On the Putatively Greater Zest for Life and This-Worldly Good Deeds of Atheists

 

The late Madalyn Murray O’Hair

 

Apparently upset by my link, two days ago, to an article in which an atheist faulted certain other atheists for arrogance and unpleasantness, a commenter on Facebook (himself, I gather, an atheist) cited a statement by the late atheist firebrand Madalyn Murray O’Hair:

 

“An Atheist believes that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An atheist believes that deed must be done instead of prayer said. AN ATHEIST STRIVES FOR INVOLVEMENT IN LIFE and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty vanished, war eliminated.”

 

I was very struck by this, not merely because Ms. O’Hair is so very problematic a character that I’m rather surprised to see anybody citing her favorably any more, at least without very distinct caveats and a bit of embarrassment — curiously, one of her sons ultimately became a Baptist minister, for which she harshly repudiated him — but for at least two other reasons:

 

1)  I’m often told that atheism isn’t a religion or a unified body of thought, but simply a rejection of theism.  Yet the quotation from Ms. O’Hair seems to come perilously close to defining a single atheist dogmatic position.

 

2)  In fact, for all the posturing of many secularists — I’ve had to put up with complacent preening for decades, and I know that I’m not alone — about how I and other theists yearn for pie in the sky when we die while they, more courageous, more intellectually honest, and simply better than me and my ilk, seek to live fully in the here and now and to build a better world based on Reality, the actual evidence (as summarized by such well-regarded scholars as Arthur Brooks, Mary Eberstadt, and Rodney Stark, to name only three) comes nowhere near sustaining secularist pretensions on this score.  Quite the contrary, in fact.  It turns out that theists tend to build churches and hospitals, to pray and to work, while secularists, on the whole . . .  well, not so much.

 

I’ve written on this topic in at least three very brief articles for the Deseret News, here and here and here.

 

 

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  • Lucy Mcgee

    “Quite the contrary, in fact. It turns out that theists tend to build churches and hospitals, to pray and to work, while secularists, on the whole . . . well, not so much.”

    Of course secularists don’t build churches and pray, but they do build hospitals. Perhaps you should have a look at the Global Humanitarian Assistance website and report. These data clearly demonstrate that the secular world is doing a great deal. Please don’t deny that! You clearly understand what the Gates Foundation has done, right? Of course you attempt to minimize the great work of these people by writing that material gain may be of lesser importance. Ever scrounge in a garbage dump for your next meal?
    .

    • DanielPeterson

      I don’t deny that some secularists do good things — but you can’t simply brush aside the evidence summarized by Eberstadt, Brooks, Stark, and others. It’s pretty clear and unambiguous.

      And don’t, please, try to suggest that people like me aren’t concerned about whether poor people eat, are clothed, and have shelter. I’ll say nothing about my own personal involvement in such matters, but, again, the evidence is very plain that religious people do more, on average, in this regard, too.

      • Lucy Mcgee

        I’m not brushing aside anything! Given that the majority of the planet is religious, one would expect that church based organizations carry the heaviest load. Yet, hundreds of millions starve.

        I’ve looked carefully at the annual report published by the Seventh-day Adventist. In 2011, they showed a membership of 17.6 million, total offerings of $3.2 billion ($191 per capita) and a total expenditure of $263 million on humanitarian aid ($15 per capita). Which means about 8% of tithes go to humanitarian aid in various forms. Although per capita LDS humanitarian aid isn’t readily available by year, it can be estimated at between $5 and $6 per member. Not a whopping sum.

        Doesn’t such small giving by religious organizations toward humanitarian aid seem paltry? I do realize that the Adventists, like the LDS Church, has infrastructure to maintain, but when such a small percentage of tithes goes to feeding, clothing and providing medicines to the hundreds of millions of starving, shouldn’t much more be done? Enter organizations such as those founded by Gates/Buffett to fill in the gaps.

        • DanielPeterson

          You’re not grasping the force of the arguments made by such writers as Eberstadt, Stark, and Brooks. It’s not merely that, say, 90% of the earth’s population is religious, so that, unsurprisingly, 90% — or, anyway, more than 50% of charitable acts and donations come from religious people. It’s that religious people give and do disproportionately much, while secularists, for all their preening, do disproportionately little.

