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Top Religion Story of 2012

Are Christians more generous than atheists?Bill Donohue is president of the Catholic League. I’ve responded before to his hatred of same-sex marriage and his annoyance at the consequences of living with a secular Constitution.

But today Bill is all smiles. With his “Top Religion Story of 2012” he gloats that a new survey (“How America Gives” by the Chronicle of Philanthropy) shows religious Americans to be more generous than their nonreligious neighbors.

[The survey’s] central finding was that the more religious a city or state is, the more charitable it is; conversely, the more secular an area is, the more miserly the people are.

Those good-for-nothing “Nones” (people who check “None of the Above” on the religion survey) and liberals get a well-deserved finger-wagging from Donohue.

[The survey] suggests that the rise of the “nones”—those who have no religious affiliation—are a social liability for the nation. It also shows that those who live in the most liberal areas of the nation are precisely the ones who do the least to combat poverty. They talk a good game—liberals are always screaming about the horrors of poverty—but in the end they find it difficult to open their wallets.

There is little doubt that the “nones” and liberals (there is a lot of overlap) are living off the social capital of the most religious persons in the nation. Perhaps there is some way this can be reflected in the tax code.

Using red/blue distinctions according to how states voted in the 2008 McCain/Obama presidential election, the study says:

Red states are more generous than blue states. The eight states where residents gave the highest share of income to charity went for John McCain in 2008. The seven-lowest ranking states supported Barack Obama.

The Other Side of the Story

But read a little more into the survey, and things look different.

The parts of the country that tend to be more religious are also more generous. … But the generosity ranking changes when religion is taken out of the picture.

Drop religious donations, and the Bible belt drops from the most generous part of the country to the least. This is probably not the point that Donohue meant to make.

But why discard donations to religious organizations? Because, though they’re nonprofits, religious organizations’ charity work (feeding or housing the needy, for example) is negligible. Running the typical church takes most of its income, compared to, say, the comparatively minor 9% overhead for Save the Children or 8% for the American Red Cross. We have only guesses for how much charitable work churches and ministries do since, unlike other nonprofits, their financial records are secret. Some educated guesses place their charity at only 2% of revenue.

(I’ve written more about why churches are more like country clubs than charities and about the embarrassment that churches’ closed-book policy causes them.)

In rough numbers, Americans donate $300 billion per year to nonprofits, and churches get one third of that. With churches passing through as little as a few billion dollars (again, we can only guess) to charities, that is little compared to the $200 billion that Americans give to good-works organizations directly.

The Positive View of the Christian’s Position

Let me try to see things from the Christian’s standpoint. They take pride in the fact that their church donations help the needy. (Ignore for now what fraction passes through.) From their standpoint, they see their money funding church-sponsored soup kitchens or low-income housing. Give credit where it’s due—it’s great that churches pitch in to help. But what about poorer communities where the churches can’t help as much? And what about those atheists who aren’t contributing to churches’ projects—wouldn’t it be nice if they pitched in?

Karl Marx touched on this question of how society should support its needy with his observation that religion is the “opium of the masses.” He wasn’t saying that religion dulls the senses; rather, he meant that it was like medicine—a mechanism for coping with a broken society.

Churches can do good work, but that work is necessary only because society is broken. What if society fixed its own problems rather than leaning on churches (and charity) to plug the leaks?

Donohue said that liberals “talk a good game—[they] are always screaming about the horrors of poverty—but in the end they find it difficult to open their wallets.” We’ve seen that blue regions of the country are actually more generous in individual charity. More to his point, liberals are often eager to see society as a whole contribute more to helping society’s needy. Churches shouldn’t have to step in to fix society’s problems. Society already helps its needy in ways that eclipse the few billion dollars that churches give to charity. $725 billion of our money goes to individuals each year through Social Security and $835 through Medicare and Medicaid. Marx wasn’t right about much, but he was right about this—let’s take his cue, see churches’ good works as noble symptoms of society’s failings, and improve the system.

Another Try at 2012′s Top Story

Donohue may like surveys, but the one he picked seems to have blown up in his face. He does ask a good question, though: what was the top religion story of the year?

