Atheist Charity

“Let’s see, we have scores of Baptist Hospitals, Method[ist] Hospitals, Jewish Hospitals, Catholic Hospitals, etc., etc.. Each of these have ‘outreach’ programs both here and in the most dismal places on earth, staffed with dedicated medical doctors and nurses. Where oh where are the Atheist’s hospitals, or soup kitchens?”

—quoted by Jonah Goldberg for National Review Online

“One hundred years after Christ had died, suppose someone had asked a Christian, What hospitals have you built? What asylums have you founded? They would have said, ‘None.’ Suppose three hundred years after the death of Christ the same questions had been asked the Christian, he would have said, ‘None, not one.’ Two hundred years more and the answer would have been the same. And at that time the Christian could have told the questioner that the Mohammedans had built asylums before the Christians. He could also have told him that there had been orphan asylums in China for hundreds and hundreds of years, hospitals in India, and hospitals for the sick at Athens.”

—Robert Green Ingersoll, “What Infidels Have Done

The accusation is often made that atheism, if widely adopted, would have detrimental effects on the well-being of humanity. One common example of these supposed negative effects is the cessation of charitable and humanitarian work done by religious believers, which atheists, being the bitter, reclusive misanthropes we allegedly are, would not choose to continue.

While these criticisms are usually made without any shred of substantiation, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if a study were to be done that found that religious believers, on average, do perform more charity work than atheists. If such a thing were found, I would expect that it isn’t because religion makes people morally better than atheism. Rather, it would be because churches often organize charitable activities and exhort their members to participate, while atheists, as of yet, have no comparable social structure. Such a finding could be explained not by superior moral sentiment among churchgoers, but simply by increased opportunity.

However, this is in no way to imply that atheists do not participate in charity work or that we lack generosity or concern for their fellow people. On the contrary, I know from personal experience that many atheists do participate in charity. It’s just that we don’t do it because we are atheists. Nor, in most cases, do we feel the need to trumpet our atheism as the motivation for that work, the way some theists do. We do it simply because it needs doing, because we are concerned with the well-being of our fellow humans.

Many of history’s great humanitarians have been nonbelievers. Robert Ingersoll speaks of some renowned infidel philanthropists in his essay linked above. Even in our own time, we can witness atheist acts of beneficience such as those of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, who have each individually made the two largest charitable donations in American history and can rightly claim credit for spurring many other ultra-rich to do the same.

Now we can add another name to the list of atheist philanthropists – that of Robert W. Wilson, a retired hedge-fund manager and confirmed atheist who is giving over $22 million to charity. The beneficiary of his largesse, however, might strike some atheists as a bit unusual:

…Wilson said he is giving $22.5 million to the Archdiocese of New York to fund a scholarship program for needy inner-city students attending Roman Catholic schools.

Although I always prefer to support secular organizations over religious ones, I understand Wilson’s decision and can find little fault with it. The desire to help needy students from poor families get a quality education is a great and praiseworthy act of compassion, and in Catholic schools, at least, the degree of religious indoctrination is likely to be minimal. At least these schools do not discriminate against prospective students who hold a different faith, and teach good science unpolluted by superstitious notions like creationism. In any case, I hope these students remember that though they are attending a Catholic school, it is an atheist who put them there.

This donation is in addition to the almost $150 million that Wilson donated to charity in 2006, according to a survey by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, making him the 12th most generous philanthropist in the U.S. (He has a personal fortune of over $500 million and has said he intends to give away most of it before he dies.) Clearly, atheism in no way impeded these people’s desire to do good, and the outstanding amounts of money they have given away will make a great deal of difference in the lives of a vast number of people. The next time an ignorant proselytizer looking to score rhetorical points accuses atheists of lacking concern or compassion, we will now have another excellent counterexample to that claim.

“Philanthropist” is a perfect word to describe these people. From the Greek, it literally means “lover of humanity”, and that is precisely what an atheist who gives away his personal fortune to help others is. A theist who does good works only because he wants to earn merit points with God, or as a form of advertising for his faith, arguably is acting from selfish motives and therefore does not really deserve to be praised at all. An atheist, on the other hand, does charity not to win the approval of a distant deity, but as a tangible contribution toward improving the lives of other human beings who are in need of assistance right now. We do good because it is the right thing to do, and not for any other reason.

