Why Would Anyone Reject Atheist Generosity? December 20, 2013

Why Would Anyone Reject Atheist Generosity?

Kimberly Winston highlights a disturbing trend of atheists trying to be generous only to have various groups reject the efforts:

Dale McGowan, executive director of Foundation Beyond Belief, a humanist nonprofit, said his group’s grants have been rejected at least eight times. The foundation, which has given away $1.4 million, does not proselytize for nonbelief and requires that its beneficiaries — some with religious roots — do the same.

It starts with a “Gosh, thanks,” he said, and ends a few days later with “Thanks, but we can’t accept that.” McGowan thinks those who reject FBB’s grants — usually $10,000 each — worry about the perception of being associated with atheists.

And that, he said, is a mistake. “I don’t think most religious people give for the glory of God or because scripture tells them to. I think they give because they are good-hearted people and they feel empathy for others, and that is really no different for those with a nonreligious world view.”

I’m mentioned in the piece regarding the $3,000 we raised for the Morton Grove Park District and that they rejected. That money was donated instead to the local library, but I just found out last night the money was rejected there, too. (More on that later today.)

(Image via Shutterstock)

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  • $925105

    I wonder if those groups who refused the Atheist money happily accepted money from corporations that exploit workers, pollute the environment and corrupt the political system. Probably.

  • IAmAGuest

    I’m guessing for the same reason, if the Devil asks if he can give you a million dollars for free, no strings attached, most people would refuse.

  • Matthew Baker

    It just shows there is still a lot of stigma attached to being an atheist in a country that mostly pretends to be religious.

  • primenumbers

    It’s a sure sign of bigotry.

  • We’ve established that they’re delusional bigoted idiots. I’m not going to accept any mail from the USPS because they’re interdimensional galactic spider-crab conquerors.

  • Willards

    If you are correct that they don’t want to be associated wit atheists, it does hold that they do want to be associated with other groups from whom they do accept money. Since there is only one requirement in atheists gifts, do other groups have similar requirements? Will they feel beholding to atheists if they take the money? ARe they beholding to the other groups?

  • Dan

    I’d accept money from fundamentalists, bigots, and other undesirable characters. It’s less money they can use to spread their evil ideas.

  • newavocation

    I wonder what the Moron Grove library polices are regarding book donations? How many atheist books do you think we could send them?

  • This is just beyond asinine. The mistrust and bigotry against atheists in completely unwarranted and rooted firmly in ignorance.

  • baal

    But folks are happy to take the crime tainted money of the catholic church (vatican money laundering)?

  • jnevill

    I would imagine my town of Waukegan (just up the shore a bit from Morton Grove) would be happy to take the donation. I think we could use the money more than Morton Grove where the median income is 158% of ours. Although.. it would really sour my taste to taking my kids to the library or enroll them in the park district programs if they refused.

  • jen

    Here’s what I posted on the library’s FB page:

    I have always been a huge fan and supporter of my local libraries. I have strong feelings about the library- it is the great equalizer of our society. It ensures that we all have equal access to information, free from ideological influences. This is why I was so terribly disappointed to learn that your board rejected a donation from a group of people because some of those people are atheists. No, you may not legitimately call the followers of a blog a ‘hate group’ just because there are some comments you don’t like. Have you vetted other donations in this way? Are you certain that you have not accepted tax dollars from anyone who ever made a nasty comment on line? You must be awfully busy if you are checking into that sort of thing. And, if you are not checking, then this means that you have singled out a specific group for rejection based on their shared unbelief in gods. That money was offered with no strings attached. Were we asking you to rename the library in honor of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? No. Were we asking you only to purchase books about atheism? No. Those funds were being offered in order for you to best serve your patrons as you saw fit. You decided to it was best not to serve them at all. I know you think you have avoided making a statment by refusing the gift. But instead your statement is loud and clear: The Board of the Morton Grove Public Library allows its bigoted misinformed ideas to limit its service to the community. But don’t worry. We’ll keep trying and we will have the pleasure of assisting some other community’s library fulfill its mission of free and impartial access to knowledge and information.

  • J.W. Browning

    Let us us know when there is a devil sighting.

  • Money from for-profit corporations is sanctified by the blood of exploited workers Jesus! It would be suspiciously socialistic un-American not to take the given for tax or PR purposes kindly offered donation!