  • How about polls showing the rapid rise in the population of Nones (“None of the above”) that make that the world’s third largest “religion”?
  • Maybe last spring’s Reason Rally of over 20,000 freethinkers on the National Mall, the biggest secular gathering in world history by a factor of ten.
  • Or the recent drop in Americans who consider themselves religious, from 73% to 60% in the last eight years.
  • Or the strong public support for gay marriage, both in polls (now supported by more than 50% of the public) and in November’s election (for the first time, voters enabled gay marriage in three states, after 32 straight losses in prior elections).
  • Or a Gallup poll showing Americans’ confidence in religion at an all-time low.
  • Or the black eye the Catholic Church continues to show because of its handling of the priest pedophilia scandals.
  • Or maybe studies showing that divorce rates for evangelicals and fundamentalists are the highest in the country, people want less religious talk by politicians, teen mothers come disproportionately from red states, and red states are net takers of federal money and blue states are net givers.

There are lots of interesting stories out there, and these are admittedly just ones that caught my eye. But Donohue’s selection not only didn’t say what he hoped it would say, it was a deck-chairs-on-the-Titanic kind of story. Perhaps the shifts in American religion are more substantial than what he wants to acknowledge.

Ah! what a divine religion might be found out
if charity were really made the principle of it instead of faith.
— Percy Shelley

Photo credit: Mike Licht

About Bob Seidensticker
  • avalon

    My suggestion for the top religion story for 2012:
    http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2012/oct/13/tp-parents-protest-yoga-classes/

    ““I will not allow my children to be indoctrinated by this Hindu religious program, (yoga)…Because of this, you’re forcing me to segregate my children.”

    Proves:
    1) Religion is indoctrination of children
    2) Religion has no place in public schools
    3) Children should be protected from religious indoctrination

    avalon

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Wow–talk about being hoist by your own petard. But if those protesting parents were fundamentalists, they probably don’t see the irony.

      Any other suggestions for top religious news stories?

  • smrnda

    First, I’ve voted to increase my own taxes on a number of occasions because poor people deserve the certainty that they can get the help they need without having to grovel before some clergyman. In this sense, I am more generous than if I gave to charity because in this way I demonstrate that I think that the needy have a RIGHT to some of my money (through taxes) rather than it being “charity” (something I do to how off how generous I am.) The world us unjust and unfair, often in my favor :-) I should have to pay for that.

    I prefer to support using Government to help the poor and needy since as far as I can tell, leaving it up to ‘charity’ is like leaving it up to he chance that middle class people will plink some coins in a cup, and leaving things up to ‘individuals’ and ‘churches’ means every church in town (inefficiently) replicates many of the exact same services (like food pantries) that would be better handled through a top-down government plan that would benefit greatly from the economy of scale. There’s also no oversight – a government program should be run in a way which is maximally transparent to the public; a private charity can do what it feels like and can affect a ‘take it or leave it’ approach to aid. Don’t want to come to our church several days a week? No homeless shelter for you! The money that you gave us? Well, we bought some new multimedia equipment for our ‘youth group’ and a little bit will go to the food pantry, which will be open one day a week for a few hours and will provide nothing but high starch crap.

    Also, I’ve done lots of volunteer work. I’ve given to charity. It’s trying to bail water out of a sinking ship with a teaspoon – it isn’t fixing the problems of why people have no job security, low wages, or an inability to get medical care or child care. Sure, there are some ways that these things can be beneficial, but in the end, I’d rather be paying taxes to support a welfare state than giving to private agencies most of the time.

    The other thing is that I agree that much of what churches do should not be considered charity, since indoctrination isn’t charity.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      You’d think that raising taxes and having society help out the poor would be the first thing that Christians would want to do. How about getting those freeloading atheists to pitch in and help with the Lord’s work, eh? Maybe if Christianity hadn’t been shanghaied by the GOP, that wouldn’t seem like such a ridiculous idea.

