Are Atheists More Generous? QRS #1

For various reasons, public discussion of religion tends to attract (and create) a lot of inaccurate statistical information. This was a theme of my first book, Christians are Hate-Filled Hypocrites… and Other Lies You’ve Been Told, but there’s plenty more to write about.  So, I thought that I would start a periodic feature where I examine some of the questionable information making the rounds on-line.  I call it Questionable Religious Statistics (QRS).  Examining these claims not only clarifies what’s happening in the world of religion, but it also gives us practice in evaluating such information.

I start with an article written last week by Hank Pellissier at ieet.org. In it he claims that atheists are more generous financially than are religious people. He summarizes: “Atheists, non-believers, secular humanists, skeptics—the whole gamut of the godless have emerged in recent years as inarguably the most generous benefactors on the globe.”

Mr. Pellissier bases his claim on two pieces of evidence.  One, the magazine Business Week lists the billionaires who have donated or pledged the most money to charity, and this list is headed by Warren Buffett and Bill & Melinda Gate who have given 41 and 28 billion dollars respectively to worthy causes. Mr. Pellissier refers to both of them as “atheists.” (George Soros is a distant third, having given 7 billion).

The second piece of evidence comes from Mr. Pellissier’s own laudable involvement in Kiva.org, a charitable microfinance organization. Apparently givers to Kiva.org identify with teams, and the team that has given the most money is labeled: “Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists, and the Non-Religious.” This team has over 18,000 members, and they have given over 5.5 million dollars (for an average of $310 per team member). The second highest giving group is the “Kiva Christians.”  It has over 8,000 members, and they have given over 3 million dollars (for an average of $385 per member).

Based on these two pieces of information, Mr. Pellissier headlines his article: “Atheists are the most generous—even without heavenly reward!”

Has Mr. Pellissier’s provided sufficient evidence to back his claim? From my perspective, the answer is a clear “no.”

It’s far-fetched to think that we can learn about an entire category of people (e.g., atheists) simply by looking at three people. For example, I’m sure that we could find three atheists who contribute nothing to charity and three atheists who contribute an average amount. Why not generalize from them?

Furthermore, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are self-described agnostics, not atheists.  So, their considerable generosity does not reflect well on either religious people or atheists.  In fact, Bill Gates, in an interview with David Frost, is quoted as saying: “There’s a lot of merit in the moral aspects of religion. I think it can have a very, very positive impact.”

This raises a more philosophical question about the nature of generosity. Clearly Buffett and Gates have given more money in recent times than anyone else on the planet. But, does this mean that they are the two most generous people in the world? They are able to give the most because they have so much.  Warren Buffett still has 10 billion dollars and Bill Gates 30 billion. I write this as no disrespect to either one of them, for the world would be a much better place if all billionaires followed their example. However, there are people in the world who have given even more of what they have, perhaps demonstrating even greater levels of generosity. For example, the news periodically has stories of poor people who leave behind their entire savings to benefit others.

Regarding Mr. Pellissier’s experiences with Kiva.org, it’s wonderful that he’s involved with that organization, but that doesn’t give us reliable information about the broader world. With the Kiva.org teams, at least we have larger numbers than three people, but the groups of people are selected non-randomly, so we know that atheists constitute the most generous team with this organization, but that doesn’t generalize beyond Kiva.org. For example, I would imagine that the far more Christians give to faith-based charities such as World Vision.  (Also, if we want to be nit-picky, the members of the Christian team give more per person than do the atheist team).

So, what is the true relationship between atheism and charitable giving?  Robert Putnam and David Campbell, in their book American Grace, examine the issue, and they conclude that “religious Americans are more generous.”  Here is some of their evidence, drawn from national probability samples:

  • The most religious 20% of Americans give an average of more than $3,000 a year to charity, the least religious 20% give about $1,000.
  • In terms of percentage income, the most religious Americans are four times as generous as the least religious, giving about 7.5% of their income compared to about 1.5%.
  • The most religious Americans give more money to religious causes (obviously) and to secular causes. In particular, they favor organizations that benefit the needy and young people.
  • The most religious volunteer more often, to both religious and non-religious causes.

