The subject of atheist morality has come up quite often lately and it continues to hang heavily on my mind. I read a stat sheet recently that has bothered me profoundly. There are many positive statistics on it, but the part that gets to me is:
"Conservatives are more likely to give than liberals and give more, even in blood donations. There [sic] are also twice as likely to attend religious worship... Religious people give more to secular causes than do secular people." (these statistics were compiled from Charity Navigator, National Center for Charitable Statistics, and The Center on Philanthropy).
I have no reason to doubt this. I myself am not a very charitable person. I am selfish and solitary, I give to charity only when I think of it, which isn't often. I donate blood only when it is convenient. I haven't even donated time to a charity or cause in years.
I know that atheists are not defined by any set of principles - indeed, there is only one thing that ties all atheists together and that is the lack of belief in a deity. And yet that one thing is responsible for all judgments levied against us, especially our morality. I've addressed this before, and recently, so I won't get into it too much. I certainly don't believe that atheism will make someone evil, just as I don't think that religion makes anyone good. The problem with atheism (as far as charitable giving is concerned) isn't a lack of religion, but a lack of structure. Most religions collect some form of tithes from its followers. These tithes are often (not always, of course, but often) used for charity. And beyond this, there is a culture of giving that is woven through many church communities. The social networking that takes place in church is really tremendous, and different charitable causes are brought in by the congregation. I am not so cynical to think that the religious are all hateful zealots, nor do I think that religious people give solely to causes that are explicitly religious in nature.
Atheists, on the other hand, do not do this. Instead of going to a weekly love-in to hear about the benefits of generosity, we sleep in, we work or play video games. I'm speaking primarily for myself here, by the way, although according to the poll numbers cited above, I am speaking for other atheists as well. For those of us who want to care but are just naturally lazy and selfish, we really need structure and community.
Structure and community are two aspects that I respect and miss from my days of going to church, but they have nothing at all to do with the authenticity of religion. Simply because religious people give more money to charity it does not follow that any religion is correct. In fact, I would say that the charitable giving happens because of the people and community and in spite of the religion. There are plenty of atheists who donate money and time. I mean no disrespect to them at all. The numbers in the poll may be wrong. But it would make sense to me if they were correct.
I really intend to give more blood, more money and more time this coming year. However, history and an intimate knowledge of myself tells me that it probably won't happen. I want to be a good person - not just a pleasant person but a person who has a positive impact on society. Does anyone have any suggestions?