I saw an article today . . . one of those standard pieces that attempted to depict atheists as eager to stand aside and let people die because atheists do not build hospitals.
Regarding the comments on atheists of late: I've heard of Catholic Charities, Catholic Health Care West, the Salvation Army helping people in need, but I have never seen anything comparable by the atheist folks involving people needing a free ride to the doctor, emergency or routine health care or needing disaster relief. Hmmmm. - Lee Horner, Cortaro
(See: Arizona Republic, Are There Any Atheist Charity Groups?)
The flip response that popped into my mind was:
Yes. Atheists give to charity out of a desire to help those in need. Christians give to charity as a means of advertising their church.
The statement is neither true nor fair. It reflects a rather base animal instinct whereby if somebody attacks you, you want to hit them back. One false and unfair statement deserves another.
Yet, two wrongs do not make a right, so the theocratic bigot does not get the sting of having his false and unfair expression and bigotry met with an equally false and unfair expression of bigotry.
On the other hand, the response does hint at a related truth.
I have held that people act so as to fulfill the most and the strongest of their desires, given their beliefs. From this, it follows that the more and the stronger the desires that a particular action will fulfill, the more and stronger the reasons the agent has to perform those actions.
So, let us assume that atheists and theists are equally charitable. They both give equally to charity for the purpose of aiding those in need. However, for the theist, charity comes with an additional perk. It is way to help the poor, and it is a way to advertise the church. So, the theist has more and stronger reasons to perform an act of charity. This can be reasonably expected to lead to theists giving more money to charity such as aid for the poor and for hospitals. The ability to buy a billboard for the church is worth a little more money.
Atheists have something similar. Atheists have an interest in helping others. They also tend to have a stronger desire to understand (and thus to explain and predict) the natural world. A great deal of scientific research accomplish these twin goals.
The researcher can fulfill a desire to understand hurricanes, tsunamis, aggression, economics, game theory, and the like. The seek to understand energy, physics, electricity, construction, They also like to help others. However, instead of their motives driving them to spend their time and energy on aiding those who need it directly, they spend their time and money on studying (and preventing) the types o things that make charity necessary.
A given instance is not proof that a proposition is true, but it does provide a way of illustrating what the proposition says. I gave a significant job offer so that I could go to graduate school. I went to graduate school because I wanted to know the difference between right and wrong. I wanted to know the difference between right and wrong because I wanted to know how to make the workd a better place.
You will not find much of my effort showing up in any study of atheist versus Christian charity. Yet, this does not change the fact that the wealth that I have given up, and the hours that I have spent, were all devoted to helping to make it the case that people are better off (in less need o direct charity) than they would have otherwise been.
I can well imagine that many of the physicists, chemists, biologists, climatologists, and the like are the same way.
I do not know how successful I have been, but that is a different metric.
Of course, hate-mongering bigots are not concerned about these types of complexities. Show the hate-mongering bigot a set of statistics that they can twist and manipulate into an argument useful in selling hate and prejudice, and to them this is like winning the lottery.