Positive Atheism Forum: Why Are There No Atheist Charities? with Christi Habrock

June 18, 1999

This letter raises questions which may not be as challenging as they are common misnomers. Please respond to it and I will forward all the initial responses to the writer and post them in the Forum section.

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I have a question. I’m hoping you will help me with this. I attend a Methodist Church in Oklahoma. Recently an article and picture entitled “The face of Atheism in Oklahoma” was on the front page of the Daily Oklahoman this week. The pastor of the church wrote about this subject in our weekly newsletter.

One of the things he asked — I quote — “Look around and see if you see any caring, supportive, atheist sponsored groups. I do see countless, Christian Groups: Churches, hospitals, nursing homes, Boy’s Rance, Salvation Army, Good Will industries, Skyline Urban Ministries, Cookson Center, Feed the Children, Hope Center, Compassionate Hands, Fracis Willard Home for girls, United Methodist Children’s homes, Home for Unwed Mothers, and countless other mission groups serving the need of people. God inspires good in his people.”

So I asked myself, Do I see anything of this nature? No, I don’t. But then again, is atheism a religion? Or is just a choice, that families grow up with, Such as my religion is? And if it is just a choice, are there any supportive atheist sponsored groups?

I feel everyone has the right to practice freedom of religion. They also have the right to believe in what they want. But I would like to point out to my pastor your supportive sponsored groups. Would you be willing to send me a list of these groups? I would print them, and show to him. Just because some have chosen a different way of life, or belief. That they do make a difference in this world.

Christi Habrock


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Although I normally take a crack at these questions, I’m going to pass on this one, having addressed it several times in the Forum (for example, see my rather terse discussion in “Let’s Go To The Atheist Page Just For Laughs” with Rich Zawadzki). Besides, I’d just as soon hear what you have to say about it. Whatever your response, all we ask is that you provide us with strong reasons to go along with your opinion.

Cliff Walker
“Positive Atheism” Magazine

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From: “Monica Harris”
To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: Re: Question: “No caring atheist groups”?
Date: Saturday, June 19, 1999 9:36 AM

Just because an atheist does not believe in “God” does not indicate that they do not have a commitment to the well being of other people. In fact, the atheistic perspective indicates a strong affirmation of humanity, without passing the buck of responsibility to the intangible concept of a Deity.

The atheistic people I know are educators and healers, artists and social activists and scientists who develop new systems that benefit people, both atheists and religious afficionados. They are, if anything, more firmly invested in benefitting humanity as a whole than the religious folks I know who are selective about who benefits from their efforts, preferring members of their own group or prospective “converts,” and shunning the “disbelievers.”

The misconception about atheists, that they are “against God” and all that this stands for, here extrapolated to assume they are against people and do no good works to benefit others, is just more of the same propaganda against anyone who stands out against a System that is structured to keep the little cogs in line, grinding out money for The Big Machine. And there’s no better way to accomplish this than through organized religion.

Monica A. Harris

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From: Timothy Gorski MD
To: “Positive Atheism”
Sent: Sunday, June 20, 1999 6:07 PM
Subject: Re: Question: “No caring atheist groups”?

Hello Cliff:

Try this:

Concerning Christian Charity
by Dr. Tim Gorski, Pastor
The North Texas Church of Freethought
(first printed in Positive Atheism, July, 1999)

Christian apologists often insist that their religion promotes extraordinary generosity and altruism. As proof, they point to Christian-sponsored hospitals, clinics, schools, colleges, homeless shelters, halfway houses, and other educational and charitable organizations. “And where are the atheist hospitals?” they tauntingly ask. “We don’t see any atheist programs to help the poor and needy,” they jeer.

But these claims are far weaker than they may appear. In Muslim countries, for example, there are Muslim schools and charities. In countries dominated by Buddhists we see Buddhist institutions. Even in Cuba, there are schools, hospitals, and public aid organizations, a fact that is frequently pointed to by apologists for Castro. So why should it be thought unusual that, where Christians are to be found in great numbers, there also are to be found Christian-sponsored charitable organizations?

