Monday, February 11, 2008

Making a difference without all the preaching...

I consider it a mark of shame that religious folk donate more money to charity than secularists. That's one of the reasons I bug the hell out of everyone who will listen about donating money to Donors Choose. I've recently been looking into other secular charities that have a bit of a broader scope. That being said, a lot of secular charities seem to exist to perpetuate secularism rather than actually render services to those in need, which is frankly one of the concerns I have about religious charities. I want my money to go to people in need, not to proselytize about belief-systems - even if its one I agree with.

Sure, I agree in general with groups like the ACLU, but there's an extent to which I'd rather fund direct services like food and educational aid rather than give money to fight over esoteric, if often important, legal issues. With that in mind, here's a list of secular charities that do provide direct services that may be worth looking into for folks who want to donate some of their resources to the less fortunate.

UNICEF - The United Nations World Children's Fund. UNICEF provides everything from food and vaccinations to educational services and is also at the forefront of the battle against HIV/AIDS in Africa.

Second Harvest - Second Harvest is the largest food bank in the United States and provides emergency food aid to disaster victims throughout the USA and Canada.

S.H.A.R.E. - Secular Humanist Aid and Relief Efforts. Paul Kurtz's secular charitable organzation, S.H.A.R.E., provides emergency aid to disaster victims and helped to alleviate some of the suffering doled out by the recent Indonesian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. Some of you may recognize Kurtz as the found of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.

I'll continue to post info on other secular charities as I get the chance to do so.

3 comments:

LivingAsOneFreed said...

Why Skippy!

Forgive me for doubting your sincerity in some issues.

I agree with you in that too many 'charities' are more concerned about sustaining themself more than helping the people they 'represent'. That's why I, too, am very selective about who I support.

I don't feel it's wrong, however, to ask things of a religious nature as the person is receiving a piece of bread or meal, a warm coat or blanket, or while sharing a cup of coffe during a time of fellowship. Even Jesus felt that people should be fed before they are 'fed' (the Word).

I don't mean to 'overflow' the topic from the blog we both monitor, so to speak. Just my H.O.

Have a good day. I like what I've read so far on your blog, but have not dug down into the archives much. I'll reserve my right to disagree on a future/past 'article'!

- L.

JAK said...

livingasonefreed -

(I'm expounding on your comment here, so this isn't really directed at you personally.)

How do you feel about religious organizations making proselytizing a precondition of rendering aid? In other words, is it proper for an organization to bring, say, water filters, to a refugee camp and not install them until the refugees have agreed to convert? To me, a scenario like that is simply extortion.

What about when the organization providing some service enters a country under false pretense, denying that their primary purpose is to evangelize? (When people enter the United States under false pretense, we put them in jail or deport them.) Is lying for Jesus OK?

I have much less problem with organizations that are up front about their purpose and intent, particularly if religious activities aren't a precondition of aid.

r/
JAK

Skippy said...

Livingasonefreed-

I believe, my friend, that yours is the first comment I've received that hasn't been an advertisement. If I had your address I'd mail you a cookie.

I'm not so deluded as to think that no religious charities do anything of value. I simply oppose religious conversion as a prerequisite for aid. Habitat for Humanity is a shining example of a good-minded ecumenical Christian organization that is providing a valuable service to the community without attempting any form of religious extortion. In fact, I spent quite a while debating as to whether or not to include it on my list.

On the other hand, New Life International, which JAK is apparently too polite to mention by name, is a company in Southern Indiana that nominally provides life-saving water filtration technology to high-risk areas of the Global South. That in and of itself is a noble goal. However, NLI (website: waterfortheworld.com) has taken the dubious action of delaying delivery/installation of water filters pending the establishment of fundamentalist Christian churches in the areas that it operates. Functionally, they offer people the cruel choice of forced religious conversion or the threat of death from any of a number of hideous waterborne diseases. They refer to this program as "Water Ministry".

THAT sort of thing is precisely what I wish to avoid when I advocate donations to secular charities.

In any event, I appreciate your comments and look forward to more of them in the future.