A Christian vs. an Atheist: On God and Government, Part 11
SF/F Saturday: Terry Pratchett’s Death
Atlas Shrugged: The Rapture of the Capitalists
On the Importance of Firebrand Atheism
About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, City of Light, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Jude

    Two quick comments:

    When my ex-husband was in a Catholic hospital in the 1980s, he needed to be cathertized (he was partly paralyzed in a car wreck). Instead of letting the female nurses do it, in one hospital they sent in an orderly who had *watched* it done and used such unsterile technique that he could have killed my ex-husband; in the second, they grabbed a male EMT to do it. That has always struck me as insane.

    A couple of years ago, a fellow volunteer in a community organization noted to a friend, “There’s only one problem with the new hospital. Did you notice that there isn’t even *one* cross.” The idiot seemed to think that a *secular* hospital should have crosses in the hallways the way religious hospitals do. We got into a slight argument then because I pointed out to him that it wasn’t a religious hospital, and he said that didn’t make a difference, and so forth. We weren’t friends before that, but he hated me thereafter–lousy commie single mother atheist that I am.

  • Alex Weaver

    Wasn’t Andrew Carnegie on record as not believing in God?

  • The Vicar

    Said it before, and I’ll say it again: there should be a well-organized atheist-run charity organization. (And it should be very careful to have completely transparent accounting, too.) There’s no shortage of things which could be done: food pantries, homeless shelters (in my area, the church-run shelters stop running in the summer!), medical institutions of all types… there is never a shortage of problems to be dealt with.

  • Ebonmuse

    Well, there is SHARE, which is run by the Council for Secular Humanism. They’ve done relief work for tsunami victims and after Hurricane Katrina; I don’t know what they’re focusing on currently.

  • BlackSun

    The contributions science and reason have made to the world far outweigh all the “humanitarian” donations and religious charity work combined. Without technology, the earth could only support about 1 billion people. Without modern medicine, life expectancy would average about 37 years, and they would be nasty and brutish years at that. What motivates scientists? Curiosity and greed. I’ll take those over so-called “charity” any day.

  • TGA

    I think Chrisitans are often bullied into giving, but I agree that Christian charity is more based on organization and opportunity than anything else.

    Also, “Doctors Without Borders” is a secular organization that does incredible good in this world.

  • tobe38

    I’ve always thought that an athiest missionary service would be great. Imagine a missionary who visited tribes in Africa or South America never touched by civilisation, but instead of replacing their supernatural belief systems with another supernatural belief system (like Christianity), he taught them critical thinking skills, the scientific method and reasoning.

  • Alex, FCD

    What motivates scientists? Curiosity and greed.

    Well that’s a bit rough on the scientists, don’t you think? I can think of a few scientists who don’t strike me as being motivated either by simple curiosty or greed. Fred Banting springs to mind.

  • BlackSun

    Well that’s a bit rough on the scientists, don’t you think?

    Alex, I was trying to pay scientists a compliment. I would like to see more honest acknowledgement of human motivations in general. (Unscrupulous people have been known to use charity to cover their tracks.)

    What scientist isn’t genuinely curious? What scientist doesn’t love knowledge? What scientist wouldn’t like to get paid and gain recognition for a big discovery? Surely you don’t think it’s all done sacrificially for the “brotherhood of man?” In Banting’s case, he won the Nobel Prize. It was deserved, to be sure. But wanting such a prize falls under my definition of greed, and as such we need more of it, not less.

  • Ebonmuse

    I don’t think greed is an intrinsic good. The desire for wealth can be a good thing; it can also be selfish and an evil. It all depends on how one intends to use the money.

  • tobe38

    @ Blacksun

    I think your definition of ‘greed’ is a bit harsh. There’s a big difference between seeking what you deserve, are owed or have earned, and wanting as much as possible of everything regardless of the circumstances. There is nothing wrong with wanting credit for your work, and I despise the religious doctrine that we should shun are rewards here and wait for them in heaven. But greed, by most people’s definition, is wanting more than you deserve. I don’t think scientists, at least the majority of them, are guilty of this.

  • J

    No better way to manufacture atheists than to send kids to Catholic school (and especially to Jesuits).

