this strategy of their own. If we did we could help people and at the same time change perceptions of who we are as people. Is there an atheist organization that sends help to people hurt in areas of our world? I know skeptics give to help, most often through the government the United Way, and Red Cross organizations. But with skeptics being the second largest denomination with a lot of them holding a great deal of money, what about an atheist charity organization complete with volunteers in the name of atheism? That would be a Samaritan strategy for skeptics. It would show people we do care and that we do give, and it would also help to change people's perceptions of us. Can this be done?

I'm looking for suggestions and people who might want to help. I've got ideas of my own on this.


Evan said...

I think the Richard Dawkins Foundation could do something like this but I'm not sure exactly what their mission statement is.

oli said...

While i like the idea, i think the reason that it probably won't get off the ground too easily is that when atheists do nice things such as volunteer, donate to charity, etc they don't do it as atheists specifically, they do it as decent people. To the christian however, its the same thing. Their religion, for all its many faults, does advocate social good works of this kind. Christians are supposed to do good works so they find it easy to assemble faith led structures and groups to help. Atheists aren't going to do good works because they are atheists, they are going to do it because they are agood people, but just being a decent sort does not lend itself to structure or organization.

Evans idea that the Dawkins foundation might do stuff like this is a good one and i believe they could certainly be prompted to go for it. However the aim of the Dawkins foundation is to promote atheism, charity works would be done in this vein, promotion of humanist ethics through public works and while that handily hits two birds with one stone, its still only going to use a small set of people.

Think of it this way. A christian blood drive (not Jehovah's Witness obviously) could spread advertisement of their service via pastors, turn up and pitch their trailers outside churches on sundays, and generally play upon the captive audience that church goers provide.
If i as an atheist want to give blood i'm going to find the nearest donation centre and go and do it.

Where i think we might have more success as atheists is in ORGANISING charitable events. The Dawkins foundation or one of the big humanist groups for instance could organise a blood drive, and then flyer/advertise/etc amongst ALL segments of society, religious and not, they shouldn't have to rely on atheists alone.

Personally i think atheists should play the knowledge card as often as possible. Promote, not atheism, which many see as a direct attack upon everything they hold dear, but critical thinking, reasoning abilities and good education. Imagine if Dawkins Christmas lectures for the Royal Institute (Growing up in the Universe) were shown in all schools. They are excellent introductions to evolution, critical thinking and such like and very easy to watch.

John W. Loftus said...

We need to think about Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, for starters.

goprairie said...

there are non-religious sectarian charities and foundations out there. rather than start one, it would be more beneficial i would think to research ones out there and make a list online that you link to here that lists the ones that do not make any reference to religion or dieties in their mission statements and who do not promote religion as part of their missions. I know of a couple of prairie stewardship and conservation organizations that would fit this. maybe separate lists for places to donate money and places to donate time.
if there are organizations that give token lip service to doing god's good but don't really get into it too much, they might be convinced to clean their act up a bit and remove the religious aspect of it to make it humanitarian so the listing might have that effect too.

Andy said...

Hi John,

This is Andy from Thanks for coming to speak with us on the 14th! I am just about finished with your book and it is great.

I have been thinking about this issue a lot lately especially when looking at grants. I don't have an answer yet. This falls into religion is useful yet untrue fallacy. Of course religious charities do good deeds for the secular world. Bill Gates and Warren come up in this conversation on the secular side. (However, I pulled the financial of the Discovery Institute and found that Gates Foundation is giving them several million dollars. I think it for communications and technology but I found that weird and I need to look further into it).

Doctors without Borders, Lance Armstrong's Foundation, Peace Corp and many many more are secular and do good for good's own sake. I think that is what we should do and support. I like the idea of a list of top secular charities. Something like this is probably searchable already at guide star with ratings of efficacy .

It depends on the organization. For example, James Randi is all about education but I would still call a charity. He is not in your face atheism but it does go there. Aren't most science research and health organizations at least indirectly secular?

However, if there are a few explicitly atheistic charities that would be fine. As long as the organization does good evenly. It depends on the organization's mission. If it is hunger relief or medical help then of course the same rules apply as we should demand of the religious ones. No one is turned away from help because of their belief. If it is an educational charity then of course Dawkins does not have to pay any attention to ID or the Flat Earthers.

I am still thinking about all of this....

twinertia said...

I'd skip the "Samaritan" strategy, as it plays into the ingrained thought processes of theists ("you're doing the Lord's work, whether you'd like to admit it or not"). Rather, I'd like to see community foundations started for the purpose(s) of providing alternative employment options to nontheists (that's the big stumbling block in the way of true organization).

Shygetz said...

Look into the Society for Ethical Culture. They've been doing this kind of thing for over a century on a necessarily small scale; they just haven't spread as much as we would like. But I think they have the fundamentals right; they focus not on atheism (which, let's face it, is not a moral virtue; it's simply the null state of god-belief) but on forming an ethical society irrespective of creed, and demonstrating that people can and do perform great acts of kindness without trying to impress a deity, but simply to help their fellow humans.

Dawkins' Foundation, while admirable, does not have humanitarianism as a major goal (although they do give to other humanitarian charities during times of crisis). They focus on education; perhaps if they set up schools for the disadvantaged it would be a nice "Samaritan Strategy" (in fact, I think that's an admirable goal), I don't think it would fit the bill as it is currently oriented.

But John, I agree with you; it would be great to have this kind of humanist charitable organization. However, atheists, herding cats, you know the rest. But if you really want to do something, I think you could do worse than starting up a Ethical Culture group in your hometown (wish we had one here...)

colonel jr said...

Believe you me, while 20 years ago Colonel may have been a hardcore testament to right wing/christian values he would strongly disagree with any condemnation of homosexuality these days.....