God Doesn't Do
Charity Work, People Do
Peter Hopp

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To:
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Wednesday, January 19, 2000 4:00 AM

As for charity, don't get taken in by this bluff.

Timothy Gorski said it best in an article he wrote for PAM recently. I comment on his article in a recent editorial.

Not only do we all contribute to charity whether we want to or not, we all contribute to charities whose only motive is to evangelize the objects of the charity. Meanwhile, if "charity" needs to be done, it is everyone's responsibility to contribute: this is why so much of our tax base goes to helping Americans achieve a minimum standard of living. Most atheists I know support this system; many Christians oppose welfare and other systems specifically because they want the churches to be the only ones who get credit for doing good. This is the bluff.

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To:
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Wednesday, January 19, 2000 7:02 PM

Helping is helping; stumping for an ideology is stumping for an ideology. I don't think helping has anything to do with stumping for an ideology (except that some of the more dishonest humans point to organizations whose primary purpose is to stump for an ideology and who help as, at best, an afterthought and, at worst, for the purpose of pointing to the help in their efforts to bring credibility to the organization).

I think most atheists would agree that we help because it is right and because nobody else is going to do it (i.e., no gods or angels or space bretheren). I also think most atheists who thought about it would agree that helping is everybody's responsibility, and thus would support the notion of government organizations doing the helping.

Meanwhile, how easy would it be to garner widespread support for an atheist organization in a predominantly theistic society, considering that more Americans think it's okay to discriminate against atheists than think it's okay to discriminate against homosexuals.

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To:
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Thursday, January 20, 2000 2:35 PM

If it's any consolation to you, the founder of the American Red Cross was very atheistic (if not an outright atheist). She had the foresight to keep atheism out of the organization's agenda, so now even theists can feel comfortable supporting it. This is an example why I do not support the notion of helping organizations which (either as an aside or as a primary goal) also serve up a philosophical agenda.

Many Christians practice the philosophy of Let your light shine so others may see your good works and thus glorify God. I see this motive for doing good as vastly inferior to the motive of doing good because it needs to be done. I think most atheists (yea, most humans) would do good because it needs to get done. I do not support "atheist" helping organizations because I see the act of stumping for atheism (disguised as a helping effort) to be an inferior motive and to border on immorality.

When Portland flooded, the effort was free from any philosophical agenda, and everyone felt free to join in. There were more than enough volunteers, and many of us had to stand on the bridge and watch the others. Had it been the "Relief Effort to Bring Credibility To the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints," I might have been tempted to stand on the bridge and watch the newfangled Mormons and their supporters do the work.

This whole idea is divisive: I support the Saint Francis Soup Kitchen simply because I know that absolutely no Roman Catholicism occurs during their feedings. I openly oppose the fundraising efforts of the Rescue Mission because people must endure a 60-minute sermon before they are allowed to eat the food that we, the public (including atheists), have donated. Then they have the audacity to point out how wonderful and generous and giving the Christians are. Wait a minute! "Positive Atheism" gets several pieces of junk mail from them in it's PO Box, and its publisher gets the same junk mail at home. When I go to the store, there is a display at every checkout stand. Their primary goal is not to feed the poor but to preach fundamentalist Christian dogma.

In India, it is the atheists who overtly organize flood relief efforts. Lavanam says that those of various religions don't want to bury the dead of other religions, and won't lift a finger to bury any unidentified dead. To counter this, Lavanam explains that "He is not a Muslim or a Hindu now, he is dead. We, the living, need to bury him." Fortunately, we do not have this unique problem here in America (though we do have other problems of our own). This is, however, one case where atheism, the philosophy, was able to cut through a serious problem and get some needed work done. We should not toot our own horn beyond the fact that the atheists were able to bring enough theists together on this one issue to accomplish the goal.

Lavanam's organization got a leg up during the revolution in 1948, because of its affiliation with Gandhi and India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and his daughter, Indira Gandhi. In 1776, when America was born, atheism was not an intellectually tenable position simply because Charles Darwin's Origin of Species had yet to be published. However, modern atheism's predecessor, Deism, was dominant during the post revolutionary decades; nevertheless, over two centuries have passed and much has changed. Christianity now dominates the land.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

Graphic Rule

Material by Cliff Walker (including unsigned editorial commentary) is copyright ©1995-2006 by Cliff Walker. Each submission is copyrighted by its writer, who retains control of the work except that by submitting it to Positive Atheism, permission has been granted to use the material or an edited version: (1) on the Positive Atheism web site; (2) in Positive Atheism Magazine; (3) in subsequent works controlled by Cliff Walker or Positive Atheism Magazine (including published or posted compilations). Excerpts not exceeding 500 words are allowed provided the proper copyright notice is affixed. Other use requires permission; Positive Atheism will work to protect the rights of all who submit their writings to us.