          And the figures that you cite for Latter-day Saints don’t begin to tell the whole story. They omit the thousands and thousands of hours of donated labor, as well as fast offerings and the like. You’re looking at only a small sample of the reality.

          • Lucy Mcgee

            I would guess that the LDS Church faithful are probably on par with the Seventh-day Adventists in giving. If I’m incorrect, I’d love to see the numbers, any numbers. So, while you claim that those thousands and thousands of hours of labor are meaningful, who can be certain these hours have actually benefited the world’s needy, since nothing is published? Perhaps the LDS upper management could take a page from the Seventh-day Adventist and create a yearly report. Why don’t they do that?

          • DanielPeterson

            I notice that you’re still evading the actual issue that I addressed in my opening post, and seeking to attack my church instead. It’s a distraction, but I’m not distracted.

            When I was a bishop, we kept no record of the number of hours that I spent in counseling, evaluating requests for assistance, filling out forms for help from the bishops storehouse, arranging for employment at Desert Industries or for employment training, setting up psychological help, etc. — and neither did we keep any records of the time spent by my counselors, the Relief Society president, the elders quorum president, the home teachers, the visiting teachers, and so forth.

            We weren’t asked to keep such figures. So I don’t know how you propose to get them. But I do know that you can’t legitimately brush such work aside.

            And you’re still avoiding the actual issue that I discussed in my opening post, which didn’t even mention my particular church,

          • Loran

            Lucy, like so many secularist liberals, is very taken by helping the “world’s needy,” or “the poor” in the abstract, and wants to see vast numbers of the faceless, nameless needy in exotic, far away lands on ledger sheets delineating how much x was delivered to y by some government or UN agency during a particular time period. She’s uninterested in the actual backyard charity that goes on among LDS and countless other Christians, Jews etc. within their own neighborhoods and communities on a yearly, monthly, weekly, daily, and hourly basis, unseen and unrecorded by an NGO or government bureaucrat.

            The inconvenient truth within this whole atheist more-charitable-than-thou argument is that, as Daniel has been trying to point out and as Peter Schweizer has conclusively shown as an empirical matter (http://www.amazon.com/Makers-Takers-conservatives-generously-materialistic/dp/038551350X ), liberals, generally speaking, spend most of their money on themselves and much less, compared to either conservatives or committed religious conservatives (the “fundamentalists” she believes are itching to level the planet) on actually helping the needy.

          • DanielPeterson

            Yes. Peter Schweizer is another author worth reading on this issue, which Lucy is trying to evade.

          • Lucy Mcgee

            Hogwash.

          • Lucy Mcgee

            Why don’t you have a look at the Global Humanitarian Assistance website. The data they offer are revealing and paint a much different picture of humanitarian aid giving.

            There are few organizations which aggregate world humanitarian assistance data, which is why this site is so important.

          • DanielPeterson

            I have, and will again. But, again, I think it’s apples to oranges — and, eventually, I’ll explain precisely why. But this will be in, at the very least, a major blog entry, and probably in an article. Not in a comment somewhere. Not even on my own blog.

          • Lucy Mcgee

            I’m using the only information available regarding the LDS Church spending on humanitarian aid world wide which has been published and this number is roughly $6 per year per member spent on international humanitarian aid. Sorry if you believe I’m attacking your church, I’m simply using published data and breaking it down on a per member per year basis.

            And of course this doesn’t included the thousands of hours church members donate toward good works done within their congregations.

          • DanielPeterson

            You’re attacking my church irrelevantly, and you’re evading the actual issue I raised.

          • Bernard_Gui

            You seem to be unaware of the fast offering program of the LDS Church. It is a model that all churches and atheist organizations should follow. The amount donated is quite significant, the assistance is quite evident, and the overhead costs are $0. When you cite other churches for their per capita donations, is that before or after overhead costs?

          • RogersDW

            So, Lucy, inasmuch as you are critical of Dr. Peterson and the Mormon Church, please tell us what you are personally doing to help the poor, sick, and the needy.

            Hit birds flutter.

          • Lucy Mcgee

            We don’t publish our charitable giving numbers but rest assured, that our personal contribution to international humanitarian aid far exceeds $6 a year!

