Would You Support a Group Like This? May 14, 2010

Would You Support a Group Like This?

Here’s a theoretical question that I was discussing with a couple friends recently.

We can see both sides of the issue, but we wanted to know how other atheists would react:

As an atheist, would you be willing to financially support an efficient and effective charity that is founded and run by a non-dogmatic religious denomination that completely renounces proselytizing?

What do you think?

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  • YES.

    If the organization is an efficient and effective charity and they do not force their own beliefs down the throats of those they are helping. Then by all means I would be happy to support them.

    The goal of charity is to help those who cannot help themselves, I don’t really care whose name it is done in.

  • Claudia

    Absolutely yes, with one caveat. If there was a fully secular charity doing the same work with the same level of effectiveness, I’d donate to that group instead.

    In fact I’d even go further and say that if there was charity work with which I wanted to collaborate monetarily and the only charities doing that work were not only religious but also proselytizing it wouldn’t stop me from donating, if I thought the money was going to the actual charity and the proselytizing wasn’t insane Pentacostal casting out demon stuff. If Catholic nuns are feeding African children and making them say Grace beforehand, the kids are still being fed. I would cheer someone starting their own secular charity, but I wouldn’t deny those kids food because the nuns were the ones feeding them.

  • I believe ALL religion removed would make the most effective organization and culture for that matter.

  • David W

    I already do – St John Ambulance is the leading first aid and public event medicine charity in the UK, and despite having a religious name and the organisation behind it (The Order of St John of Jerusalem), as an organisation itself is completely secular.

  • A group cannot completely renounce proselytizing unless it effectively conceals its religious nature. As long as that label is somewhere out there, there’s the implication of causation.

  • Lobar

    I’m curious as to what a non-dogmatic religion looks like, first.

  • RIchard Marshall

    I have a hard time accepting that any religious charity could 100% avoid proselytizing, however well intentioned. But generally, yes. The need will almost certainly outweigh the ‘risk’ if you want to call it that.

  • MonkeyBrains

    No, becouse religion still teaches people to take stuff on without evidence, rational arguments, etc.

  • Matt

    My answer is about the same as Claudia.

  • Euan

    I don’t like charity on principle, the more charities a country has the worse it’s social services are. I believe charity to be the least efficient means of helping those who need it: better to work to fix the system.

  • No, I do not support religion in any form, particularly when it is disguised as a charity. That would be supporting the false idea that altruism originates from religion, rather than from human nature.

    I give to non-religious charities only.

    And I second Euan’s point that it is better to fix the system.

  • HumanistDad

    What if the charity was being formed by a group of Trekkers (or is it Trekkies), would I donate to it?

    If this charity were registered and monitored I would likely donate. I would be assured that most of the money would go to real charity work and that the members would have little interest in making Star Trek fans out of the recipients. But, I know that some members would also likely want to give out books or show Star Trek movies and TV shows while the charity does its work.

    To me, religion is much like a Fan Club that takes itself too seriously. I just can’t see a religious charity staying away from proselytizing for very long. Since religions believe their way of living is of grave importance for this life (and the next) I can’t see them avoiding attempts to convert.

    No, I wouldn’t donate to a religious charity.

  • Casimir

    Yes, of course.

    If I wanted to analyze it, I would look at the cost/benefit: the benefit to society (the charity work) versus the cost (proselytization). That would be for a typical religious charity, for nearly all of them I would expect the benefit to outway the cost, and if they’re foreswearing proselytization the cost goes to effectively zero. (Yes there’s the idea of fungibility of funds, but at that point I’d say “Lighten up, Francis”.)