Then there is the history of Christianity in the West. As recently as a few hundred years ago, it was dangerous, if not fatal, to so much as openly doubt Christian theological doctrines. That is the practical form that “Christian love” and “Christian charity” has taken for the overwhelming part of its history. Its ferocity was only moderated by the innovative principle of state-church separation, a principle still denied and denounced by the most energetic of Christian zealots. How, then, can special merit be accorded to Christianity? What is so singularly virtuous about doing what others are forcibly prevented from doing? And how honest and principled is it, given these circumstances, for Christians to claim exceptional virtue for themselves while disparaging their historical victims?

Even today, unbelievers are relentlessly reviled by many Christian leaders. Consider the following recent statements by U.S. leaders:

Given the context of Christians’ past and current treatment of those with contrary religious opinions, it is outrageous for anyone to point to Christian educational and charitable organizations as “proof” that Christianity excels at promoting compassion and humanitarianism. Those who make such fraudulent claims are like those who said, a century ago and more, that the absence of blacks and women in political office or other positions of responsibility “proved” that they lacked the character and intellect to vote or pursue professional careers. Then, as now, faith-blinded Christian apologists who are unwilling or unable to think excel in circular reasoning and question-begging, not in generosity or human feeling.

If Christianity were so spectacularly marked by the urge to give to others without asking anything in return, Christian institutions would have done far more than they have. As it is, almost all religious hospitals, clinics, schools, and colleges charge and collect fees that are the same as, or very little different than, similar non-religious organizations. Those associated with religious groups may receive modest or token subsidies, either in the form of cash from generous believers (and unbelievers!) or in the form of free labor provided by an order of monks, nuns, priests, and other volunteers. But the secular organizations engaged in the same activities manage not only to survive without such help but pay taxes to the state and dividends to their shareholders as well. A reasonable person would conclude that the religiously-affiliated schools and hospitals, far from being praiseworthy examples of altruism, are, in fact, inefficient and wasteful of money and resources.

Of course, shelters for the homeless and battered women, food banks, soup kitchens, and the like do not charge fees. They survive, almost without exception, on a variety of grants. Most often, these are government grants. But this is no less true of organizations affiliated with religious groups as with those that are not. Catholic Charities, for example, gets the majority of its funding from taxpayers. Charitable organizations also rely on the United Way and other funding sources that draw on society generally rather than on adherents of any specific religion. Even the bell-ringing Salvation Army “Santas” rely on the ordinary generosity of people generally, and not just on that of theologically-correct Christians. Meanwhile, just as in the case of schools and hospitals, these religious-affiliated charitable organizations enjoy special advantages. Virtually all of them own land and other untaxed properties. In many cases, they enjoy streams of income from these assets as well as other unrelated activities, all of which are also untaxed. This represents a large subsidy from Christians and non-Christians alike, even for those religious organizations that do not receive outright grant monies from the taxpayers.

It is arguable whether such subsidies are a good value for the benefits received, even if they were not unconstitutional violations of state/church separation. But they are subsidies nonetheless. It is an abuse of the facts, of reason, and of the spirit in which these subsidies are given for anyone to claim that the success of the recipient organizations demonstrate the superiority of the religions with which they are affiliated. More importantly, it illustrates the wisdom of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which was intended to prevent this diversion of public funds to the support of religious proselytization.

This brings us to the most disturbing feature of religious “charities.” For they are not motivated primarily by a compassionate desire to alleviate human suffering or the generous inclination to advance the cause of human happiness. This was well shown by many of the pronouncements of one of the most celebrated of Christian charitable leaders, the late, but still revered “Mother Theresa,” who said: “I think it is very good when people suffer. To me, that is like the kiss of Jesus...” The same fundamental indifference both to human suffering and happiness is at the root of Christian groups’ opposition not only to abortion but also to birth control and assisted reproductive technologies. Nowhere is this better shown than when religious charities are forced to choose between humanitarianism and their own theological teachings. Holy spirits beat flesh and blood human beings every time.

