Would Atheists Donate Money to a Peace-Seeking Religious Organization? July 17, 2010

Would Atheists Donate Money to a Peace-Seeking Religious Organization?

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?

The religion is Quakerism — about as liberal a group as you will find in the religious world — and the organization is Quaker Peace and Social Witness.

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.

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  • I do care, and would not donate anything to any religious group under any circumstances.

    Quite simply, I don’t trust them.

    Also, there are too many non-religious groups doing good works that need my donation instead.

  • The Quakers are great! Glad to see FBB supporting them.

    I donate to Feed the Children, which has Christian ties, because I care more about children being fed than I do about stamping out Christianity.

  • Jon

    As an atheist Quaker (there are actually quite a lot of us) this is really exciting to me. Quakerism–especially liberal Quakerism–is very welcoming. I like to call it the Humanist’s Religion. Anyway, I’m just really thrilled that humanists and Quakers are beginning to see how much we can offer each other.

    (nontheistfriends.org is a good resource if you’re interested, but I don’t want to be accused of proselytizing)

  • phira

    I’d donate to specific charities that were some kind of Christian, like a Quaker or UU charity. I would donate to most Jewish charities because I’m Jewish.* In general, though, I donate to stuff like Planned Parenthood and anti-sexual violence organizations, so I’ve got plenty to choose from that isn’t religious.

    * Two of the most fundamental aspects of Judaism are “do good deeds,” which includes charity like whoa, and “study hard and ask lots of questions,” which includes questioning scripture and god and anything. There are reasons why it’s ridiculously common for Jews to also be atheists …

  • As long as there are plenty of worthy and underfunded secular organizations, I would not donate to a religious organization. I have no issue with other atheists choosing to do so, but I’m not going to.

    It really is too bad that Dale is reassured by “the weakness of the arguments against our choice.” I didn’t realize those of us who are not interested in supporting a religious group were supposed to be arguing against it. I figured it was enough not to support it.

  • I’ve donated to the American Friends Service Committee since the Cambodian genocide. I like AFSC a lot. (Friends=Quakers)

  • mcbender

    I’m of two minds about this. On the one hand, Otto’s comment above is something I agree with (as well as the many others saying there are too man worthy secular groups to make this necessary).

    On the other hand, I’m very familiar with Quakerism, as I spent 8 years in Quaker schooling. I don’t know if it’s consistently like this, but the Quakerism I grew up with was basically Humanism with a bit of New-Agey woo tacked on (they justify pacifism by saying “there is that of God in every person”, which is ridiculous as there are so many better ways to justify pacifism). The Quakerism I grew up with was religiously inclusive, in that they didn’t mind if you had another religion.

    I respected them because their beliefs were so much more sensible than most other religions, but the problem still remains in that most of the important ones could be better justified in a secular context.

    That said… I’m well aware that not all Quakers are of that sort. There are many religious Quakers out there who are sincerely Christian, and I’m not nearly as familiar with them as with the more secular variety. I’ve met a few of them and they took offence to my equating Quakerism with Humanism (I think what I said was “I don’t consider Quakerism a religion” and they took offence to that despite the fact that I meant it as a compliment).

    Anyway, what I’m trying to get at here is… if there were one religious group I’d trust to do this right, it’d be the Quakers, but just knowing that they’re Quakers isn’t enough.

  • Kim

    I agree completely with Otto.

    Even if it appears to be non-proselytising, even if it genuinely doesn’t proselytise, the very ethos by which it operates is informed by its religious beliefs and I will not support the propagation of said beliefs no matter how subliminally it’s done. And it always is done.

    There are enough Humanist and Atheist organisations operating in all areas of charitable endeavour to make contributing to any charity with religious affiliations unnecessary.

  • Epistaxis

    I guess I don’t have enough information to decide. Okay, they don’t proselytize. But in what ways are these organizations “religious?”