So, Mr. Gates, Buffett, and Pellissier’s financial generosity is to be appreciated, but religious Americans are substantially more generous than the non-religious.

Thanks to Scot McKnight for the link!

  • http://www.mikehickerson.com Mike Hickerson

    I think Melinda Gates would be surprised to learn that she’s an atheist. Wikipedia describes her as a Roman Catholic, and this CNN Money profile notes that she “goes to church regularly” and describes her visiting Mother Teresa in Calcutta. Considering that Bill didn’t even have a foundation until he married Melinda, the motivations behind the Gates’ generosity seem clearly rooted in Melinda’s religious faith. As for Warren Buffett, he was a wealthy atheist for a long time, but gave little to charity…until he became friends with (guess who) Melinda Gates. In that CNN Money article, both Buffett and Gates credit their wives with spurring them toward philanthropy (the memory of his late wife, in Buffett’s case).

    • http://www.brewright.com Bradley Wright

      That’s a very good point, Mike. I noticed that too, about Melinda Gates, but didn’t know about her influence with both the charitable foundation and Buffett’s work. Thanks for posting.

      • KWRegan

        What Mike H. tells is how I’ve understood it. BTW, the first mention of Bill and Melinda Gates in the post is missing the final ‘s”.

  • Hank Pellissier

    There is considerable discussion about this in two other places, at the IEET site and also at the Richard Dawkins Foundation site. It’s a fun argument, and I am glad that it is continuing here. As the author of the article, I present my POV more fully in the comment section at IEET.

    It is interesting to me that the headline and topic have elicited such strong feelings – my take on that is that religionists are very offended that they are regarded as morally inferior to atheists in any way. I urge you to think about the issue from the atheist’s POV – it is wearying to be told for centuries that one is without ethics because one does have a belief in God, and there’s a big rebellion against that oppressive judgement. IN fact, a recent best-seller was titled “Good Without God.”

    You can cite other statistics all you want, my rebuttal against the numbers regarding “Religious generosity” is that donations should definitely not be counted if they only go to religious organizations, and they should be questioned if they are intended to gain access into Heaven. There has certainly been no survey taking those two factors into account.

    • anar

      Should donations also not be counted if a secular person gives to a secular organization? Or If a politically motivated person (i.e. Soros) gives to a political organization? Why is there a distinction for the religious? Are you making the claim that religious organizations do not do any legitimate charitable work or that religious people do not have any legitimate motivation causing them to give to charity? I don’t think motives are even in question for these statistics. How would we even measure motives?

      Based on your story about charitable work by Catholics in the Philippines, it seems that you want to be judge and arbitrator about what should be considered legitimate charity, but by what grounds are you granted this position? And what baggage is attached to receiving your charity from a secular perspectives? It means they have to encourage their young people to have sex with condoms. Is this a reason to consider your charity illegitimate?

      (And what kind of Christians think that charitable giving helps them gain access into Heaven? That is not from the Bible: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9)

      • Michael Adams

        “The Church doesn’t Have a mission; it IS a mission.”

    • http://www.LarryShort.com/ Larry Short

      Mr. Wright, thank you for an excellent and enlightening article.

      I would just like to address three interesting points that Mr. Pellissier raises in his response:

      1) Do Christians regard atheists as morally inferior? I don’t believe so. Certainly we wish atheists would release their nonrational disbelief and embrace the joy and peace that Christ offers. But the orthodox Christian position is that we are ALL equally morally inferior before a holy God. Personally I have atheist friends whose commitment to charity and other biblical moral values I admire.

      2) It is completely unfair of Mr. Pellissier to exclude giving to religious organizations when judging “who is more generous.” I give consistently to World Vision, a 501(c)3 religious organization. World Vision does microfinance in a very similar manner to Kiva (actually better and more effectively, in my opinion, because it more holistically manages its microfinance in the context of other community-based development programs). I don’t give much to Kiva, not because I don’t admire them, just because I think World Vision is a better option. So Mr. Pellissier would discount my giving to World Vision when judging “generosity?” Completely unfair.