  • J.W. Browning

    The one thing I have always felt strongly about is, there should be no caveat attached to a gift or donation. Period. Know your donation recipient before donating.

  • As a performing artist, I have mostly appeared in productions funded by money from the worst offending corporations. If it weren’t for “blood money” there’d hardly be any arts in the US at all.

    Organizations are afraid that if anything atheist shows up associated with their group that many people will stop donating. They are probably right. Taking that $3,000 could easily cost them many times that.

  • American’s true religion is hypocrisy. People like to talk about morality and god. Many even enjoy condemning other people based on their beliefs. Many of those are doing those very things in private (because I guess their god can’t see them unless they get caught by other people?).

  • Sue (Yet, She Persisted) Blue

    Where is this Devil guy? I’d like to get in touch. I could sure use a million bucks right about now.

  • Ewan

    There wasn’t, was there?

  • lorimakesquilts

    This is so foolish. But understandable given our legislators are routinely bribed with “donations.” They are wrong to assume there is some sort of obligation associated with that, or any, donation, however, there can be a cost.

    The acceptance of donations from certain parties has long been a dilemma for non-profits. Public perception of endorsement of donors is a big consideration for those organizations that rely on donations. For instance, a large environmental group I worked for faced a lot of flack for accepting a donation from Waste Management. It was seen as allowing them to “green-wash” themselves. Luckily for them this was some time ago, today social media would have crucified them, donations would have plummeted.

    So while they are foolish to turn down money, I can understand that they have to weigh the value against the potential for loss. A little courage and decent PR could easily counter any negative impact, but religion trumps logic even in librarians apparently.

  • Eric S. Smith

    Depends on what this means, exactly:

    The foundation, which has given away $1.4 million, does not proselytize for nonbelief and requires that its beneficiaries — some with religious roots — do the same.

  • lorimakesquilts

    Of course not, but there is likely to be a perception of one. And, in point of fact, very large donations are rarely without restrictions.

  • lorimakesquilts

    Internal policy, I’m sure. That kind of money is nowhere big enough to dictate policy to recipients.

  • That excuse works when everyone is watching. So, for example, at the height of the Pledge fiasco at Morton Grove, understandable they would take a pass on a donation (and I said as much at the time). Two months later when the furor has died down and it has become, literally, just the erstwhile donors walking around with a check to find someone, anyone, who will take it, there is no comparable excuse. At that point it stops being prudence and starts being bigotry.

    That aside, it is important, I think, to underline that they are perfectly willing to take money from aggressively amoral actors like your average for-profit corporation; you are right to say that without such money, many fine things would not be possible. But people shouldn’t wallow in self-delusion that by rejecting this money but accepting that money, they are taking some sort of moral stand; it is hypocritical through-and-through.

  • HOw long was it before your post was deleted?

  • This article highlights and removes all shadow of a doubt of the horrific and inhumane persecution suffered by Christians across the U.S. For shame, I say. I am ashamed of being an atheist.

  • I, for one,I welcome our new interdimensional galactic spider-crab conquerors and overlords, especially if they can deliver a package forthwith.

  • meekinheritance

    Or books on humanism, skeptical thinking, logical reasoning, debunking, separation of church and state, etc…

  • Eric S. Smith

    I don’t see how it could be an internal policy, given the reference to the foundation’s “beneficiaries.”

    The closest reading that makes sense is that the foundation requires its beneficiaries to refrain from proselytizing for nonbelief, leaving them free to grind their own belief-y axes. But I think it’s reasonable to read that passage as saying that beneficiaries are required not to proselytize in any way, which might well cramp their style.

  • jen

    It’s still there, actually, with a comment from the admin saying it will be forwarded to the Board. Unexpected for sure, lol!

  • Let’s hope it gets forwarded. It looked like a canned response on other posts similar to yours. Also, there is a comment box on the trustees page linked in the other article.

  • Ewan

    Ah, right. IIRC, the FBB does require it’s beneficiary’s to refrain from any proselytizing. Or to put it another way, it only gives money to groups that don’t proselytize.

    However, I believe the Morton Grove Park $3000 didn’t have any such strings attached, it was just free money.

  • Pitabred

    That stuff they do is invisible though, so it doesn’t matter. It’s all in the up front appearances, don’t look behind the curtain.

