An Atheist in Catholic School Wants to Show That He Can Be Charitable, Too

Here’s the story of a boy named Daniel.

He was born into a Catholic family.

He is forced to attend Catholic School.

He has come to the conclusion that he is an atheist.

Hello everyone, My name is Daniel and I’m an Atheist who is forced to attend a private Catholic school. I regularly experience harrassment due to my lack of belief in a deity.

A few months ago I decided to read the entire Bible (King James version) cover to cover and just didn’t buy into any of it. My parents and teachers don’t know I’m an atheist…

Recently, Daniel’s school began a fundraiser. In my chat with Daniel, he said the principal rants about how “atheists never give to charity; only Christians do.”

I decided I’d try to beat my school in a fundraiser for a secular charity instead of for the church. So I talked to one of my friends and she managed to get this whole thing organized. I realized it would be more productive to just simply try to help others instead of getting mad at people at my school. Plus, this way I don’t get suspended for “attacking” somebody else’s beliefs.

Daniel chose the charity ResponsibleCharity.org:

They are a secular charity that helps children and women in India and are trying to build a school in Calcutta. Secular Charity was started to do what the corrupt Missionaries of Charity have failed to do: help kids in the slums of India to find a better life. On a shoestring budget they are doing amazing things.

What I find the most intriguing are the photo albums on the Responsible Charity’s Facebook page labeled Transparency with this note:

In an effort to continue to be as transparent as possible we will post as many receipts of all the purchases we make with your donations. Items such as food and supplies in local markets, taxis, street corner clothes and such are impossible to get receipts for, it is India after all LOL! But we’re trying our best and want to honor and respect YOU, our donors and supporters with a view of all we are doing with your help. THANK YOU!

Daniel is asking for donations and this is how you can help:

I’m asking you to please go to www.responsiblecharity.org and donate something. Even if it’s just a dollar I will be proud. Please add a note to the donation saying “Daniel’s fundraiser” so that it counts toward my campaign to out-charity my whole school! I know I may face a back lash for this from those around me but it’s important to me to help other kids get an education without having to deal with religion!

Thank you for reading it and if you can’t donate anything please spread the word!

how to donate:
1. go to http://responsiblecharity.org/
2. click “donate now”
3. enter an amount and click “donate now”
4. sign into paypal. Under your address, click the “Note to Seller”
5. type in “Daniel’s fundraiser”
6. click “save” and then “pay now”

***Update***: If you are unable to find “Note to Seller” go to the Responsible Charity’s Facebook page and let them know! Many people have done this already :)

Give now and spread the word!

Isn’t this the way almsgiving should be done? Add it to the LIST!

***Update***: Since a lot of you are having trouble finding the “Note to Seller” on the PayPal page, reader Jesse provided this helpful screenshot:

*** Update***:

From Responsible Charity’s Facebook:

Since Daniel’s fundraiser began (The Catholic School Atheist) in less than 48 hours,Responsible Charity has received $4,925.27 (and still going) from 497 folks from all over the world including many of our own supporters who had contributed extra funds in addition to their ongoing support of our work.

Special thanks are also in order to our friends Tracey McPherson, Religion Poisons Everything, The friendly atheist, The Thinking Atheist, and all others who have shared Daniel’s story and continue to do so.

We are incredibly happy to help this young man send a clear and strong message to his religious school about the true and compassionate nature of freethinkers around the world. The funds will be used towards the building of a secular school and our ground work with children and their families living in the slums in Kolkata, India. From all of us here: THANK YOU!


About Shannon Burgdorf

A polymath (Greek πολυμαθής, polymathēs, "having learned much")[1] is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas.

I fancy myself this type of person - possibly one day I will live up to it.

So many interests so little time....

Actor, Writer, Mother, Wife, Atheist, Home Educator, Secular Humanist

  • Piet Puk

    Donation done!

  • Carina De Almeida

    My daughter has similar problems in her school and blogged about it a while ago. At least she is supported at home as we are all atheists. It is still sad however to see the repugnant attitude of some people especially to the young that cannot speak up against authority at school lest they be picked on.

    http://thesceptickid.blogspot.com/2012/01/crying-on-inside.html

    • Annie

      I just forwarded the blog link to my 12 year old daughter.  It sounds like they’ve had a lot of similar experiences. 

