Every three months, Foundation Beyond Belief picks charities in nine different categories and encourages atheists to donate money to them.
Since we “opened shop” at the beginning of 2010, we’ve raised over $38,000. It’s really incredible the amount of support we’ve received from the Humanist community.
This quarter, we asked ourselves a question: Would atheists be willing to donate money to a Peace advocacy group if that group was religious in nature?
Why bother doing this at all? Dale McGowan, the Executive Director of Foundation Beyond Belief, explains:
… the first reason to do it is to show that it is indeed possible for nontheists to see good work being done in a religious context and to support and encourage it. Far from a contradiction, I think that’s humanism at its very best.
The second reason is that many of our members agree with that assessment. And since the Foundation exists to allow individual humanists a means of expressing their worldview positively and doing good in the name of that worldview, it seems fitting to occasionally feature a carefully-screened, non-dogmatic, non-proselytizing, effective organization based in a sane and progressive denomination as one of our choices.
Again, they would not be proselytizing. The money would be going toward efforts that Humanists (in general) would likely support if it were a secular group.
As a board, we discussed the possibility that people might be hesitant (or worse) about giving to any religious group. But we hoped for the best. Ultimately, we wanted to know if atheists would see beyond the faith label and give to the group because of their actions.
A bit of background: Normally, people decide how they want to divvy up their donations. For example, I give equally to all categories, but if I wanted to, I could give more money to the Human Rights charity and less to the Environment one. Would people shift their donations away from Peace and into another category if we supported the Quakers? Would the opposite happen? Would there be no real change at all?
Dale now has an update on how this experiment is going.
I’m happy to say the result is exactly what we hoped for (emphasis mine):
… In the two weeks since we announced the decision, two members have closed their accounts (neither mentioning the Quaker choice) and 24 have joined.
The weakness of the arguments against our choice has reassured me, and the majority of responses I’ve heard have been strongly supportive of the decision. “I’m so proud to be a part of this,” said one member. “Honestly, it’s like the free thought movement is growing up all at once. Thank you for showing vision beyond the usual sounding of alarms and building of barricades.”
This is what separates us from many religious groups. How often do you hear of churchgoers supporting secular organizations that are fighting for church/state separation? Or atheist groups that are doing community service projects? It happens, but it’s certainly not common in my experience.
While we’re opposed to any group that uses donations to proselytize their faith, that’s not what’s going on here. The money is going to the right places, and because of that, I don’t really care which group is making that happen. The deed matters more than the creed.