Kylyssa is an American atheist with high-functioning autism trying to navigate a mostly religious world with no well-beaten path to follow
Can Atheists Be Charitable?
When people discuss compassion and charity online it's often said that there are no atheist charities. This stems from a common misconception that atheists are not giving and care nothing for their fellow man. The truth is that nonbelievers have just as much empathy as anyone else. As many of us see it, there's no one to help our fellow human beings except ourselves.
In fact, there are many atheist charities and charities founded by nontheists. Some of them avoid using the word atheist to avoid having the stigma attached to it affecting the operation of their charity. Others cautiously use a related term, humanist, in the charity's name. Fortunately, there has been more dialogue going on and it has become somewhat less acceptable to bash anything and everything associated with atheism so a few brave groups have used the word in the names of their charities.
If you'd like to learn more about some of these organizations, read on.
Atheist Centre of India
An organization helping people since the 1940s
Atheist Centre of India supports intercaste marriages and actively works to end child marriages and caste separation. The also provide aid to women in distress such as single mothers and prostitutes and promote equality of the sexes. Their education campaigns are designed to fight dangerous superstitions and practices such as witch hunts which can result in harm to innocent people.
Atheist Centre provides many services such as a Working Women's Hostel and a home for women with social problems. One of their programs, Vasavya Centre for Social Development, provides outreach services for more than 50 villages. The outreach program includes education, health care, advanced medical care including eye banks and corneal transplants, social programs, training for women, counseling and career guidance, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, sanitation facilities, drinking water facilities, sex education and contraception education, youth programs, and crÃ¨ches for children along with many other humanitarian services.
Really, the Atheist Centre of India provides so much that it's difficult to summarize it in one module. It has been providing relief, support, and care since the 1940s. That makes it perhaps the oldest continuously operating atheist charity in existence.
Foundation Beyond Belief
Offers a variety of guaranteed secular charities to support
Foundation Beyond Belief is non-theistic charity which launched January 1, 2010. Each quarter Foundation Beyond Belief features five charitable organizations. Members can choose which cause or causes to support from the featured causes.
The variety of causes is excellent and it's easy to find something you can get behind on their site if you are looking to support something important and life-changing.
Fellowship of Freethought
Atheist charitable organization
Among their outreach activities, the The Fellowship of Freethought organizes blood drives, collects food for local food banks, participates in holiday toy drives for needy children, and collects donations for deployed soldiers.
International Humanist and Ethical Union
A union of atheist and secular charities from around the world
The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) is a union which includes more than a hundred atheist, secular and freethought organizations from 40 different countries around the world. IEHU fights for freedom of expression, human rights, and separation of church and state. They support the victims of religious persecution and superstition. IHEU fights to end untouchability, caste systems which place people in abject poverty with no hope of escape due to accident of birth.
IHEU is very active in trying to save people convicted of religious "crimes" (homosexuality, women wearing trousers, loss of virginity, witchcraft, or similar accusations) from imprisonment, torture, and execution.
Is Atheism Incompatible With Charity?
Atheists Helping the Homeless
Providing small comforts to homeless people
A small group of atheists in Austin Texas saw a need. There are quite a few charities providing food for homeless people there but few seemed to be providing things such as soap, toilet paper, toothbrushes and other hygiene items. By researching what was being given out by groups already, AHH discovered that some groups gave out toiletries, but very few groups, and very few toiletries to very few homeless people. No one specialized in toiletries, not even close. AHH, or Atheists Helping the Homeless, started collecting and giving out these items to homeless people in Austin, Texas in late 2009.
American Humanist Association
The humanist charities of the American Humanist Association have now established a Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund to distribute food and supplies to the people of Haiti.
Kiva Lending Team: Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and the Non-Religious
Kiva Lending Team: Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and the Non-Religious has provided $17,448,050 in loans to small business owners in the developing world at the time of this writing. They have helped 597,689 small business owners since the group formed in August of 2008.
They are a Kiva Lending Team, a group which provides small loans to people seeking to reach economic independence and to improve living conditions for their families and communities.
Humanist Soup Kitchen Video - From a man who works for a humanist charity giving food to homeless people
While plenty of people insist such organizations don't exist this young man has worked with one of them.
Secular Humanist Aid and Relief Effort
Atheists providing funds for medical care in Haiti
Secular Humanist Aid and Relief Effort (S.H.A.R.E.) provides general humanitarian aid, food assistance, and medical relief to disaster and accident victims. They have provided aid to Sri Lankan tsunami victims, hurricane Katrina survivors, Haitian earthquake victims, families displaced by California wildfires and Tennessee tornadoes, and many others.
