In recent Free Thinking blogs, Justin Trottier and Ron Lindsay have both looked at charitable giving by the non religious. For their comments and the discussion that follows, go to Justin’s blog, “Do Atheists Care Less? Yes, says MacLean’s Magazine” and Ron’s blog, “Should We Support SHARE?”
While I agree with the material presented by Justin and Ron that non religious people should and do support charities that help the less fortunate among us, I would contend that through our outreach programs especially our local branches and campus groups, we are already serving the most underserved segment of our population.
Quoting myself from the spring fundraising message I wrote for CFI Indiana:
Sixteen percent of Americans check “none” on surveys when asked their religious affiliation. This is the fastest growing religious demographic. As Americans continue to leave the churches, synagogues, and mosques, where will they go to find community? Will we be ready to meet the challenge?
Whether it is the person leaving religion for the first time who is just looking for someone to talk with, a family who is trying to raise its children with secular values while surrounded by the constant proselytizing of family and neighbors, a person looking for intellectually stimulating discussions, or someone who just wants to enjoy a cup of coffee on Sunday morning where they can express their opinions about science and religion in a safe atmosphere, CFI Indiana is an oasis.
According to the information presented in Justin’s blog (based on Canadian statistics), the average annual charitable donation from weekly churchgoers is $1,038 compared to $295 for the rest of the population. However, as Justin states, the majority of that amount goes to charities whose only stated purpose is “the advancement of religion.” Also, as Justin and the people who commented on his blog point out, when any of us non religious people volunteer our time or make donations to secular charities, we are not asked (and shouldn’t be )to state our religious beliefs. Nor is there a box to check (and there shouldn’t be) on our income tax form to indicate whether or not we are religious so that our deductions for charitable gifts can be noted as coming from a non religious person.
Therefore, there is no way to have an accurate count of the amount donated by the non religious. Maybe, this is a moot point. Why do we need to make comparisons with the amount of donations given by religious people? However, one way to make your donation known as coming from a non religious person is to donate through a fund such as SHARE .
The point I am emphasizing is that if religious people are lauded for their contributions to “the advancement of religion” why shouldn’t we take credit for offering services to the least served in our society—those who are not religious? No one else is going to do it.