Atheists’ Collection Plate, With Religious Inspiration

Four or five Sundays in 2005, his own atheism notwithstanding, Dale McGowan took his family into the neo-Gothic grandeur of St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Minneapolis on a kind of skeptic’s field trip.

Mr. McGowan went because he wanted his three young children to have “religious literacy.” He went because his mother-in-law, Barbara Maples, belonged to the congregation. He went because, as a college professor with a fondness for weekend sweatpants, church gave him the rare chance to wear the ties she invariably gave him for his birthday.

Something else began to strike Mr. McGowan on those visits. He listened to the vicar preach about ministering to the poor, and he learned that the cathedral helped to sponsor a weekly dinner for the homeless. Most importantly, he watched as the collection plate moved through the pews and as his mother-in-law, who volunteered at those dinners, dropped in her offering.

All those details added up to a nonbeliever’s revelation. The theology and the voluntarism and the philanthropy, Mr. McGowan came to realize, were part of a greater whole, a commitment to charity as part of religious practice. And on that practice, this atheist felt lacking. To put it in church slang, he was convicted.

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I find it interesting that atheists still need the influence of religion (Christianity), in order to start a charity etc. We know from various research that atheists tend to give to charity less that religious people, but atheists living in a Christian society are bound to give more to charity than say a non-religious Chinese doctor living in Beijing. The culture you grow up in has a big part of it. And as it says in the article, they base their giving on the Christian tradition of paying weekly tithes.

I recommend Dr Craig's talk on this: Christians Give MORE to Charity than Atheists

[quote="ethiopianheart, post:1, topic:193404"]

I find it interesting that atheists still need the influence of religion (Christianity), in order to start a charity etc

[/quote]

I'm not sure that is generally true, although in this particular instance the charity seems motivated by the model of Christian charities.

I think the unique thing about the charity mentioned in the article is the founder's need for a common identity as atheists. It seems he sees the charity as a way of reaffirming one's religious (or non-religious, if you prefer) choice and the value of that choice. Generally speaking, atheists are free to donate to any charity they wish, even on a subscription basis. But this particular charity bills itself as an atheist charity. :coffeeread:

[quote="ethiopianheart, post:1, topic:193404"]
I find it interesting that atheists still need the influence of religion (Christianity), in order to start a charity etc.

[/quote]

As Dale pointed out, this far too general statement appears to apply only to this particular circumstance. There are plenty of secular charities, atheists have often been some of the greatest philanthropists, and I personally know atheists who volunteer their time to give back to the community.

The thing is, atheism is simply the lack of a belief. As a result, it's almost never going to be credited as a motivating force; instead, atheist philanthropists will be motivated by other things: for instance, their love of giving, their desire to help out their fellow humans, the joy of doing something nice for another person, etc.

And anyway, it goes without saying that one's charitable contributions have nothing to do with whether one's ideas are correct or not.

[quote="AntiTheist, post:3, topic:193404"]
.

The thing is, atheism is simply the lack of a belief. As a result, it's almost never going to be credited as a motivating force; instead, atheist philanthropists will be motivated by other things: for instance, their love of giving, their desire to help out their fellow humans, the joy of doing something nice for another person, etc.

And anyway, it goes without saying that one's charitable contributions have nothing to do with whether one's ideas are correct or not.

[/quote]

But even with that said, when was the last time you heard of the "Atheist Children's Hospital" or the "Atheist Homeless Shelter"? For some reason the "Non-Religious Affiliated Charities" were not well represented at in Haiti after the earthquake.

Unsurprisingly, to try to organize anything on the basis of disbelief is not often a successful venture.

But you see, that is what is unique about the charity mentioned in the first post. And interesting, from a cultural perspective.

In the past, atheists have generally been content to keep their non-belief (or belief, if you prefer) as a private thing. But this particular charity proclaims atheism as a group identity. People who participate seem to identity as Atheist, and not just atheist.

I’m not sure if this is anyway connected to the quasi-movement which has been called evangelical atheism, but it does seem to be heading in a similar direction.

[quote="Dale_M, post:6, topic:193404"]
But you see, that is what is unique about the charity mentioned in the first post. And interesting, from a cultural perspective.