  • Jon


    This might help. Basically, (theist) Quakers believe in Peace, Equality, Simplicity and Integrity, based off of the belief that there is That of God in every person.

  • Kelly

    I love that the Foundation is doing this. I used to be one of those people who never donated to any religious organization, ever. But I’ve come to see that there are organizations out there doing incredible good work and that deserve our support. QPSW is one of those groups — they do excellent work promoting peace around the world. When I look at groups like QPSW, I see that our worldviews and values are more similar than different. Why build walls between ourselves and groups who share so many of our goals? I’m proud to support them through the Foundation.

  • ManaCostly

    I would never donate money for any religious organisation.
    I dont trust them.

    It caters to the “it doesn’t matter if its true, the good outweight the bad” argument.

    It also lends credibilty the “can only do good to religion” argument (even atheist agknowledge that, they will say).

    It lends them credibility by association.

    The same good can be done in a seculer way.

  • Don Rose

    I would be against donating money “through” any religious group. It promotes their message, whether they preach, or not. I wouldn’t be outraged or anything. If I had strong enough feelings about a particular charity, I might try to make a donation directly, and circumvent the religious group. I honestly don’t think we do the world any favors if we support the groups, and let them think that “god” has anything to do with their good deeds. So, I’m with the people who would avoid the religious charities, but I’m not with the people who would get angry, and leave.

  • The Quakers are about the most inoffensive Christian group on the planet, but I still wouldn’t donate to them.

    It’s not that I don’t trust them. It’s that I don’t want to promote or support religion. And, to me, that’s what donating to a religious charity does. It explicitly reinforces the idea that religion equals good works. They’re performing the work under a Christian banner, and if I were to make a contribution, it would be done in the name of Christianity.

    I can’t support that. I’m rather disappointed that the Foundation Beyond Belief picked a Christian charity because there are so many worthy secular charities out there. Perhaps it’s a PR statement? “Hey, we’re not anti-religious?” There’s no reason they couldn’t have chosen a wonderful secular organization that also works for peace.

  • The Other Tom

    When you give money to a religious group, even if they spend the money you gave them strictly on secular purposes, that frees up any other money they may have to be used on woo.

    I won’t donate to any atheist charity that gives money to religious groups for any reason. There are plenty of perfectly good secular charities I can donate to directly instead.

  • Ron in Houston

    the Quakerism I grew up with was basically Humanism with a bit of New-Agey woo tacked on

    Yeah, I put Quakers pretty close to UU’s in being quite benign for a “religion.”

    Honestly, how obnoxious can a group be when one of their central ideals is pacifism?

  • john locke

    I support it. I suspect most of the complaints are coming from people who are younger and less trusting of religion(these people are much less likely to donate anyway). If a religious organization is doing a good job helping others and is not proselytizing, we ought to support them

  • Greg

    Honestly, how obnoxious can a group be when one of their central ideals is pacifism?

    I dunno – I find many non violent things to be rather obnoxious – e.g. the whole ‘better than thou’ attitude.

    (Note: I am not saying that Quakers have a better than thou attitude or anything, just saying that there are ways to be obnoxious and pacifistic.) 😉

    On topic, well, it rather depends on the details really. I mean, you say they don’t proselytise, but the whole fact that ‘Quaker’ is in the name, explicitly identifies them as being religious, and therefore surely counts as proselytising? I mean, if they make a point of saying that they are not wholly made up of religious people and/or religious funding, then that would be a way of lessening the impact I guess, but even that doesn’t stop the fact that their name is a form of proselytising.

    Let’s take it away from religion, to something that is also obviously woo.

    Imagine it was, say, an organisation called ‘Homoeopathic Society Against Poverty’. Would you feel comfortable donating to them, even if they did not actually use homoeopathic treatment in their aid?

  • We all have the right to give only to those organizations that share our values, or, at least, have values that we might not share but find reasonable.

