Can Atheists Be Charitable?
When people discuss compassion and charity online it's often said that there are no atheist charities. This stems from a common misconception that atheists are not giving and care nothing for their fellow man. The truth is that nonbelievers have just as much empathy as anyone else. As many of us see it, there's no one to help our fellow human beings except ourselves.
In fact, there are many atheist charities and charities founded by nontheists. Some of them avoid using the word atheist to avoid having the stigma attached to it affecting the operation of their charity. Others cautiously use a related term, humanist, in the charity's name. Fortunately, there has been more dialogue going on and it has become somewhat less acceptable to bash anything and everything associated with atheism so a few brave groups have used the word in the names of their charities.
If you'd like to learn more about some of these organizations, read on.
Atheist Centre of India
An organization helping people since the 1940s
Atheist Centre of India supports intercaste marriages and actively works to end child marriages and caste separation. The also provide aid to women in distress such as single mothers and prostitutes and promote equality of the sexes. Their education campaigns are designed to fight dangerous superstitions and practices such as witch hunts which can result in harm to innocent people.
Atheist Centre provides many services such as a Working Women's Hostel and a home for women with social problems. One of their programs, Vasavya Centre for Social Development, provides outreach services for more than 50 villages. The outreach program includes education, health care, advanced medical care including eye banks and corneal transplants, social programs, training for women, counseling and career guidance, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, sanitation facilities, drinking water facilities, sex education and contraception education, youth programs, and crÃ¨ches for children along with many other humanitarian services.
Really, the Atheist Centre of India provides so much that it's difficult to summarize it in one module. It has been providing relief, support, and care since the 1940s. That makes it perhaps the oldest continuously operating atheist charity in existence.
Once people get past the idea that atheist charities actually exist the next major misconception about them is that they are something brand new.
Foundation Beyond Belief
Offers a variety of guaranteed secular charities to support
Foundation Beyond Belief is non-theistic charity which launched January 1, 2010. Each quarter Foundation Beyond Belief features five charitable organizations. Members can choose which cause or causes to support from the featured causes.
The variety of causes is excellent and it's easy to find something you can get behind on their site if you are looking to support something important and life-changing.
Fellowship of Freethought
Atheist charitable organization
Among their outreach activities, the The Fellowship of Freethought organizes blood drives, collects food for local food banks, participates in holiday toy drives for needy children, and collects donations for deployed soldiers.
International Humanist and Ethical Union
A union of atheist and secular charities from around the world
The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) is a union which includes more than a hundred atheist, secular and freethought organizations from 40 different countries around the world. IEHU fights for freedom of expression, human rights, and separation of church and state. They support the victims of religious persecution and superstition. IHEU fights to end untouchability, caste systems which place people in abject poverty with no hope of escape due to accident of birth.
IHEU is very active in trying to save people convicted of religious "crimes" (homosexuality, women wearing trousers, loss of virginity, witchcraft, or similar accusations) from imprisonment, torture, and execution.
Is Atheism Incompatible With Charity?
Does Atheism Make A Person or Group Unable to Be Truly Charitable?
Atheists Helping the Homeless
Providing small comforts to homeless people
A small group of atheists in Austin Texas saw a need. There are quite a few charities providing food for homeless people there but few seemed to be providing things such as soap, toilet paper, toothbrushes and other hygiene items. By researching what was being given out by groups already, AHH discovered that some groups gave out toiletries, but very few groups, and very few toiletries to very few homeless people. No one specialized in toiletries, not even close. AHH, or Atheists Helping the Homeless, started collecting and giving out these items to homeless people in Austin, Texas in late 2009.
American Humanist Association
The humanist charities of the American Humanist Association have now established a Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund to distribute food and supplies to the people of Haiti.
Kiva Lending Team: Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and the Non-Religious
Kiva Lending Team: Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and the Non-Religious has provided $17,448,050 in loans to small business owners in the developing world at the time of this writing. They have helped 597,689 small business owners since the group formed in August of 2008.
They are a Kiva Lending Team, a group which provides small loans to people seeking to reach economic independence and to improve living conditions for their families and communities.
Humanist Soup Kitchen Video - From a man who works for a humanist charity giving food to homeless people
While plenty of people insist such organizations don't exist this young man has worked with one of them.
Secular Humanist Aid and Relief Effort
Atheists providing funds for medical care in Haiti
Secular Humanist Aid and Relief Effort (S.H.A.R.E.) provides general humanitarian aid, food assistance, and medical relief to disaster and accident victims. They have provided aid to Sri Lankan tsunami victims, hurricane Katrina survivors, Haitian earthquake victims, families displaced by California wildfires and Tennessee tornadoes, and many others.
More Secular Charities
- Secular Center USA
Performs various secular volunteer activities including food bank donations, Humane Society Dog Walk, and aiding local animal shelters.
- The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
A giant charity organization which performs relief efforts, fights poverty and disease, spreads education, and provides medical assistance to people in need. The Gates Foundation's efforts to fight malaria and AIDS in Africa are of unparalleled scope
- Hivos - People Unlimited
Hivos People Unlimited - wij zijn een internationale organisatie die zoekt naar nieuwe oplossingen voor hardnekkige wereldproblemen.
Is The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Secular? Is Its Adherence To Humanist Principles Relevant? Is It Catholic?
Melinda Gates is a Catholic; Bill is an atheist. Warren Buffet, an atheist, is one of the foundations biggest, non-Gates financial contributors. Is the organization still secular in nature if one of the co-founders is Catholic? I've been contacted via email and through comments with the suggestions that Melinda Gates is the driving member, the more active member so the charity can not be atheist or humanist. Some have stated it can't be secular, either, but must be Christian because Melinda is a Christian. Some who have contacted me have agreed that the charity is secular but consider the Catholic co-founder as the more important and more active co-founder, thus making it clearly not an atheist charity nor proof that atheists can be charitable.
I agree that the charity is not specifically only atheist even though it has enormous backing from atheists. I disagree that it is not humanist or secular, as the foundation does not distribute religious materials or adhere to Catholic religious teachings. Also, I disagree that Bill Gates is the lesser member of the pair, as he greatly reduced his duties at MicroSoft in 2006 specifically so he could spend more time and effort running the foundation. While I think Melinda's contribution is just as important, I don't think it makes the charity non-secular any more than atheist volunteers at religious charities make them secular.
What do you think? Is Bill's contribution and involvement with Warren Buffet (atheist philanthropist) plus the completely non-religious nature of the charity enough to make it secular or does Melinda's involvement make it a Catholic charity? Is its adherence to humanist principles enough to make it humanist?
Is The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Secular?
No, Melinda is a Catholic so it's not or it isn't secular for some other reason I'll explain.
Is That All the Atheist, Secular, or Humanist Charities in Existence?
Nope, this page doesn't even begin to scratch the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds of atheist, secular, and humanist run charities. As time allows, I will be adding more to this page.
If you'd like to see your non-theistic non-profit organization featured on this page, please leave its name and URL in the comments section at the bottom.