      I prefer to support using Government to help the poor and needy

      Since when did Government become the bad guy? I hate pointless bureaucracy as much as the next guy, but Government is supposed to be us, not some independent and uncontrollable Juggernaut. Conservatives: if you don’t like it, improve it, don’t eviscerate it.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      The other thing is that I agree that much of what churches do should not be considered charity, since indoctrination isn’t charity.

      That alone should disqualify them, but the bigger issue IMO is simply the huge overhead the church takes (98%) if you pretend it to be a charity.

    • Drewl

      Good news smrnda, there’s no need to wait. Why not start 2013 following through on your professed compassion for the poor?

      http://www.fms.treas.gov/faq/moretopics_gifts.html

      In the Christian tradition they believe faith not backed up by works is dead, so you have the opportunity to show what truly enacted compassion is.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        And wouldn’t it be great it we all pitched in, as a society, to better help the needy? Perhaps if there were some way to aggregate that…

        • DrewL

          Well there’s certainly no need to make personal sacrifices until coerced to by state policy. Since the US Congress is so obviously competent enough to eradicate vast inequality just any day now, those enduring poverty and societal injustices are probably quite understanding of your passivity and inaction in the meantime.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Yeah, I guess we’ll have to make do with the stopgap measures of charities until society can get its act together.

  • smrnda

    I also wanted to add, that maybe people in less religious areas just have their sh#t together better, and that they don’t need charity? When you look at things like high teen pregnancies in religious states, religion creates the problem by opposing fact based sex education and access to contraception, and then gives the teen mom some diapers and writes it up as ‘charity’ that makes the religious state superior in terms of public spirit. Or legitimate education is subverted in favor or religious propaganda, resulting in fewer educated people which makes the population as a whole less able to earn a living.

  • Kodie

    Tithes should not count. I personally am a person in need and in no position to give charitably. People pay taxes on their income and that’s where I get mine now – are religious people paying higher taxes? Charities are one thing, and like I said, tithes should not count. Who is on the receiving end of charities vs. who is on the receiving end of government programs. It should count like that. If churches are the recipient of charity (and you could say they receive welfare beyond any actual person in the form of tax exemption), I wonder why people malign people in need but overlook tax-exempt houses of worship. Where does the charity go ultimately? Dollar for dollar, who is benefiting from charitable donations, related to who is doing the giving? If it is churches already on welfare, and obviously mostly donated to by the religious, it doesn’t seem so good, does it.

    Once my circumstances change, I would love to give both time and money to a worthy cause. I am not sitting here on my butt doing nothing while on disability, and not in any essence “greedy” to stay on it or forget that I got help when I needed it. Giving money to churches so they can assure your place in heaven is totally useless as far as charity goes. That takes money away from people who do need it and can use it today, and the vibe I’m getting is that, unless you belong to a church, the church doesn’t think you deserve their help.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Kodie: Here’s an interesting article (and itself perhaps a candidate for top story of 2012):

      U.S. Loses Over $71 Billion in Religious Tax Exemptions

      In other words, the subsidy that society gives churches (primarily by nonprofit status making them tax-exempt to every level of government) far exceeds the few billion that churches kick back to society through charity.

      When Christians brag about how much they help society, let’s remind them who is helping whom.

  • Richard S. Russell

    People in red states donate more toward charity than people in blue states? Even if true (and Bob makes an excellent case that, just because churches are tax exempt, that doesn’t make them “charities”), maybe it’s because people in blue states have the good sense to get the government to provide the social safety nets, whose lack elsewhere makes private charity a poor substitute for systematically caring for our fellow human beings.

    • Kodie

      Red states are a lot less populous than blue states besides. http://www-personal.umich.edu/~mejn/election/2012/

    • smrnda

      Hear hear! Excellent point, made very concisely :-)

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Richard: that’s a great point that I didn’t see addressed in the article. Each state should show not just red/blue status and the % per-capita donation but some indication of the per-capita amount that state government allocates to social programs.

  • Greg G.

    Tithing is like paying for a seat license for a weekly show with singalongs and a boring monologue that is supposed to make you feel superior to your neighbor. A hockey fan should get a tax break for his season tickets as the team does promotions for underprivileged kids and the players visit hospitals.