    Sometimes, even if I don’t like the values of the organization, I would give if I supported the specific cause. I have a concrete example here: When Katrina hit, one of the first aid organizations on the ground was the Mormon church. They were (for some reason) one of the most mobilized, and by far the most organized, aid groups. And they helped a lot of people. I was there. I remember how effective they were—and they did not (to my knowledge) proselytize. Because they were one of the most efficient aid groups helping people on the ground, I would have given them money to aid the relief effort. But I would have wanted strict assurance that my dollars were going to help Katrina victims and not to buy more magic underwear.

  • justanotherjones

    I’m about as athei as an atheist can be and I would support this, just as I support some other of the religious organizations locally that fill niche needs that no secular organization does.

  • littlejohn

    Generally speaking, I don’t trust any religious organization not to spend the money on proselytizing. But the Quakers have a good reputation.
    Certainly better the the United Way, which some of you may remember got busted about 20 years ago for spending a huge portion of the money on company cocktail parties and managerial salaries. They say they’ve changed, but I wouldn’t give them a nickel.
    The Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders are two well-regarded secular charities.

  • Jon William Sweitzer-Lamme

    Generally speaking, I don’t trust any religious organization not to spend the money on proselytizing.

    I belong to a Quaker meeting. We pay for an unlisted phone number because to do otherwise would be proselytizing.

  • Matt

    Religious groups could create a charity without any mention of their religion. Essentially, a secular charity created by religious types. It seems to me, that if they instead inject their religion into the charity in any capacity, they’ve already crossed the line into proselytizing. They should be doing good for the sake of doing good, instead of tacking on the additional “look at us! we belong to this religion, see how nice we are?”

  • Aaron

    I would hate to think that philosophical differences at the source of help would prevent help from reaching someone in need. I would donate, certainly.
    I would approve of any charity that spent the money on food (for example), and disapprove of any charity who spent that money on communion wafers no matter the nature of the charity.

  • Claudia

    Just like the last time this subject came up. If there’s an effective secular alternative doing the same kind of work that I’m interested in donating to, then my money goes there. However not donating to a cause I think is worthwhile jut because the labelling is “wrong” strikes me as ridiculous. I try to think what kind of judgement I’d have of Christians not giving to MSF because they are strictly secular, and don’t want to see myself mirrored. Sure the equation changes if they are inserting religion into their work and it changes a whole lot more if religious values are directly impacting their work (I’d NEVER give to a Catholic charity working on AIDS relief), but that doesn’t seem to be the case here.

  • NFQ

    How many people joined in the two weeks *prior* to this announcement? How many people usually join right after the announcement of and publicity surrounding a new slate of charities for the next quarter? How many people who were already signed up switched their money away from the Peace section? Just saying “24 people signed up and only 2 quit” is not enough information to make a point.


  • A lot of Quakers are actually atheists, agnostics, or non-Christians of various types – especially the unprogrammed congregations. Liberal Quakerism isn’t a religion in the same way that Lutheranism or Catholicism or Mormonism are. And while it does depend on the type of congregation, I’ve attended a few of their unprogrammed meetings before, and found them to be totally adogmatic and very, very supportive of secularism.

    Generally, the liberal, unprogrammed Quaker meetings are more of a social group that meets together than a religion. There is no dogma, so every person has their own beliefs, ranging from traditional Christian to Buddhist, New Age or atheist. In this it is very similar to UUism.

    And while I’d still prefer to donate to a wholly secular or atheistic organisation, Quakers (and UU) are probably the only religious-type organisations I’d ever feel comfortable supporting.

  • Quakerism has an excellent track record. I’m glad that Foundation Beyond Belief is open to religious charities that function in a secular manner.

    *Opens up The Age of Reason*

  • NFQ

    It’s really frustrating to see Dale talk about “the weakness of the arguments” for the other side when his comments responding to those arguments on my blog ignored many of the points I was making, made the same arguments repeatedly without acknowledging responses to them, and in general failed to constitute a convincing refutation of my stance overall.