          • DanielPeterson

            So does mine.

        • Rathje

          Lucy, see above for my explanation of why those churches pay more than the LDS Church does.

          Simple answer – because the NATIONAL organizations of those churches don’t pay utilities and mortgages.

          The central LDS Church does.

          Which makes any comparison to them misleading.

    • rockyrd

      Lucy,
      To ask a sincere an honest question, does that mean that no religionists are allowed into the Global Humanitarian Assistance or the Gates Foundation? If they are, I’d be interested to know how many in these organizations are believers and how many are atheists. I do not discount that many atheists do many wonderful things, however, if you’ve ever spent time in a hospital bed, how often have you had someone come through the door and say, “I’m an atheist and I’m here to help?” Many times I’ve been visited by someone from various religious organizations, but never by a volunteer atheist.

      Your comment about scrounging in the garbage for your next meal is quite inappropriate. It is meant to indicate that Dr. Peterson does not care about the needy, which I doubt is the case. Let’s recognize that countless individuals from a variety of belief and non-belief systems sacrifice much to help those in need throughout the world. I just happen to believe that those with a religious belief do it much more frequently than do those with out. That does not disparage individuals non-believers who are doing much.

      • Lucy Mcgee

        Actually my comment about scrounging in garbage dumps was to point out that hungry children’s nutritional requirements aren’t filled by prayer, or by conversion to xyz religion. I wrote nothing about Dr. Peterson not caring about the fate of the world’s poor.

        Regarding the GHA, this is a fact gathering organization which reports on charitable giving. http://www.globalhumanitarianassistance.org/about-gha

        The Gates Foundation will take your money and put it to work toward humanitarian aims whether you are religious or not. They also provide transparency, an important component of any NGO.

        • rockyrd

          I’m not here to hammer you. Quite to the contrary. Disagree, maybe. By implication, it appeared you were taking a shot at Dr. Peterson. I’m sorry if I misunderstood.

          By clarifying your comment, you would agree with Brigham Young who said that you can’t preach to a man while he’s hungry. I agree with you that it takes MORE than prayer.

          I think the issue here is not who does more and who does less, the point is that anyone or any group that does something is worthy of admiration.

          • Lucy Mcgee

            I totally agree with your last sentence!

        • DanielPeterson

          “my comment about scrounging in garbage dumps was to point out that hungry children’s nutritional requirements aren’t filled by prayer, or by conversion to xyz religion”

          Nobody claims that they ARE.

          • Lucy Mcgee

            Really? Then what motivates a fabulously wealthy church to donate $6 per year per capita toward feeding and clothing and caring for the hungry on the planet?

          • DanielPeterson

            As I’ve said, I don’t believe that number accurately represents reality.

            I’ve served as a bishop, and I have some sense of how much assistance goes out to people for food and clothing and housing, and how much labor is donated, and how much time is spent in counseling, and so forth. None of it figuring in the humanitarian aid figure that you use.

            I’m unclear, by the way, as to why you feel the need to attack my church in this way. Is it because you’re unfamiliar with and/or unable to cope with the data marshaled by Eberstadt, Brooks, Stark, and others?

          • Lucy Mcgee

            I’d attack any church which claims some supremacy with terrible data. I’m interested in truth and numbers. I can cope with any data presented and I wouldn’t deny that the faithful are benevolent if they are. As far as numbers and data, I’ve only used what is published. What is irritating, is that you continue this mantra that irreligious are not as benevolent as church faithful. It all comes down to what is being paid for. You can site Eberstadt, Brooks, Stark but it doesn’t change the numbers.

            If LDS Church members gave a hundred bucks each to the starving kids on planet earth per year then that would be celebrated. However, numbers and stats are what they are which show a miniscule amount of giving toward humanitarian aid by the Church faithful.

            Perhaps I’m mistaken. Sorry, they are only numbers. If you believe that the Church contributes far more to world humanitarian aid, then simply offer up something more.

          • DanielPeterson

            I cite Brooks, Eberstadt, and Stark because they CITE the numbers. LOTS of them. From hundreds of studies.

            You’re attacking my church, which I never mentioned in my blog post, and you’re avoiding the actual issue that I raised.