Thus the chief motivation for Christian “charity” is not love of humanity at all. It is love of Christian dogmas and doctrines. For Christian teachings do not hold that good works are good in themselves. Rather, good works merely serve to show the inward theological correctness that Christians believe is necessary to win entry into heaven and escape damnation. Good works are merely the “signs and wonders” that prove Christianity’s divine authority. Most of all, good works are the bait to lure potential converts and the cost of being “saved.” All of which demonstrates not that the Christian religion is morally superior, but that it is morally bankrupt.

Meanwhile, it turns out that there are secular schools, hospitals, clinics, homeless shelters, and other charities that do without Christian theology and Christian “morals.” In fact, there are two varieties of them. There are those sponsored by various government agencies. And there are the previously mentioned private organizations, both non-profit and for-profit. Both public and private secular institutions have been far more successful at alleviating human suffering and promoting human happiness than any religion has ever been.

It is true, of course, that the funds extracted from taxpayers to pay for many of these secular programs are collected under threat of civil and criminal law. For this reason, it is often said that no moral credit ought to be imputed for the work they do. Yet religious organizations also depend on monies collected through taxation. Nor do they ever tire in seeking a greater share of it. It cannot be more praiseworthy for Christian charitable groups to spend these funds than for the government or a private secular organization to spend them. In fact, the opposite is the case. For the charitable Christian groups’ interest is primarily in advancing the Christian religion with humanitarianism a distant secondary goal. In addition, however unworthy the tool of taxation may be, traditional Christian methods of collecting money, property, and treasure are far worse. The power of the state, after all, is obviously limited. But Christians claim that those who do not cooperate with them will suffer eternal torture in hellfire.

Not long ago, Christians enthusiastically delivered those who failed to cooperate to earthly flames well in advance of the alleged hellfire. But this is not what most of us today think of as generosity, charity, and loving-kindness.

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From: Bob Thompson
To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: No caring Atheist groups
Date: Tue, 15 Jun 1999 11:04:25 -0700

The question posed by Christi is an interesting twist on whether Atheists are as caring as Christians and I would hope that the Methodist pastor who used this proposition is fair-minded enough to similarly ask how many atrocities in the world are attributed to Christians or Atheists. But that is an old argument.

You needn’t be in a group to make you a caring person. But if groups are important as an indicator towards charity, you will find many Atheists in service clubs such as Lions and Rotary. In fact a part of their charter is for members to avoid sectarian interests and just concentrate on doing good. There are other organizations such as Meals on Wheels, drug support groups, etc. that abound with Atheist serving their communities.

Indeed it is a shame that a man of the church wishes to divide caring people into categories rather than trying to unite them. But that’s his job.

Bob Thompson
Bribie Island, Australia

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From: [unsigned]

I would say that religion and caring groups are separate entities. There are religious folks who are involved in caring groups and there are atheists that are involved in caring groups. It is the person who does the caring, and that person who cares hopefully cares in a genuine fashion and not because he is brainwashed or guilt-ridden into it by a religious affiliation. Caring and caring groups should have no bearing on the religion of either the caregivers nor the cared for. How about that American concept of non-discrimination based on race, religion blah blah? How caring are those religious groups who turn their back on those in need of another affiliation, or those in need who have no affiliation? In fact, atheists care as humans for other humans who are being misled, misdirected, misinformed and misused by their money generating control freak religious leaders.