  • muggle

    No, no and no!!! Traitors!!!!

    And here I was so excited that a charity was formed that you wouldn’t have to worry about money going to any religious entity of any sort. And, yes, this includes Quakers and UU. As unobnoxious as they are. I feel utterly betrayed.

    Plain and simple, I do not support religion. Even contributing to a charity that in part gives to a religious organization means supporting that religious organization with the publicity of said group doing so.

    So, no, FBB will not be getting one red cent of my money. Thanks for the heads up.

    Sigh. This is why I give directly to charities and political causes I believe in. You just can’t trust any organization that exists to distribute your money for you.

    But I am sad because it was so good to have something with not just a secular name but an Atheist name on it.

    Thanks so much for screwing us over, Foundation Beyond Belief. Now I get your name as it is beyond belief that you would raise your funds and get yourself going as an Atheist charity then turn around and stab us in the back by giving to religion directly.


  • muggle

    Oh, and I’ve got to add this: what kind of freaking snobbery is that comment about the arugments of the people who were against it — people who thought they were giving to a wholly Atheistic charity — that their arguments are weak. What condescending horseshit snobbery.

    It’s his argument that is weak in his justification for doing this knowing it is not what was represented in the making of the Foundation to begin with. Atheists signed on and supported it and it begins to get a little success because they did and it turns around and slaps them in the face for it. That’s why I call them traitors.

    Yes, I’m pissed. In case you couldn’t tell.

  • muggle

    I don’t generally follow links through to other blogs simply because I’ve barely the time to keep up with this one, some local ones and FB but follow NFQ’s link through for a discussion. Dale’s comments weren’t as bad as I feared but they were disturbing and pretty blaise about the feelings of those who felt they were giving to an Atheist charity only to have their money given to a religion.

    NFQ’s post there was thoughtful and polite and well-worded. Commenters raised valid points. No one but me was rude (and I wasn’t as rude as usual) but Dale still dismissed concerns. Then scurried out of there declaring a time crunch.

    The thing is, you’re giving to what advertises itself as an Atheist charity. Even the name implies that. It’s rather a bait and switch then to have them go and include a religious charity to give to and all these argument about nontheistic friends seems like so much smoke and mirrors trying to distract you from the fact that, in the end, it is a religious charity. It’s like saying don’t look at the man behind the curtain.

    So is all this bullshit about building bridges. It’s another lame excuse to give to religion. And I’m the one who’s always pleading with people not to prejudge the religious, not to be anti-theist.

    FBB was wrong, wrong, wrong to do this. Anyone hear of an Atheist charity that really is Atheist let me know.

  • Potco

    Well, I can’t speak for anyone else but if a charity isn’t proselytizing and do good work I could care less what affiliations they have. I want to make the better place, would it be better without religion, absolutely, but there are a lot of other things that will help as well. So today I signed up to donate a few extra dollars every month. I wish I had more but money is still tight.

  • Honestly, it’s like the free thought movement is growing up all at once.

    What an obnoxious, self-important little person this must be. Those who don’t agree with this person’s viewpoints obviously just need to grow up.

    People like that need to learn to develop their social skills a little further. Now, on to the topic…

    I’d be extremely wary donating to any religious group. Quakers sound harmless enough but I’d still give preference to a secular organization.

  • Claudia

    So, no, FBB will not be getting one red cent of my money. Thanks for the heads up.

    @Muggle, deep breath. Now, from a quick visit to the FAQ:

    Q: What if I don’t like one of the beneficiaries you select?

    A: That will certainly happen from time to time, which is why members can change their donation distribution at any time. Suppose you have 50 percent of your distribution in Child Welfare, then one quarter we choose an organization you do not wish to support. Simply go into your Account, move your 50 percent to another category, and you’re all set.