          • Lucy Mcgee

            The Global Humanitarian Assistance website aggregates and publishes humanitarian aid data.

            What these data clearly show (I’m not preening here) is that secular nations such as Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands provide more humanitarian assistance per capita and per GNI than does the Christian United States.

            So it’s always aggravating when you so off handily discount the vast amount of money flowing to assist the world’s needy by secular organizations, and nations.

          • DanielPeterson

            Have you read Eberstadt, Brooks, and Stark?

          • Rathje

            One final thing Lucy – you display the usual first world white atheist naivete that the best way to solve world problems is to throw money at them and hope they go away magically.

            “Oh, if only the Catholic Church sold the Cistine Chapel – think of how many orphans in Africa could be fed.”

            This is idiotic Lucy.

            #1 – all the net assets of the Catholic Church in the entire world would not be sufficient to end hunger in even ONE starving African nation. It would be a drop in the bucket – here today – gone tomorrow. The starving orphan girl would be fed for a week – so she could die of hunger two months from now.

            #2 – you are delusional if you think the majority of the money the US and Europe throw at Africa actually feeds orphans – even among the money meant to feed orphans. The reality of charitable aid in Africa is that most of the aid money goes to bribing local government officials – so they’ll allow the aid to continue. There’s actually a very compelling argument to be made that the culture of constant foreign aid has actually hurt African culture more than helped it – and created a culture of incurable government corruption.

            #3 – even if the aid does actually get past the corrupt public officials, it only feeds briefly. It usually does little to put the starving child in a society that will provide her opportunities in the future.

            Throwing money at the problem is a stupid way to view global poverty. But it’s easy, and it provides Internet atheists with lovely little bullet points for use in online debate. Without actually having to think seriously about solving the problem of poverty.

            Any Mormon bishop has grappled more seriously with the problem of poverty than the atheists I encounter online – who’s only selling point, as usual, is criticizing the ideas of others while providing none of their own.

          • Lucy Mcgee

            A great deal of progress has been and is being made in solving humanitarian issues around the globe. Clearly, you’re not interested in solving the planet’s humanitarian problems. Fine. Perhaps you should just pray about it. That might work, or not.

          • Rathje

            Oh, I’m doing my bit for poverty Lucy. Perhaps you are too.

            It’s irrelevant however what either of us are doing.

            And it just shows how shallow your argument is that the best response you can come up with is distraction tactics like making the debate personal.

          • DanielPeterson

            That was really uncalled for, Lucy McGee. In fact, it’s a specimen of precisely the kind of secularist sneering to which I referred in my blog post.

            You presume that we don’t care about helping others, and you mock us because we pray — and yet, as you’ve been studiously ignoring, the statistics overwhelmingly demonstrate (as Schweizer, Eberstadt, Brooks, and Stark, among others, have shown) that secularists, though they boast much more about their superior charity, are actually far less charitable (even when it comes to secular causes) than theists are.

            I expected better from you. You’ve usually BEEN better.

          • Lucy Mcgee

            Rathje was very condescending and I responded in kind. So I sneered. So what?

            I’m going to write this one last time. I’ve never, ever presumed that you and your church don’t care about helping others. In fact, I understand that religious organizations contribute greatly on planet earth. The point I’ve been trying to make with you, is that secular organizations in secular nations often do more of the giving on a per capita basis than religious organizations and nations do. To be clear, I’m speaking only of world humanitarian aid giving, which is born out by data sets aggregated over a decade.

            I’d encourage you to spend a few hours reading from the Global Humanitarian Assistance site. You might actually learn something, instead of always offering Brooks, Eberstadt and Stark who write books for profit. The GHA site offers current data to any organization free of charge, so that organizations can better target their assistance efforts.

            And again, I’m writing about world humanitarian aid ONLY!

          • DanielPeterson

            Lucy, you slander Schweizer, Brooks, Eberstadt, and Stark — well respected, university-affiliated scholars — and you commit the ad hominem fallacy of poisoning the well, when you dismiss their books, apparently unread, and accuse them of mercenary motives.

          • Lucy Mcgee

            You claim that I slander. Really? When have I made malicious, false or defamatory statements against the good names of Schweizer, Brooks, Eberstadt, and Stark by writing that they sell books for profit? Are you kidding me?