  • mthrnite

    I worked with the Baptist Men Association to build a house for a man and his son left homeless by hurricane Katrina. We were in Mississipi for a week, working, eating and sleeping together. A couple of people weren’t happy that there was a non-repentant atheist in their midst, but most welcomed me and some even came to understand my disbelief. Most importantly, someone in need got help, secondarily though, many people who had never been in such close proximity to an atheist were able to see me as a fellow human that was really no different than them, and certainly not some devil-worshipping heathen come to spoil their good works. An awful lot of talking was done that week between all of us, including a prayer circle in which I explained my disbelief and answered their questions about it. So yeah, mingle in amongst the believers where you can, join into their projects if they are above-board and sincere. Let ’em know what it’s like to be a charitable, happy, friendly atheist. (edit) sorry if this is off-topic, I kinda missed the “monetarily” part, I gave them no money, in fact they fed me really well. Some of those Southern Baptist women can really cook!

  • NewEnglandBob

    It would depend on the charity and the cause. I can not give a blanket yes or no.

  • TMJ

    Yes. Before giving to any charitable group, I always make certain that their work is something that I support, that they are non-discriminatory in both giving and hiring, and that the money I give actually goes to help the cause rather than to line the pockets or those in the organization.

  • SalmonOfDoubt

    No. Regardless of the nature of the charity, there is always a secular organization that will just as, if not more, efficiently operate.

    More over, charity is just a nod and a bandage towards a problem people don’t want to really solve, just feel good about themselves for “giving” to.

  • Jagyr

    Like a UU charity or something? Yeah, I guess I could get behind that. What I’d really be concerned with is what percentage of my donation is going directly to the needy in terms of food, medicine, etc, and what percentage is going towards buying bibles/e-meters/etc, and/or lining the coffers of a church.

    Side-story: a friend of a friend was in the paper not too long ago because he went to Haiti and was treating disaster victims with homeopathic medicine. Ugh. At least he was giving them water – better than the scientologists.

    Side-story 2: I recently declined purchasing a useful paper for a measly $1.50, because the author insisted on advertising that half of all his sales would be donated to a christian missionary charity. It looked like a decent charity, but I couldn’t bring myself to buy the paper, knowing that I was essentially making a $.75 donation to a Christian organization.

  • Benjamin

    Not only would I, but I have before for the Catholic hospital where my sister received emergency care a number of years ago. I’ve made donations to Holy Cross Hospital on an irregular basis ever since.

  • Scott Turner

    If the denomination was Unitarian, then I might support eh charity. Otherwise, I would need to know a lot more about the religion and would lean toward an atheist charity instead.

  • No.

    You’re probably implying that this religion doesn’t ‘horizontally’ proselytize, i.e., indoctrinate people it comes in contact with. But ‘vertical’ proselytizing, i.e. to members of the religion’s family, children, grand children, great grand children etc., WILL be proselytized… and that’s wrong. So, the question in nonsensical as there is no such thing as a religion that does not proselytize. A religion that has absolutely no proselytizing, bith horizontally and vertically, will die out in a generation.

    Secondly, if you define the word ‘religion’ to implies some sort of supernatural belief, then the answer to the question is “absolutely NO”. Performing silly traditions like not working on Sundays, wearing magic underpants, circumcision, being able to turn a cracked into the flesh of a man that dies 2000 years ago, may seem innocent, but can easily have terrible and unexpected implications in the future. For example, transubstantiation turns a Catholic priest into some magical witch doctor type figure in the eyes of children that aided in their pedophilia.

    Thirdly, when you say the word, “religion” you’re being divisive. This is because one person’s ‘religion’ is always better than another person’s ‘religion’. This will inevitable lead to some people refusing the services of that particular charity, which is unfair.

  • No. Uh-uh, no way, no how.

    I am sure there are many worthy charities that have a religious organization behind it, like Heifer International, that does good work, and doesn’t necessarily spend too much on teaching their religious hookey. I just can’t bring myself to donate.

    I’d rather give my money to the National Bone Marrow Registry or mail it down to the Austin Atheists helping the homeless down in Texas.

    The only charity I could think of, that I know has ‘religious’ background, that I would consider donating to would be the Shriners Childrens Hospitals. (To be a Shriner you have to believe in a higher power.)