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From: “Lynne”
To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: FORUM: Why Are There No Atheist Charities?
Date: Friday, July 06, 2001 6:57 PM

Oh, but there are! We must remember though, that atheism as we know it is fairly modern AND we are still a small minority in most areas so we don’t have the numbers of people and therefore also not the funds that Christian groups have for such activities. Here is my list:

Atheist Centre of India
The Atheist Centre was founded in 1940 by the Gora family, who were associated with Ghandi and the nationalist movement for freedom. They provide counseling, are fighting against the caste system and for the abolition of child marriages, helping ex-prostitutes, and protecting widows from inhumane customs. They also dispell superstitions by scientific demonstrations, and are asked to calm witchcraft hysterias. They provide sex education and family planning, are carrying on a rural development program, and have a center for free cornea grafting operations which is giving sight to the blind.

Atheist Charity
This is a new, small charity run by atheist volunteers. They currently give money to other charities for the poor, are involved in forming a non-discriminatory alternative to the Boy Scouts, and later will start natural disaster relief projects.

Earth’s Atheist Resistance To Holy Wars And Religious Devastation gives humanitarian aid to victims of religiously motivated violence. I’m chair and co-founder.

Dutch organization for social care an community development, based upon humanistic principles with projects in the fields of child-care, elderly homes, support for the homeless, care for the disabled, visiting and empowering the lonely, and grief counseling.

Humanist Institute for Cooperation with Developing Countries
Hivos is an organisation working to promote: democracy; economic development; cultural development; human rights, including equal rights for women, in the developing countries of Africa, Asia, Latin-America and South-east Europe. It also combats poverty and the spread of AIDS in those areas.

Furthermore, humanist organizations such as the International Humanist and Ethical Union at
have been cooperating with the U.N. in promoting global human rights and social progress. Several people named Humanists of the Year by the AHA (American Humanist Association) at
have been leaders in the U.N. and/or helped draft human rights documents.

Considering our small numbers and the fact that atheism has not had 2,000 years to get organized, I don’t think we are doing too badly.

— Lynne (aka Godlessheathen)

EARTHWARD, Inc. (Earth’s Atheist Resistance To Holy Wars And Religious Devastation)
Want the National Atheist Ombuds to publicize your complaint?
Current Status of America’s Wall of Church-State Separation
The Godlessheathen Home Page

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From: “Positive Atheism”
To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: Re Way are there no atheist charities?
Date: Sunday, July 08, 2001 1:57 AM

Wow, Very good question. It seems as if everyone is dodging it though, so I will attempt a short and direct answer in two parts.

1. If you’re looking for the Young Atheist Children’s Hospital, your not going to find it. The answer why is simple. It can be found by observing the trials an Atheist has to endure once he comes out of the closet to his Christian friends.

With all due respect to the gay folks, it’s a bit like what they go through. No good Christian (or very few anyway) will send their kids to Atheist daycare. Same with a Muslim or a Jew. Look how they’re leaving the public schools in droves saying it has no religious requirements. Any charity known to be supported by Atheists would be shunned and other donations would cease to come in.

2. Atheist charities are hidden from view. Each person I know that is an atheist gives heavily to charities. They make no distinction between religious or non-religious. They simply give. It comes from the heart not through the churches “suggestion”. To me this is the far more noble ideal.

Tell me, can you distinguish a “Christian donation” from an “Atheist donation”? The people I know that do this give far more than the Christians I know and do it in an anonymous fashion. The way I feel it should be done. Selfless and unknown.

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From: “Duval Cellai”
To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: PA-via_Positive_Atheism_Index
Date: Tuesday, July 17, 2001 2:07 AM

There are at least three charitable groups that were founded by Atheists and they are still operating as of now or have been turned over to non-religionist persons and are still growing. The works are more important than taking credit for the works and many that work as well as volunteer donot even know. That is the way it should be rather than to beg in the name of some made up deity.

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From: Duval Cellai
To: Positive Atheism Magazine
Sent: Wednesday, July 25, 2001 3:45 PM
Subject: Athiest Charities

Please put this in your files and try not to spread this around as the good that they have done could be lost by the bigots. Non-believers started the first visiting nurse service in New York about 100 years ago. The Henry Street settlement house was also started in NYC about 100 years ago. A childrens hospital in Valhalla, NY was built about 60 years ago, I have forgotten the name. Many have since passed into public domain without a mention as to who began these organizations. If the religious public were to be made fully aware of the original founders of these organizations they might suffer reprisals or be claimed by the religious.