    See? That easy. Yo don’t like, for whatever reason, a charity selected (they rotate) for a certain quarter, then you can change the balance of your donation (which you distribute between a total of 10 categories; health, poverty, environment, education, human rights, peace, animal protection, child welfare, small charities, and the Foundation itself) so that the category that currently has a charity you don’t approve of gets none of your money.

    Given that they rotate charities and there are a total of 10 categories, there are absolutely sure to be charities you either don’t like or simply don’t think as worthwhile as others occasionally. Denying any money for any of the 10 based on the fact that 1 of the 10 will irritate you is a tad too dramatic, don’t you think?

  • I’m OK giving money to the Quakers. I’ve eaten their oatmeal for years and I can vouch that they’re good people.

    Oh you mean the RELIGION the Quakers? No, sorry, F that noise.

  • Aristarchus

    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.

    I really don’t understand. How can you say that that the goal of the foundation is to do good “in the name of [the humanist] worldview” and then give the money to an organization doing good in the name of an explicitly opposed worldview? It’s nice to think that the work will be done in the name of FBB, but not won’t. It’ll be done in the name of Quakers. People will see the charitable organization, not the donors. The sentence I quoted above has the structure of “Since X, Y”, but I have absolutely no idea what sort of logical relationship exists between X and Y.

    It’s not that this is a bad charity. I think the world is made better when they get more money. It’s just that giving them money undermines the whole point of having an atheist middleman handle your charitable contributions.

  • I do not donate to any religious organization in any way. I won’t even purchase cookies from a girl scout troop that’s sponsored by a church.

  • Nordog

    “Oh, and I’ve got to add this: what kind of freaking snobbery is that comment about the arugments of the people who were against it — people who thought they were giving to a wholly Atheistic charity — that their arguments are weak. What condescending horseshit snobbery.”

    I’m shocked, shocked, that an atheist could be guilty of condescending snobbery.

  • beckster

    @muggle – You should take that rage and direct it towards something more useful. Maybe start your own atheist charity. Either way, your rant has inspired me to head on over to FBB and make a donation so at least some good came out of it.

  • Normally when it comes to charitable donations I’d avoid any religious organization like the plague. The Quakers are one of the very few exceptions to that rule. It doesn’t bother me that they’re on board with FBB.

  • Richard

    So long as a secular organisation working for humanist causes vouch for them and that the money will truly go to the causes they promise, I see no problem with giving money to religious aid work.

    I must add that if no secular humanist organisation were to vouch for the religious organisation, I would probably not give them any money.

    I might be a bad example of a humanist though, as I am a poor student and can only give away the change I get back whenever I shop for food (can’t afford much else so… that’s less than 1% of my ‘income’).

  • flawedprefect

    Yes. If it helps a fellow human being, then the answer is an unconditional yes. Period. If, by some research, I find they funnel even a small amount of their funds to promoting their religion instead of giving it to the cause they are supposed to be serving, I would complain about it, first, then if they insist it is within their rights, I will opt out, and give an a worthier cause.

    Case and point: I give to a foundation called “The Exodus Foundation” here in Sydney http://www.billcrews.com.au/htm/exodus_frontpage.htm It is run by a reverend and he provides free meals to the homeless. I am thinking of volunteering. NO person is turned away based on their religion (or lack of). It is a wholly worthwhile organization even though it is affiliated with a church.

  • Dylan

    As long as they don’t use the money on their religious practices, SHURE, HERE YA GO.

  • Aj

    Religions do charity to increase brand identity and make positive connections to their brand. The excellent point was made that religion itself is associated with charity, as it’s associated with morality, that is a benefit to all religion and a detriment to secularists.

    How can a humanist or freethinker justify giving to a religious charity over a secular one? There are legitimate reasons for this, but these aren’t given. Freethought and humanism are philosophies that hold that opinions should be based on reason and evidence. Religions are the opposite, they promote irrational beliefs, that’s beliefs despite lack of evidence or reason. Undogmatic doesn’t mean sane, astrologers are undogmatic. It’s contradictory to state encouraging religion is an expression of humanism, that’s bullshit.

