The organization I chair, Foundation Beyond Belief, has faced an important dilemma during our first year of existence.
We obviously want to encourage atheist donors to give to secular charities.
At the same time, we want to be able to support groups run by religious organizations, if they’re also doing secular work (as long as they’re not proselytizing while they do it).
However, we quickly learned that a lot of you have no desire to support any religious groups whatsoever, no matter what they do. At first, we thought this was a simple fix — don’t like a particular charity? Just shift your donation to a different category for the quarter.
That turned out to be more complicated than we had hoped.
So we asked our membership what they wanted to do regarding religious beneficiaries:
Over half of the respondents (51.7%) said, “I think it’s a good idea and might even support such groups with my donation.” A further 15 percent support the idea even though they are not likely to allocate their own funds for it, and 5.5 percent said they were indifferent.
On the other side, 18 percent do not think FBB should support any religious charities but are willing to shift their funds to avoid them, while 9.5 percent said they opposed the policy strongly enough to consider canceling their membership.
Ultimately, we felt we should continue offering our members the choice of giving to religious groups doing secular work if they wanted to… but we needed to make a change.
It’s clear from those results that the option [to give to religious groups] should remain. But those members who wish to avoid religious charities shouldn’t have to monitor their account closely to do so. They need an easy way of assuring that their funds always and only go to secular causes.
To satisfy both needs, we are creating a new, separate donation category for organizations based in other worldviews. Members who want to support that program can include a percentage in that box, while others can simply distribute their donations in the other nine categories, which will now feature secular organizations only.
In other words, nine of our categories will now always support non-theistic charities. One category will now support religious groups doing valuable work.
This should make it much easier for members to decide where their money should go.
We’re calling this reorganization: “Challenge the Gap: different beliefs, common goals.” It will go live in the beginning of January.
CHALLENGE THE GAP is an innovative humanist program that challenges this idea by finding and working the common ground between theists and nontheists.
Participating in this kind of effort does not mean that differences don’t matter, only that the common ground is worth exploring despite the differences. Not all nontheists agree with that approach, and that’s fine. This project is designed for those who do.
The first beneficiary will be the Interfaith Youth Core.
Whether or not you support IFYC — I’ll admit, I’m not a big fan — I think it’s important to include groups like this in our slate. They aim to bring people from various faiths together in an effort to help others. That’s not a bad thing.
But if you, like me, don’t want to support any group that seeks to strengthen a person’s religious identity (PDF), you don’t have to.
Become a member of FBB. If you want to give to only secular charities, it’s now incredibly easy to do so, and you don’t have to check back every few months to make sure that’s happening.
If you want to consider giving to theistic organizations that just do some good things, that’s an option, too.
Remember: the purpose of FBB is to encourage atheists to give more money to charity. Anyone can do it and you don’t have to give much to feel incredible about your donation.
Better yet, give a subscription to a loved one. Let them enjoy the gift of donating to causes they support.