      • Carina De Almeida

         Thanks Annie – I would love for Xe’nedra to get in touch with more young people who feels skeptical about religion (there are not many in her school as you can tell – South Africa is very much a religious country). It would be great for her to see some of her peers agreeing with her.

  • Crundy

    What an awesome (and brave) kid. Donating now.

  • littlejohn

    His school apparently didn’t teach him that there is only one “R” in harassment.

    • Mrs. B.

      No, apparently the fine, private Catholic school he’s attending didn’t teach him that. What’s your point?

  • Amyg

    Keep us updated, okay?  I just sent him a donation – I survived 12 years of Catholic school and his cause struck a chord.

  • Jordan walsh

    Athiest don’t donate to charity???? I do several charitys a year for people and I donate to animals and the childrens hospitals. Im helping with a charity on saturday. Makes me so mad that a school is telling kids things that are so untrue….making another generation of people that are going to grow up thinking athiest are evil!!!! This kid is awsome!!!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TLHIXVS2CHDJNWYPZJIZ5NNZ3A Robert

    I understand there was a survey a while ago that showed that conservatives gave more to charity than liberals.  Do you think it is because conservatives give to their church?

    • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

       That was my question as well.  My parents count 100% of their church tithing as a charitable donation, even though only about 10% of the church’s revenue goes towards charitable activities.  The rest goes to paying for church staff and building maintenance/improvements. 

      That kind of spending distribution would get a failing grade from virtually every charity rating organization out there.

  • Wintermute

    I love this. Too often the battles atheists fight are unfairly cast as negatives. We’re ‘trying to push prayer out of schools,’ or ‘destroying our Christian heritage,’ or some other wannabe martyr nonsense. Something like this is pretty much bulletproof, and shows that atheists are every bit as generous and charitable as any believer. Good for him–looking forward to kicking a few bucks this way.

  • Mairianna

    I just bought food for a baby for week!  Thanks, Shannon!   How I so wish I had not been so indoctrinated by stupidity when I was Daniel’s age.   These kids like Daniel and Jessica Ahlquist really make me feel like I squandered my childhood.  I am behind them 100%. 

  • http://twitter.com/zenironman Brian Dooley

    Yet. Another. Teenage. Atheist. Superhero.   …as both an atheist and a geek, I am VERY excited about the prospect of living in a comic-book reality.

    We can use this sudden glut of young activists (with superpowers, of course) to form a group… We can call them…the A-Men…Yesss. I’ll change my name to something that starts with “A,” so that I can be “Professor A.”  It’s all coming together! That’s the power of non-prayer at work!

    Seriously, though, good on American Atheist Teens lately!

  • http://www.facebook.com/joseph.c.huddleston Joseph Huddleston

    Done.

  • http://twitter.com/Skeptical_Lady Question Everything

    Donated yesterday! Also I would like to suggest everyone go & give him a shout out on his facebook page to let him know he isn’t alone. He says he gets harrassed & we all know how lonely being an atheist can be :-)

  • Stan Brooks

    My family is pretty much completely broke but we were able to give a couple of bucks to this good cause.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    A few months ago I decided to read the entire Bible (King James version)

    Poor confused kid. Catholics don’t read the Bible. And if they did, it wouldn’t be the Protestant King James version. If you like the archaic prose, try the Douay-Rheims. Otherwise, there’s the Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition.

    • Aguz

      I wen’t to a Catholic school and they DO read the Bible (though not the King James version, like you point out) but mostly they focus on the New Testament. Mind you, in my school everyone (the students, teachers and even the nuns) knew I was an atheist and no one cared.  I think it depends of the school, in mine everyone was really relax about it and the subject wasn’t polemic or anything. 

      • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

         Kids in Catholic schools might read the Bible, but the average Catholic parishioner only reads the little snippets in their missalette.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=537805159 Thomas Insall

          You’re right about the ‘average’ parishioner, but those that are ‘above average’ have not only the bible (in english) but have it in the latin vulgate, the greek Septuagint, and all the writings to the Church Fathers (Augustine, Aquinas, the Didache, etc). We also have the Catechism, the Code of Canon Law, and the Breviary. Catholics have lots of resources to develop a powerful spiritual life-they just happen to (in America) ignore it.