    All my experiences with religion have been unpleasant, and I am reluctant to give our family’s hard earned money, just to have it spent on indoctrinating children. I keep thinking about the years of tithing I gave to the Mormon church, just to have them spend millions on Prop. 8. I don’t trust religious organizations any more than I trust my own mother.

    I think there are many worthy secular places to donate our money. And I honestly feel that we shouldn’t be positively reinforcing the religious folks negative behavior of proselyting. How can they promise not to, when getting into ‘heaven’ depends upon it? And just because the organization promises not to, wouldn’t stop the individuals from doing so.

  • I would if it were for a cause I wanted to donate to and if there were no other secular options for donating to this cause.

  • The charities that I am interested in, namely humane societies for animals and groups that help women, are not conducive to religions. First, they don’t care about animals, so there (likely) aren’t any religious charities of that nature. Second, the ones that help women would have to support birth control and abortions before I’d give. If one such charity existed, I would give, but somehow I seriously doubt a religious charity would counsel abortion. Not to mention, I think it’d be a bit too ironic to support a religious charity that helps women when religion is misogynistic and patriarchal.

    Conclusion: Highly unlikely.

  • NFQ

    Wow. I feel like I went back and forth on this every time I read a comment that defended one side or the other. “Hmm, good point. … Oh, that’s a good point too though.”

    I think I would be willing to support such a charity, but only in the sense that I am willing to support lots of imperfect things financially. I will (someday, when I’m out of grad school and have a job, I hope) donate money to alumni foundations for my high school and college, even though I don’t want to send the message that I stand by every decision my high school and college have ever made and will ever make. If I wanted to donate to a charity that did whatever this one does, I wouldn’t rule it out on this basis because I think their religious affiliation is slight enough to be overlooked. (Unlike, for example, Chick-fil-A, which I don’t patronize.)

    That being said, if there’s a non-religious alternative, I would choose that over this one. I bring my old clothes to Goodwill instead of the Salvation Army. And so on.

    I should point out that I think this charity you’re describing is distinct from a charity that happens to have been founded by people of a particular religion. If that were the objection, it would rule out most charities in the US, even the “secular” ones, I’d think. I’d choose a non-religious alternative over this one if it were available because I think the very act of saying, “Everybody here has faith in X religion” is effectively proselytizing, especially if the people saying it happen to be really nice people who are doing something great to help you out in a time of need.

  • Revyloution

    Sure. As a US citizen, I pay my taxes every year.

  • Gabriel

    Like David W. I already give money to religious charities. I donate to the Shriner’s children’s hospital in Ft. Worth. My sister’s scoliosis was treated free of charge when she was a child and now they treat my son’s scoliosis free of charge. It is the cleanest most efficient hostpital I have ever been to. And no one has mentioned religion once.

    I also donate to the St. Jude’s childrens hospital. They also treat children free of charge.

    By all means work to correct the system but don’t ignore the needs of right now.

    Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

  • If the charity is *completely* non-proselytizing then it pretty much amounts to a secular charity run by people who happen to be religious, which is what a lot of secular charities probably are anyway. I rather doubt that a significant percentage of the people who run (say) the Humane Society are atheists.

    Sure, if my money is going toward a service I approve of, I really don’t care much about the philosophical leanings of the people running it. (With the caveat, obviously, that there really aren’t any religious strings attached where rendering aid is concerned–no making people say grace before feeding them and so on.)

  • jose


    I’ve even worked as a volunteer for an organization like that. It provides food and shelter for the homeless. They also teach anyone interested how to read and write.

    As long as you keep your business to yourself, I’m ok with you being religious or an alien from Mars. They never asked if I was religious either, so I don’t really make out the problem here.

  • d’Armond

    Often there is no secular alternative to a given charity. I am so grateful for the Foundation Beyond Belief for starting to fill this need!

    Personally, no I wouldn’t, but I totally get the people who are saying yes, when there’s no secular alternative, they believe in the cause, etc etc.

