Kimberly Winston of the Religion News Service has a article making the mainstream media rounds about how atheists (as a group) have been giving a lot more to charity recently.
Between atheists on Reddit giving to Doctors Without Borders, the atheist group outgiving every other group at micro-financing site Kiva, and Foundation Beyond Belief raising over $200,000 for various charities, we’re making *huge* dent in that stereotype that says atheists care only about themselves.
While Christians do a nice job of making charitable giving a habit (that goes beyond tithing), we’re proving that generosity and Christianity are not synonymous.
Winston suggests reasons for this change:
Theories range from the influx of younger nontheists with a focus on global welfare, to images of natural disasters made ubiquitous by the Internet, to the growth in population of people who say they have no religion — 15 percent, according to the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey.
“When I came into the community (in 1999), it was a monthly meeting and a lecture,” [Foundation Beyond Belief executive director Dale] McGowan said. “It was a terribly sterile thing … But the increase of regular folks identifying as nontheists brought with it regular concerns. They want a community, they want to talk about ethics, they want to be doing good works.”
“… there is no denying that there is a big gap between what religious people give and what secularists give,” [author/writer Susan Jacoby] said. “And if part of your morality really is about taking care of your fellow man, you are going to start thinking about this.”
“There has been a general awakening to the fact that nontheists of all stripes need to stand up and show the positive values we have,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of AHA. “We realized the benefit of doing this in a public way, in being clear about we are people who want to care about people.”
To be sure, atheists have always given to charity as individuals. But never before have we seen atheists (as a group) giving to charity at the rate and amount we’re seeing today.
That’s something we should all be proud of.
Side note: James Croft, the Research and Education Fellow at the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard, has a nice post explaining ways Humanists can perform service projects. Read it for more detail, but here’s the list:
- Build service into your regular events.
- Connect with established service organizations to reduce the planning burden.
- Do social justice work.
- Work with your local community – with t-shirts!
- Represent Humanism on national Service Days.
- Reach out to other groups where there are shared values.
- Give awards for service.
- Raise money for charities.
- Learn how to give first-aid.
- Give of your own body, through organ donation drives.