  • BlackSun


    This is most likely a semantic problem. But still I would ask, who draws the line and says how much is too much?

    The desire for more is a feature of the human species, and as soon as we get it, we want still more. Our social system is set up to motivate people in this way, so I don’t think wanting more is the problem.

    Taking more unethically is. So I leave it to each person to decide for themselves how much is enough, what they are willing to do to get it, and for society to sanction those who commit crimes. Asking for a person to stop wanting more (being greedy) is like asking a snowball to stop rolling down a hill. Society’s job is to provide the feedback and bring these “excess” desires in balance.

    Only the person with excess can give substantially to charity. So indirectly then, greed begets charity.

    I despise the religious doctrine that we should shun our rewards here and wait for them in heaven.

    Me too. So to me, greed is good.

  • Alex Weaver

    Anger is natural and inherent in human psychology; this does not excuse assault and battery against those who annoy you. Similarly, a desire to maximize one’s resources is natural and inherent in human psychology; this does not excuse taking so much (whether by means one’s peers recognize as “unethical” or not) that others cannot (without resorting to means that are unsustainable and/or unethical) meet their basic needs with what’s left.

  • Curiosis


    Comparing assault and battery to legally and ethically making money is absurd. And economics is not a zero sum game. The money I have isn’t taken away from someone else.

    Everyone can create wealth by making good choices and working hard. Not all of us will be rich, but no one has to starve.

    Your attitude of “We’ll let you keep the money you’ve earned so long as you do with it what we think is good” is the reason more people aren’t liberals.

  • BlackSun

    The counterbalance to greed is the regulation and elimination of externalities. The reason most people think “greed” is a problem is because a lot of wealth has been made by not fully shouldering the cost burden of industrial production.

    This has led to our severe global environmental problems, as competition drives corporations to externalize more of their costs to improve the bottom line. This should never have been allowed. It is criminal.

    But consciousness is being raised, and we should have as a goal that production and wealth creation do not rely on methods which degrade the environment or impose undue costs on others.

    Then as Curiosis said, we will understand that economics is not a zero-sum game.

    A person’s morality should never be defined by whether or not they choose to give away their wealth.

  • Tommykey

    Hi there!

    I made mention of it at my blog, which you can read by clicking on my name above.

  • Alex Weaver

    Comparing assault and battery to legally and ethically making money is absurd.

    I agree. However, I’m talking about conspicuous consumption while people around one are starving, not ethical behavior. The fact that this is legal reflects the willingness and ability of the wealthy to dishonestly influence government for their own benefit and use the legal system as a weapon against the rest of the population (see “RIAA” and “Microsoft”) to promote their own perceived interests at the expense of said population. The only thing that prevents this is the willingness of the people to demand that the law be made to conform to ethics, and the suicidally stupid but alarmingly prevalent attitude that the law effectively defines ethics is one of the most effective barriers to improving society as a whole ever developed.

    And economics is not a zero sum game. The money I have isn’t taken away from someone else.

    This is ridiculous on its face. The money supply is necessarily finite or else money would be have no value. Tangible resources like food and raw materials are even more obviously limited in quantity. And given that the supply of money (and other resources) is infinite, if some people continue to increase their holdings without bound, the remaining supply WILL be outstripped by the need of the remaining people.

    Everyone can create wealth by making good choices and working hard. Not all of us will be rich, but no one has to starve.

    And your explanation for the fact that a large number of people are in fact starving would be…?

  • Alex Weaver

    Err, is not infinite. Or is finite. Whichever. :/

  • Curiosis


    Many things are unethical but shouldn’t be illegal. Most would agree that cheating on a spouse is unethical, but do we want to criminalize it?

    If we reduce the power and control of government, then no one will be able use it to further their own ends. I don’t want to see the wealthy doing that anymore that I want to see liberals doing it to play Robin Hood.

    I’m sure that you feel that you know better how the wealthy can use their riches, the simple fact is that their money doesn’t belong to you.

    Money is a commodity that we use to give value to goods or services. If you buy a computer, you value that product above the money used to buy it. And that money typically represents time and effort spent making it. You created wealth by working and traded that wealth for the computer. If economics is not zero sum, then who gained and who lost in this transaction? Actually, both parties gained. You got a computer and the manufacturer got money. Hence, not zero sum.

