Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Colorado Gazette on Atheism.

 
Last week (Aug. 19) The Gazette from Colorado Springs published an opinion piece on atheism [Dems dismiss the atheists: Why rude guests aren't welcome].
Imagine a world with no religion and one sees a world without the Golden Rule, devoid of most charities, hospitals and great universities. One sees hurricane recovery zones, minus all the chartered planes and buses full of churchgoers giving their time and money to rebuild homes. How many children are fed and clothed by atheist charity organizations? Approximately none.

Imagine no religion and one sees a world ruled by atheist tyrants - Pol Pot, Albania's Enver Hoxha, Stalin and Mao, to name a few - who have murdered tens of millions in modern efforts to cleanse society of religion.

American Muslims, Baptists, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Mormons, Quakers, Amish, etc., don't erect billboards saying "Imagine No Atheists." They don't advocate government force to cleanse atheist expressions and teachings from the public square. They don't imply that atheists are "irrational," even though atheists claim absolute knowledge. They don't advocate theft and desecration of atheist property, even though an atheist hero in Minnesota stole and destroyed the Catholic Eucharist.

Democrats will nominate a Christian gentleman who respects others. It's likely they didn't invite atheists to their faith service because they didn't want embarrassing guests. Atheists might bring pseudointellectual proselytizers, who are intolerant, self-aggrandizing and rude. Atheists should fund universities and hospitals. They should feed and clothe starving kids. They should act more like Christians and Jews. If they do some of that - if they contribute to a diverse humanity - they might get better party invites.
The interesting thing about this article is the bit about atheists not being charitable. Apparently atheists don't contribute money to social causes and public institutions. Hmmm ....

I urge all religious people to give money to The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—an organization founded by the two largest philanthropists of the modern age, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. Who just happen to be non-believers.

Here's an excerpt from the Wikipedia article on Bill Gates.
In 2000, the Gates Foundation endowed the University of Cambridge with $210 million for the Gates Cambridge Scholarships. The Foundation has also pledged over $7 billion to its various causes, including $1 billion to the United Negro College Fund. According to a 2004 Forbes magazine article, Gates gave away over $29 billion to charities from 2000 onwards. These donations are usually cited as sparking a substantial change in attitudes towards philanthropy among the very rich, with philanthropy becoming the norm.[53] Buffett, who was the world's second richest person,[54] announced on June 25, 2006 that he has pledged to give the foundation 10 million Berkshire Hathaway Class B shares, spread over multiple years through annual contributions.[55]

Gates announced on June 15, 2006 that he would move to a part-time role within Microsoft, leaving day-to-day operations management in July 2008 to begin a full-time career in philanthropy, but would remain as chairman and advisor.[38] Gates credited Buffett with influencing his decision to commit himself to charitable causes.[56] Days later, Buffett announced that he would begin matching Gates's contributions to the Gates Foundation of up to $1.5 billion per year in stock.[57] Buffett helped to guide the foundation to give its endowment away quickly. It became one of the few charitable organizations with a lifespan, promising to spend all of its resources and to close within 50 years of the deaths of its founders.[58]

Both Warren Buffet and Bill Gates have been ardent supporters of Planned Parenthood, a non-profit organization that receives financial support from the Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations. Planned Parenthood performs approximately 20% of all abortions in the United States. Planned Parenthood receives almost a third of its money in government grants and contracts ($336.7 million in FY 2007) with the rest coming from clinic income and donations from wealthy individuals such as Bill Gates.
Is it possible that the editors of the The Gazette don't know what they're talking about? Or is criticism like that just being rude?1


1. The organizations that I contribute to are Médecins Sans Frontières, Greenpeace (when I'm not mad at them), and Mothers Against Drunk Driving. I'm probably not going to give to MADD any more because I disagree with their position on the legal drinking age. I will not give money to any religious charity because they often use to money to support causes that I strongly disagree with.

[Hat Tip: Hemant Mehta at Friendly Atheist]

[Photo Credit: Bill Gates Kicks Ass]

28 comments :

  1. Here is where the real ignorance lies: these folks (like the ones who wrote the article) don't understand that most of us are really about free thinking (something Pol Pot and Stalin wouldn't have approved of) and going WHERE THE EVIDENCE takes us.

    It is the religious types who claim something similar to absolute knowledge, not us.

    We are apt to say "here is where the current evidence lead me".

    But it is all but useless to speak to these types of people; it is a bit like trying to discuss quantum mechanics with a frog.

