Give to Charity Directly, Not to Church

By Vexen Crabtree 2004 Oct 20

Good natured people do good with or without religious pressure. Giving to Church is the least efficient way to give to charity: most your money goes elsewhere. When religious adherents or ignorant people claim that religion, in the modern world, is a charitable enterprise they are overlooking the greater role that secular philosophies play in all charitable work. Religion in the modern world undermines charity work, misleading it, instead of helping it.


1. Secular and Religious Charity

Religion in general is given kudos for charitable work carried out in its name, even though charitable people would be doing good without it. That's not to say that religion as we know it in the West isn't largely a do-gooder in terms of charity. Charities have been historically founded and ran by religious groups both large and small. However this is largely due to the fact that good people who want to do good deeds have historically been easily tricked into Churches because it was seen as a good thing to do. Nowadays in the secular world, good people no longer feel social pressure to affiliate with Churches. It is obvious, increasingly since the enlightenment, that religion and morality are two completely different ball games, often separated by quite a distance. In the modern West, charities are largely secular, the most successful and largest of them being ran by secular government directly. Even charities that on paper are "religious" are often, in practice, secular. This is especially true where a charity was "founded" on "the principles" of any particular religion (normally a sect of Christianity, in the UK), but this traditional reference has become irrelevant to the reality of the present people involved.

The Church of Scotland's Board of Social Responsibility is now the largest voluntary social work agency in Scotland and is second only to Strathclyde Region's social work department, but religious affiliation plays no part in the selection or training of the personnel who provide its services, which are indistinguishable from those of local authorities.

"Religion in the Modern World: From Cathedrals to Cults"
Steve Bruce (1996) [Book Review]1

Certainly no evidence exists that so-called faith-based charities do any better than secular ones. Indeed, there is mounting evidence that some do worse. For example, in 1996, the then Texas governor George W. Bush saw to it that state agencies eliminated inspection requirements of religious charities. In five years, the rate of confirmed abuse and neglect at religious facilities rose by a factor of twenty-five compared to state-licensed facilities.

"God, the Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist"
Prof. Victor J. Stenger (2007)2

2. Religious Charities Fighting Against Human Rights

Unfortunately many religious charities cannot separate welfare from doctrine. Religious charities have ran long campaigns against such things as gay rights, abortion rights for women and equality of gender. Mother Theresa, for example, spent a shocking amount of time jetting around the world in her private jet meeting with political leaders to discourage them from using such horrible things as condoms and contraception (making two of Africa's worst problems, overcrowding and STDs, worse). I am sure that this is hardly the type of causes that charitable donators had in mind when they dropped money into a charity box!

The most vocal opposition of anything that provides equality for gays are always Christians and Muslims. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the leader of the Catholic church in England and Wales, backed by the Church of England3 and the Muslim Council of Britain4, have led a campaign to get the government to give exceptions to Catholic Adoption agencies so that they won't have to give equal rights to gay parents. He says that for reasons of conscience and morality, Catholics cannot be made to comply with the law. Tony Blair is rejecting their case, but has given them extra time to "adjust" to the new laws - they won't have to fully comply until the end of 20083. We will discuss the Catholic's pro-discrimination lobby later.

"Homosexuality in Animals and Humans: 6.1. Opposition to Gay Adoption"
Vexen Crabtree
(2013)

A full summary can be found at: "Homosexuality in Animals and Humans: 6.1. Opposition to Gay Adoption" by Vexen Crabtree (2013)

3. It is Wasteful to Give to Religious Charities

3.1. Embezzlement and Waste

The Church is funded largely from public giving. Expenditure includes the costs of some rather large buildings, rituals, their wages, their legal battles and their running costs and finally some of it escapes as aid to those who need it. The next time you decide to give to charity, make sure it is not a church, for you are funding ignorance and inefficiency. I would rather go and help in person, than to trust someone else to use my money. Does it not bother the Pope that he can sit in a palace with the entire Vatican around him, extensive and rich ritual upheld for the trivial respect for outdated customs whilst half the world needs basic facilities? The Vatican has an annual revenue of $169 million (USD) - how much more efficient it would be if the millions of people who give to the Catholic church through collections or through tithing, gave to frontline charities instead.