More Secular Charities
- Secular Center USA
Performs various secular volunteer activities including food bank donations, Humane Society Dog Walk, and aiding local animal shelters.
- The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
A giant charity organization which performs relief efforts, fights poverty and disease, spreads education, and provides medical assistance to people in need. The Gates Foundation's efforts to fight malaria and AIDS in Africa are of unparalleled scope
- Hivos - People Unlimited
Hivos People Unlimited - wij zijn een internationale organisatie die zoekt naar nieuwe oplossingen voor hardnekkige wereldproblemen.
Is The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Secular? Is Its Adherence To Humanist Principles Relevant? Is It Catholic?
Melinda Gates is a Catholic; Bill is an atheist. Warren Buffet, an atheist, is one of the foundations biggest, non-Gates financial contributors. Is the organization still secular in nature if one of the co-founders is Catholic? I've been contacted via email and through comments with the suggestions that Melinda Gates is the driving member, the more active member so the charity can not be atheist or humanist. Some have stated it can't be secular, either, but must be Christian because Melinda is a Christian. Some who have contacted me have agreed that the charity is secular but consider the Catholic co-founder as the more important and more active co-founder, thus making it clearly not an atheist charity nor proof that atheists can be charitable.
I agree that the charity is not specifically only atheist even though it has enormous backing from atheists. I disagree that it is not humanist or secular, as the foundation does not distribute religious materials or adhere to Catholic religious teachings. Also, I disagree that Bill Gates is the lesser member of the pair, as he greatly reduced his duties at MicroSoft in 2006 specifically so he could spend more time and effort running the foundation. While I think Melinda's contribution is just as important, I don't think it makes the charity non-secular any more than atheist volunteers at religious charities make them secular.
What do you think? Is Bill's contribution and involvement with Warren Buffet (atheist philanthropist) plus the completely non-religious nature of the charity enough to make it secular or does Melinda's involvement make it a Catholic charity? Is its adherence to humanist principles enough to make it humanist?
Is The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Secular?
Is That All the Atheist, Secular, or Humanist Charities in Existence?
Nope, this page doesn't even begin to scratch the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds of atheist, secular, and humanist run charities. As time allows, I will be adding more to this page.
If you'd like to see your non-theistic non-profit organization featured on this page, please leave its name and URL in the comments section at the bottom.
Would You Support an Atheist Charity?
What Do You Think about Atheist Charities?
John. on October 11, 2018:
The more support for atheist, secular, humanist charities the better! As thinking humans we need to rid our culture and society of the scourge of religious thinking (Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Shintoist, Hindu, etc etc) all religious thinking is ultimately harmful to society and its individual members. No wars have been started in the name of atheist ideals, no murders committed because one atheist believed that another person held the "wrong" beliefs (yes, atheists have started wars and committed murder, but not in the name of atheism like religions do) and, perhaps more importantly, no system of atheist beliefs and ideals are designed to make individuals feel devalued or worthless because of their birth or any other aspect that is outside of their control.
dre on November 17, 2017:
I do support atheist and that I think every one is allowed to believe in what they think
Patty Gondor on November 15, 2017:
I think this a fabulous organization, I was raised Catholic, or at least culturally Catholic. Early on, maybe 2nd Grade realized this was all crap and had no real practicality in being compassionate .In fact, quite the opposite. many of the clergy were angry and forced into the clergy and many ethnicities, my own for example Irish and Italians were, bitter, miserable hypocrites. Italians considered it a duty to"give" one or two of their children to the clergy. Truthfully, these offerings were the daughter they didn't deem attractive enough to marry, the son they suspected or knew was gay without pointing too fine a point on it or generally a child who would not produce a successful marriage and progeny or that odd kid with no other prospects. I understand now as an adult these people were largely forced into this role with little say and perhaps even less calling. It was my understanding and I'll not discount that many of these nuns, and brothers, particularly the Jesuits were excellent teachers and fine role models but here I am back again, an atheist or at least an avowed agnostic. I appreciate you having an atheist charity because we as atheist, people who can actually announce this, do not need a church or god or dogma or scripture to hide behind. we are free thinkers and from my vast experience very fine people. We know inherently what is right and wrong by sheer virtue of our own internal moral compass not dictated by doctrine but by something older, better, more elemental, more heartfelt and more organic and innate. We, as humans as people , as so called atheists, agnostics whatever you want to call it, in my view typically have a high moral code and greater empathy because we rely and refer to our own personal deity, ourselves to do what is right. not a book, not a code, not a dictated mandate but by the true innate beauty that I believe exists in all of us if we are mindful and think for ourselves and others not mandated my a stringent code but having compassion, empathy, common sense, critical thinking and a sense of humor! Having said all of that, I truly wish we would have people in public office admit they feel this way. Unfortunately, the general norm is all elected officials are allegedly Christian, have to see them going to church is a requirement, have to be married. Except Lieberman but that was pandering. Its all nonsense.Would be very happy to actually see an openly atheistic or agnostic candidate but probably not in my lifetime. sorry to hijack the charities subject but feel it all pertains and actually will donate. Thanks for giving forum for rant
Terry Rucker on September 27, 2017:
Who's right, who's wrong, who cares? Keep your focus on helping those in need and it will become obvious that the wasted time on arguments is just 'fluff.' The goal is to help in any way possible to make this earth work a little better. Thank you all for your efforts for the benefit of our environment, brothers, sisters, feathered friends, etc. etc.