    In the US, where the government isn’t defrauding it’s people, people starve most often because of poor decisions. If you spend all your money on drugs, then you may go hungry. If you refuse to take advantage of a free education, then your opportunities will be limited. People who have more children than they can support will struggle.

    People who are laid off or fall on hard times through no fault of their own typically rely on chritable services for a short time and are quickly back on their feet. It’s hard to keep a good man down. Someone who is willing to work hard and make good choices doesn’t starve.

  • Ebonmuse

    This is rapidly turning into another debate on libertarianism and that’s not what this post is about, so let’s cool it, please. There’s a post on this topic coming up next month where we can all argue to our heart’s content.

  • Matt

    i was just reading a relevant article related to altruism.

    is it too naive for me to think that people might go into science not in spite of but because of the huge tangible good for humanity they are assured of doing? of course personal gain is a factor, but is it the only or even the main one?

    but in any case indeed we know for a fact that 1) altruism can never be proven, and 2) basically everything can be motivated by positive and negative reinforcement.

    self interest is good, it’s the spiteful and perverse part of human nature that’s more likely evil.

    and our altruism might actually be irrelevant (or automatic per reiterative PD):

    conventional economics usually says that if you play strictly towards maximizing personal gain (provided a competitive market and correction for externalities) humanity as a whole invariably benefits.

  • Lynet

    is it too naive for me to think that people might go into science not in spite of but because of the huge tangible good for humanity they are assured of doing? of course personal gain is a factor, but is it the only or even the main one?

    Most of the scientists I have met (my father included) go into science because they truly love it. There is an incredible joy and fascination involved in the investigation of the world around us. If it helps humanity that’s a nice byproduct, too. And hey, if they’re gonna pay you for doing something that much fun… sure! Why not?

  • Tom

    Lots of posturing, discussions on the distribution of wealth, rationalizations on morality, but is there a desire to give of self within the ranks of writers here?

    Don’t like the church food service not being available in the Summer? Great, go start a service in the Summer to help.

    And what exactly is it that you’re doing to help mankind again? Hopefully more than helping a friend move into their apartment. Easy to judge the motivations and actions of others, but it’s a bit different if you’re actually in the game and not sitting on the bench.

    Bill Gates is your example of how atheists give? Goodness, if sainthood is to be bestowed upon Mr. Gates based upon some perceived balance of good/bad deeds, then anecdotal evidence suggests he has a bit more giving to do.

    I am sure you can help the poor, or the man next to you, if you only make $20K/year. You can’t help everyone but you can help the people in front of you.

    Or, you can continue to rationalize behind your keyboard here; confirming the sentiment atheists do not contribute to the greater good of mankind through service and self-sacrifice.

    “It is because we are not organized the way religions are.”

    Next excuse?

  • pallas_athena2

    Re: Atheist Philanthropy

    I don’t know about Warren Buffet, but Bill Gates’ philanthropy is not unrelated to religon.

    From what I’ve been able to find on the Net, Bill Gates was raised in a protestant family (Congregationalist), by parents who emphasized civic volunteerism and charitable giving. His mom was on the board of United Way. Gates did do fundraising as a Boy (Eagle) scout. But thereafter concentrated on “building a business empire.”

    He appears not have engaged in significant philanthropy until after his marriage in January, 1994 to Melinda, who is Catholic, and the death of his mother six months later, whereupon he reevaluated his life.

    “‘We were thinking a lot about how Bill and his dad would start working
    together now. Was there something they could do together that they were
    both passionate about, and philanthropy, giving something back, was
    something that his mom believed deeply in.’

    Encouraged by her own parents, the young Melinda was also predisposed to
    philanthropy, volunteering for community service at her local hospital,
    school and courthouse. ‘I went to a Catholic school and an academy in Dallas
    where the motto was ‘servium’, which means to serve. For me personally there
    is a little bit of religious focus in [philanthropy].’”

    I don’t know if Gates remains an atheist, but he and Melinda were married by the Chancellor of Seattle University, who is a Jesuit priest. Anyway, my point is that there are religious influences behind his philanthropy.

