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Sam Harris, atheists, and charitable giving

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Sam Harris/ Christopher Michel (Creative Commons)

We’ve written a fair bit here about Sam Harris, one of the Four Horsemen of the new atheist apocalypse. Striving to remain decent without believing in free will (and reviled for his reading choices), he offers a window into a world that is convinced it has the answers for ours.

Here are some thoughts on Sam Harris’s approach to charitable giving:

Unfortunately for Sam, he wrote this nonsense [that atheists are just as charitable as others] in his Letter to a Christian Nation just a few months before the actual science was done on charitable giving. November 2006 saw the release of the definitive in-depth study on the subject of charitable giving: Who Really Cares? by Syracuse professor Arthur Brooks. Results? Across the board, in every category, accounting for every variable, no matter how you slice the pie, the single biggest factor behind charitable giving is . . . religious faith.3 The amount of private charitable giving from American individuals alone (not including foundations, corporations, etc.) could easily finance the entire gross domestic product of Sam’s more “atheistic” nations, Sweden, Norway, or Denmark.4

The results must be alarming for all secularists. The working poor in America give more than the poor on welfare who have the same income. In fact, the working poor give a larger percentage of their income than the middle class. Two-thirds of American private donations go to other than religious activities (in other words, about 70% in places other than church offering plates). Yet, religious people are more likely to donate even to secular causes than non-religious people are. America gives as much to foreign aid as other nations do, the difference is that we do it mostly through private charity and not government aid. We give it freely—not through socialist government compulsion. No European nation comes close to us in freely-given charitable donations. Joel McDurman, “Who really cares? The fallacy of charitable secularism” at AmericanVision

McDurman offers some interesting statistics as well, re North America vs. Europe.

One way of looking at charitable giving vs government intervention is that the former is a sort of straw poll on need. Donors become a personal part of the solution they are paying for.

Hat tip: Philip Cunningham

See also: Well, why does Sam Harris matter?

Progressives eating their own (Barry Arrington)

Sam Harris on taboo topics, Jordan Peterson, and getting sent to PC hell

and

Shambolic atheist community faces some tough choices

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