    Dale McGowan is condescending towards those that disagree with him about supporting religions. I guess those that don’t like the idea of encouraging organisations that promote irrational beliefs need some “growing up” and “vision”. I wonder how this reflects of Foundation Beyond Belief’s brand towards its target demographic of atheists.

  • Erp

    Quakers have their problems (and they would be among the first to admit this) but the liberal Quakers tend to rank conversion low on their priority list and also have their fair share of known atheists.

    Note also that Quakers might use the name on an organization because they know their reputation in peace and social justice may help the organization achieve its goal.

  • ASD

    I wouldn’t be 100% happy with donating to a religious or religion-affiliated charity, but if they are transparent in their dealings (that is, I know where my money’s going, what it’s doing, and how much is coming out in admin fees and such) and are using it to fund a cause or program I am willing to support, then I’ll do it – reluctantly.

    I’d much rather donate to a secular charity though.
    But, if the charity is transparent and honest enough about its dealings, I’ll consider it. That’s the only thing I’ve ever really disliked about religious charities – it’s often very hard to get out of them exactly where the money is going, what it’s being used for, and how much will come out in administration fees and the like, not to mention the difficulty of getting the details of programs out of them. I often think it’s because if people actually knew those details, they wouldn’t donate to that particular charity. Evasiveness about financial matters always makes me suspicious about what they’re *really* doing with my money.

    The exception is the charity that supports retired Catholic priests, pastors and nuns – I can’t quite remember the name, but it appeared in an article about the situation of many retired Catholic priests and pastors. The conditions some of them live in are awful, and they are not exactly young people. Apparently, the Catholic Church does not believe in old-age pensions, and it doesn’t help that they don’t have much superannuation now. I don’t care if it’s associated with the Catholic Church – people, old or young, have the right to be able to eat, have a roof over their head, and stay warm in winter. It’s why I don’t mind donating to a couple of the groups that help the homeless here – even if religion’s being dragged into it, at least they’re warm and they’re eating.

  • Pete

    If the Quakers group is a openly known as a atheist Quaker group i wouldnt see any problem.

    Where i do see a problem with donating to religion,is religions even gather up donations by atheists but regard them all as theist charity.

    This has been happening for years.Hospitals and things have been built, and partly through some kind atheist also donating to these theist charities that built them.

    Yet then these figures all get totalled up as only being theist charity, which is sometimes then held against atheists as ammo, to try and suggest atheist are just not charitable.

    For this reason there is very valid reasons why atheist should make donations to atheist charitys.

    We need to find ways to dispel this idea out of peoples minds, that atheists just dont care about anyone else.

  • Kelly

    @muggle: You seem to think FBB has pulled the wool over our eyes by selecting a religious charity. From the FAQ:

    Q: What are the criteria for selecting a beneficiary?

    A: Among other considerations, beneficiaries are chosen for efficiency, effectiveness, moderate size (annual budget under $10 million), compatibility with humanist focus on mutual care in this world and this life, and geographic diversity. In addition to direct research, FBB makes use of Charity Navigator, the Better Business Bureau, GiveWell, GuideStar, and other third-party sources of information and charity review. Featured beneficiaries founded in any worldview will be considered so long as they refrain from proselytizing.

    (emphasis mine)

    FBB has always been very upfront about the fact that they’ll consider religious charities (something I support).

  • Jed Carty

    The general quaker doctrines of peace, equality, truth and simplicity fit with what is generally considered to be humanist beliefs and the inclusion of atheists in quaker groups makes me wonder about the motivations of the responses from people who will not donate because a group that gets help is not specifically non-theistic. Yes there are christian quakers, but there are also atheist quakers. I see no reason to refuse to help just because part of the group doing the actual work has irrational beliefs. I could understand if it were some group defined by belief in a deity, but that is not the case here.

