Do atheists care less?

Maclean’s asked this provocative question a couple weeks ago on its editorial page and I mentioned it recently in a message about generosity.  It turns out that a survey released by Statistics Canada reveals that, on average, churchgoers give more generously of their money and time to charities than people who are not part of a church family.  Maclean’s goes so far as to assert that

“without organized religion, the world would be a much poorer and less comfortable place for those less fortunate.”

It’s nice to see this mentioned in Maclean’s, though it’s a shame when such a statement surprises people.

Here’s another excerpt from the editorial:

“The average annual donation from a churchgoer is $1,038.  For the rest of the population, $295. 
With respect to volunteer effort, two-thirds of churchgoers give their time to non-profit causes while only 43% of non-attendees do likewise.  And churchgoers put in twice as many hours volunteering.”

The Maclean’s editorial ends with noting the Foundation Beyond Belief, a group

“which aims to ‘encourage and demonstrate the generosity and compassion of atheists…’  So far, its 477 members have raised $18,760.  Or about as much as 18 churchgoers in one year.”

We can debate whether this particular comparison to atheists is fair.  Nevertheless, Christians ought to be characterized as the most generous people on the planet.  Of all of humanity, we understand best the vastness of God’s generosity: There are no limits to His love and grace.  May our society see less and less of a limit to ours!

2 thoughts on “Do atheists care less?

  1. Rachel says:

    We can debate? Then let’s. I am a member of Foundation Beyond Belief and know several others as well. Each of us gives to at least a dozen different charities, of which the Foundation is only one — and one that has existed for five months.

    So the Maclean’s article takes five months of my giving to just one organization and compares it to a religious person’s complete giving for a full year — and you call the fairness of the comparison “debatable.” Interesting.

    Even more to the point: the Foundation has frequently complimented churchgoers for creating a more effective culture of giving and expressed its hope that we can live up to the fine example they have set. I think the proper response to that should be encouragement, not denigration.


  2. SjG says:

    Thank you, Rachel, for your input and shedding some light on Maclean’s comparison.

    In addition to your remarks, I would imagine that churches themselves (most being charitable organizations) benefit from much of the charitable giving lauded in the article, which also makes the comparison less than fair: While the Foundation Beyond Belief distributes funds to various “external” causes (I assume), much of the money gathered by churches funds “internal” church causes. I’m not saying that’s bad as I see value in the programs churches offer to help people grow in faith. But I don’t think it’s comparing apples to apples either, so to speak.

    I appreciate your graciousness towards the churchgoers who have helped create a culture of giving, despite having a different philosophical framework than perhaps most at the Foundation Beyond Belief. Regardless of our perspectives, may we continue to encourage each other in generosity towards people who need our help.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s