      3) Mr. Pellissier clearly completely misunderstands the motivation for Christian givers to contribute. He says their contributions “should be questioned if they are intended to gain access into Heaven.” But the contributions of orthodox Christians are most certainly NOT intended to gain access to Heaven! Our access to Heaven is entirely a result of the forgiveness that Christ offers to us by shedding His blood on the Cross. Charity is undertaken, instead, as a response to the love of God. I give because I know God “loves a cheerful giver” and my response will bring glory to Him. My charity is a symbol of the fact that Christ has forgiven me and changed my heart. I give as an expression of His love and concern for the poor.

      • http://www.brewright.com Bradley Wright

        Thank you for the comment. I hadn’t thought about some of the similarities between World Vision and Kiva, but you’re right in that it would be hard to label one as charitable giving but not the other.

      • steve oberski

        “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn” – “In his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.”

        With the return of Cthulhu the reign of the Elder gods ends and the Great Old Ones will rule again.

        I read that in a book some where, it must be true.

        According to Pew fully half of Americans say they would not vote for a well-qualified atheist (http://pewforum.org/Politics-and-Elections/Religion-and-Politics-Contention-and-Consensus.aspx).

        Given that 75% of Americans are xtian (http://religions.pewforum.org/affiliations) this is at odds with your claim that Christians do not regard atheists as morally inferior.

        But that’s OK, some of your best friends are atheists

    • Seth R.

      I find it rather telling Mr. Pelissier, that you immediately resort to the common schoolyard taunt “ooooh – I must have gotten all you religious folk REALLY riled up….”

      Yuk, yuk, yuk.

      How old are you Mr. Pelissier, thirteen?

      Secondly, it’s obviously unfair to exclude religious organizations. Especially considering that some of the most prolific and effective charities in the world are and always have been religious organizations.

      Finally, a bald piece of speculation about motives of religious people – “they only do it to get goodies in heaven.”

      Right….

      And atheists don’t donate for any selfish reasons – like feeling better about themselves, or looking good for their acquaintances, or even just the self-satisfaction of seeing one’s money doing something useful.

      Atheists wouldn’t be selfish like that, would they – that’s only something “religious” people do, right?

  • http://atheistethicist.blogspot.com Alonzo Fyfe

    The very question of which is more charitable smacks of bigotry. It assumes that we are going to judge individuals as members of a group, rather than as individuals.

    Every one of us belongs to countless groups based on gender, skin color, eye color, hair color, height, weight, age, place of residence, place of birth, number of siblings. With such a huge list, we can all be placed in a group that is extremely generous, and in a group that is extremely selfish. But where is the justice of judging anybody that way?

    Let me present just a few of the contaminations.

    (1) Atheism is infected by the Ayn Rand virus – a subgroup of atheists who hold that selfishness is a virtue. This is likely to skew any averages. But why should the non-Randian atheist be judged poorly because Randian atheists exist. This is like blaming all theists for the acts of Al Queida or the Westboro Baptist Church.

    (2) Non-charitable charity. A lot of religious “charity” actually aims to buy followers. The “charity” gets stamped with the company (church) logo. In exchange for the charity, one is expected to provide the church with some form of compensation – political endorsements, economic support, social contacts. Its aim is to acquire influence within in a community. Does this count as legitimate charity?

    (3) We should be looking at good-harm. In a lot of instances, religious charity comes with religious bigotry (e.g., against homosexuals and atheists), or harmful practices (e.g., option to the use of contraceptives or teaching “safe sex”), and ignorance (e.g., hurricanes can be diverted from their course and disease can be prevented through prayer). Which is better – a person who provides $2000 in charity and does $1500 in harm, or a person who gives $1000 to charity?

    But, ultimately, we get back to the original point – the legitimacy of making a moral evaluation of an individual by looking at group statistics. I do not know the charitable attitudes of people whose last name starts with the letter “F”. They may be more generious than most. They may be extremely selfish. They may be average. It doesn’t matter. I am an individual, and I insist on being judged by my own actions, not those of some random group some bigots might decide to throw me into.