  • DoctorD

    I give religiously to Planned Parenthood.
    True story.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      :)

  • ThirtyFiveUp

    What do others think of this 2013 Rose Parade Float?
    I found it gross.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0rdTD8DHok

    • Bob Seidensticker

      I wonder what the Rose Parade rules allow. Can the KKK have a float?

      That Jesus float doesn’t work for me, but I’m all for free speech. If Christians get special exeptions, that’s not fair, but if they’re open to all comers (and the Wiccans, Scientologists, and Satanists would be as welcome as the Jesus folks) then I’m OK with it.

  • Drewl

    Word of advice to anyone who takes this post seriously: any time someone tries to float state-by-state data as “evidence” of some sort correlation between two different measures, you might want to watch your wallet because you’re getting conned. Inner-state variance is in nearly ever case greater for most states than state-to-state variance. Those stats make nice headlines (“can you believe what the Red states did?”) but they’re only demonstrating a very unsophisticated take on statistics that either ignorantly or purposely ignores causal factors more likely to drive outcomes, such as income, education, rural vs. urban factors, health infrastructure, etc.

    So Bob implicitly acknowledged in the other thread that he knows religious people are more generous than non-religious people in every measure that surveys have, yet there he turned generosity into a sort-of Marxian false-consciousness vice: real generous people show their generosity not through tangible actions but by checking boxes next to candidates with certain letters by their name every few year, not foolish acts of compassion. In this post, he seems to forget his previous thoughts on charitable giving when he touts the Blue-States-Give-More study. I’m getting the sense that, in Bob’s world, atheist charitable action is a sign of sincere generosity and care for others, while religious charitable action is merely part of religion’s delusions that actions make a difference in an unjust social order.

    Also, your criticism of church’s selfishly allocated finances is fair and apt; I totally agree. (And we probably also agree that Donahue is complete scum, the difference is you read him and I don’t) But you ignore the fact that religious people give more money than non-religious people to the secular organizations you tout with lower overheads.They also volunteer more for secular organizations than non-religious people. So let’s hypothetically assume that churches are country clubs (a portion of them function as such): the people who dump their money into their “country club memberships” are still outgiving and outvolunteering the rest of us at the “real” charitable efforts, and most scholars believe there is a causal relationship here. Your eliminate-the-tax-deduction argument still holds water, but you’ll need to justify your personal prejudices against people spending money on “country clubs” that seem to then inculcate its members with far more commitment to community and citizenship than the rest of the population.

    A general note to anyone citing this post for factual statistical basis: This post is on par with FoxNews PR-spin for trying to overcome a solid scholarly consensus on the positive effects of religion on civil society, social capital, citizenship, and generosity. Particularly in low-income and minority populations, church-based activism (that is, churches mobilizing money and manhours to political or community causes) is empirically a huge contribution to social capital of neighborhoods and communities. If you want the facts with no spin or dogma–something atheists typically like–here are the books I’d encourage you to read, the first one being the definitive work in this field right now:

    American Grace by Robert Putnam and David Campbell: http://amzn.com/1416566732

    Moved to Action: Motivation, Participation, and Inequality in American Politics by Hahrie Han: http://amzn.com/0804762252

    Voice and Equality: Civic Voluntarism in American Politics by Sidney Verba, Kay Lehman Schlozman, and Henry E. Brady: http://amzn.com/0674942930

    Religion as Social Capital: Producing the Common Good edited by Corwin Smidt (this is from Baylor Press (religious school) but all contributions are from secular/scholarly scholars): http://amzn.com/0918954851

    Finally, you can read a more accessible Pew Forum study on religion’s positive impact on citizenship and generosity right here:
    http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/Social-side-of-religious/Overview.aspx

    No religious scholars cited here; this is a who’s-who of the top scholars on this question. You’re free to choose your spin, but let’s start with the facts.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      drewl:

      Word of advice to anyone who takes this post seriously

      Takes the post seriously or takes the study seriously? Your concern seems to be about the study itself.

