I’ve written in the past about Kiva, the microcredit site that fights poverty by funding economic entrepreneurs in the developing world, and about how the largest lender community on the site is made up of atheists (and I’m happy to be one of them).
Well, we’ve reached a new milestone. As you can see from Kiva’s community page, the atheist team has just passed the $1 million mark in total dollars loaned, becoming the first team on Kiva to do so. Kiva’s official blog has commemorated the occasion with a very nice post, First Kiva Team to Reach $1 Million! As of this writing, the Christian team is a distant second, with a little over $600,000 raised.
It’s important to bear in mind what this does and doesn’t prove. It doesn’t show that atheists are morally superior to Christians, or any other religious group. I doubt that any single number or result could accurately measure as broad and sweeping a conclusion as that. What it does show, however, is that atheists don’t lack generosity, compassion, or concern for the welfare of others. Contrary to those who insultingly and ignorantly claim that atheism leads only to misanthropy and selfishness, there is ample evidence that atheists care about making this a better and more just world – as well we should, since we believe it’s the only one we have. We don’t yet have the infrastructure and the institutions that make religious charity efforts highly visible and organized, but on an individual level, I firmly believe we have as much concern for the human condition as anyone else.
Although I’m very pleased by this accomplishment, we should keep it in perspective. $1 million is nothing to dismiss lightly, but far more is needed to make a meaningful difference in world poverty rates. In terms of alleviating global poverty, this is only a small achievement – a drop of human kindness in a sea of need. Granted, the atheist Kiva group has been around for only a little more than a year; arguably, we’re just getting started. And no one should expect that atheists and freethinkers will solve this problem all on our own. Truly ending poverty will be a massive effort that will require effort from every sector of human society. But even the longest journey has to begin somewhere, and this is as good a starting point as any. Let’s do what we can to see that we get to $2 million even more quickly!