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on September 18, 2017:
Why would a person cry out for something that isn't real just because they're dying? Wanting something a lot (for death to not be real as Christians believe) has no influence on whether it is real or not. I'd love it if my beloved dead really still existed as you believe, but, sadly, I don't believe in magic.
As to why people nitpick - this page was written in response to the common Christian assertion that no atheist charities exist. Obviously, you believe that because you don't believe anyone can believe anything but exactly what you do. I believe you think a God is real because I respect your individual experience and beliefs. It is too bad your beliefs make that sort of respect impossible for someone like you to extend to others. Contrary to what you may believe, empathy is not evil. It is actually quite similar to the compassion mentioned in the Bible.
Sue Canalita on September 12, 2017:
That Bill and Melinda Gates comment is ridiculous. You don't have to donate to any charity if you don't want to so why are you nit picking? Don't support it if you don't like it. I'm not an atheist and don't even believe one can be one because I think you'll be crying out for God when you are dying.
Anna on July 15, 2016:
It is almost amusing how many poeple on here object (quite rightly) to being characterized as selfish and uncharitable because they are athiests- but then assume to go right ahead and mischaracterize and misrepresent the intentions of every person of religion, claiming that thier charitable actions 'always' have ulterior motive.
They claim they act because they just want to help and do good, but will not even consider the possibility that this might be the intention of religious people as well, who can be and are affliated with non religious charities.
They assume that they are the only people capable of being genuinely and objectively charitable. They assume that the religious are not capable of being humane or charitable for its own sake, ignoring the hard facts, that many charities originally set up by Christians, such as Barnados and the Samaritans help people of all religions and backgrounds, and do not require thier workers or those they help to convert or anything like that. My own sister in law, who identifies as a secular humanist, worked for Barnados, which was set up by a (shock horror) Christian missionary in 19th century London.
There are, at the simplest level, accusing thier 'enemies' of the very same thing they so loudly object to being accused of themselves, without any acknowledgement of thier own arrogance and hypocrisy in this regard. And they say they are the rational ones......
Peter on February 03, 2016:
I refuse to donate to religious charities naymore, largely because I have discovered that many of them insist on pushing their religion on the people they help. Furthermore, several of them are fundamentally opposed to Equality in Human Rights for groups such as homosexuals. This is not something I am prepared to support.
Sanxuary on November 09, 2014:
When did charity have any thing to do with believing in God. There are more atheist charities then non-atheist by a big margin. People who do not believe in God are more likely to fill the idea that throwing money at a problem will somehow shine a golden light on their soul. Even the Roman dictators gave free bread away to keep the starving from rioting. The number of useless charity events in any given work place of ruthless companies who keep their employees in poverty can only amaze me in stupidity. Go work for free as they get a tax write off and free advertising and do that right after you get off work. Is it not amazing that after earning billions of dollars you can never spend and getting old that the rich suddenly throw it away on their legacy. Money will never save their souls and their definition of charity will not meet the definition in Heaven. Like the charity workers in Haiti staying at a 5 star hotel and eating lobster after a long hard day of handing tents and MRE'S. You missed the point of charity like the billionaire who still owes his workers a fair wage. I could tell you most charities are atheist, that it's a job for profit and in most cases it never solves the problem. The people in Haiti are still living in those tents waiting for the next disaster and hoping that someone will solve the problem that keeps them in poverty.