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  2. Imagine no religion and one sees a world ruled by atheist tyrants[...]


    Clearly one is parading one's biases and not looking at the world as it is.

    It's too easy to flip 'atheist' into 'black' or 'Jew' and see this sort of ignorant bigotry for what it is.

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  3. Any references for Buffet/Gates being
    atheists? I didn't see any reference to that from a quick scan of their wikipedia articles.

    Another likely unpopular example would
    be the various Socialist charities in Europe. For example trade unions tend to do significant charity work and they
    are typically not religious.

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  4. They have also overlooked countries like Norway which have high atheist populations and are considered the most peaceful nations on the planet.

    http://www.visionofhumanity.org/gpi/results/rankings/2008/

    Is Bill Gates an atheist? Judge for yourself:

    http://www.celebatheists.com/index.php?title=Bill_Gates

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  5. I'm an atheist, but I suspect they may have somewhat of a point. Are there any atheist charitable organizations? Individuals don't count, and neither do secular organizations that have no religious affiliation. Neither of them have much to do with the reputation of atheists as a charitable group.

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  6. I don't think atheists are "organized" enough yet to have charitable organizations... or maybe there are secular organizations that are run by atheists but don't advertise the fact.

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  7. Are there any atheist charitable organizations? Individuals don't count, and neither do secular organizations that have no religious affiliation.

    The Gazette allows comments for discussion of the article, and there you can find my responses to the opinion piece author, Wayne Laugesen, on this issue. By stating that atheists must enact charity "as a community," he, and the anonymous poster on this page, penalize atheists for not being exclusionary. Atheists contribute through secular agencies, and sometimes even through religious agencies. To use this as an argument against them is topsy-turvy. It is to say that exclusionism is laudable. I say that it is not.

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  8. If you read the comments following the opinion piece, you will also find that I took Laugesen to task for the out-of-context and misleading Einstein quotes.

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  9. or maybe there are secular organizations that are run by atheists but don't advertise the fact.

    There are even religious organizations that are run by atheists but don't advertise the fact. E.g. Mother Teresa's charities.

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  10. I suspect that the author is referring to the research of Arthur Brooks
    and his book Who Really Cares. As summarized by Michael Shermer, Brooks discovered that in the USA, "religious conservatives donate 30 percent more money than liberals and nonreligious people (even when controlled for income), they give more blood and log more volunteer hours; religious people are four times more generous than secularists to all charities, 10 percent more munificent to non-religious charities, and 57 percent more likely than a secularist to help a homeless person."

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  11. Good to see Hitler dropped off the list of "atheist tyrants".

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  12. I grew up in Colorado Springs, within a stone's throw of Focus on the Family, was indoctrinated by evangelical Christians, had the Gazette delivered to my doorstep every morning, all the things you might associate with a CS upbringing (pausing for gasps of horrified sympathy), and let me tell you: the sort of person who writes this is in deep. He is participating in a collective social fantasy constructed and carefully controlled by churches and religious "mentors". In this fantasy, taking a position is so obvious and easy because all religious people (well, Christians and Jews at least) are Good and all atheists (and other religions) are Evil - no pesky gray areas to worry about - and that's exactly how he likes it and I suspect he will never leave Colorado Springs because of the mental trauma that the breaking of this fantasy would cause.

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  13. Religious folk are a bunch of liars and hypocrites.

    They have no shame!

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  14. Religious people give their money to religious organizations. In turn these religious organizations buy art, precious metals and other valuable items and adorn their churches and temples with them. Because they are a charitable organization these purchases can and are carefully hidden away in the accounting records. Atheists give their money to organizations that use it to help the poor and needy of the world. Atheists do not spend their money glorifying themselves as do all of the religious organizations. Have you heard of many atheist organizations? Of course not, they are too busy helping people and they don't glorify themselves constantly. Have you heard of many religious organizations? Of course, all the time, because they do nothing but glorify themselves.

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  15. Another imbalance that may not be taken into account in the data mentioned by Schermer is the ratio of religious people in this country to avowed atheists -- 30% of a given local atheist population may only be 3 people whereas 30% of a given religious population could be 400 people.

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  16. Here is where the real ignorance lies: these folks (like the ones who wrote the article) don't understand that most of us are really about free thinking (something Pol Pot and Stalin wouldn't have approved of) and going WHERE THE EVIDENCE takes us.

