Are Atheists Less Charitable?

Yes, says Jonah Goldberg, Editor-at-Large of National Review Online. Read his article here.

They printed this column in the commentary page of yesterday’s Chicago Tribune. It ruined my breakfast, I tell you.

Goldberg says the following:

The further to the left you are — particularly to the secular left — the less likely you are to donate your time or money to charity. Imagine two demographically identical people, except that Joe goes to church regularly and rejects the idea that the government should redistribute wealth to lessen inequality, while Sam never goes to church and favors state-driven income redistribution. [Syracuse University professor Arthur] Brooks says the data indicate that not only is Joe Churchgoer nearly twice as likely as Sam Secularist to give money to charities in a given year, he will also give 100 times more money per year to charities (and 50 times more to non-religious ones).

(Sam Secularist? Is that a nudge to Sam Harris?) Anyway, Goldberg does admit the data provides room for plenty of exceptions:

Because Brooks is using vast pools of data, and because he’s talking about averages rather than individuals, there is no end of exceptions to prove the rule. No doubt there are pious Scrooges and Santa-like atheists.

Certainly, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Ted Turner are among many on the list of non-religious, charitable people.

None of this shows that religion is solely responsible for people being charitable; however, it is no surprise that churches do quite a bit of volunteer and charity work.

Atheist groups do these works as well, but it is more concentrated and less collective. I know my local Center for Inquiry affiliate in Chicago volunteers at the local food depository often. But what are the national organizations doing to promote these activities? Not as much as they could or should be doing, and that needs to be addressed.

I haven’t read Arthur Brooks’ book Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism yet, but I feel like there’s a strong rebuttal waiting to be heard. Perhaps readers can shed some light on it.


[tags]Jonah Goldberg, National Review Online, Chicago Tribune, atheist, atheism, Christian, charity, secular, Arthur Brooks, Syracuse University, Joe Churchgoer, Sam Secularist, Sam Harris, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Ted Turner, Center for Inquiry, Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism[/tags]


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