    I have a friend who volunteers with Habitat, and he keeps trying to get me to do the same. But they’re religious, and typically start builds with a group prayer. Long ago I stopped putting myself in the position of exclusion while people pay homage to their particular invisible sky daddy (I got enough singling out in elementary school when the class would have a teacher-led group prayer before lunch. Yes, in the US.)

    THEY are the ones who are narrowing their focus, excluding particular contributors, and thus limiting the number of people they can help. It’s not MY fault they are aligning themselves with a particular group.

    How many Christians would support a Muslim charity that has a cause they believe in? If the cause is that important, be open to all. By aligning with a religious belief, they are devaluing the cause.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Probably, but I still have a few questions.

    1) What does this charity do? I do not see this question as unimportant or irrelevant. If they fund protests at women’s clinics, then they’re not getting any of my money.

    2) Even if they don’t actively proselytize, they may still be using the charitable activity as a marketing tool. I know of a church group which accepted government money to help with flood cleanup. The first thing they did was pass out T-shirts with the name of their church to their volunteers (not all of whom were members of that church.)

  • Shannon

    Yeah, sure. I’ve already worked with Habitat for Humanity which I think fits that.

  • plutosdad

    This pretty much describes every not for profit hospital in the US, doesn’t it?

  • No. I don’t trust the religious to keep to their word that they are a “non-dogmatic religious denomination that completely renounces proselytizing”. They lie to get people to join their club so how do I know that this isn’t just another lie? That and I’d be supporting an organisation founded on magical thinking which is just a waste of my limited resources.

  • mkb

    Two of the main charities I supported over the years were founded by religious groups and had religious names. I supported them because of their non-religious programmatic functions. I eventually stopped giving to them both and found other secular charities to donate to because I became uncomfortable with the whole ethos. I no longer give any money to religiously affiliated charities except the UUs and the Rose Walker Fund of the American Ethical Union.

  • Yes. We sponsor a child in the Philippines through World Vision. If you check their “Core Values” on their web site, the number 1 statement is “We are Christian.” And they wrap up their core values with a mission statement that promises to “serve all people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender.”

    As an atheist, I have no problem with this because this organization has proven that they deliver what they promise.

  • Sure, though I incline in the same direction as some others, and would prefer an equally-effective secular organization.

  • HamsterWheel

    Good question. I’m extremely reluctant to support any religious organization, but Mercy Corps seems to keep their religious bullshit so far on the back burner compared to the emergency and humanitarian relief they provide, that I am happy to offer financial support.

  • Yup. . . I have the same opinion as the first commenter.

  • Dr, Monkey

    I already do. It’s called Doctors Without Borders.

  • Ayesha

    Like others, I would support the charity only if I thought the work they were doing was really important and there was no secular alternative.

    For example, I too sponsor a child in the Philippines like Daniel does, but there’s no way I’d do it through a Christian organisation when there’s a perfectly good secular alternative, Plan, who are not religiously or politically affiliated. I think giving to religious organisations can simply increase the idea that it is only religious people who give and only religious people who are good or have morals.

  • brent

    does it go around TELLING people that it doesn’t proselytising??

  • Yes, absolutely. I’m a pragmatist.
    I can think of few better vehicles for defending our rights with little to no risk of exposing atheists to negative propaganda from the other side.
    This is an easier sell than the offered alternative, but it shouldn’t be the only course of action taken.
    Direct action is a desirable thing as well. It’s not an “either-or” proposition, once you look at all the options out there.
    Whatever it takes to win, while doing no long-term harm to the cause.

  • Aaron

    I would certainly help any organization that is honestly helping people in need.

  • If I have the spirit of the question right – which is that the money I’m giving is guaranteed in some way to go to the thing I want to support, I’d absolutely donate to the religious charity. In fact, given these terms, I wouldn’t even automatically switch to a secular charity should one be made available – I’d want to examine them independently and figure out which one is more effective in their work.