  • http://twitter.com/CoboWowbo Cobo Wowbo

    Donation completed. 
    I hope there’s an update regarding how much was raised…

  • FSq

    I was raised Catholic, and figured out the error of its ways at around age eight, then rebelled. I would get booted out of the mandatory (imposed by my parents) church school classes at least once a week, until I finally wore them down enough to say “Fine, don’t go.”

    I do volunteer work in my community, and politically active and make sure to donate to charities I feel are important and mean something to me – they tend to be wildlife funds and research projects for critical habitat preservation for highly endangered species like the Amur Tiger, Vaquita, and Snow Leopard.

    I know christians who don’t donate shit and then get all up in my face because I don’t donate my money to “human charities”.

    To the young man here, I say GO KID GO!!!

  • http://twitter.com/cmacielo Carlos Maciel

    Couldn’t find the “Note to seller” part but I donated anyway. Will do again next month and I’ll check carefully. I’m catholic, but I’m against teaching a specific religion to children at school (I attended public school almost all my childhood), I’m also against telling others what should they believe and what not and I’m always looking for answers to all my questions in a scientific way (which gives me some trouble with other catholics, hehe).

    • Verimius Reinstorff

       I agree with Carlos: I donated but there was no “note to seller”, so I couldn’t show it was for Daniel’s fundraiser

      • Jesse L Sinclair

         If you are donating via paypal its near the end on the confirmation page.

        On the last page it should list all your information for you to see it one last time and change the shipping address. The note to seller is right there on the bottom.

      • Maya Kulik

         Same here :(

  • Mariana

    Done.

  • Kullervo

    Glad to give to such a worthy cause and support such an admirable young man. I hope he knows he has a growing community that supports him.

  • Anonymous

    I went to Catholic school all through High School, though I was non-religious by eighth grade. (I called myself ‘agnostic’, though I eventually realized the definition I’d been told of that word was wrong, and I’m actually an agnostic atheist.)

    Being made to learn all the crazy, while at the same time nurturing a deep interest in history and science, is the best cure I can think of for superstition.

    Why did he read the KJ bible, though? That’s not the version Catholics use, and so wouldn’t be the one he’d want to directly refute. Hmm.

  • Xeon2000

    I guess one of the world’s biggest charity givers being an atheist, Bill Gates, doesn’t count?

  • Allen

    I was about to send in a donation but decided to check out this charity’s ratings first.  Surprisingly, I cannot find them listed on Charity Navigator at all.  Can someone provide some peace of mind that this is a legitimate charity before I send money?

  • JSug

    Daniel, if you see this: good for you! I love any opportunity to encourage young people to be more socially conscious. As it happens, I had a Visa gift card worth $50 and no plan for what to do with it. I just donated that money to Responsible Charity. I also fired off an email to ask that they attribute the amount to your fundraiser. Good luck!

  • cjo1967

    I’ve shared this on FB and Twitter.  And, I’ve made my Paypal contribution.  I *really* hope there will be a follow up story letting everyone know how our efforts to spread the word and to donate on his behalf have helped his “causes” – both the actual charity AND the point he is trying to make at school.  He could have chosen the “Be Kind to Bent Ducks and Chickens Fund” and I would have donated!  You show ‘em, Daniel! 

  • http://thestir.squarespace.com/ Servaas

    A whole bunch of atheists are rapidly losing money for no reason whatsoever considering the bigger scheme of things. Rather spend it on pleasure boys and girls.

    • Wren

      I have no idea what you are saying here.

      • Carina De Almeida

         http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll_%28Internet%29

        In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory,[2] extraneous, or off-topic
        messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum,
        chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an
        emotional response

    • wright1

       If that’s what you’d rather spend your money on and all those involved are consenting adults, feel free.

      Those atheists (like me) who donate time / money to others do so out of empathy to our fellow humans, or because a particular cause is something we enjoy.

      • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

        Looks like bait from a troll. Don’t bite. 

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Uh, hang on a second.

    There is something here that makes no sense to me. First there is this: 

    Hello everyone, My name is Daniel and I’m an Atheist who is forced to attend a private Catholic school. I regularly experience harrassment due to my lack of belief in a deity.