  • Aj

    Jed Carty,

    Hemant did state in his post that this is a religious group. Dale McGowan states that this is a religious group and they were chosen specifically because of this. The group’s name has “Witness” in it. The group’s site was linked to, it contains many references to God, spiritual insights, and a Quaker Faith. They’re part of the Religious Society of Friends. Is not the quaker doctrine truth to God, not simply “truth”? Seems like a lie by omission. Also, I wonder where “simplicity” fits into humanism.

    This group is specifically theistic. It’s not just some secular group that contains religious members. What are your motivations for misrepresenting this?

  • Pete

    Jed Carty

    Yes there are christian quakers, but there are also atheist quakers. I see no reason to refuse to help just because part of the group doing the actual work has irrational beliefs. I could understand if it were some group defined by belief in a deity, but that is not the case here.

    Hi Jed i have nothing against faith charitys either.What i am against is faith charitys using the ammount of charity they receive and deliver,to try and suggest being atheist makes somebody so much more uncaring about others.

    Its obvious atheists have donated to faith charities over the years.Yet time and time again in debates online, ive seen faith charity stats used to suggest faith charitys deliver so much more than atheist charity did, meaning that makes most atheists selfish and thoughtless.

    They do not see that there is less atheist.Neither do they factor in the atheist donations given to faith charity,that they are totalling up as being all charity of faithful people only.And trying to use back against atheism as ammo.

    This is not any war to my thinking.But that still dont mean we shouldnt become aware of how many faithful folks will try using these stats.

    So for me its got nothing at all to do with the irrational beliefs.And everything to do with being aware of their tactics that they have often used against us, to argue that being a atheist makes somebody uncaring.

  • Speaking of the Quakers, they were featured in an article in USA Today about faith-based movies:

    In Not Today, “we won’t shrink from using the name of Jesus, but it’s part of the story,” says Chris Bueno, who co-produced the film with his wife, Denise, for Yorba Linda Friends Church, one of the world’s largest Quaker congregations.

    “Some Christians want very overtly Christian messages. Others want to see gritty truthful stories of people struggling with faith, who may not lead perfect lives but are genuinely seeking,” Denise Bueno says.

    The couple helped introduce Sherwood to Provident Films, the faith film division of Sony Music, which launched Facing the Giants and Fireproof.

    The church auditions cast and crew not only for acting talent, but for their Christian commitment and ability to represent the film if called upon. The Buenos say there will be prayer every day on the set in India, and “everyone knows we represent a church.”

    Hopefully this might help some people see why many of us might not want to be associated with giving money to religious groups. I have no idea if these are the “regular” Quakers or the evangelical kind, but the name/brand is the same.

  • Aj


    The Yorba Linda Friends Church (now just “Friends Church”) couldn’t be further from the British Quakers. The Friends Church is an evangelical, conservative megachurch, that has Biblical literalists and sends missions to proselytize.

    Your point is a good one though, they both belong to the same denomination, Religious Society of Friends.

  • Thanks, Aj. I figured that out after I posted. I went to their website, and, yep, they’re definitely not the liberal kind. To the average person, though, a Quaker is a Quaker. Most people don’t know the difference, and anything done in the name of Quakerism is associated by default with both the liberal and the conservative forms of the faith.

    This is a problem throughout Christianity. The United Church of Christ is a good group, too, but their theology and actions can be associated with the theology and actions of everyone else who falls under the Christian umbrella, and the vast majority of those other people are decidedly less enlightened. So while I might like the inclusivity of the UCC, I wouldn’t donate to them for the same reason that I wouldn’t donate to the Quakers. I just don’t want to promote or support the Christian “brand.”