    • http://decentfilms.com/ SDG

      Alonzo Fyfe writes:

      “The very question of which is more charitable smacks of bigotry. It assumes that we are going to judge individuals as members of a group, rather than as individuals.”

      No, it’s a question about averages and correlation. Nobody’s being judged by group membership just because of measurable average differences in group behavior. Just because ideas influence behavior in very different ways doesn’t mean that ideas don’t influence behavior, or that it’s bigotry to talk about potential influences.

      “Atheism is infected by the Ayn Rand virus – a subgroup of atheists who hold that selfishness is a virtue. This is likely to skew any averages. But why should the non-Randian atheist be judged poorly because Randian atheists exist. This is like blaming all theists for the acts of Al Queida or the Westboro Baptist Church.”

      Again, we aren’t talking about judging every member of a group because of the views or behavior of some. But it is a fact about theism that it includes groups like al Quaeda and WBC, and it is a fact about atheism that it includes Randian postivists and other advocates of selfishness. Moreover, atheists may reasonably ask non-radical theists “Why do you feel that your version of theism is better than radical Muslims or the WBC folks? Why do you think you know God’s will better than they?” And theists may reasonably ask atheists “Why do you feel that your version of atheism is better than the positivists? Why isn’t selfishness just as good an atheist ethic as yours?”

      “We should be looking at good-harm.”

      A lot of question-begging here. Many of us would argue that the use of contraceptives and “teaching safe sex” are on the “harm” side of the ledger, and our opposition to it is on the good side.

      • http://atheistethicist.blogspot.com Alonzo Fyfe

        Why are these “averages and correlations” important?

        You might be able to discover averages and correlations based on the other factors I mentioned – height, weight, age. Yet, the only people who would care about these things are people who want to use these numbers – basically – for reasons of bigoted generalizations. They want to discover reasons to attack members of a particular group, so they keep hunting for things that they can use in a derogatory manner. Otherwise, there would be no interest in these figures.

        Just as nobody cares if there is a correlation between height or weight and generosity. There is no interst in using those averages and correlations for the purpose of making bigoted generalizations, so those averages and correlations are ignored.

        As for the “question begging” issue – what people believe or do not believe is irrelevant. What is true or false is what matters. A lot of slave owners were able to convince themselves that slavery was in the best interest of the slave. A lot of child abusers will tell you that what they do is in the best interest of the child. The capacity for rationalization and the ability to blind oneself to harms done is not evidence of generosity.

    • amber

      As a response to point (3) above — the distinction between “good” and “bad” charity — if we’re measuring generosity here, that question is pretty much irrelevant. I’m sure all religious and non-religious alike believe they are giving to worthy causes, but the religious give more making them more generous. You could try to argue that non-religious folks give to “better” charities but that is a completely separate argument from “atheists are more generous than Christians.”

    • http://atheistethicist.blogspot.com Alonzo Fyfe

      The fact is, there is no correlation between “atheism” and “theism” and generosity. The one states that no God exists, the other states that at least one God exists. But neither, by itself, implies any sort of moral stand one way or the other.

      It’s all of the stuff that one adds to their atheism or theism that has moral weight. Whether it is to kill people who do not share one’s view, to treat women and children as property, to get as many toys as one can before one dies, or to seek personal well-being regardless of who else is made to suffer for it, whether life is the ultimate value, whether to help others or to do them harm. None of these things follow directly – from either of the propositions “God exists” or “God does not exist”.

      So, the question of what to study to measure generosity is not the question of whether one believes in a God or not. It is all of the other stuff that different people also believe in – that they may tie in with their belief or lack of a belief in God but, no matter what delusions they may be under, bears no direct relationship to that premise.

      It is, as I wrote above, a non-starter, useful only to people who want to imagine a correlation so that they can use it in the pursuit of bigoted interests.

