- Religion and Philosophy
An Atheist View on Homelessness
What do atheists think of the homeless?
I know this may seem like an odd subject but apparently, there are people who want to know. I saw this search coming up over and over again when analyzing the search terms that had caused readers to land both on my articles and editorials on the topic of atheism and on the topic of homelessness.
I'm not really sure why people search for what non-believers think of people living without homes. I suspect it is because there are some specific religion-based views on the subject and there are religious people who consider atheism to be a religion. Perhaps they not only consider absence of religion a religion but one with specific teachings on the subject of poverty.
Whatever the reason people search for this information, I have written some of my thoughts on the matter below. They are not the views of a group or ideology but simply my own. However, since they are based on observation and empathy, chances are that many non-theists feel the same way. Please keep in mind, though, that chances are that many other atheists don't feel the same way not only because other people have different experiences and have made different observations but also because religious attitudes and practices often remain intact when belief in God no longer exists.
Homelessness is usually the result of not having enough money to afford lodging
Whatever the cause of not having sufficient funds to pay for housing, this is usually the reason people don't have homes. I know this sounds pretty simple but in capitalistic societies it usually is that simple. Remember that simple isn't the same as easy.
Sometimes very severe mental illness also causes homelessness in people who have plenty of money but lack of money is a far more common cause.
Keep in mind that these are my views and opinions only. Atheists don't have one monolithic opinion on anything except the existence of God.
It is not an indicator of personal character
Some (very few, I hope) religious people view homelessness as a punishment from God for being a bad person. Since it can be solved with money, it seems highly unlikely that it is an indicator of personal character. Give a terrible person a million dollars and he'd still be a terrible person. The reverse is also true, take away a good person's money and he'd still be a good person. Anything that can be fixed with money isn't a character flaw, in my opinion.
Some people may claim homelessness indicates stupidity, but, while ignorance or lack of intelligence can cause it, it's just a single cause out of many causes, not a characteristic of all homeless people.
Most people lose their homes because they are overwhelmed by the circumstances they find themselves in. Since those circumstances are often things beyond their control such as parental abandonment, war injuries, disabilities, severe mental illness, or losing a job when a company closes or downsizes, it seems extremely unlikely that character is to blame.
Also, since around fifty percent of American people without homes are children, it's clear to me the character of those children has little to do with their poverty.
The Phenomenon of Foster Care and Poverty - Aging Out of Foster Care Onto the Streets
When foster children in America reach seventeen or eighteen, some of them are kicked out of the house the second the support checks stop, sometimes partway through a school year. Without normal parental support, many of those young adults become homeless.
Children in foster care in America routinely age out of foster care and get dumped straight onto the streets with no preparation for life.
It is not some God's method of making people more humble, better people
A few believing people have told me that homelessness is actually good for the person who is experiencing it because suffering brings them closer to God. Since most people end up emotionally scarred and often physically damaged as well from the time they spent on the street it doesn't seem like a very effective method of making someone a better person. Since I'm an atheist I don't think there's a deity meddling with homeless peoples' lives because I'd have to think a God were real for that to be the case.
It is an issue human beings need to work on
I think it is important for people to help each other so life can be better. I don't believe in an afterlife so I believe the kind thing to do is to help each other have better lives in the here-and-now. Homeless people are people suffering and pushed outside many of society's protections so I think it is important people are made aware of them as people just as human and deserving as themselves.
So that's my view of homelessness as an atheist
Some notes about the guestbook below
If you came to this page because you were searching for atheist views on homelessness, please briefly explain why you thought there were a set of beliefs regarding homelessness that nonbelievers have in common or what it was that motivated your search. As this guestbook gets comments clarifying why people search for "atheist views on homelessness" I will add more answers to this page if it doesn't have answers that could help those searchers understand or get the information they need.
If you did not find this page via that keyword search, feel free to comment as well.
All comments will be moderated. Comments with even mild swearing will not be published nor will comments with irrelevant links. This is also not the place for evangelism or proselytizing. While the topic is atheism, the page's purpose is to answer the question of what atheist views are regarding homelessness or homeless people. Off-topic comments will not be published.