    That’s the hypothetical, anyway. Practically speaking, the fact that a charity is religious or secular does pretty heavily weigh in on my decision to donate, because I don’t know of any churches that do fit that hypothetical, but for the most part my donation money goes to individual struggling writers and artists anyway.

  • Lyra

    I was just talking about this with my boyfriend last night. In general, no, I wouldn’t. I really, really hate the stereotype that charity is a function of religiosity, and the circumstances would have to be pretty peculiar to convince me to support that stereotype by supporting a religious charity. Even if the organization avoids proselytizing, every time it does something, the very name of the organization proclaims “Christians did this.” If I gave them money, that statement would be a lie, and a lie that damages me by convincing others that I am not a good person. Why would I want to support that? Especially when I can give to a secular charity instead.

    Which is why I am proud to be a member of FBB.

  • I support charities that I think do good work. Who’s running them doesn’t matter to me, only what they do with my money.

  • Killer Bee

    I don’t give to charity as I think humans or groups of humans who can’t help themselves are not salvageable and a waste of my resources. But, if you’re going to give anyway, why not give to whomever will do your will as efficiently as possible, regardless of ideology?
    Conflicting values. Do I want to help people or spread my own ideology or fight another ideology? People are just the pawns in the game for some “do-gooders.”

  • Nakor

    Well, for starters, as someone pointed out, it’s nigh-impossible to be in an organized religion that isn’t dogmatic. There are different degrees of dogma, sure, but for an organized religion it must be there.

    Aside from that, my answer would depend a lot on the importance of the charity and the availability of a truly secular alternative. Frankly, anything super important pretty much has secular alternatives now, so I guess the answer is no simply because I wouldn’t have to, with the caveat that I may always find an exception.

  • Delphine

    I don’t support religious charities for moral reasons. If a particular charity is effective and religious then a couple of factors will determine whether I feel comfortable donating to them or not.

    1. Are there any alternative effective charities that are secular?
    2. Do they only service religious people?
    3. Do they discriminate against any group of humans?

    I’ve never had a religious organization I felt compelled to donate to as I’ve never ran across one that met number 3.

  • Jagyr

    @Killer Bee:
    “I don’t give to charity as I think humans or groups of humans who can’t help themselves are not salvageable and a waste of my resources”

    Wow, harsh. You one of them there libertarians?

  • Vas

    No I would not. It seems a common thing, for Christians in particular, to deride atheists as not doing anything for others. They love to point out the lack of “atheist charities” as an indication of how evil and selfish atheists are. Why bolster their claims? They pretend they are the only game in town and it’s just not so. Even if the specific charity meets your criteria for the” good guys” others of the faith will use it, and we all know they do, to slander atheists as a group.

  • Killer Bee

    Wow, harsh. You one of them there libertarians?

    No. Libertarians are idealists.
    I just value different things.

  • Greg

    Perversely, I’m not sure the organisers of such an organisation could be moral people, or perhaps I am misunderstanding your phraseology. (I suspect it’s just a paradoxical statement tho’)

    As an atheist, would you be willing to financially support an efficient and effective charity that is founded and run by a non-dogmatic religious denomination that completely renounces proselytizing?

    Members of a religious organisation believe they have some ‘higher truths’ denied to the rest of us, given to them through some dogma, right? So a non-dogmatic religion is one that… doesn’t follow a dogma?

    I guess what I’m saying, is that by definition, religion must be dogmatic. (So any non-dogmatic practitioners aren’t actually following the religion.)

    Also, if they completely renounce proselytising, then what they would in effect be doing, is not trying to help people by imparting these higher truths that they have and the rest of us don’t. Can that be moral?

    I guess I have no answer, because I can’t see how the scenario is possible.