      • http://www.brewright.com Bradley Wright

        The correlation between religious beliefs and generosity is an empirical question, and, it turns out, there is a strong positive correlation.

        • http://atheistethicist.blogspot.com Alonzo Fyfe

          I repeat, you might find a correlation between generosity and the first letter of one’s last name. Correlation does not imply causation.

          It remains the case that the propositions, “A god exists” and “No god exists” imply no moral statements. There is no legitimate inference from these premises to any moral conclusion, so the best you can ever get is a coincidental correlation.

          And the only reason people CARE about these correlations is a desire to make derogatory overgeneralizations by members of a group – basically, to use them (even though no logical implication can be drawn) to teach others to hate and fear the members of the other group.

          • http://www.brewright.com Bradley Wright

            Actually, I don’t think that you would find much of a correlation between name and generosity, certainly not of the magnitude found with religiosity and financial generosity. (With the most religious giving 3x or 4x as much as the least religious).

            As far as why people study correlations, I would imagine there are many more reasons than simply deriding another group.

            In fact, some people make across-group correlations as a way of identifying inequality and unfairness.

            You might ask Mr. Pellissier why he did in his first post.

  • j smith

    Regarding Pellissier’s no heaven motivation comment above, where should one draw the line? You could also say that no donations should be counted if done for the sake of garnering social status among one’s peers or for the sake of legitimating one’s wealth. Why draw the line at otherworldly self-serving motives and not include thisworldly self-serving motives?

    • http://www.brewright.com Bradley Wright

      This certainly raises a lot of issues about motivation of giving. In this type of analysis, it seems safest to go with non-profit, for as several have pointed out, both secular and religious donations can have ulterior motives. But… measuring these would be next to impossible.

  • Hank Pellissier

    Here a link to one study, out of many, that examine the correlation between Intelligence and Atheism:

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160289608000238

    there seems to be considerably more research done on this topic, than there is on Generosity and Atheism

    • http://www.briercrest.ca/facultyprofile.asp?facultyName=CharlesHackney&facultyId=132 Charles

      When gender differences on various intelligence scores are demonstrated, reasonable people conclude that intelligence tests are imperfect, and that IQ scores (both “g” and subscales) are influenced by a complex interaction of variables, so no conclusion of inherent superiority should be drawn. When racial differences on various intelligence scores are demonstrated, reasonable people conclude that intelligence tests are imperfect, and that IQ scores (both “g” and subscales) are influenced by a complex interaction of variables, so no conclusion of inherent superiority should be drawn. A 2006 study found average IQ in Ireland to be 8 full points lower than in the UK, but no reasonable person would conclude that this shows the English to be superior. A 2002 study found police officers to have higher average IQs than electricians, but nobody concludes that law enforcement is somehow a “better” career. A 2004 study found economists to have higher average intelligence than biologists, but nobody concludes that economics is therefore “closer to truth” than biology (side note: theologians had higher intelligence than psychologists. My wife, the theology grad student, will be happy when I tell her about that).

    • anar

      It could be possible that if someone has higher intelligence, they are more likely to have a higher view of themselves. This would mean they may be tempted to be proud and less likely to be humble. And as both Peter and James quoted “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

      High intelligence, like other kinds of wealth, are not always healthy. If high intelligence makes someone so proud that they overemphasize their own position in the hierarchy of the universe (going so far as to claim they are an authority over God and saying He does not exist), it would be much better to be stupid, but with a correct view of where one stands in the scheme of things.

  • Gtownhoya

    Bill Gates also said that he can think of a lot better things to do on a Sunday than spend an hour in church. It’s from the same interview the author got his quote from.

    My I ask for you to cite those stats you listed please? I would like original up-to-date studies not something pulled out of a book signing religion’s praises.

    • http://www.brewright.com Bradley Wright

      It’s in the chapter of American Grace on being a good neighbor. The data is from 2006, which is reasonably up-to-date. American Grace is by Robert Putnam, a political scientist at Harvard… it’s serious scholarship.