In the past, atheists have generally been content to keep their non-belief (or belief, if you prefer) as a private thing. But this particular charity proclaims atheism as a group identity. People who participate seem to identity as Atheist, and not just atheist.

I'm not sure if this is anyway connected to the quasi-movement which has been called evangelical atheism, but it does seem to be heading in a similar direction.

[/quote]

What? Someone needs to inform me of the movement. Personally, I don't give a lot to charity, but I will if I see that they need it. By the way, what's the difference between atheism and Atheism? Group identity?

So one time, a woman came up to me in a grocery market and said she and her child were hungry and living in her car. Now if it was just her, I wouldn't have cared, she looked young and capable; but no child should have to go hungry. So I gave her a loaf of bread I had bought. When she took it she said, "god bless you, thank you jesus". I told her, "I don't need god's blessing, your thanks are enough, and I gave you that bread, not jesus." She promptly returned the bread and I was on my way. Granted I was much more of a dick 5 years ago but still, I guess her kid wasn't that hungry.

[quote="Darryl1958, post:5, topic:193404"]
Unsurprisingly, to try to organize anything on the basis of disbelief is not often a successful venture.

[/quote]

I don't think the act has been done enough to show results either way. Plus atheists have a harder message to preach :p Not only that we need to overcome the cultural and mental barrier's of individuals ;)

[quote="lynx, post:8, topic:193404"]
I don't think the act has been done enough to show results either way. Plus atheists have a harder message to preach :p Not only that we need to overcome the cultural and mental barrier's of individuals ;)

[/quote]

I don't think that the act of organizing in the name of disbelief has been done much either. The lack of results is the result then.
It is pretty much what we might expect.

Huh? You were supposed to be given your membership card and taught the secret handshake when you got the tattoo. You did get tattooed didn’t you?
:wink:

Well, don’t take my comments as canonical, I’m just speculating (aka making things up) but I think group identity is what is unique about the charity discussed in the article. And that was what I was driving at with small a versus capital A atheism. But as I said, that’s just my take on the article. I’m interested in reading other opinions. :slight_smile:

[quote="Darryl1958, post:9, topic:193404"]
The lack of results is the result then.
It is pretty much what we might expect.

[/quote]

LOL, I think not. You really shouldn't attempt to state an assumption as a truth without further experimentation on the sociological affects of preaching atheism.

[quote="Dale_M, post:10, topic:193404"]
Huh? You were supposed to be given your membership card and taught the secret handshake when you got the tattoo. You did get tattooed didn't you?
;)

[/quote]

They're always holding back on me. When I get back from our annual ski trip i'll be sure to bring it up.

[quote="Dale_M, post:10, topic:193404"]
Well, don't take my comments as canonical, I'm just speculating (aka making things up)

[/quote]

It's called theorizing :thumbsup:

[quote="Dale_M, post:10, topic:193404"]
but I think group identity is what is unique about the charity discussed in the article. And that was what I was driving at with small a versus capital A atheism. But as I said, that's just my take on the article. I'm interested in reading other opinions. :)

[/quote]

Sounds good to me :) My general opinion is do it when it feels right (refer to above story). Philosophically, one should only give as much as they can afford to lose.

There’s a message?

Although I will say the few atheist I’ve known would give the Jehovah’s Witnesses a run for their money in their zeal for spreading the (non)word.

Well, as I just said above, atheism is a lack of a belief, not itself a belief, so it’s hardly surprising that people don’t use it as the basis for action. It’s our beliefs that guide our actions – like our belief in the common humanity of people, our belief in the good feelings associated with charity – not our non-beliefs.

I assume you don’t believe in leprechauns, but you’re not about to run out and start an “A-leprechaunist Homless Shelter,” are you?

For some reason the “Non-Religious Affiliated Charities” were not well represented at in Haiti after the earthquake.

Is that so? I’m aware of at least ten secular charities that helped Haiti (American Humanist Charities, Oxfam America, Madre, ActionAid International, International Relief Teams, AmeriCares, Doctors Without Borders, Direct Relief International, and American Red Cross).

And please don’t say, “But there are religious people who participate in those charities.” My head can’t take another facepalm today.

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