D. Cellai

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From: “Galen Malick”
To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: FORUM: Why Are There No Atheist Charities?
Date: September 12, 2001 7:27 PM

It is not realistic to expect to see any major atheist charities any time soon. Atheism is not popular enough. I think it is a shame that churches incorporate religion into charity at all.

Personally, I prefer to donate time rather than money. It often gives me a direct connection to the people who are in need. I recently donated my time at a charity-sponsored construction site. There was no mention of any church sponsorship when I signed up, but when I got there, the crew insisted on a group prayer. Once that prayer was uttered, my direct connection to the people in need was broken. Whether I joined in the prayer or not, the mood was set that I was now an agent of the church. Why does it need to be that way?

My experience has left me wary of donating to any large organization. How can I be sure that my money is going to help people with no strings attached?

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From: “Charlene Dryer”
To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: Atheist Charities (Forum)
Date: August 29, 2001 5:18 PM

Dear Cliff and readers:

Although this is not timely, it is something I and others have been working on so I would like to respond to Christi Habrock’s question from 1999 RE: “Why are there no atheist charities?”

First, I first would state that the question should be “Why are there religious charities?”

My suggestion is that the primary reason most religious charities (like most religious anything) exist is to propagate their particular religion. I believe that a secondary reason they exist is as monuments to themselves and to convince others of their good ness and rightness. They do not exist to relieve or alleviate any suffering of any needy person unless that needy person accepts their particular belief.

If not for the fact that the running of their charities advertises and proselytizes their particular religion or sect, these organizations would cease to exist. Please note the recent articles in the newspaper to the effect that religious charity organizers are complaining bitterly about and trying to eliminate restrictions that prevent them from proselytizing and advertising their religious affiliation through the posting of slogans, etc. on the walls. E.g., they refuse to run their charities as secular (non-religious) organizations even if paid to do it with tax money!

I am working in this field and have documented many case histories of homeless, hungry, abused people being denied services by religious “charities” for refusing to thank gawd for receiving their food, shelter, counseling(?), clothing, or whatever the need happened to be.

From just this representative smattering of case studies, I believe there are hundreds if not thousands who have swallowed the lump in their throat and prayed, mouthed acceptance of the ludicrous proposition that an invisible gawd was somehow responsible for the appearance of the food, shelter, clothing etc. given to the victim, uh, I mean recipient.

I have also discovered that some of the most disgusting abuses have come from the religious charities (which I will not name in this post) that have already been receiving federal taxpayer funding for years.

So my first point is that most religious charities do not exist to benefit the recipients of their service, but rather exist to find a captive audience of victims to whom they may proselytize ad nauseum who must make a choice between accepting the much needed service and sacrificing the integrity of their beliefs.

Atheists, freethinkers, and humanists have no such ulterior motives to promote or establish charities. Atheists, freethinkers, and humanists are not selfishly motivated to work for their position in an afterlife by pushing others to believe as they do. Atheists, freethinkers, and humanists do not and have historically used their positions to force others to believe as they do.

Therefore, my second point would be that if an atheist, freethought, or humanist charity would currently exist as such, it is more likely than not that no one would ever know. As a rule, atheists have not advertised themselves or worn badges or banners to proclaim their beliefs.

If all charities are either “religious” or “atheist” I believe that many atheist charities already exist today. The meaning of atheism is the lack of a belief in a god or gods. Any charity that exists independent of a requirement that its participants and recipients of services have a belief or profess a belief in a god or gods would be by definition an “atheist” charity. We traditionally call them “secular” charities, and there are plenty of them here in California.

Here in California we have a couple of shelters, at least one food bank, and two or three places that provide clothing to people who are being released from jail or coming out of recovery from alcohol or drug addiction that do not require a profession of religion, acceptance of religion, or thanking of gawd for receiving services.

