Is faith good for the world?

The argument between the religious and the non-religious goes back for quite a while and is a heated one. I am a Christian, which is a statement that evokes a myriad of responses from both sides. However a statement of atheism seems to illicit an equally (if not more) defined variety of responses. I am not going to attempt to settle an argument, that despite what either side says is based more on emotions than fact. I am however going to address the viewpoint of faith being more of an abusive relationship on the world than a beneficial one. I will do this through the topic of “Who is more charitable, religious people or non-religious.”

In an article from the website Conservapedia http://www.conservapedia.com/atheism_and_charity, a study is cited heavily from Havard University conducted by Robert Putnam; in which he looked for a pattern of charitability in people both religious and non-religious. The study found that religious people were much more likely to donate money (91% to 66%) and time (67% to 44%) than non-religious people. The study itself cites a study done by Albert Brooks. I encourage anyone reading this blog to follow the link above and read the article for themselves. This is the first source I found on my way to tackling this subject, and the article is short because it simply highlights the findings of this study.

Next I read an article on secular humanism, http://secularhuminism.org/index.php?section=fi&page=generous_atheists. This article addressed the findings of the above mentioned study and offered a counter point to said findings. The issue taken was that giving of one’s money is not necessarily and indicator of charitable behavior. Pointing out studies that have attempted to objectively  highlight a specific baseline of altruism. The article points out that in many of these studies there is little to no discernible difference between the religious and non-religious in reference to an altruistic mindset and behavior. It then points out some difference between countries with a greater non-religious community and a larger welfare state vs. countries in the opposing category. Showing that while individual giving is higher in countries like the United States, the government gives far more per capita in countries like Denmark. It also finds some bizarre inconsistencies in people’s behavior vs. assumed reaction, based upon data.

On the website hotair.com there is an interesting write-up about a study finding that atheists give based more upon emotional connection than any sort of sense of obligation, http://hotair.com/archives/2012/05/01/confirmed-atheists-more-motivated-by-compassion-in-charitable-giving-than-believers-are/ . The study showed that atheists needed to feel connected on an emotional level before they would respond to the need of the problem in question. As where religious people needed far less emotional motivation a response was elicited. The writer of the article points out that because of this need to be emotionally connected to the cause in question that he believes it makes atheist’s giving more erratic, and helps to explain the discrepancy between the giving of religious and non-religious people.

An article by the Christian Post addressed the rise over the last four years of charitable donations by atheists, http://m.christianpost.com/news/atheists-up-charity-giving-good-without-god–65929/ . It addressed the point that since the study by Albert Brooks came out in 2003 that shows the significant discrepancy between religious and non-religious people in terms of charitable donations, there has been significant efforts by atheist groups to increase the total amount given by the non-religious community. Dr. Alex McFarland has argued that the increase in giving is because of Christians or religious people. Also he says that a large portion of that giving was not going to benevolent or philanthropic organizations, but instead toward greater anti-religious activism.

Now I offer a quick point that has more to do with the unfair assertion of some outspoken and close-minded atheists, that the world and people at large suffer because of religion and that the path out of this suffering is atheism. Dr. R.J. Rummel, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Hawaii made a conservative estimate that in the last 100 years approximately 110,286,000 people have been put to death by atheist governments.

The end result of this blog post is not to make the point that religious people are better than non-religious people. It is to make the point that when wishing that everyone who has a viewpoint that is different from yours would simply go away, it would be best to consider instead what they bring to the table. At least in Christianity the ideals of charity, forgiveness, and grace are hardwired into the basic foundation of the belief. As is the acceptance that people are not perfect and will fail to follow these tenants. Also the idea of the freedom to choose, whatever that choice may be. Religious people make the non-religious behave better and hold themselves to a high standard, while the non-religious keep the religious accountable to how they live out their faith. Constant and abusive rhetoric that attack and unfairly characterizes one side or the other is not the behavior of intelligent or compassionate people.

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