Friday, May 28, 2010

"Do unto others...."

It has been observed that "ideas have consequences." It is certainly true that beliefs do. Some time ago I noted the findings of Arthur Brooks:
In 2000, religious people gave about three and a half times as much as secular people - $2,210 versus $642. And even when religious giving is excluded from the numbers, Mr. Brooks found, religious people still give $88 more per year to nonreligious charities.

He writes that religious people are more likely than the nonreligious to volunteer for secular charitable activities, give blood, and return money when they are accidentally given too much change. "There is not one measurably significant way I have ever found in which religious people are not more charitable than nonreligious people," Mr. Brooks says. "The fact is, if it weren't for religious people in your community, the PTA would shut down."
Adding to that research, a more recent study from Canada, described in a column asking "Do atheists care less?":
Last summer, Statistics Canada released a survey on Canadians and their charitable habits. While less than one in five attend church regularly, those who do are far more likely to give to charities, and are substantially more liberal in the size of their gifts to both religious and non-religious organizations. The average annual donation from a churchgoer is $1,038. For the rest of the population, $295.

With respect to volunteer effort, two-thirds of churchgoers give their time to non-profit causes while only 43 per cent of non-attendees do likewise. And churchgoers put in twice as many hours volunteering. ....

Interestingly, this past January saw the launch of a new charity specifically designed to disprove the alleged parsimony of non-believers. The Foundation Beyond Belief aims to “encourage and demonstrate the generosity and compassion of atheists and humanists.” So far, its 447 members have raised $18,760. Or about as much as 18 churchgoers give in one year. [more]
Obviously averages of this sort tell nothing about the charitable impulse of any individual: there are parsimonious churchgoers and irreligious philanthropists, but they do demonstrate one of the social goods that will likely be lost as religious belief declines.

Thanks to Norman for giving me the MacLean's article.

Do atheists care less? - Opinion -