Atheists (as well as freethinkers and humanists) as a whole are just basically not obvious, obnoxious, “up in your face” types of people. Although this is one of the qualities I like the most about these groups, I believe that given the current agenda of the Religious Right, all atheists, freethinkers, and humanists must unite to change this.

I am currently working with others who believe as I do to activly start and promote “Atheist Charities” openly identified as such. This is not for the purpose of atheists pushing their non-belief on another person as a condition of accepting a benefit, but to cure the ignorance and misconception of millions of people like Christi Habrock who believe that there are no caring, support ive, compassionate atheist organizations.

In conclusion, I would like to leave readers with another question. How “compassionate and caring” is a “charitable” organization which purports to provide shelter for the homeless that would throw a man in a wheelchair out into the rain for refusing to attend religious services as an example to the other 50 or 60 men staying there? This is a documented incident from a well known national religious “charity” that has been receiving taxpayer funds for many years!

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From: “Oshansky, Lisa C.”
To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: FORUM Why Are There No Atheist Charities
Date: October 17, 2001 4:34 PM

First, let’s not confuse true generosity with the concept of religious “indulgence”(for lack of a better term). Many people will donate great amounts of money so that they appear benevolent and generous. Some feel that donating a lot of money will buy them a place in heaven.

Second, it is so much easier to give donations of money and expect others take action, than to actually go out and take action yourself. Also I have read “accounts” which may or may not be true of millions of dollars donated to Mother Theresa’s charity. This money is apparently sitting in Mother’s accounts rather than going to the very cause she championed. Now, as a skeptic, I know not to believe everything I read, but it certainly merits investigation into whether or not donated money actually goes to the cause for which it was intended or just lines the pockets of larger entities.

Third, let us not forget the astounding contributions made to humanity by nonbelievers, often at the risk of their own lives. Alone and with the majority against them, they forged ahead to make this world better for all of us (believers included). The contributions are too numerous to mention. I’d like to see the list of contributions which religious leaders and fundamentalists have made to the long-term betterment of humanity (as opposed to the promotion of a specific religious dogma). This would be a very short list, I think.

As atheists we will be looked down upon and reviled because we don’t “follow the fold.” We buck the system. We should thank those before us who were so brave; we should live by their example.

Lisa Oshansky

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Added: March 9, 2002

From: [unsigned]
To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: FORUM: Why Are There No Atheist Charities?
Date: January 11, 2002 10:00 AM

Churches asking where are the non-theists’ charities? This is a meaningless question, a semantic trick, a red herring, a blind alley we should not be drawn into.

There are various musicians’ association charities; why no Non-Musicians’ Charity? There are many black charities; why no Non-Black Charity? There’s a Gardener’s Scholarship Fund; why no Non-Gardeners’ Fund?

People don’t tend to form groups based on their non-ness. Non-theists, along with non-musicians, non-blacks, non-gardeners, contribute as individuals according to their interests, skills, and philosophies.

Who’s going to add up nontheist blood and dollars donated after 9/11? It would dwarf many religious groups. My Humanist family took a huge cut in income for three years so I could devote myself fully to a critical volunteer need. Ted Turner’s rational humanism caused him to donate millions to Afghan women’s reproductive care after 9/11 (Afghanistan has highest fertility rate in Asia, triggering much of the suffering).

I see no way nontheists can ever get “credited” for our tremendous good works as a body; most of it will have to come as individuals. What we CAN do is publicly praise nontheist heroes of many causes, as AHA does. Next time you see a letter bashing Turner, write one in praise. And you silent heroes out there, don’t sit around waiting for someone to praise you. Set aside some humility for a greater good and let others know of your work. Mention how your particular nontheistic philosophy inspired you. Get a friend to call your local reporter for a profile, or nominate you for a community award. That doesn’t come natural to many of us, but it’s needed.