  • Sophie E

    These are from reddit.com s fundraising page.

    http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/r-atheism/ratheism

    http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/redditcharity/rchristianity

    We are supporting Doctors Without Borders -Donate if you can.

  • Hank Pellissier

    Here’s another link that lists numerous studies – in which atheists demonstrate superior morals to religionists, in a wide range of categories, like civil rights activism, less cheating on tests, etc. –

    http://www.rejectionofpascalswager.net/atheistmoral.html

    • anar

      The link has some very questionable information. I don’t think it is very helpful in making the claim you are trying to make.

      It claims George Washington was either an Atheist or a Deist.

      It claims the call for abolition came from Atheists neglecting the work of Wilberforce.

      It uses studies from 1934, 1951, 1969, 1971, and 1991. (And I thought at ieet your main problem with the Hoover study posted by Pasoter_Alex was that it is too dated because it was written in 2003.)

      And should we trust a writer when they use such absolute phrases like “Atheists have always been in the forefront of moral progress”.

      And it features Margaret Sanger and Peter Singer as moral atheists. What if I suggest that abortion should be considered immoral?

  • j smith

    It doesn’t seem like it’ll take us very far to have such sweeping categories as “better morals” and “more generous.” Seems like we could go much deeper by theorizing and specifying why it is that atheists, agnostics, or practitioners of various religious traditions might be more favorably disposed toward this particular moral or that particular expression of generosity. Why are some groups more check book generous while others are time generous?

    • http://www.brewright.com Bradley Wright

      I agree that the deeper questions are the more interesting ones, but it’s probably good to be clear on the basic, general associations.

  • R. Brad White

    Mr. Pellissier and Mr. Wright, how about we focus on the generosity of BOTH the religious AND non-believers? We’re all human and caring for other humans is part if our human condition regardless of beliefs. I believe Mr. Pellissier is trying to help his side get more credit for their generosity, and to change the public perception that atheists don’t have morals. As a former atheist (now Chistian) who has spoken with hundreds of atheists/agnostics, I know they DO have morals. Their generosity should be applauded. BOTH religious and non-religious generosity shoud be applauded…instead of comparing, which only leads to more “we vs. them” thinking and animosity. The Bible says to give cheerfully…and in secret. So let’s not toot our own horn, but rather applaud generosity and duplicate it wherever we see it. My organization () would love to bridge the divide between theists and atheists. It starts with loving and respecting the other “human” even when we disagree on incredibly important topics.

  • http://www.thinkpoint.wordpress.com Steve Cornell

    Thanks for the clearheaded review. I addressed a similar concern in response to a Huff Post piece, “Why Evangelicals Hate Jesus” (Phil Zuckerman, 3-3-11). If interested, see: http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/do-evangelicals-hate-jesus/

  • http://RankinFile(steverankin.wordpress.com) Stephen Rankin

    It’s not exactly about atheists and generosity, but Arthur Brooks wrote a book a few years ago: Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism, Who Gives, Who Doesn’t and Why It Matters (Basic Books, 2006). As I recall, Brooks is a sociology professor and a self-described liberal. It may have relevance (useful statistics) for the current question.

    • David Timmer

      Arthur Brooks is the director of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank. So he hardly qualifies as a liberal in the contemporary American p0litical sense of the term. Of course, that doesn’t by itself invalidate his views aboutconservatives and charity, but it does remove the credibility he might be given as a neutral or even hostile witness

  • joe

    I think you are using a false dichotomy to make a point where none is needed. People have a natural affection for each other and generally do what they can when they see some one in need. If religious people were as generous as you believe they are we could shut down a large portion of the goverment in every country. We always hear how programs for the weak, sick, poor, and hungry are best handled by charities, but where are they? When are they going to do it?

  • Raymond Takashi Swenson

    In the view of my religious tradition, a person who us generous with his or her resources to help those in need is fulfilling one of the two great commandments, to “love thy neighbor as thyself”.

