Recently Ron Lindsey from the Center For inquiry, wrote a piece titled “Should We Support SHARE?“. Ron starts off with a brief, but good description of what SHARE is:
The Center for Inquiry sponsors coordinated charitable giving through SHARE (the Skeptics and Humanists Aid and Relief Effort). SHARE publicizes the need for money to assist those in distress (typically as the result of a natural disaster), collects the money, and then donates it to a nonreligious relief agency that it believes will be effective in delivering required assistance. For example, money raised for Haitian relief went to Doctors Without Borders. SHARE does not deliver the services itself. CFI branches also engage in charity drives, but in addition, some of them sponsor group projects that either raise money for charity (for example, a charity run) or provide services, such as park or river clean-ups, tutoring for children, and so forth.
Now SHARE is not the only organization that fills this need. There is also Non-Believers Giving Aid, Foundation Beyond Belief, and many others on a local level which are not quite as well known. Each of these are completely secular groups, that help funnel money from non-believers to charities around the world.
It would seem simple that nobody would object to secular people giving money to charities, however there is apparently an actually debate in the free thought community about whether or not secular organizations should be engaging in this type of fund-raising.
Their argument goes something like this: Secular advocacy organizations do not (usually) deliver needed services themselves. That is, secular advocacy organizations do not provide food, medical assistance, housing, etc. All they are doing is aggregating donations based on the lifestance of the donor. Such an endeavor does not reflect a secular perspective, but rather a religious one… Why should we encourage secular people to self-segregate and funnel their donations through a secular advocacy organization when they can just skip this intermediary step and give directly to the charity that is actually providing services?
And in a perfect world I might agree with this view point. Ideally everybody would give to whatever charities they find most worthy, and it would make no difference if they are christian, muslim, hindu, atheist, etc…
The problem with this view, as I see it, is that we live in an imperfect world. In this world there is a perception that believers are “more moral” than atheists, agnostics, and “other non-believers”. Surveys into charitable donations seemingly back up these assertions, showing that among other things, “religious people are 25 percentage points more likely than secularists to donate money (91 percent to 66 percent) and 23 points more likely to volunteer time (67 percent to 44 percent).”
I think it is important for us to combat this “negative” view of non-believers. And by giving as part of a group of non-believers, it shows that we are just as “moral” as believers. Ideally this would not be needed, but there is a public relations aspect that can not be ignored. And if we are going to donate anyways, we may as well have that donation ALSO help (in a PR sense at least) the community that we belong to.
It is for this reason, that I view SHARE, Non-Believers Giving Aid, Foundation Beyond Belief, and other secular advocacy groups not only as a good thing, but as a necessary thing…