There is danger in coming out of the closet, which could restrict our good works. My charitable work would have been less effective if my nontheism were widely known. But now that I’m more established, I’m increasingly open. Some risk is worth the long-term good (though I’m still too fearful to give my name here. Give me time.).

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From: “Jonathan Laman”
To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: FORUM Why Are There No Atheist Charities
Date: Monday, July 23, 2001 7:59 AM

Dear Christi Habrock,

Why is 95 percent of the earth’s population delusional when it comes to the belief in the existence of the supernatural. Why does everyone feel so righteous when they are somehow connected to the thought of a god. I’m not waging a war with Christianity but apparently but those of us who don’t get up every Sunday morning and dress up for God have something very wrong with us. Why is it that a man who thinks he can talk to his dead grandmother sure to be committed to a mental hospital, but a person who leads an entire group in a prayer to the ceiling (to what they all think is a dead man) is revered as a man of character and wisdom.

The very simple reason why atheists don’t have “absence of god” charity groups is the same reason that there are not “absence of magical elves” charity groups. It is simply not a group-forming belief. I don’t form relationships on the basis that there isn’t a god. Of course this is the opposite with Christians. Whenever I mention my belief around a Christian they are generally disgusted by me and for some reason looked down upon. What is the deal with that? I’m not the one who is delusional!

I personally, being an atheist, am one of the most caring and generous people you will ever meet and I exemplify this in the relationships that I form and the way I conduct myself in my everyday life. I simply do not find the belief in a god to be necessary to still have compassion for those in need.

Jonathan Laman
Memphis, TN

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From: [unsigned]
To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: FORUM Why Are There No Atheist Charities
Date: Friday, March 02, 2001 5:50 PM

I my self give to many charities, but they are Christian. So I as an atheist will not get counted.

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From: “Mark R. Hatlie”
To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: FORUM Why Are There No Atheist Charities
Date: Thursday, July 12, 2001 2:00 PM

I would like to add one more point that has not been mentioned so far.

There are few if any explicitly atheist charities. But any and all charities that are not explicitly associated with religion could be considered atheist. They do not accredit their works to a religion or to a god. They are essentially “godless” (“a-theist”).

So any non-sectarian child-care institution, nursery school, clinic, hospital, soup kitchen, foundation, environmental organization etc., is “atheist”. Such organizations either do not see the need to emphasize that fact (a negation not being the center of what they are about), or, sometimes they might fear the often-mentioned stigma that would come if they used the “A-word”.

Going further, one could even argue that some of the biggest charities around — government programs — are “atheist”, despite the fact that the membership and the financial backers correspond to the religious majority in the country: These public charities include the HUD, Social Security, the U.S. Military, in many situations, the Environmental Protection Agency, the FDA etc. Even municipally run hospitals, nursing homes, children’s shelters, and the like are “godless”, but they all do good “works”. The “religionlessness” of the situation is changing, but for the time being, these institutions are godless qua institutions.

M. Hatlie

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From: “Jeff”
To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: FORUM Why Are There No Atheist Charities
Date: Thursday, July 12, 2001 2:08 PM

Re the Oklahoma Methodist minister and others asserting the same canard:

If he would prefer, I’ll start checking religious affiliations before spending my atheistic, charitable dollar. Hmmm! Now I ponder it! I wonder if these sanctimoniously overendowed theists would be willing to refuse my dollar?


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From: “Gaudencio P. Tan”
To: “Positive Atheism”
Sent: Thursday, March 22, 2001 2:10 PM
Subject: Re: FORUM Why Are There No Atheist Charities

For me, people who are christians who believed in God has love in their hearts. Because God is love. These are the people who would be kind enough to help people who are in need. Because God has died for me, how can I repay him? At least I should do good works. Eph.2:10. And because this is the second greatest commandment of all in the Bible which Jesus has said, Love thy neighbor as yourself. Matt.22:34-40. And I have not heard of any atheist sponsor group that helps people here in the Philippines.