  • Rightintheface

    Neither side seems willing to listen in these debates. I feel like I’m fairly moderate in my opinions, and I often feel “pushed” toward an extreme viewpoint I don’t actually hold because of the ferocity of the opposition.

    That would be my big critique of the atheists posting in threads I’ve participated in. The posts, even prior to any explanation or discussion from a Christian, smack of accusation and negative perceptions. Not all Christians hate you, guys. I might disagree, but I can see your points on several things. What blows my mind is the difficulty some of you have with accepting other viewpoints, when you so strongly criticize others for doing the same.

    Freedom OF religion is a right. Freedom FROM religion is not. You can choose to worship or not, you can choose to celebrate or not, but I’m not a bad person if I want to talk about God while I serve food to the homeless, or when I put up decorations in the town square, or when I say Merry Christmas to co-workers. Let’s all be a little less sensitive, realize how good we have it, and chill out.

    Should I get mad if an atheist wants a secular wedding/funeral? I couldn’t care less!

    If someone wants to wear a traditional African outfit for Kwanzaa? Why? If someone wants to hook themselves up to an E-meter and talk about Xenu? Who gives a crap? I have Jewish friends that I wish a happy Hannukkah. Probably butchered the spelling of that again. Here at the hospital, we have to observe cultural expectations of guests from the Middle East constantly. Doesn’t mean I can’t say “Merry Christmas”. What a tiny, insignificant thing to be upset about.

  • OMGF

    Freedom OF religion is a right. Freedom FROM religion is not.

    You can’t have freedom OF religion without freedom FROM religion. How free are you if you aren’t allowed to choose “none of the above” when asked about what religion you are? IOW, are you free if someone says, “You can believe anything you like, so long as you join some religion. You are not allowed to be atheist or non-religious.” No one is saying that you can’t talk about religion, that you can’t be religious, etc. on your own time and your own dime. What we object to is state sponsorship of religion (either a specific religion or religion over irreligion).

  • Rightintheface

    What I meant to say (I do think I was unclear, apologies) was that you are free to choose anything you like in terms of belief (or non-belief) but that doesn’t give you the right to never have to encounter other viewpoints. You, as an atheist, are not in the majority, and I don’t think it’s right to make this a “it’s okay to believe what you want as long as you never talk about it in public” situation. I’m a Christian and want to say Merry Christmas, send Christmas cards that say Christ be with you, etc. I want to give money at church and wear a cross around my neck and whatever else I choose to do to express myself.

    I would draw the line at a sign in my yard that says “atheists can suck it” or something like that that attacks another belief (or lack thereof) but I refuse to shove my faith in the closet just because someone else might not like it.Similarly, you can believe as much as you want that God doesn’t exist. You can tell the world about it.

    Again, I draw the line of good taste at attacking other people’s beliefs, as it’s not necessary and it does nothing to communicate your message effectively, but you can definitely tell me you think religion is a crutch or that it does more harm than good, fine.

  • OMGF

    What I meant to say (I do think I was unclear, apologies) was that you are free to choose anything you like in terms of belief (or non-belief) but that doesn’t give you the right to never have to encounter other viewpoints. You, as an atheist, are not in the majority, and I don’t think it’s right to make this a “it’s okay to believe what you want as long as you never talk about it in public” situation.

    1. I don’t know of any atheists asking to never have to encounter other viewpoints or deny you your right to speak about your beliefs in public.
    2. I do know of theists that seek to eliminate all criticism of their religion. Perhaps you should be on their sites talking to them.

  • Ebonmuse

    I’m a Christian and want to say Merry Christmas, send Christmas cards that say Christ be with you, etc. I want to give money at church and wear a cross around my neck and whatever else I choose to do to express myself.

    You’re perfectly free to do all those things. What I object to is when religious believers claim that the government should officially favor their beliefs or discriminate against opposing views.

  • Brad


    1) Part of the purpose of this site is to bring up trash on religion to the table for inspection. As an “outside” observer, you have the opportunity to make sure we’re bringing up legit trash to talk about, that we’re making correct inferences from said trash, that we’re taking into account the positives as well, that we’re not generalizing too broadly, et cetera. If you want to point out specific stuff like that, then by all means please do so in whatever way you think helps the discussions and debates.