  • BlueRidgeLady

    My support of such a group would really be case-by-case.
    My main problem with religious charities is that I don’t see why people must help others in a religious context. Why not do it because it’s the right thing to do? There is an automatic gratification that most people get from helping others. It may be the definition of altruism to help others with no other motive/benefit to oneself, but I do not know any volunteers who do not get some emotional satisfaction (as they should).

    I would, for example, donate to a fund for children that was started 100 years ago as a religious organization, but is now secular but still does the same work with no religious literature, praying, etc.

    For me, I would have to consider being as ethical as possible-
    Even though they aren’t forcing people to pray, are they in partnership with anti-choice or anti-gay organizations?
    Are animals being harmed with this money (animal testing, corporate animal agriculture support)? How is a non-proselytizing policy really enforced? Do the people involved in the charity really care or are they trying to help only to get into heaven? These questions are pretty important to me.

    The first person who responded said they wouldn’t mind a charity where kids are forced to pray before receiving food. They can support that if they want, but making children pray before eating the donated food is immoral, in my opinion. It is a way to prey on the weak, and I think it’s wholly against the spirit of true service to others.

  • TychaBrahe

    Donating to religious based charities is like voting for the two-party system when you’d rather vote Green or Libertarian. You can stick by your principles, or you can do some good.

    I have and will continue to donate to:

    The Salvation Army
    Habitat for Humanity
    Bet Tzedek – provides legal assistance to low-income seniors in Los Angeles
    Hadassah Hospital in Israel

    All of these organizations are founded to as ministries by their members. That is, because they feel that their vision of a deity commands them to be charitable, they are charitable. They offer their services to all, regardless of the recipients’ religion.

    In addition, many members of Soldiers’ Angels feel that it is their Christian duty to support our troops. I do it because I feel it my patriotic duty.

    I also donated to a primarily Muslim charity after the Indian Ocean tsunami and the Pakistani earthquake the following year, but I dropped them when they asked for relief for “Palestine” after Israel got fed up and started firing missiles into Gaza.

  • Desiroka

    @Killer Bee:
    “I don’t give to charity as I think humans or groups of humans who can’t help themselves are not salvageable and a waste of my resources”

    Wow, harsh. You one of them there libertarians?

    As someone who considers herself a libertarian, I take exception to this comment. In my estimation, Killer Bee’s comment is not representative of libertarian principles, but of selfish and misguided social Darwimism. True libertarianism, as I see it, wouldn’t really work without private charity and a caring and compassionate citizenry. No man (or woman) is an island, as they say.

    To answer the point of this post, I think there are a lot of religious charities who do good work and whose religious affiliations seem to matter little. St. Jude’s and the Shriners have already been mentioned; to my knowledge, there are few, if any, secular charities which provide what St. Jude’s does. There are many good points to be made, and while I do agree that the prevalence of religious charities tends to mask the fact that atheists are just as charitable as theists, without religion, I think there are greater concerns in the world. If a charity is truly non-dogmatic and non-proselytizing, and they are providing something truly valuable to society, then their religious affiliations shouldn’t matter.

  • Evilspud

    A church that is non-dogmatic would be open to outside criticism, and even be open to adjusting the advice its’ leaders teach, and the methods by which they are taught. If they have an efficient charity it can also be assumed that they are successful as a church, which, being nondenominational and nondogmatic, means it most likely reflect what I would consider very mature ideals.

    A stance against proselytizing during charity is also absolutely agreeable. I would have no qualms about giving money to a charity if they promise not to spread a message I do not believe in.
    Furthermore, even if they did have beleifs that I did not agree with, it wouldn’t bother me at all. If the charity is secular, the viewpoints of the volunteers shouldn’t matter.

    Cliff from Positive Atheism noted in a letter that he donated money to a Catholic Soup Kitchen in this regard, so obviously this question isn’t neccessairly hypothetical. The goal of a charity is to reach out and support those who do not deserve to deal with the hardships of life on their own. We should encourage any group that is admirable enough to put this intention above all else.