Gaudencio P. Tan

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“Ultimately, There Is Nothing To Atheism.”

From: “O’Toole, Brian”
To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: RE: Why Are There No Atheist Charities?
Date: February 27, 2002 3:55 PM

There are no atheist charities for the same reason that there are no atheist churches or atheist scriptures or atheist icons, etc. Although in the context of a believing culture we experience atheism to be an affirmation (of the simple, uncomplicated truth), it is ultimately a negation (of a preposterous lie that will someday exist only as an anthropological relic, if we survive.)

Ultimately, there is nothing to atheism. Ultimately, it’s ridiculous to have to deny something for which there is no evidence whatsoever. It is only necessary because the lie has such a powerful hold on the culture.

Since it is purely a negation, atheism is not the basis for anything. Individual atheists need associate only to assist each other in the promotion of the concept of atheism (the negation of theism). There is no reason for atheists to associate — as atheists — for any other purpose.

Does that mean that a group of individuals that happen to be predominantly atheistic cannot come together to form an altruistic institution? Of course not! It just means that there is no reason to identify the institution as “atheistic” since it is not atheism that underlies the altruism. The same is not true of religious charities.

Does this mean that atheists are less likely to be altruistic than believers? No. The current question can be answered without arguing that point. No need to get defensive!

Brian O’Toole

Graphic Rule

From: [unsigned]
To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: FORUM Why Are There No Atheist Charities
Date: Saturday, July 07, 2001 5:46 AM

There seems to me to be a fundamental difference between those who believe or suspend disbelief and those who seek a route based on critical thinking, science, etc. Those who turn to religion tend to be much more prone to the “herd” mentality while nontheists are often non-conformists who think “outside of the box” (or realize the box never existed). The fact that would someone would call themselves an atheist in a country that generally looks down on disbelievers and blames them for society’s ills is an example of this.

Theists would be likely to start a group through their church, while non-theists that I have known help people on a personal level or act through an existing secular organization. Also, a church is a group of like-minded people while atheists hold a wide spectrum of beliefs. A religious organization would let it be known that they are a religious because they have the motive of spreading their common faith. The term “Christian” might be included in the group’s title or they might proclaim in other ways, but it would be proclaimed because spreading the message is either the primary or secondary reason for the charity’s existence.

Atheists, not having any cohesive belief system to spread and no real agenda besides the charity itself, would not be likely let it be known in any way that it was run/started by atheists.

You must also consider the fact that they are many people who proclaim themselves Christians and few who proclaim themselves atheist. The secular to religious charity ratio might be equal considering this. I don’t know the stats.

I am an nontheist. I’ve done more volunteer work than anyone else I know. One place I volunteered was a church-run homeless shelter. There were mandatory prayer and study sessions for the men or they would be kicked out. I was doing paperwork on the second day of my volunteer work when I noticed that they would not let three men into the cafeteria because the men did not believe in god and would not pray. They chipped away at their wills by bringing in plates of steaming food and eventually the men capitulated, getting on their knees and going through the motions so they would not starve. When I confronted the preacher who was in charge, I was informed that I was evil and stupid for not believing and I needed Christ. Keep in mind, that this is the man who I’d given a considerable amount of my time to.

I know that these people aren’t all Christians, but it got me thinking. What is “doing a good deed”? Is it doing something either to avoid hell or to get to heaven, or is it doing something good for no other reason other than to do something good because it is the right thing to do?

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From: “Clint O’Dell” <clint@freethoughtradio.com>
To: “’Positive Atheism Magazine’”
Subject: ‘Atheist Charities’
Date: February 08, 2002 12:07 PM

The group I’ve organized in Virginia Beach is getting involved with Meals on Wheels where every Tuesday afternoon atheist volunteers contribute two hours of their time to deliver food to those who can not cook for themselves.

There is something you can add to the list. Thanks.

Clint O’Dell

Graphic Rule

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