            Given your expansive knowledge, I’m sad to read that you would just insert your own absolutely incorrect statements into this discussion. I’ve never written that I wouldn’t read or consider their works, have I?

            You haven’t offered one data set which shows that faith based organizations give more to world humanitarian aid (far more by your writings) than secular based humanitarian organizations (of which there are many) or that secular nations provide less global humanitarian aid than do nations where the population is religious.

            I believe that I’ve shown, by the LDS Church data (no longer published that I can find), that the average yearly contributions to world humanitarian aid by LDS Church members is around six dollars a year. If you can show otherwise, I’d be interested. Again, I was only using LDS numbers. I didn’t just make them up.

          • DanielPeterson

            “You claim that I slander. Really? When have I made malicious, false or defamatory statements against the good names of Schweizer, Brooks, Eberstadt, and Stark by writing that they sell books for profit? Are you kidding me?”

            I’m not kidding you. Just above, you suggested that the organization whose figures you’re citing is more reliable because, unlike Schweizer, Brooks, Eberstadt, and Stark, it’s a non-profit. They, you said, write books for money. Which, even if true — which is not obvious — is precisely irrelevant.

            “I’ve never written that I wouldn’t read or consider their works, have I?”

            But you plainly haven’t read them — and yet, effectively, you’ve been presuming to refute them (or, at least, to change the subject) by criticizing my church. Which is, again, irrelevant to the point I made in the blog entry to which you’ve taken such emotional exception.

            “You haven’t offered one data set which shows that faith based organizations give more to world humanitarian aid (far more by your writings) than secular based humanitarian organizations (of which there are many) or that secular nations provide less global humanitarian aid than do nations where the population is religious.”

            Since neither of those propositions accurately expresses what my contention was in my blog entry, and what it has continued to be in these comments, I’ve felt no particular obligation to offer any data to defend them.

            “I believe that I’ve shown, by the LDS Church data (no longer published that I can find), that the average yearly contributions to world humanitarian aid by LDS Church members is around six dollars a year.”

            Actually, you haven’t. As I’ll eventually show in an article — thanks for the inspiration! — you’ve compared apples to oranges.

            “If you can show otherwise, I’d be interested. Again, I was only using LDS numbers. I didn’t just make them up.”

            You didn’t just make them up, but you failed to understand them in the proper context, and, thus, you misread and misused them in spectacular fashion.

          • Lucy Mcgee

            As a commenter on you blog, I took umbrage to your accusing me of slander, a strong word. But now I’m thinking, “go for it”.

            As far as LDS Church humanitarian aid giving, I’d love for you to put the numbers into the correct context. What I read was an expenditure of $1.3 billion over 25 years. I assumed a 10 million LDS Church membership, on average over that period, which works out to $5-6 per year per member, given toward world humanitarian aid in the areas shown on the LDS website.

            If you look at the numbers published in the Adventist yearly report, you can see that their average yearly giving per member for humanitarian aid is around $15. So I think I’m in the ball park.

            http://docs.adventistarchives.org/docs/Stats/SDAWorldChurchStatistics2011.PDF?q=docs/Stats/SDAWorldChurchStatistics2011.PDF

            I’ll be looking forward to your writing on this topic.

          • Lucy Mcgee

            After reading the long and interesting exchange on your more recent blog, couldn’t I consider your comment to be an ad hominem “attack” on me, since you accused me of slander, poisoning the well, and accusing the authors of mercenary motives? Not only are you projecting your own spin on my one sentence, that these people write books for profit (a truism), but you do so in a way which is quite strange, to me. I want a lawyer (hee-hee), or a second opinion.

          • DanielPeterson

            No, Lucy McGee, you couldn’t. If I were to say that your opinions should be ignored because you’re a secularist, that would be an ad hominem.

            But mere disagreement, merely pointing out a logical fallacy, or even pronouncing a position slanderous, isn’t a personal attack.

            But hey, get a ticket and stand in line. I’m one of the most awful people ever to walk the surface of the planet, and legal action — if not euthanasia — surely seems warranted.

          • Lucy Mcgee

            I like you!