    This is one reason I would describe my primary commitment to be "freethought" (in the broad, literal sense) or "rational skepticism" -- a process or attitude of which personal atheism happens to be the result. To identify primarily as atheist would be to apply a label which fails to capture a great deal of what is important to and about my stance, fails to differentiate me from some pretty obnoxious people, and runs the risk of creating just one more "tribe" for me and others to practice in-group/out-group behaviour over.

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  17. "Religious people give their money to religious organizations. In turn these religious organizations buy art, precious metals and other valuable items and adorn their churches and temples with them. Because they are a charitable organization these purchases can and are carefully hidden away in the accounting records."

    When I was a kid I went to Mexico, and our family went to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The church was in the midst of a restoration project, shoring it up because it was constantly sinking into the soft soil of lake landfill. As part of the project they were re-gilding the entire wall behind the altar. It was beautiful, but in the meantime there were poor people suffering from the ravages of poverty and illness going up to communion. So, did the people who donated to re-gild the sanctuary count their gifts as "charity?"

    I also wonder in the figures of how people report their charity, when tithing is considered charitable giving. Who benefits from the MegaChurches? The MegaPreachers, of course.

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  18. Hmmmm, there seems to be alot of what religious folk would call "self-righteousness" in the responses to this post...

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  19. Imagine a world without the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Reconquista, the annihilation of Native American and other aboriginal peoples. ~sigh~ How much better off we'd be without religion.

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  20. Imagine a world without the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Reconquista, the annihilation of Native American and other aboriginal peoples. ~sigh~ How much better off we'd be without religion.

    That's a good rejoinder to the original slander, but I think both claims reflect a rather shallow reading of history and humanity.

    On the "good about religion" side, the mere fact that he can appeal to things like hospitals and other Good Works shows that we don't need divine wisdom to see that those are good things to have - and therefore rationally set about building them. On the "bad about religion" side, well, lots of fights are about resources or other conflicting interests. We would still have those even without ideologies; there would just be one less tool to use to stir up tribalism and demonize the Other.

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  21. Bill gates donates to the united negro college fund- dun know!!

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  22. Eamon; talking about the good that religion has done is akin to mentioning that the nazis did good things.

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  23. "talking about the good that religion has done is akin to mentioning that the nazis did good things."

    Yes, but the Nazis did some good things because they were Christians. The terrible things were carried out because they were atheists.

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  24. Religious people give their money to religious organizations. ...Atheists give their money to organizations that use it to help the poor and needy of the world.

    These statements are both correct but misleading in context. According to the Brooks research (in the USA), religious people are four times more generous than secularists to all charities, 10 percent more munificent to non-religious charities, and 57 percent more likely than a secularist to help a homeless person.

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  25. "I'm an atheist, but I suspect they may have somewhat of a point. Are there any atheist charitable organizations? "

    The answer is: because atheists are not trying to make new converts. Theists are.

    If you look at the "education program" of the Catholic Church in Africa for instance, you'll note that a big part of their program is the study of the Bible and Catholic doctrines. Why do you think that is?

    The reason these people are so involved in charities is because these allow them to get loads of new converts in return. That's it! Don't look any further!

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  26. The reason these people are so involved in charities is because these allow them to get loads of new converts in return. That's it! Don't look any further!

    Look no further indeed. You might actually discover some facts, such as the fact (uncovered by the Brooks research) that religious people give more (per capita and adjusted for income) to secular charities than secularists do.

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  27. The problem is that atheists, despite protests to the contrary, want to be considered as a group. Their leaders encourage it. They have symbols to give themselves an identity, meeting places, many websites to support their cause (such as this one), and emergent leaders of a sort. The main reason for the existence of this group is to oppose other religious groups, for political and other reasons. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. However, if they want to be a real political force, they need to be concerned about their reputation as a group. They can be united in their opposition to religious nonsense of various types, but they can't then just disavow their unity when criticized as a group for other reasons (such as charity). Comparisons with the groups they oppose will inevitably be made.

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  28. Think of atheists like... blacks. Not the greatest example, but best off the top of my head. They will share some commonalities (especially antitheists), but they will have differant politics, morality, etc. Not all atheists are fully rational after all.

    As for religious people giving more... you know that atheist doctors work more amoung the poor per capita than religious ones, even though most religions have the whole "help the poor message"?

    http://pressesc.com/news/80931072007/atheist-doctors-more-likely-care-poor-religious-ones

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