  • Aj


    I am not so fond of the UCC, I heard a well respected reverend of the church tell his congregation that HIV was invented by the US government and deliberately spread it. Numerous clergy from many denominations defended this reverend, including senior members of the UCC clergy, and the UCC president himself. Two times I heard this reverend reaffirm his belief that the US government invented HIV and deliberately spread it. I did not hear one voice from the UCC criticize this as unacceptable behaviour. I can only assume they condone these extremely damaging lies. The UCC doesn’t control doctrine so even within the UCC there’s no guarantee what kind of irrational beliefs you will find from one congregation to the next.

  • Really? That’s disappointing. I guess it’s what comes of belonging to a religion with a loose hierarchy. If I had to pick, though, I’d prefer that to something like Catholicism, which gives the hierarchy all of the power over doctrine, fires subordinate clergy if they dare to disagree, and ignores or persecutes laity who want to make changes.

    The UCC/Congregationalists around here seem to be good people, but I guess there are always outliers, and it’s a shame that the hierarchy (even if they’re not the top-down power sort) doesn’t bother to at least make it clear that the denomination in general doesn’t support every point of view that individual clergy may promote.

  • Erp

    The Religious Society of Friends is not one denomination but a catch all for a variety of groups with a common ancestry. For Quakers look to what yearly meeting they belong to. Almost all British Quakers belong to the Britain Yearly Meeting which tends to be liberal. American Quakers belong to several different yearly meetings. The liberal unprogrammed Quakers generally belong to meetings associated with the Friends General Conference; they are the group with atheists and support same sex couples (along with at least the independent Pacific Yearly Meeting). A middle group of yearly meetings are associated with Friends United Meeting (this also includes Quaker groups in several African countries, especially Kenya with over 100,000 members). The third big group is Evangelical Friends International which is the most conservative and the only one I think that would use ‘church’ (something early Quakers would never do); they also have churches in Africa and South/Central America. The first two groups do have ties (some yearly meetings belong to both).

  • Joe

    I’ve been attending a Friends Meeting (Quaker) for several years as I come to an equilibrium between my atheism and the desire for a community of like values, reflection, and public service. It is a lovely organization and I will probably stay.

    That said, while there are some non-theists among Quakers, it seems to me that most of them do believe in the supernatural. I would welcome your contribution as it might serve to strengthen the non-theist constituency among Quakers, but you would be building their brand, not yours.

  • I’d have to give a conditional yes to the Quakers. I already participate in the occasional Afghans for Afghans campaign, which is run by the AFSC. Never donated money to them, just pairs of socks, baby sweaters or hats.

    I’m also a member of Foundation Beyond Belief. Unless there were some evidence the money was going to be used for other than humanitarian reasons, it’s not worth leaving an otherwise fantastic group over.

  • muggle

    Claudia, I get that very well. Hence, my disgust. Since they’re going to financially support belief perhaps they should change their deceptive name, hmmm?

    Denying any money for any of the 10 based on the fact that 1 of the 10 will irritate you is a tad too dramatic, don’t you think.

    Who said a damned thing about denying money to the other 9? What I said was that I don’t trust charities that distribute to other charities and tend to give directly to said charities I approve of directly. Looks like I was right in that assumption.

    Yeah, Kelly, and it gave me pause and how glad am I that it did? Christian charity is, frankly, never real charity but using the unfortunate in need of help for advertising. I have a slight problem with that.

    beckster, a fool and their money are soon parted but you must think that I’m ten kinds of a fool if you think for one second I believe you are giving to a charity just because you didn’t like that some stranger on the internet got pissed at them. Either that or you need some serious help.

    And, yes, I stand by what I said, if they’re going to financially support belief perhaps they should change their name to something that isn’t false advertising.

  • Sandra Craft

    I give money to religious charities all the time, when they’re doing something useful that I want to help with. The only exception I make is with groups that push their religion as a condition of receiving help. There are plenty of charities I can give my money to who are going to help people whether or not they’re interested in Xtianity.

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