          • DanielPeterson

            That’s a terrible error, Lucy McGee. It might even prove lethal. If there’s such a thing as pure evil, I’m likely it. Provided that it’s somehow pure while also thoroughly mixed with ludicrousness.

            So I sometimes read, anyway.

          • Lucy Mcgee

            For me, an online neophyte, and only recently interested in religious topics, I find your blog enjoyable and I’m learning. I also very much appreciate that you take the time to not only write about wide ranging subjects, but that you often respond to comments.

            I’ve found you posts touching, as well as irritating. Your commencement address, for example, was the former. I also enjoy your humor.

            So despite your warning, I’m going to take my chances because as you’ve probably gathered, I don’t believe in evil.

          • DanielPeterson

            Another fatal mistake. But if I can’t persuade you of the existence of evil, very possibly NOBODY can.

          • DanielPeterson

            I don’t discount them at all. I’ve said nothing about them. Nothing.

            You’ve misconstrued my point.

            Here’s a hint: A lot of the money handed out by secular organizations — e.g., the Red Cross — is most likely contributed by religious people.

          • DanielPeterson

            Incidentally, I like your admission that you’ll attack any church with terrible data!

          • Lucy Mcgee

            How about this. I’d attack any church which implies that it gives a great deal of humanitarian aid when it, on a per member basis, does not. I noticed, by the way, that the total dollars given to world wide humanitarian aid no longer appears on the LDS Church website. Just FYI.

          • DanielPeterson

            I’ve encountered variations of the misguided criticism that you’ve been making here several times before. Enough that I’m now probably going to write something about it.

          • Lucy Mcgee

            That would be great. Please provide data.

          • Rathje

            Lucy, I’ve heard this argument about how little the LDS Church donates to humanitarian projects, and I think you are simply mistaken.

            The LDS Church has been unfavorably compared to organizations like the national governing body of the United Methodists and other as giving less than they do.

            But this is misleading. The national Methodist, or Lutheran, or Baptist organizations are not responsible for paying the rent, utilities and mortgages of all the meetinghouses across the nation. The central LDS Church is. In other churches, the mortgage and electric bill is assumed by the LOCAL congregation. So of course the national organizations have more to send in disaster aid – they aren’t the ones paying the bills.

            But yes – it’s hard to find examples of atheists getting together and cooperating to do much of anything large-scale for society. Unless you count the Soviet Union I guess…

            But this isn’t really fair. Unlike Catholicism or Buddhism, or Mormonism, atheism isn’t a positive belief system. In fact, atheism isn’t really much of anything at all. All it is, is the denial of something.

            As such, atheism – by itself – can’t be expected to better the world, contribute anything, or even make much of a difference at all. As such, atheism is barely worthy of societal notice.

            And it is one of the defining features of atheism that it creates nothing and contributes nothing – all it can do is criticize and tear down.

            And society has absolutely zero use for a person who only criticizes, but offers no useful alternatives.

          • Lucy Mcgee

            If you believe I’m mistaken as to how little the LDS Church has contributed over the past 25 years toward world humanitarian aid, then please, provide some data showing otherwise.

            The rest of your comment is so ridiculous and unlettered, it isn’t worthy of a response.

          • Rathje

            Clearly your reading comprehension needs some work Lucy.

            I didn’t challenge your figures – although I think they are shallow and uninformative.

            What I demonstrated is that the figures you are using are misleading – because they don’t show all the expenses the different organizations are responsible for.

            “ridiculous”

            Translation: “crap – I’m totally unequipped to deal with that one!”

            “ulettered”

            Translation: “quick, act superior – maybe no one will notice”

          • Bernard_Gui

            What is the combined value of fast offering donations, manpower donations at disaster sites, personal service performed by home and visiting teachers and LDS members in general, and service hours donated at Deseret Industries? Or don’t these count as humanitarian service?

          • Lucy Mcgee

            The LDS Church website which shows its world humanitarian aid giving is what I looked at carefully. Unlike the Adventists, there are no other data published. The Church has stated that it has contributed $1.3 billion over 25 years toward world humanitarian aid and its website shows the programs which have been funded. This giving, assuming an average LDS membership of 10 million over the 25 years, equals around $5 per member per year given to international humanitarian aid. There are no other data sets available.

