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 [Read more…]