    Even if they do not recognize or love God, the fact that they fed the hungry, xlothed the naked, comforted the sick and visited those in prison, carries out the will of Christ, and according to Matthew 25, can place them at his right hand. Even if you expect no eternal benefit to you from charitable donations of time and assets, you may be recipients of it anyway. Personally, I think you will be ahead if those who belueve in God but have not learned to love their neighbors. You will be a Good Samaritan, a heretic who is more pleasing to God than the religious who do not feel charity and love to their neighbors.

  • http://www.mikehickerson.com Mike Hickerson

    Should “religious giving” count as charitable giving in these studies? Let’s describe churches, synagogues, mosques, and other houses of worship using secular terms. They are locally-based community centers that provide emotional and spiritual counseling, direct aid such as food and clothing, and educational opportunities for both members and non-members. To varying degrees, they support services for the needy, volunteer recruitment for other nonprofit organizations, and arts and cultural programming. (And I’m not talking about Christmas pageants: My former church in Vancouver sponsored a very well-attended classical music concert series.) Some religious organizations operate schools, youth programs (scouting, mentoring, tutoring, etc.), fitness centers, nonprofit coffee shops, bookstores, and historical archives. While a few organizations limit access to these facilities to their members, my experience is that most religious groups are more than willing to share their facilities with the general community.

    Most secular nonprofits can only dream of having facilities that offer so many types of services in so many locations.

    • http://www.brewright.com Bradley Wright

      I would agree with you, Mike.

  • Widemouth

    Who Really Believes Jesus Existed Anyways?
    http://www.squidoo.com/who-really-believes-jesus-existed

  • http://www.thereligionvirus.com Craig A. James

    Back in the 1970′s during the Vietnam War, one of the most successful small fundraising endeavors was the “Pigs vs. Hippies” baseball game in San Francisco. The cops and the anti-war crowd would put aside their differences for a good cause, and have a rollicking good baseball game and raise money for kids.

    Instead of slinging mud and arrows at each other over “who is the most generous,” we should start a tongue-in-cheek fun tradition of competition over who can raise the most money.

    • http://www.brewright.com Bradley Wright

      Fun idea!

  • http://www.auburn.edu Peter Q Wolfe

    Mr. Hickerson and fellow commenters:

    my main question about any such said research between groups is it direct or inverse coorilation or is it concidential in nature and in scope in geleral? I’ve taken statistics for my political sciece from one of the creaters of the SPSS Software at Stanford University and etc. You must ask yourself is it temperial in nature? Meaning is it true throughout time and location towards one particular group of poeple in a similar situation that mirrors that particular ideal sceenario? The second thing is it statistically significant enough to merit discussion? This means that is it thrue throughout the population with various other groups broken down in each cell. It would be hard to generalize that all religious or theist believe with the same order of charity as each other and surely other factors play a bigger role whether political party, financial resources, literacy, location, etc. Is the coorilation spurous in nature? This would mean is the coorilation just merely concidential mentioned above of being misleading in nature that in which I believe to some degree it is and etc. A final point is that the affect of charities and individual scenarios are more important than the causal relationship as it were cause it is a continious effort not off of one source as one source affects each other like a chain.

    Mr Hickerson pointed out that charities in his Canadian city or township performed many duties for the general public that the civil government or secular humanist wouldn’t inately do on themselves. So, I applaude when such said efforts are inplemented in any city or communnities. However, I don’t claim to know of nonprofit knowledge sufficiently to say “Yea or na” like most in definants on here claim to know something in my eyes is trevial and not worth much discussion. I’d like to point out that conservatives in this country do donate more on average to charities than do liberals on average cause of their philosophical differences. My Professor Seroka in foreign policyl, a self-described spiritualist said “There is no point of giving of an individual nature cause it wouldn’t do much good than would in the majority” and he is from Michigan State with military advisorships in the U.S Air Force on political East European Studies. Moreover, liberal as mentioned above implies economic liberal or is it political liberal? These are two different things entirely not completely muturally exclusive for nothing is that simple. Also, such studies like this are inately devisive in scope and don’t account for other factors or situations that affect the temperial and locational variables in scenarios. It is extremely easy to lie with statistics to claim dominance in anything with misleading information. A final point on my objective points of comments is that Robert Putnam is also an atheist, so he he is pretty objective in his studies. note: Mr Putnam also came on L.A Times like a year ago on Walkiong Alone that shows that the Generation Y is 27% less likely to attend or participate in religious groups and are more likely to be spiritualist to diverge from previous generations in the u.S.

