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.
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)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
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.”
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.”
The following study by The Economist6 highlights the roundabout ways in which religious causes can use up vast quantities of funds merely on preserving their own infrastructure:
“England's 61 cathedrals are perennially short of money and in need of repair. On February 7th English Heritage, a conservation outfit largely funded by the government and the Wolfson Foundation, a private charity, announced a £2.1m donation to 28 of the most deserving (among which popular York Minister did not figure), the latest in a series of grants going back to 1991. The Church of England pays another £2.7m a year, mostly to the poorest cathedrals, to fix leaky roofs and renovate crumbling stonework. But the handouts are nothing like enough to cover repair costs estimated at £11m per year. [...] Official neglect often puzzles foreigners; after all, Anglicanism is the state religion and several European countries, including Germany and Sweden, levy a tax to prop up their national churches.”
The Economist (2008)7
It is true that it is often not "charity money" that directly goes to such causes. The money could have instead been given to an actual charitable cause (such as, education, housing & workplace training for the homeless) instead of being spent on cold Church buildings.
In 2012, one minor tax concession was withdrawn by the UK government, but, the Church has long experience of political lobbying. The Church of England has 12,500 listed buildings - no other religious group receives anywhere near a fraction of the amount that the church is given for the maintenance of its old and poorly maintained buildings. The results were reported by the NSS:
“A concerted campaign by churches has led to the Chancellor agreeing to set aside £30 million per annum to compensate places of worship for the extra VAT resulting from the withdrawal of the concession. The government's offer is on top of £12m already provided to the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme (LPWGS). No equivalent money is to be made available to listed secular buildings. [...]
Shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman [...] said: 'It won't help the National Trust, all the museums, galleries, theatres, libraries and community centres that are in listed buildings, and which are important for heritage, tourism and local communities.”
A summary of their outgoings:
|Heat and Lighting, etc:||£31 000|
|Other (+debts):||£52 000|
|Abbey life + worship:||£376 000|
|Building Upkeep:||£339 000|
It is a trivial matter to see then, when you give a donation how much you are giving to charity:
|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.
“The "Synagogue, Church Of All Nations" chain of Christian evangelical churches has its headquarters in Lagos, Nigeria and is headed by Nigeria's most famous preacher, Temitope Balogun Joshua, known more simply as T.B. Joshua10. He claims that healing touches can cure HIV and AIDS amidst other diseases, even when administered indirectly over prayer lines. One branch of SCOAN is Emmanuel TV10 and Emmanuel Global Network (UK) Limited (UK registered charity). They have been responsible for at least 6 deaths from patients who were told to stop taking their medication, and, advise people that as their faith healing has a 100% success rate, HIV-infected patients can go on to start families after treatment by the church, with no contraception required. Such incredibly irresponsible and ignorant beliefs cause the spread of HIV/AIDS and other serious infections. The flouting of building regulations in Nigeria led to a church collapse in 2014 September, killing at least 115 people. Shockingly, their UK branch is a registered charity, based in Southwark, London, but the way they promote their faith-healing work over and above real medicine indicates that they do more harm to people than good.”
The contents menu of the page quoted above is:
Individual motives are often good-natured. There are always ulterior motives - people want to look good in front of other people, and, people like to feel good about themselves, but such reasons do not make the act of giving any less worthwhile. But sometimes personal bias gets in the way - for example - "nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of dollars donated by American Jews goes to Jewish institutions"11 (and I am sure similar trends exist for other faith groups). By giving to a secular, non-religious, charity, you are ensuring that the money is not spent on any schemes that are secretly operating as religious centres for their own religious ends.
Small religions and sects contain good-natured people who want to do good, and think their religion offers the correct framework. It also contains many who wish to promote the sect through doing charitable, public-eye work. This is morally impure, an ulterior motive. We are all aware of "charities" that sneak in religious propaganda in with social aid. Examples would include a large contingent of American and British Fundamentalists who organized themselves to help the poor in Iraq, and took with them thousands of copies of The Bible rather than, say, food.
Large religions frequently contain good-natured people and have got traditions of charity work. But such organisations have massive overheads, especially as all large religions have lost over half of their income over recent generations as numbers fell. In short, large religious charities are often inefficient financially. Morally they are superior, often performing charitable work at their own financial expense, although some of course do so in order to re-gain public support.
Secular charities are nearly entirely comprised of good-natured people trying to do the right thing as it is not a career choice (unlike those in the priesthood), and are often zealous, high-energy persons. Government-ran ones are frequently almost autonomous and partially under-funded, meaning that there is little scope for corruption, ill-motives or waste. Secular charities are probably the hardest-working, most morally-conscious entities with few ulterior motives other than to reduce human suffering. Government-ran charities do of course suffer from the interference of politics, and ulterior motives can surface that have much more to do with the image of the government rather than the reduction of suffering.
“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?”