Studies on Church funds have found that a surprising amount of collected money is stolen before it even reaches the official books of the church, so the percent wasted by religious charities (if you give to Church collections) is even higher than the figures above suggest.

A survey by researchers at Villanova University in the USA has found that 85 percent of Roman Catholic dioceses that responded had discovered embezzlement of church funds in the past five years, with 11 percent reporting that more than $500,000 had been stolen. The finding casts doubts on the morality of many Catholics who rapidly give in when temptation is put in their way. When no one is looking, the cash that goes into the collection plate does not always get deposited into the church's bank account. [...] Last October alone, three such cases surfaced, including one in Delray Beach, Fla., where two priests spent $8.6 million on trips to Las Vegas, dental work, property taxes and other expenses over four decades. In June, the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. fired its second-ranking financial officer, Judy Golliher, after she admitted stealing money that church officials put at more than $132,000.

National Secular Society (2007)5

3.2. St Albans Cathedral Case Study (Year 2000)

A summary of their outgoings:

Heat and Lighting, etc:£31 000
Other (+debts):£52 000
Abbey life + worship:£376 000
Building Upkeep:£339 000
Donations:£46 000

Total:£844 000

It is a trivial matter to see then, when you give a donation how much you are giving to charity:

Total:£844 000
To Charity:£46 000
% to charity (rounding up):5.5%

Let us put this into real terms. If you give a donation of £100 pounds to St. Albans Cathedral in order to feel good about yourself, to aid the poor, for charity, etc, then the amount that actually goes to charity is £5.50. 95% of your money has gone elsewhere.

Give your money to secular charities such as the Bill & Miranda Gates Foundation, or the Richard Dawkins Foundation, who both carefully research who gets donations.

4. Motivations Behind Charitable Work

If I am threatened into behaving in a good manner then I am at best amoral, because I am not acting with free will. If you believe that a supreme god is going to punish you (in hell) or deny you life (annihilation) if you misbehave, it is like being permanently threatened into behaving well. In addition, if you believe there is some great reward for behaving well, then your motives for good behavior are more selfish. An atheist who does not believe in heaven and hell is potentially more moral, for (s)he acts without these added factors. Most atheists who do not believe in divine judgement, and most theists who do, both act morally. Some of both groups act consistently immorally. The claim that belief in God is essential or aids moral behavior is wrong, and any amusing theistic claim that they have "better" morals, despite acting under a reward and punishment system, is deeply questionable. Who is more moral? Those who act for the sake of goodness itself, or those who do good acts under the belief that failure to do so results in hell?

"Do We Need Religion to Have Good Morals?: 1.2. Rewards and Punishment" by Vexen Crabtree (2014)

Read / Write Comments

By Vexen Crabtree 2004 Oct 20
http://www.vexen.co.uk/religion/charity.html
Parent page: Human Religions

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References: (What's this?)

Book Cover

The Economist. Published by The Economist Group, Ltd. A weekly newspaper in magazine format, famed for its accuracy, wide scope and intelligent content. See vexen.co.uk/references.html#Economist for some commentary on this source.

Bruce, Steve
(1996) Religion in the Modern World: From Cathedrals to Cults. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK [Book Review]

NSS. The National Secular Society, London, UK.
Newsline. Weekly news letter. See: "Secularism" by Vexen Crabtree (2011).

Stenger, Prof. Victor J.
(2007) God, the Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist. Published by Prometheus Books. Stenger is a Nobel-prize winning physicist, and a skeptical philosopher whose research is strictly rational and evidence-based.

Footnotes

  1. Bruce (1996) p40-41.^
  2. Stenger (2007) p249. Added to this page on 2011 Jul 07.^
  3. The Guardian (2007 Jan 25) article "Catholic agencies given deadline to comply on same-sex adoptions".^
  4. National Secular Society newsletter (2007 Jan 26).^
  5. National Secular Society (2007 Jan 05). Added to page on 2007 Jan 17.^

© 2014 Vexen Crabtree. All rights reserved.

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