  • No, I wouldn’t. I make it a policy not to donate to religious charities. It doesn’t matter if they proselytize or not. They are still identified with a certain religion and are doing charity work in the name of that religion. The people receiving help associate the charity with that particular religion and probably assume that all the donors are members of the religion in question.

    Plus, why would an atheist want to donate to a religious charity when there are so many secular organizations out there? It’s not like all or most charities are religious. I make it a point to donate to secular charities operating in my community, and there are plenty of them nationwide as well. Since I don’t have an unlimited amount of money to donate, I have to make choices on what to support, and I choose not to support religion.

  • CatBallou

    I’m sure that some of the charities I’ve donated to have a religious origin, but I don’t donate to any that are clearly identified as religious now. And in principle, I’d rather not donate to a charity identified as “religious” simply because I don’t want to increase their stats.

  • showtime

    of course. the key is that they renounce proselytizing. and even if they did proselytize, if they didn’t make the receipt of aid contingent on believing in their religion i would still consider supporting them

  • The UGAtheists – the SSA affiliate at the University of Georgia – has worked with Habitat for Humanity on the past. Great people, great organization, based in Christianity, but I don’t think that is an obstacle to us donating time and volunteer hours to the cause.

    I would not be opposed to supporting an organization like this financially, but I would be way more inclined to share my (eventual?) post-college earnings with the foundation beyond belief! What a great idea.


  • I already do. It’s called Doctors Without Borders.

    I’m extremely reluctant to support any religious organization, but Mercy Corps seems to keep their religious bullshit so far on the back burner compared to the emergency and humanitarian relief they provide.

    I thought both of these organizations were entirely secular? Doctors Without Borders explicitly states that they have no religious agenda, and I couldn’t find any mention of a religious affiliation for Mercy Corps either at their official site or on Wikipedia. Is there something I’m missing? I would happily support both groups, but I would be worried if there’s a stealth religious connection that I don’t know about.

    For example, I too sponsor a child in the Philippines like Daniel does, but there’s no way I’d do it through a Christian organisation when there’s a perfectly good secular alternative, Plan, who are not religiously or politically affiliated.

    Thanks for that! I’ve always wanted to sponsor a child, but I’ve never felt comfortable doing it through a Christian organization. Good to know that there’s a secular alternative out there.

  • It wouldn’t be my first choice. My first choice is to support entirely secular groups. But if no secular groups are available who are doing the kind of work I want to support — or who can accept the kind of support I’m presently offering — then yes, I would. (Example: When we were looking for a place to donate clean but worn sheets and blankets, we couldn’t find a secular homeless organization who wanted them — so we donated them to the religious-based homeless shelter who did want them.)

  • George

    Certainly. World Vision and Habitat are good examples.

  • Dan Covill

    Been doing that for over 20 years.

    Every year I send a pretty good-sized check to the Salvation Army. I know, they’re kind of dogmatic in their beliefs, but they never make agreement a condition for aid, and they are near the top in the percentage of my donation that actually goes to the people they’re helping.

  • Charon

    Anna: Children International is what I contribute to. As far as I can tell, they’re entirely secular. So there’s more than one option, even!

  • Charon

    And somehow my comment about the American Friends Service Committee never showed up? In any case… good people. Albeit religious. Read up on civil rights cases, and you’ll find the AFSC supporting those whom even the ACLU was afraid to support (peaceful communists during McCarthyism, etc.).

  • Yes – and I already do.

    For one example, I live in Canada, with winters that can be chilly. A local group of seven churches have put together an “out of the cold” program, where the churches let the local homeless sleep inside one or another local church, and also provide hot meals and such. I learned of the program this year, and started volunteering. There isn’t any serious proselytizing other than the church facilities themselves, and my efforts can be shown to have a direct benefit for those who are even worse off than I am.

    The good done by this program far outweighs the harm done by any religious proselytizing, and I don’t have to worry about money being appropriated for purposes other than helping people.

  • matt


    There are non-religious organizations that do good. They will always take precedence for me.