    And then there is this:

    My parents and teachers don’t know I’m an atheist…

    Given the first statement, combined with all the implied “out” atheist activism he is describing, I do not see how his parents could possibly not know that he’s an atheist.

    The first statement is in the “About” section on the left sideboard of the linked Facebook page, but I cannot find the second statement anywhere on the page at all.

    I really hate to throw cold coffee on the warm campfire of everyone’s admiration and genrosity, but I have to ask if anyone has verified that this is legitimate. Our admiration and generosity toward young and brave atheists has been quite spectacular lately, and I would not like that to be spoiled by a scam.

    Please, can someone with credible credentials vouch for the veracity of this whole thing, and can someone explain the two statements above, and why the second statement is not visible on the Facebook site?

    I’d very much like for this to be real.

    • Allen

      I’m with you.  Something doesn’t smell right here.  Other things making me suspicious include the following:

      - The poster claims that a friend organized this fundraiser.  But as far as I see, there was nothing to organize.  There is no special donation page and the only way to identify this specific fundraiser is by manually writing in “Daniel’s fundraiser” in the “Note to Seller” field, which brings me to the next point…

      - The missing “Note to Seller” field.  You’d think a fundraising campaign would have correct instructions for making donations.

      - The lack of information on this charity.  As I posted before, there is no entry for this charity in Charity Navigator whatsoever.  Another poster, Annie, mentioned that she found it in Guidestar, but there is no information other than a tax ID.

      I really, really hope I’m just being paranoid, but I deal with fraud for a living and often see con men stooping to real lows like exploiting peoples’ charitable natures to part them with their money.

      -Allen

    • Annie

      I’ve been trying to find more information… something else that was a bit disheartening is that Hemley Gonzalez is listed as the president, treasurer and secretary of Responsible Charities (according to the Florida Department of State).  Honestly, I don’t know much about non-profits, but this strikes me as highly unusual.  I’m going to send an email to Gonzalez to voice my concerns and give him the opportunity to verify that his organization is legitimate. 

    • Terabyte06

       Came here to say this.  Something is fishy.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=542253344 Shannon Hagan Dooley

      I had a short email interview with Daniel. His parents and teachers do not know because he hasn’t outted himself. He has classmates that do know and harass him for it. He said he fears being punished by his parents and disciplined by school because the principal always talks about the “badness” of atheism. The organizer of the fundraiser is a friend of his who is an adult in his life whom he trusts since he cannot run a Facebook campaign due to being a full-time high school student and can’t ask his parents for help. I’ve been in regular contact with the friend he speaks of as well as Daniel himself. Daniel chose the charity because it’s secular and actually does what it says it does. The charity is small but if you look at the charity’s Facebook page you will see how open and transparent it is. My apologies for any confusion or not providing enough details to help you feel at ease about donating. The “Note To Seller” field has been noted about in the post as an update with a picture to further explain. Since the charity is new and small, it is not used to this kind of donations and is trying very hard to keep up with the flurry Daniel has begun. I hope I have been able to help :)

      • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

        Yes, that has been of great help, Shannon. Thank you for your conscientious and understanding response.  I will be giving a donation. 

  • http://nadiawilliams.wordpress.com/ Nadia Williams

    Seldom have I felt so good about giving a few Euros! Had no problem adding a note to seller on Paypal.

    As for atheist generosity, my husband (also an atheist) gives €10 per month to Gorta (standing order on his account), and I seldom if ever pass a street collector without putting something in the tin, no matter how small.

  • Annie

    I just received an email reply from Hemley Gonzalez, the man who started up Responsible Charity.  He supplied me with  documentation that showed they are indeed registered with the IRS, and explained that he has had to wear many hats as he starts up this organization. He has recently created a board of several individuals from around the world who have been active in helping him start this charity.  He was very understanding of my concerns, and said that he started this organization after volunteering with a fraudulent charity.  I feel comfortable and confident supporting Responsible Charity.

    You can view the organization’s registration documents in their photo album on Facebook.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Josh-Atlas/643351843 Josh Atlas

    As a fellow Atheist I’m proud to help Daniel out! At 16 I also began to question religion. Spent a few years researching all the major ones, decided they were all kind of wacky and became an Atheist.
     In solidarity, I’d also like to mention I’m also an Eagle Scout.


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