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Sacramento Freethinkers Atheists & Nonbelievers (FAN) Message Board › Religion and charity

Religion and charity

Zahid
user13616340
Sacramento, CA
Post #: 1
I've always assumed that non-believers are as likely to volunteer for and donate to charity as religious folks. That assumption was dealt a big blow when someone showed me this Hoover Institute article. It's an analysis of the 2000 Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey. The analysis reveals a vast disparity in charitable work and donations between "religious people" (those who attend religious services one or more times a week) vs "secularists" (those who attend religious services less than a few times per year or explicitly say they have no religion).

"The differences in charity between secular and religious people are dramatic. Religious people are 25 percentage points more likely than secularists to donate money (91 percent to 66 percent) and 23 points more likely to volunteer time (67 percent to 44 percent)."

The analysis doesn't separate atheists from people who identify with a religion. (The underlying survey might support mining the data more discretely--I didn't review the raw data.) But assuming that atheists as a subgroup are representative of secularists as a whole, this is a disappointing and eye-opening revelation.

I'm interested in your comments. Why do you think atheists are less likely to give? Or do you believe that the analysis is flawed, or doesn't reflect on atheists at all?

[If you can't see the links above, the URLs are:
http://www.hoover.org/publications/policy-review/article/6577­ and http://www.ropercenter.uconn.edu/data_access/data/datasets/social_capital_community_survey.html­.
Rachael
Rachael_H
Sacramento, CA
Post #: 123
What bad timing... Roy Sablosky spoke about this on Sunday at the HAGSA meeting. Overall research shows that religious people are NOT more likely to donate money or time to secular causes, only to church related things. Donating to a church mostly helps the church. It's like paying membership to a club you belong to, not really doing "charity" like they claim in studies.
Roberto L.
rleibman
Roseville, CA
Post #: 26
What Racheal said. Can I count my Academy of Sciences membership and other museum memberships then?
Rachael
Rachael_H
Sacramento, CA
Post #: 124
Absolutely Roberto (they are nonprofits that are educating and helping the community)

You can all become members of the Sacramento Tree Foundation and count that too!
sactree.com :)
Jim
jimfolsomca
Folsom, CA
Post #: 11
I pull all the weeds in my christian neighbors yards... and baby sit their kids running wild in the street... because the parents are clueless and irresponsible... so does that count as charity? smile I'd probably do more than that, if I didn't think they'd be offended by an atheist doing their "job"... LOL
David D.
DavidDiskin
Lodi, CA
Post #: 105
I pull all the weeds in my christian neighbors yards... and baby sit their kids running wild in the street... because the parents are clueless and irresponsible... so does that count as charity?

Well, the US tax code doesn't consider labor to be tax-deductable, so no. :P
David D.
DavidDiskin
Lodi, CA
Post #: 106
You can all become members of the Sacramento Tree Foundation and count that too!
sactree.com :)

wink
Zahid
user13616340
Sacramento, CA
Post #: 2
What bad timing... Roy Sablosky spoke about this on Sunday at the HAGSA meeting. Overall research shows that religious people are NOT more likely to donate money or time to secular causes, only to church related things. Donating to a church mostly helps the church.

The Hoover analysis indicates this is not the case--that religious folks give significantly more even to non-religious charities. It says:

"While 68 percent of the total population gives (and 51 percent volunteers) to nonreligious causes each year, religious people are 10 points more likely to give to these causes than secularists (71 percent to 61 percent) and 21 points more likely to volunteer (60 percent to 39 percent). For example, religious people are 7 points more likely than secularists to volunteer for neighborhood and civic groups, 20 points more likely to volunteer to help the poor or elderly, and 26 points more likely to volunteer for school or youth programs."

It's not clear to me whether the survey truly separated religious- or church-based "school or youth programs" from secular ones, so these last two examples might be suspect. That leaves us with "7 points more likely ... to volunteer for neighborhood and civic groups," which is more modest but obviously still significant. I'm curious to know how the presentation you saw on Sunday refutes that. Did he present statistics to support the claim that only religious causes benefit from the gap in giving?

It's like paying membership to a club you belong to, not really doing "charity" like they claim in studies.
As a separate matter from the above discussion, I can't agree with this. Regardless of the motivation, participating in school or youth programs, or programs for the elderly, is primarily charitable work. The church likely benefits from the standpoint of publicity and evangelism opportunities, but that doesn't negate the charitable purpose. If that weren't true, then we as SacFAN would be subject to the same definitions, right? If we, for instance, volunteered as a group for the Sacramento Children's Home, does that mean it wouldn't be charity but rather "paying membership to a club we belong to"?
Rachael
Rachael_H
Sacramento, CA
Post #: 125
David and Jim, most of the studies talking about religious people being more charitable or generous take into account money AND time. (Which btw, a volunteer hour in 2010 had an estimated value of $21.36/hour according to the Independant Sector http://www.independen...­ ... my coworker just realized that we aren't even considered as valuable as employees of a nonprofit. :P)

I'd recommend talking to Roy Sablosky since he has done a lot of research and written a paper he is trying to publish. (He's a member, you can message him through the site if he doesn't see the message board himself).

Based on his presentation on Sunday, I'm guessing that that study your citing is self reported? He showed several studies showing that self reporting is a lot higher than actual volunteering and donations.

Yes, he showed a graph from a study (or book?) claiming religious people are more charitable, and when you look closely at the graph only religious causes benefited from the gap in giving.

Of course doing good causes for the community counts whether it's a church or a secular organization/individual doing it. I was referring to giving money to the church and volunteering to help with things for the church (not things the church is doing for the public). Almost all of the money donated at a church service goes to the salaries and building maintenance and other costs like that.
Jim
jimfolsomca
Folsom, CA
Post #: 12
thanks David and Rachael... though what I posted was my attempt at humor and sarcasm... LOL I actually do those things, but I do them because I like to do them, not because I want remuneration. An occasional "thanks" is appreciated, though I find when I volunteer for "FREE" I get more complaints than thanks. Funny how that works.

The Sacramento Tree Foundation sounds like a worthy organization, but realistically, I don't think trees belong anywhere near a building. They're wonderful out in a forest where they don't interfere with utility lines, roofs, foundations, etc. Oddly enough, landscaping is one of my favorite hobbies.

I find that churches today are more like health clubs and country clubs. People who attend are much more interested in the social aspects, being seen in the right place, and not having to feel guilty because they didn't attend... because their behavior outside of church is anything but "christlike."
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