    Lastly, I like some of the comments above as I find such conversations somewhat stimulating. Honestly we as homo sapiens need to learn from diverging idealogies to develop as a cohesive society. Personally I’m reading Richard Dawkings, The God Dillusion that is enlightening to read on, but doesn’t necessarily mean that I would be converted to atheism just because I’m open minded. Actually I still think of myself as poliically independent and religiously unknown like most people are in the U.S ilregardless of what they say in surveys or what church, mosque or etc they go to on thier holy days. The most dangerious prospective to me is the abbsolutist mindset that government and church can’t harmonize on key objectives is the true problem in society and the unknowing like Allen Greenspan the Unknowns of the Unknowns mentions. Its also good to point out that Leo Straus debunks some ideas of historical views of political realities in that the Two Liberties book mentions that it is usually confind by local and isn’t completely rational like some would have you b believe and historicism by itself is the evidence of this reality. Another good point is that a study like this on American Grace by Putnam limits itself to one country that is sort of dangerous as America is the most wealthy in the world. Is this also true in China, subsaharia Africa, Brazil, etc and if sof is the aid affective? Look at Madonna’s failure of donations to education in Africa, San Francisco’s yoga pat controvercy in Afghanistan, or the success of several other people. Similar to the World Bank and IMF with planners and Searchers model for economic development is sort of a failure, so is such conversations in this line of reaining that if x variable meaning religious people who are older coorilates to more church attendance meaning they are more likely to be politically conservative and therefore more likely to give to charity. note: In Christian Today a few monts back shows the break down of 7% of all tything are of elderly women over the age of 65, and mormons actually have one of te highest donation tything rates out of the group compared to other protestants and catholics/roman catholics in the states are less likely.

    A final idea on studies like this are that they are at best ongoing social science insigificant sttudies cause not enough is known about them inately. Instead of measuring who does more or positivism, we should as a society gauge which is most affective in scope. Neither religious theist or atheist even on Hawkings 7 scale are addressing world poverty affectively enough in subsaharian Africa to this point. Neither of them look at the poorest 1 billion around the world with malnutrition and almost 2 billion have no form of electricity and as Hans Roseling Swedish economist on youtube.com/education TED taks mentions 75% roughly of the world doesn’t even have a washing machine. Yet, we stand here arguing over insigificant devisive arguments over moral superiority. Perhaps listen to one another and not fight over small potatoes like this. For example, what about STEM Cell research tha recently in California gave someone back some of their vision that is tax payer funded and for something as a blind person myself that I like myself. A final note is that just because things happen doesn’t mean that you endorse them like gay marriage, contraception, abortion, birth control, drug reform, prostitution, etc that in many cases like abortion have shown that places that abortion are illegalized thatpeople are more at risk of health risks than with the resource. Thanks for your opiniosn about my post as I’ll save this on my favorites.

    sincerely,
    Peter Q Wolfe, sr
    Political Science

  • http://www.auburn.edu Peter Q Wolfe

    Sorry about the typos above just was typing on a uneven bed at the time. temperial = temporial devisive, etc.

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  • Gerry Rival

    I would just like to point out that that agnostic and atheist are answers to two different questions altogether. The first i an answer to whether you believe god exists and the latter is an answer to whether you subscribe to or live by any theistic believe system. Bill Gates may well be agnostic but that does not exclude him from being atheist either. Sine he does not subscribe to any theistic believe system, he therefore is also an atheist.

    I think looking at the worlds richest and seeing who gives the most is a much better judge of generosity than the half assed stats presented by Robert Putnam and David Campbell. Not saying it’s the best but reason’s why those stats are half assed and faulty have been explained by fellow commenter, Peter Q Wolfe. Nice work there, by the way.


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