Data Collection Fail, Money Collection Win

This image came to my attention via God on Facebook. It features a homeless man with a sign that asks “Which religion cares the most about the homeless?” And then multiple receptacles for money labeled with different religious identities.

This doesn't work as a way of demonstrating something. Is the photo a set up or something a homeless man really did? Did atheists and agnostics give more because they normally would or because of a desire to “win” in this competition? Did money move between baskets? Did the proportions change at different points during the day? How many people in each category passed by there? We simply don't know what we would need to know in order to interpret the significance of the picture.

But as a way of getting people to give money, it is a clever idea to harness the competitiveness of religious identities in this way.


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  • Brant Clements

    I saw yhis on. The HuffPo Religion Twitter feed. They asked for comments. Mine were “Manipulative and Creative.” As a panhandling strategy, if this is real, it’s pretty smart. As a commentary on the generosity of various faithbgroups, it says nothing.

  • Nick

    Did devotees of Hermeticism put in balls of lead hoping to transmute them into gold nuggets when they got home?

  • Dan Ortiz

    Your friends with God?

    btw you were mentioned here

    • James F. McGrath

      Well, on Facebook the distinction between God’s friends and God’s subscribers kind of breaks down. :-)

      Thanks for the link!

  • arcseconds

    This is up there with my other two favourite panhandling strategies, signs saying the following:

    *) “My alcohol stream has too much blood in it. Please give generously.”

    (I’m not sure how successful this is, but it has the merit of honesty, and an interesting conceptual inversion!)

    *) “Verbally abuse me: $2 / min”

  • stardreamer42

    Among other things, we don’t know how many representatives of each religion came past his location, and what percentage of each put some money in a bowl. But yes, it’s a clever approach, and would probably get a donation from me on that basis alone.

  • reynard61

    “SPIRITAL”? Never heard of that one…