    2) Do discern if your ‘ferocious opposition’ is rhetorical. Sure, I know threads have gotten personal, but do take into account that fiery language isn’t always meant to stir up personal feelings, but rather relevant feelings for the arguments and issues at hand. There’s also the possibility that the opposition intimidates because it has the stronger arguments.

    3) Civil rights are distinct from civil liberties. You may wish people Merry Christmas, send religious cards, give money at church, wear a cross, or otherwise express yourself. You just can’t do that for the government or have the government do that for you because of the First Amendment. (In the US, I hastily add to my comment…)

    4) Your “line of good taste” makes no sense to me. “Atheists can suck it” is a personal attack (and a pitiful one at that), not just an belief-oriented attack. If we do not openly and freely discuss and debate ideas as a people, if we literally refuse to talk about them because of contentiousness, controversy, emotion, etc., then are we really doing ourselves a service? Is faith really best as a strictly personal matter? Do “coexistence” and “tolerance” necessitate silence? Should the discourse of religion be reduced to mere whispering, or is it safe for us to all talk about it? Is it a “grown up” thing to agree to disagreement, even in face of demonstrable evils dancing around in people’s minds en masse?

    You are free to make your case for the efficacy of silence; I’d like to see it. As for me, I reiterate what I said last time:

    Blind belief, wishful thinking, mindless indoctrination, emotional manipulation, and so on … When large masses of people dwelve into a world of mindless rituals and falsehoods, we have every right to talk to those masses about it. Both rationality and irrationality are inevitably relevant to more than just single people. Religion is relevant to all; it is relevant to society at large.

    P.S. I agree that “Merry Christmas” is silly to be upset about. I like the saying, plus it is essentially secularized now anyways. I also sincerely hope that your “observing cultural expectations” doesn’t detract from the hospital’s ability to do its job in helping people.

  • Rightintheface

    I’ve often considered you one of the atheists that doesn’t want religion to be visible. If that isn’t your opinion, it certainly comes off that way here.

    The disrespect many atheists have shown based on my beliefs sends a message of “It’s not okay to think what you think.”

    I don’t like that, and I work very hard to never do that to others. Despite our disagreements, can you actually think of an instance where I’ve ridiculed what you or anyone here for what they believe (or don’t believe)? I’ve objected to their expression of that belief in an aggressive way, nothing more.

    I don’t mind you or anyone else saying there’s no God, etc.

    I object to people painting the picture of Christians as manipulative, selfish, evil, and deluded.

    Yes, some Christians are those things, just like any other group you’d care to name.

    You can’t pick the screaming, foaming at the mouth minority and use that to characterize the group. I don’t do it to you. I don’t bring up Stalin. You have about as much in common with him as I do. Heck, maybe I have more because I have facial hair, and my dad speaks fluent Russian.

  • OMGF

    Who are you talking to, because you continually seem to be arguing with someone who isn’t here?

  • Rightintheface

    I’m speaking to the tone of some of the topics discussed here.

  • OMGF

    Because talking about how atheists should donate to charity and help their fellow man is insulting to theists?

  • Rightintheface

    Meaning certain threads on the site in general.

  • Brad

    RITF, do we really come off as wanting religion to be invisible? I want the exact opposite! I want it visible, exposed and bare! This is why I like the idea that people should talk about religion, and not pretend it’s an invisible facet of society that supercedes otherwise normal scrutiny and criticism. On the flip side, though, I don’t want the government specifically promoting religion. (School prayer, hand-on-scripture oaths, legislative prayer and chaplain, “In God We Trust” and “Under God,” et cetera.)

    If you only see “It’s not okay to think what you think,” then you aren’t looking deeper than the surface. Bottom line, the point isn’t to attack belief all by itself, but the generally-accepted ignorant and naive basis for it: faith. The idea is that atheism rationally follows. When it comes to matters of supernatural belief and personal practices, true freethinkers don’t like sheep mentalities and true skeptics won’t accept pitiful answers and arguments, and that is why atheists speak out against these things. When nonbelievers ridicule believers, it is not just because of belief, but also the lack of foundation for such belief that is so widespread. I don’t always condone or condemn insult, but criticism has a right to exist wherever it is beckoned.