  • onamission5

    From the article:

    And in what is perhaps the biggest rejection, the American Cancer Society, in 2011, turned away $250,000 from the Stiefel Freethought Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to humanist causes

    Wut. here I thought cancer affects everyone and was a plague on humanity that needed a cure asap.

    Interestingly enough, when I went to the ACS’ meet our donors page, it was blank, but was able to google a list of large sum donors, the largest among them is the Gates Foundation. So, weird, that.


  • IAmAGuest

    Why did I get 4 down votes? 🙁

    I think the post by Metha above this, confirms my theory, and then we’re not even close to a million, just 3000.

  • SeekerLancer


  • SeekerLancer

    As long as you give lip service your personal version of Jesus will totally understand, except for those other people who aren’t you, Jesus is going to fry them for their sins.

  • Artor

    Say what you will about the interdimensional galactic spider-crab conquerors, but they make the mail rockets run on time.

  • Madison Blane

    Leukemia and Lymphoma Society accepts donations from atheists turned down by American Cancer Society!
    The Foundation Beyond Belief has formed a great relationship with Leukemia & Lymphoma Society…consider participating in and supporting Light the Night walks in your area!

  • Madison Blane

    You can send this comment directly to the board if you feel that it might not be passed along… http://www.mgpl.org/about/contact/

  • Madison Blane

    It seems as if you’ve just likened Friendly Atheists to the Devil.

  • Jessica R Maxwell

    Hey Hemant I have a great Idea, I know you wanted to give this money to this community and as a person who donated I truly appreciate this effort to getting it to them, but I know that there are more people grateful to having this donation then this town which is obviously do not want our help. So I say that to say this, I also follow the Thinking Atheist on Facebook, Youtube and on their website and they was doing this great project Five for Five, five foundations to donate to in five days, and the last one was the greatest, and I think it was slightly unfair because they got a little backlash from it because everyone was saying “why her”? well the truth is, is that every life is worth saving if possible so I will leave you the link to the story so you can read it in complete but I think that this is suck a great cause and I think it would mean more then it going to a town that doesn’t want it. Her name is Ashley Campbell, and she has Cystic Fibrosis and she is on the donors list for a double lung transplant, and this is about saving a life, I urge you to read the story and think about it. Here’s the link…. http://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/25j3/ashleycampbell

  • Julie Smiley

    Of course they do, cause those people pose as christians, and god will forgive them if they go to church on Sundays.

  • Brad White

    My Christian organization would accept the grant, so long as it didn’t restrict our ability to maintain a christian viewpoint….or as long as it didn’t have a requirement of promoting non-theistic views. I’ve emailed the FBB folks to see what the requirements are. My organization, Changing the Face of Christianity (www.changingthefaceofchristianity.com) is about helping Christians authentically love God and love others. We would love to see Christians and atheists loving one another, without the mudslinging in both directions. We aren’t trying to convert atheists to Christians. We’re about helping Christians be more Christ-like.

  • On a day when everything will be filtered through the glorious rainbow-hued prism that is Duck Dynasty, I’ll note two kinds of “free speech.”

    The Duck Dynasty guy is entitled to say whatever he wants, but then A&E needs to see what it says about them if they take no action and let hateful speech pass. A&E’s reaction could be reasonable (it certainly seems so given the draconian responses to other celebrities who’ve said stupid stuff).

    The potential recipients of atheists’ generosity may say that they’re in the same boat. They need to think about what it says about them, and it’s sort of “free speech” to say, “No, you can take your tainted money elsewhere. God bless.”

    But what’s the negative equivalent for the recipient that compares with A&E’s situation? The Christian organization gets those gosh-darn atheists to contribute to a cause worthy of Christians’ attention and contributions, so then how is that a bad thing?

  • Brad White

    FYI, I got a response from Dale, the executive director at FBB. here is part of his response: “One clarification: We have had 8 organizations decline to work with us because of our nontheistic identity, but only five of those were actually turning down grants. The others were businesses declining to work with us on such things as web design, etc. And it should be pointed out that the VAST majority of organizations, including religiously-based groups, have been entirely willing to work with us and welcoming of various partnerships. I really don’t like to emphasize the negative, since it is the exception.”

  • Quick response: FBB gives grants to religious groups that do amazing things for charity, as long as there’s no proselytizing involved. We’ve never been about promoting atheism.

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