Believers, unbelievers, and charity (yet again)

 

The Little Sisters of the Poor
(Click to enlarge.)

 

Further evidence that religious believers are more charitable, as a general rule, than non-believers?

 

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865593639/Religion-involves-in-giving-on-multiple-layers.html?pg=1

 

 

  • Brock Lesnar

    Interesting post, and a very interesting topic.

    Here’s an interesting study that shows when religious people give, it’s often motivated by fear, but when an atheist gives, it’s more often motivated by compassion:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/01/religious-compassion-atheists-agnostics_n_1468006.html

    Another article describing the differences in motivation:
    http://www.livescience.com/20005-atheists-motivated-compassion.html

    And finally, an article from Richard Dawkins contradicting the OP, and asserting that atheist are much more generous than religious people:
    http://old.richarddawkins.net/articles/643999-atheists-are-the-most-generous-even-without-heavenly-reward

    • DanielPeterson

      Do you really believe, Brock Lesnar, that the charitable gifts given by the religious people you know are motivated to any substantial degree by fear? That the hospitals and hospices and schools and child relief projects and mass vaccinations and water wells and food distribution established by believers exist because devout people are terrified by the vengeance of God and are trying to buy off his wrath?

      My charitable gifts aren’t, and I can’t think of anybody I know for whom I have even the slightest reason to suspect that that’s the case.

      As for the more substantial gifts given to charity by believers, as contrasted with unbelievers, this proposition rests not simply on one study, let alone on a single person’s naked assertion. There are numerous studies indicating this, and they’ve received quite a bit of attention in books by such people as Arthur Brooks, Mary Eberstadt, Peter Schweizer, and Rodney Stark — to name just a few that I happen to have read.

      • Brock Lesnar

        Dan wrote: “Do you really believe, Brock Lesnar, that the charitable gifts given by the religious people you know are motivated to any substantial degree by fear?”

        As I previously stated, most religious people I know are not motivated by fear in their charitable gifts. However, as I previously stated, I do know some LDS who are primarily motivated by fear in their tithing/charitable gifts. It’s unfortunate, but true.

        Dan wrote: “My charitable gifts aren’t, and I can’t think of anybody I know for whom I have even the slightest reason to suspect that that’s the case.”

        My charitable gifts aren’t either.

        I wish all people, religious and atheist alike, all had more compassion when it came to charitable giving. I suspect however, we all can do better and we all fall short.

        Dan wrote: “As for the more substantial gifts given to charity by believers, as contrasted with unbelievers, this proposition rests not simply on one study, let alone on a single person’s naked assertion. There are numerous studies indicating this, and they’ve received quite a bit of attention in books by such people as Arthur Brooks, Mary Eberstadt, Peter Schweizer, and Rodney Stark — to name just a few that I happen to have read.”

        I agree 100% with you on this, Dan. It certainly isn’t a settled issue and there are numerous contradictory studies on charitable giving and one’s true motivation. It’s one of the reasons this topic is so interesting.

    • kiwi57

      Mr Lesnar,

      The only people who think religious people are “motivated by fear” when they give are those who do not understand what it means to be motivated by religious conviction.

      It seems likely that such people lack such understanding because they have no experience of being motivated by religious conviction.

      Food for thought?

  • RaymondSwenson

    Brock, the study done a year ago by the University of Pennsylvania found that Mormons are far more generous in their charitable donations and contributions of time, than any other large group, and Americans in general, and that even when you subtract their contributions to the LDS Church, they are still among the top donors in the US. And yes, that is in comparison with atheists, too.
    I would never argue that being an atheist means one is stingy. I am sure there are many people in the world who are both agnostic or atheist and very generous and compassionate. But for someone who has no particular consistent religious belief about the need to show our love for God by kindness to other people, their level of compassion and generosity is totally personal. There is nothing about atheism per se that promotes personal sacrifice for others. Charity was not a hallmark of the actively atheist communist society in the Soviet Union.
    The notion that Mormon generosity is motivated by fear has no credibility for me. It is not in my mind, and not in the teachings promoted in church meetings and church teachings, not to mention scripture. I guess some are scared by the reality of Mormons, because their positive example in society might persuade people to consider that there is something real behind their unusual beliefs, so they feel like they need to deny the reality of Mormon compassion and love for neighbors, both Mormon and not.

    • Brock Lesnar

      Raymond wrote:
      “Brock, the study done a year ago by the University of Pennsylvania found that Mormons are far more generous in their charitable donations and contributions of time, than any other large group, and Americans in general, and that even when you subtract their contributions to the LDS Church, they are still among the top donors in the US. And yes, that is in comparison with atheists, too.”

      I would agree that Mormons are far more generous in their charitable donations. However, I’m probably biased, being LDS myself.

      Raymond wrote:
      “The notion that Mormon generosity is motivated by fear has no credibility for me. It is not in my mind, and not in the teachings promoted in church meetings and church teachings, not to mention scripture.”

      I don’t think that most LDS obey and give because they are motivated by fear, however there are some who do exactly that, primarily for fear of the consequences in the next life, and not just because they have compassion for their fellow human beings.

    • Lucy Mcgee

      People show their love for others without having to believe in the supernatural elements found within religion, without having to accept the authority of religious leaders and without having to pay for the privilege. Call them humanists. Some believe in God, just not in the particular way you do.

      Given that, the less religious nations of Canada, UK, Norway, Sweden, New Zealand, Netherlands, and Denmark, as a percentage of their gross national income, gave more in international aid assistance than did the more religious United States. These monetary flows include official development assistance, philanthropy and remittances. See Fig 7, page 17 for the year 2012. http://gpr.hudson.org/

      I do realize that LDS Church members are extremely generous with their time and money in aiding others, especially those within the faith. It can also be shown that LDS Church humanitarian aid to developing nations is less than 1% of LDS Church income. And as has been shown that this segment of giving accounts for something less than $10 per LDS Church member per year.

      • DanielPeterson

        As I’ve said before, I think that’s a really misleading figure.

        And, by the way, I’m not sure that foreign aid does much real good. In fact, I suspect that it often does much more harm than good. (My suspicion comes not only from reading but from conversations with people involved in it and from direct observation — especially during four years in Egypt.)

        • Lucy Mcgee

          When I first came across the figure, I was surprised, really. Someone should explain it precisely.

          Regarding your attitude toward foreign aid, it would be interesting to read a full blown blog post regarding your experiences. I’ve never spent time in any third world nation so I really have no idea. Our family has sponsored children in Abnoub Egypt through Save the Children for a number of years. If I had the means, I’d visit the place.

          • DanielPeterson

            I’m delighted that you’re giving to Save the Children.

            I believe that private charities are, on the whole (and, of course, unless they’re run by scoundrels), far more effective than government agencies in doing foreign humanitarian assistance.


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