Sunday, May 07, 2006

Why Don't Atheists Build Hospitals?

Yesterday, I wrote about how ‘militant atheists’ are made a scapegoat for bigotry against atheists – a claim that, it seems, even many atheists and agnostics fall for.

Another argument that I often hear along these same lines can be expressed by the question, “Why don’t atheists build hospitals?”

When somebody asks this, the first question that I have for them is, “What makes you think they don’t?”

They may answer that they have never heard of an atheist medical center – that every medical center they know of has been funded by a church organization.

Actually, most hospitals are funded by insurance companies. However, it is true that religious organizations have built a number of hospitals and charity organizations. Atheists do not have many of either.

There are some atheists who think that we need to remedy this impression by creating atheist charitable organizations. Once people see that atheists can be as charitable as others, then perhaps they will learn to like us more and will not speak of us so harshly.

I don’t think this plan will work. Part of my argument is the same argument that I used yesterday against the claim that ‘militant atheists’ are responsible for the poor opinion of atheists generally. It makes no sense to say that Africans could have avoided slavery, or that black slaves in America could have earned their freedom, by establishing charities and proving their kindness. We cannot blame the Holocaust on the lack of Jewish charities in Europe in the 1930s. It is stupid to try.

People who hate will always be able to find a rationalization for that hate. No amount of kindness or charity will change that fact.

Why are there so few Atheist charities?

First, there are atheist charities. Those who claim otherwise are, once again, lying for the sake of promoting unjustified hatred.

Second, the bulk of atheist charitable contributions simply do not need to go to an atheist organization. Please note that there are also few Atheist churches. There are not many Atheist hymns or prayer books. In short, there is no Church of Atheism (though there are some churches that are friendly to atheist beliefs). There is no organization for collecting money and building hospitals or distributing charity.

Please note that there are no String Theory churches either. String theorists do not write hymns or prayer books. In short, there is no Church of String Theory to collect money for building hospitals or distributing charity. Similarly, I have never heard of a “American Stamp Collector’s Urgent Care Center” or a “Blue Car Drivers’ Children’s Fund.”

These are not the types of organizations that collect for this purpose. When people give to charity, they simply have no reason to do so in the name of string theory, stamp collecting, or blue-car driving, or atheism. They typically look for the best group for doing the work that needs going.

Atheism is more like these other views than it is like a church. It simply represents the belief that the proposition “God Exists” is false. (I know that there are some who claim that atheism is the lack of a belief in God. I have expressed my reasons for rejecting that view elsewhere. It is not the definition that I use in these posts.)

There is no more reason to donate to charity in the name of “’God exists’ is false” than there is to do so in the name of ‘having a blue car.”

When atheists give to charity, they typically have something else in mind. They certainly are not thinking of the rewards of heaven and hell. I suspect that they are focused on the fact that there are people whose suffering could be lessened or whose life could be spared. There is no need to think of anything else.

The absence of string-theorist hospitals or charities does not support the conclusion that string theorists are not charitable. The same is true of stamp collectors and blue car drivers. Anybody who claimed that string theorists are particularly wicked because of this absence of string-theorist hospitals and charities will be jumping to an entirely unwarranted conclusion.

Condemning atheists for the lack of atheist hospitals and charities is not less irrational.

Why do people jump to irrational conclusions? It is typically because they have some sort of emotional attachment to that conclusion and are willing to grasp any straw they can to give that conclusion an illusion of support. This is a process called ‘rationalization’ – inventing a reason to embrace a conclusion one wants to embrace.

In this case, people are inventing a reason to embrace the conclusion that they may condemn and denigrate atheists.

The name for the type of person who embraces a doctrine of hate against others is ‘bigot’. This is how one proves bigotry – by proving that a person has an attitude of hate towards others that he ‘rationalizes’ with arguments that make no sense. This type of evidence proves that he wants that hatred enough to find excuses for it.

How much do atheists give to charity?

Well, we do need to define charity. For example, atheists will tend to think that giving a group of starving people a bible and building them a church does not really count as charity. Instead, atheists will tend to view a tractor and some seed would be more useful. One good way to give the appearance that atheists are selfish is to include contributions to churches, which, admittedly, atheists do not do.

Atheists would also want to exclude contributions to hate groups -- such as anti-gay and anti-atheist -- as being more anti-charity than charity.

Ultimately, I do not know the answer to this question. Anybody who claims to know is making an assertion that has no foundation. This, then, leads us to ask why they would make such an unfounded assertion? Is it, perhaps, because they value hate more than they value truth?


Anonymous said...

There are no atheist schools or hospitals because we atheists don't need to advertise our charity. We are selfless out of compasion, not to gain adavatages in this life or the next.

Christians tend to forget Jesus himself said acts of selflessness should be done quietly.

Ironic isn't it?

Anonymous said...

There are not any hospitals founded by people who don't believe in goblins either... Its just not something that is advertised.

Anonymous said...

You all totally miss the point. Christians get a good feeling from building hospitals, feeding the hungry, clothing the poor. Its healthy for the soul. I dont know where you get your information but I haev never seen a hospital "Advertise" who helped them build a hospital, thank them maybe but its not a race dude, its doing what you know is right in your heart.

Steve said...

I think you missed the point of the argument. In early times whenever a town was "Founded" out west, a church and a schoolhouse were built right after a Sheriff was voted in. That's just a fact. It's just a natural progression that churches also built hospitals and cemeteries (most of those were in church yards). Read the history of any town in America and it will reference a church in it's early history. You have to admit the 10 commandments are a good list of societal morals to live by.
Even if they are religous.