  • stephanie

    Yeah, sure. I’d also support any other social groups that do charity work without pushing their group.

  • Dyma

    If it maximizes utility as best I can tell (compared to other charitable donations I could make with the money), yes, of course. Honestly, though, any degree of religious promotion is a strike against them there; having a name or, to a lesser degree, a clause in their mission statement connected with religion will implicitly do so. So, I’d always give to the secular charity if all else were equal.

  • ab

    yes. if it is effective, i will give it my money. I am a hard-core atheist, but yearly donate to several catholic and christian charities. If it works, and reduces the overall suck factor for people then support it.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    Dr. Monkey:

    I already do. It’s called Doctors Without Borders.


    I thought [they] were entirely secular? Doctors Without Borders explicitly states that they have no religious agenda. . .

    Dr. Monkey is mistaken. Doctors Without Borders is entirely secular, and has been since its inception.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been sponsoring a kid in Bolivia through Children, Inc. (a nonsectarian charity infused by Christian principles, whatever that means) for nearly 10 years. It’s a non-question for me.

    Barry Greenstein, the atheist poker champion, has donated a ton of money to them.

  • muggle

    No, unequivocally no.

    They are still exploiting the needy to advertise their religion.

    Invariably, their quest is not to help the needy but to gain converts. Some believe in testifying by example rather than preaching is all.

    I’ve had too many bad experiences with religious organizations offering help with so-called no strings attached to trust any religious organizations. There are individual Christians I would trust with my life but not Christian organizations.

  • Ham Nox

    If it’s helping someone who needs help, I will donate. Provided that anything else it supports is not so bat-shit crazy that it will wind up hurting the world more than help, of course. But honestly–Humankind has survived religion and all its included insanity for millenia, and in the long run I’d rather have some kids in Africa temporarily convinced of god’s existence than permanently dead of starvation. If it’s helping someone effectively WITHOUT promoting any particular religion, then that’s even better and I’ll donate to that organization instead.

    Religion is already out there and getting people organized. While I may disagree with some particular ideas that are reinforced and the atrocious things that have been done with it, I don’t deny that it has a large level of control over people and is often very effective in using it. A secular organization has to grow from scratch, while all the organization tools and hierarchy of religion are right at hand for religious folk.

    Convenient. I’ll use it.

  • Nikki

    Sounds like a Unitarian universalist organization to me. I’d support it!

  • Leah H.

    @Anna @HamsterWheel As an employee for Mercy Corps, I just wanted to clarify that they are indeed secular. The organization was founded by people of the Christian faith, but the organization today does not have a particular religious connection.

  • Steve Vasseur

    I currently support a number of children through World Vision but do not appreciate the Jesus sticker which is forced upon them and that some poor Jewish prophet, if he existed at all,is the savior of the world and that his dad, which is him,created the universe etc. All of our unfortunate children have the right to aid without religious or political influence(ulterior motives)and an open minded education. If this is you, then respond with all of the necessary info, thanks, Steve

  • GreenLisaBean

    I would add Catholic Charities to this lit.  I was a volunteer for a refugee program they run in Dallas, TX.  I was very skeptical when I began working with them – but left as a true believer (no pun intended) in their ogranization.  They were not there to proselytize to anyone, and they respected the views of everyone.  Incredibly progressive and tolerant.  Interstingly enough, the director of the program was a Jewish woman married to a Muslim man.  I told them outright that I was an atheist and they didn’t bat an eye.  

    They supported the people they were there to help – which sometimes meant aid related to religion, such as these two instances:

    1.  Helped a group of Muslims rent an extra apartment in their complex to use as a mosque.
    2.  Provided church bus service to a group of Bhutanese refugees who came to the US as Catholics.

    But they also provided life skills classes, case workers for new families, after school tutoring and care, health care, etc.

    These people were the real deal and I commend their efforts.  I would have no problem donating money to Catholic Charities.  They are all about what counts – social justice.

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