      So Bob implicitly acknowledged in the other thread that he knows religious people are more generous than non-religious people in every measure that surveys have

      Yes, according to what the study measures, religious people are more generous (ignoring your caution about state-by-state comparisons). My point was that “generous” was ill-defined. Country club dues don’t count.

      real generous people show their generosity not through tangible actions but by checking boxes next to candidates with certain letters by their name every few year, not foolish acts of compassion.

      No, compassion would be great. I’m just saying that giving to your country club or church doesn’t count.

      in Bob’s world, atheist charitable action is a sign of sincere generosity and care for others, while religious charitable action is merely part of religion’s delusions that actions make a difference in an unjust social order.

      And I get the sense that in Drew’s world, it’s easy to know what to say because it’s just the opposite of what Bob said.

      Charity is what we’re talking about. It’s great whether it’s atheists or Christians doing the charitable donation.

      religious people give more money than non-religious people to the secular organizations you tout with lower overheads.

      I’ll read your Pew link.

      They also volunteer more for secular organizations than non-religious people.

      Not according to the Gallup polls cited in Religion as Social Capital:

      “But, if we look at volunteering from a slightly different angle, it also serves to channel volunteers into internal church-maintenance activity at the expense of more general-purpose volunteering. Among people who volunteer … more frequent church attendance leads to a lower probability of engaging in secular, informal, or advocacy volunteer activities.”

      you’ll need to justify your personal prejudices against people spending money on “country clubs” that seem to then inculcate its members with far more commitment to community and citizenship than the rest of the population.

      Prejudice? Show me.

      And as for churches being the cause of altruistic behavior (vs. a church goer having a generous personality and being happy to give whether in a religion or not) I need to see the causal evidence.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        drewl:

        I read your Pew study. Its summary says, “Religiously active Americans are more trusting of others, and they are more involved in groups and in their communities – they also feel better about their locales.”

        OK, perhaps the religious are involved more with groups and with their communities. (My guess would be that that’s simply where their personality drives them—that is, that their personality drives them to both join churches and get involved with their communities rather than church membership made them wake up and become more civic minded.) Is this relevant to my post?

        To your point: “Of the 28 groups that we surveyed, religiously active Americans are involved in greater percentages in every type of group save one (gaming groups) than their non-religious peers.” These are all non-religious groups. I’m guessing that that’s just a personality thing—religious people are joiners.

        I said “perhaps” above because I scanned the study and found a few red flags. If studies show that religious people are more community involved, that’s fine with me. Doesn’t upset any suppositions. But briefly onto those red flags.

        1. This disagrees with the Gallup study that I mentioned earlier that said that religious people are more involved, but that’s inwardly focused toward their church community. That is, the church consumes their volunteering efforts, leaving less for outside (non-church) activities.

        2. This Pew study was an outgrowth of an earlier study, “Social Side of the Internet Survey 2010.” That explains why it was so technology intensive. In fact, 1/3 of the interviews were deliberately done by cell phone, which presumably skewed the results in a “Dewey Defeats Truman” sort of way.

        3. It says, “College graduates (47%) are more likely to be involved [in religious organizations and spiritual groups] than those with lesser educational levels.” But other studies have shown an inverse correlation between religion and education, so this study seems to be skewed (again, because of the cell phones?). Also, the overview shows religious people to be more likely to be internet, cell phone, and email users, which again is surprising.

        4. It says: “Results from the overall Pew Internet survey show that technology users are generally more likely than non-users to be involved in almost all the kinds of groups.” Since the study was skewed toward tech users, perhaps that explains the affiliation data better than religious association.

        • DrewL

          Now this a first: instead of whining about a “homework” assignment, Bob has gone and done some research of his own. Hats off to you, this should be far more common on this blog.

          Unfortunately you’re not going to overthrow a scholarly consensus just by quoting an agenda-driven atheist blog. I go out of my way not to cite Christian scholars, but apparently it’s okay for you to cite atheists who write their a priori beliefs right at the top of their blog. I would imagine a neutral observer would be about as likely to trust a website called “yet another secular humanist with all the answers” as he/she would trust “answers in genesis.” In my view, both are going to be trash, but looks like we don’t share that view.