    Lastly, the brunt of secular ridicule isn’t wholly on religious people, but religion. It’s the institution that bugs us, and it’s the institution we desire to root out. On the topic of Stalin, I quote from Red Crimes:

    … the smoke of the burning Twin Towers, the vicious sectarian bloodletting that has burst out along religious lines in Iraq, the barbaric and regressive human-rights violations of authoritarian theocracies around the world, the ongoing (though largely unreported) campaign of religiously motivated terrorism toward family-planning clinics, the continuing vicious discrimination and persecution waged against gays and other minorities, the opposition to personal liberty in all its forms, the apocalypse fanatics who cheer the end of the world and actively fight against peace efforts in the Middle East and elsewhere …

    Cases like these show that the communists’ error was not atheism, but rather a fierce and rigid adherence to their own beliefs, coupled with a murderous hostility toward those who would question or doubt them. Such irrational elevation of dogma over free thought and human life is always destructive, no matter the specific principles being held dogmatically.

    … Unlike many religious texts, which contain specific injunctions to dominate or do violence to nonbelievers, atheism by itself never causes people to become murderous. Indeed, how could it? Atheists have no holy book, no sacred text directing their actions. On the contrary, atheism only causes harm when conjoined with some other dogmatic ideology that contains such instructions.

    … Finally, I believe in the tremendous importance of free speech and intellectual freedom, where people have the right to educate themselves, to pursue knowledge, and to ask whatever questions they wish, even when those questions are uncomfortable or damaging to those in power. Communism denies all these principles, and so I reject it wholeheartedly.

    Can you see the similarities between bona fide religions and historical communism?

  • Rightintheface

    As a Christian, I distance myself from those I don’t agree with too. I vehemently oppose persecution of others under the banner of religion. I strongly support equal rights, gay marriage, equal roles for men and women in the home, etc.

    I have nothing in common with Pat Robertson. I never argue that mine is even the “right” path. It’s simply right for me. However, from an anthropological point of view it might be interesting to discuss. I wonder, without the early sun worship and such, which we know was instrumental in the formation of early social groups, what would culture look like today? I’m sure you could construct a scenario in which religion was unnecessary, but that still, IMO, wouldn’t make it irrelevant or keep people from choosing it. I have HBO, and that’s entirely unnecessary.

  • Joseph

    Both Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are Agnostic. Gates said that he isn’t sure about God and Buffet has described himself as Agnostic.

  • kazekial

    It doesnt matter what your background is or what you believe, what matters is that you care enough about other people to either contribute to an existing organization to help others in need. All too often I have run into a bar room conversation about changing the world and no parties are involved in anything that puts thier money wher thier mouth is. I am a Christian, but not a fan of religion. I use the church as a means to participate in my community and make a difference. Whether those efforts be through food drives, supporting others in the church, or whatever; these opportunities would be less accesible to me if I was not part of an organization. The most valuable thing that you can give is your time. There are organizatins like the Elks lodge and similar fraternities that are not bias towards your faith or beliefs and function as a good means to help out.

  • Jaylin

    I am a part of a local Freethinkers group. At our December meeting titled “Festivus”, one particular female in the group of ~40 people took it upon herself to pay everyone’s bill. We meet at a local restaurant and normally everyone pays their own bills. We eat lunch and some people drink during most of meetings. I heard the bill was ~$450. Imagine our surprise when we each walked out to pay our bills only to be told that someone has already paid it. Upon further inquiry, all the hostess would tell us was that is was a female in our group. As far as I know, we never did find out who did this. One lady even called it….our own little miracle. It sure was nice.

  • Josh

    Research is against the atheists on this one, as William Lane Craig explains:

    See the book “Who Really Cares.”

  • Josh

    Oops, wrong link, here it is:

  • Bonehead

    The differences in charity between secular and religious people are dramatic. Religious people are 25 percentage points more likely than secularists to donate money (91 percent to 66 percent) and 23 points more likely to volunteer time (67 percent to 44 percent). And, consistent with the findings of other writers, these data show that practicing a religion is more important than the actual religion itself in predicting charitable behavior. source:

  • Andrew Ryan

    Doesn’t mean they’re not atheist, which us not mutually exclusive with agnosticism.