            My only reason for pointing this out, is Dr. Peterson’s continued insistence that secular organizations do little of the giving on planet earth which is an absolute falsity, yet he continually states it. The Global Humanitarian Assistance data gathering organization has clearly shown that the USA, on a per capita or per GNI basis, gives less than secular nations. There are many secular NGO’s which do a great deal on the world wide humanitarian aid front. To deny this is just ridiculous and a real cheap shot methinks.

          • DanielPeterson

            “My only reason for pointing this out, is Dr. Peterson’s continued insistence that secular organizations do little of the giving on planet earth which is an absolute falsity, yet he continually states it. The Global Humanitarian Assistance data gathering organization has clearly shown that the USA, on a per capita or per GNI basis, gives less than secular nations. There are many secular NGO’s which do a great deal on the world wide humanitarian aid front. To deny this is just ridiculous and a real cheap shot methinks.”

            That’s a gross mischaracterization and distortion of what I’ve been saying here.

            And, now that I know how you’ve derived your figures for my church, I see how you’ve also seriously misunderstood and misapplied THEM.

          • Bernard_Gui

            But you don’t think ignoring other very substancial LDS aid programs is a real cheap shot? It is also disingenuous.

          • Lucy Mcgee

            No one would deny other very substantial LDS aid programs. What I’ve been focusing on, is LDS humanitarian aid given as per their website, which shows the programs they are involved in and the total contribution over the 25 year period. That’s it. It will be interesting to see these giving numbers put into the correct context by Dr. Peterson.

        • Bernard_Gui

          Are you aware of the Perpetual Education program the LDS Church sponsors?

  • Stephen Smoot

    “An Atheist believes that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An atheist believes that deed must be done instead of prayer said.”

    Yeah. It’s not like religious people have ever built hospitals, orphanages, or offered assistance to travelers, strangers, pilgrims, etc.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_hospitals

    “AN ATHEIST STRIVES FOR INVOLVEMENT IN LIFE and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty vanished, war eliminated.”

    Not only is this the same silly, outdated argument Marx tried to make way back in the 19th century, but the behavior of history’s most militant (literally) secularists have, by and large, called into question the validity of this atheist platitude.

  • Rathje

    European Christianity – borrowing from Byzantine Christianity actually invented the modern hospital system in the first place.

  • Eric Ringger

    I don’t feel equipped to engage in any debate about numbers, if there are complete numbers about which to debate. I’ve heard Brooks speak, yet the work of the others is less familiar. However, there is a notion that is on my mind as I read the debate in the comments. I’m not sure how well I can articulate it, but I’ll give it a shot. An organization, whether an NGO or a church or some other association, adopts a philosophy and goes about trying to help the world according to that philosophy. Its activities can only be measured to a certain degree and may not be well measured at all. Some of the activities are devoted to propagating the organization, and the transformation achieved by the propagation of the organization can have a lasting effect on people, a staying power that engenders self-sufficiency. The organization can strike a balance between giving men fish and teaching them to fish. How the organization strikes that balance is a question of wisdom and judgment and may not even be fully quantifiable. A recent TED talk on the subject of how we empower and evaluate organizations in the non-profit sector raises some of these issues and may be worth watching. Here’s the link: http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pallotta_the_way_we_think_about_charity_is_dead_wrong.html Among other things, I hear Mr. Pallotta trying to make the case that we need to trust charities to use their assets in the most compelling way possible, as they see fit, to change the world.

    • DanielPeterson

      Excellent comment, Eric Ringger.

      • Eric Ringger

        Thanks, Dan. I think Mr. Pallotta’s argument is meant to be heard by two audiences: those who form policy to govern and regulate the non-profit sector and those who give. As givers, if we want to decide where to spend our charitable dollars, we do need the ability to evaluate the judgment employed by the non-profit. Mr. Pallotta does not make a concrete proposal for new metrics to aid the giver. Here’s an NYT editorial about a charity whose judgment appears to be questionable: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/18/opinion/sunday/dowd-money-money-money-money-money.html
        Clearly, metrics are desirable if not always available.

  • DanielPeterson

    Of course they can.


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