          Nevertheless, I will provide a response: if you read the chapter your blog is citing (which you can do on Google Books right now), you’ll see your dogmatic atheist blogger friend has really done a hack job with his quotations. But let’s start with the actual data: does it support my statement “religious people volunteer for secular organizations more than non-religious people”? Table 6.2 on page 92-93 suggests a higher percentage of respondents who identify as Catholic, Evangelical Protestant, or Mainline Protestant volunteer for non-religious organizations than respondents who identify as “None.” (Black Protestants are slightly lower that the Nones). This table also shows, for all 4 major times of Christian traditions in America, more regular church attendance correlates with higher rates of secular volunteering. But in order to ensure this relationship isn’t spurious, Figure 6.1 on page 97 controls for all the other likely predictors of volunteerism (particularly education, which is generally most powerful). Here again, you can see the No-Church-At-All crowd are less likely to volunteer for secular causes than the Church-Every-Week crowd.

          Our question is really then settled at that point. However, the authors then go on to look at what’s happening within the group of people who volunteer; that’s where Mr. I-Already-Had-The-Answer tries to jump in and awkwardly piece together a quote to support his non-empirical (aka faith) beliefs about religion. The first part of his quote comes from a section about how volunteering as a teenager affects adult volunteering. Turns out, yes, religious volunteering as a teen predicts religious volunteering as an adult but not so much non-religious volunteering as an adult. Okay, mildly interesting, but not relevant to the question Mr I-Already-Had-The-Answer is trying to pull out of it. He then stitches together another sentence from the next section that clearly already concedes the issue at hand: we are now talking about what’s happening within the group that volunteers, not comparing religious with non-religious anymore. But if you want to be ensured religious people still out-volunteer non-religious at secular causes, just look at the table that’s in this supposedly damning section: Table 6.5 on page 102 shows, again, people who go to church not at all volunteer 2.56 hours a week for secular causes, vs. people who go to church weekly volunteer 5.33 hours a week for secular causes. This “religion channels inward” is discussed, but this doesn’t nullify the relationship that the data has already established; it’s more trying to understand the relationship at different levels of religiosity.

          If you are an a believer that science improves with time (and we know you are), we have the same author as this previous work now on the record in 2010 in the American Grace book now saying, with the support of much better data:

          “It is not surprising in the slightest that churchgoers have a higher rate of religious volunteering than nonchurchgoers. Nonchurch-goers rarely turn up as church ushers. Moreover, a larger share of volunteering of religious people is for religious organizations, and in that sense religious engagement tends to channel volunteering to religious organizations. However, religion boosts total volunteering so substantially that in addition to their higher rate of religious volunteering, regular churchgoers are also much more likely to volunteer for secular causes. Though religious channels volunteering toward religious institutions, that religious volunteering does not crowd out secular volunteering. “ (Page 445)

          There may be variation among different types of religion as far as how strong the relationship is: there are definitely types of religions that pull inward more than others. But in no case can we see anything like non-religious people out-volunteering religious people at secular causes.

          You’re very astute to raise the causality question; however, here again, the data has gotten better than the 1989-1995 cross-sectional Gallup polls–we now have longitudinal data which is much more helpful for determining causality–and American Grace directly argues against the idea that a certain type of person (“joiners”) do secular volunteering AND religion as ways to fulfill their joining needs. I’ll let you look up how they make that argument, but that’s what is holding ground in the field today. (It’s also not clear how this helps you argue against Donohue who–gulp–seems to have the numbers on his side for once) Feel free to challenge this thesis empirically (please, no lawyer logic or faith statements). As I’ve said before, Wikipedia eagerly awaits your insightful corrections.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          drewl:

          Now this a first: instead of whining about a “homework” assignment, Bob has gone and done some research of his own. Hats off to you, this should be far more common on this blog.

          ??

          you’re not going to overthrow a scholarly consensus

          What’s the consensus?

          I go out of my way not to cite Christian scholars, but apparently it’s okay for you to cite atheists who write their a priori beliefs right at the top of their blog.

          I only cite biased sources? I have no interest in contrary opinions?

          That’s certainly not how I see it. I await your evidence.

          In my view, both are going to be trash, but looks like we don’t share that view.

          Since your view is that I run away screaming from facts that might upset my own belief, no, we don’t have a common view.

          a higher percentage of respondents who identify as Catholic, Evangelical Protestant, or Mainline Protestant volunteer for non-religious organizations than respondents who identify as “None.”

          So your point is that religious people volunteer more? OK–is that particularly relevant?

          As I’ve already stated, the eagerness to participate in a church community might be a personality thing that would make church goers eager for other forms of community.

          American Grace directly argues against the idea that a certain type of person (“joiners”) do secular volunteering AND religion as ways to fulfill their joining needs. I’ll let you look up how they make that argument, but that’s what is holding ground in the field today.

          Just take your word for it that this thinking is the consensus then?

          (It’s also not clear how this helps you argue against Donohue who–gulp–seems to have the numbers on his side for once)

          Donohue argues that religious people are more generous. If “generous” includes country clubs, then I agree. If it means charity, then his own study disagrees.

          But I’m just repeating what you’ve already read in the blog post. I missed how Donohue–gulp–has the numbers on his side.

        • DrewL

          Drewl: They also volunteer more for secular organizations than non-religious people.

          Bob: (citing an agenda-driven atheist website to directly challenge that statement) Not according to the Gallup polls cited in Religion as Social Capital:…

          Drewl: (detailed examination of the scholarly article the agenda-driven atheist has misinterpreted, pointing Bob to original data)

          Bob: So your point is that religious people volunteer more? OK–is that particularly relevant?

          Well that’s one way to lose an argument: when your counter-argument gets challenged you simply act as if the argument was never relevant in the first place.

          Let’s see, and you didn’t even challenge me on the religious people give more to secular charities, so you’re agreeing with the facts there. Nice job.

          So let’s review the whole debate.

          Bob tries to present evidence that religious people aren’t really generous and charitable because all their money goes to religious organizations that just buy Bibles and proselytize (not a lot of evidence given, but we’ll let it slide…) Also extrapolates from red-state/blue-state data that religious people aren’t really that generous if you take away their “country-club” giving.

          Drewl points state-based data is almost always flawed and, drawing on much better data, even if we set aside “country club membership dues” given to churches, religious people still give more and volunteer more for the secular organizations Bob considers “real” charity.

          Bob has no response to the flaws of state-based data, no response to facts that religious give more to secular organizations, but does present an agenda-driven atheist blog to explain to us that religious people aren’t really volunteering more for secular organizations.

          Drewl challenges that spin based upon the actual data cited, points out the quotation was badly jumbled together to misrepresent the work, and draws out later work from the same author that clearly contradicts the agenda-driven atheist blog.

          Bob retreats and asks how this is “relevant.”

          In the end you yourself have acknowledged the correlation between religion and charitable actions but are skeptical of the cause. No need to be skeptical, my friend, the data awaits you in several of the books I cited above. May your intellectual inquiry not stop till it be quenched by (peer-reviewed) truth!

          (But spoiler alert: scholars are pretty sure religion influences generosity positively. Dissent as much as you need to.)

        • Bob Seidensticker

          drewl:

          Well that’s one way to lose an argument: when your counter-argument gets challenged you simply act as if the argument was never relevant in the first place.

          The topic was charitable giving. Read the post.

          Let’s see, and you didn’t even challenge me on the religious people give more to secular charities, so you’re agreeing with the facts there.

          (What if he states that evolution is true? I’d have to agree with him. He’d win yet another argument. Oh God oh God please, please … )

          Bob tries to present evidence that religious people aren’t really generous and charitable because all their money goes to religious organizations that just buy Bibles and proselytize (not a lot of evidence given, but we’ll let it slide…)

          Wrong again.

          Let me help you out: Bill D. cites a survey stating that religious people are more generous. But actually read the survey, and we discover that it says exactly the opposite. (I’m surprised that that wasn’t obvious to you from the post. It was pretty prominent.)

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