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on July 06, 2014:
@molrockbiz: I looked this up and you are correct. I'll have to reword the segment to reflect that it's a secular charity that only includes his original charity, the William H. Gates Foundation, and was initially funded with money from sale of MicroSoft stock, but is not solely run by an atheist. Or maybe I'll take it off because some people will always question whether it's secular (some people don't realize secular doesn't mean atheist but merely working with no religious affiliation and promoting no religious agenda) if one of the founders is not an atheist. I'll probably put up a duel module so readers can argue whether or not Bill Gates original foundation has anything to do with the current one and whether or not it makes the current foundation Catholic because Melinda is Catholic.
molrockbiz on July 06, 2014:
@rab-l-rowser: Melinda Gates is more active with the charity than Bill is, I think, and she is Catholic, not an atheist.
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on June 25, 2014:
@seventhangel777: I'm don't think I understand your comment. Are you saying that atheists can do things that, if Christians did them, would be good but they aren't good coming from a non-believer? I am guessing that the hardened heart part specifically refers to not thinking God is real? If you mean that atheists are capable of giving gifts and have the knowledge of how to do the things that would be good if Christians did them but don't because their hearts are hard, I think you are wrong. You can see evidence of atheists choosing to help others by reading the page you've commented on and clicking through some of the links to the atheist charities themselves. Or are you saying people who don't worship Yahweh may help others because they know how but eventually they become so evil they don't help people anymore? Thank you for your comment!
seventhangel777 on June 25, 2014:
@kengay1628: The inspiration comes from God that is all actions of good, it is during the tribulation those whom rejected God suddenly get overtaken by their capable evil. It is said in scriptures 'you being evil know how to give good gifts'. This means mankind is given the knowledge of good so they may know how to do good, but without that knowledge being sent to people spirit they will harden heart and be overtaken by evil. The consequence of the time of Antichrist is due to the rejection of God it is in those days that people show their real evil what is truly within them, that the small amount of light from God has held back mankind can not do any good without God because God is good itself.
kengay1628 on June 24, 2014:
The normal opinion by any religious person- and in fact perpetuated by their clergy- is that atheist's being godless, do not maintain any sense of morality and therefore are unable to show compassion towards humankind. This is totally untrue. You do not need to believe in some imaginary deity or god to be concerned with the welfare of others - it purely common sense. Look around at all devastation, deprivation and injustices throughout the world- any rational thinking person knows that help is needed in attempt to make this a better place for all. You do not need a "god in your heart" to make a decision to help where you possibly can.By the way Atheism is not a belief system - it is a disbelief in God.
jim-welch-773 on June 19, 2014:
The big question I would ask on this site is not "why would an atheist care to be charitable"? The answer to that is easy. But the bigger question is "where does that desire for an atheist to be charitable come from"? That also is a easy answer.
Colin323 on April 29, 2014:
The concept is completely credible. People with strong religious belief, along with agnostics and atheists, often share the same value systems - of helping others. It's just that the religious folk see a reward in the afterlife, as well as an emotional reward now; whereas the agnostic and atheist just see the reward in the present.I like the Humanist Soup Kitchen concept very much. I don't see why soup should be preceded, interrupted, or followed by prayers if you don't believe in them.
williamslaw on April 10, 2014:
What a thought provoking and interesting lens. Though I was not aware there were atheists charities, yet I do believe that you do not need religion to feel compassion.
June Campbell from North Vancouver, BC, Canada on March 08, 2014:
I was not aware that there were atheist charities, but I am not surprised to learn that there are. I have known religious people, atheists and spiritualists. I found that the traits of altruism can appear in all three groups, just as the traits of cruelty and disinterest can appear in all groups. Come to think of it, I have never heard of a war fought in the name of atheism.
lililime on January 14, 2014:
@Kylyssa: I'm Buddhist but I never liked titles because of their air of exclusivity. Are some of the Atheist organizations that you mention simply not religiously associated?
tonyleather on January 05, 2014:
I thought this was a thought provoking and very interesting lens. Atheist charities are no different from the so-called Christian ones, because at the heart of everything is simple compassion, and you need no religion to feel that!
rab-l-rowser on December 26, 2013:
@anonymous: The world's largest philanthropic organization, in terms of total monetary value of aid provided, was founded by, and is run by, an atheist: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It is also the world's largest private foundation.
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on June 04, 2013:
@anonymous: Actually, this page was written in response to the frequent Christian assertion that atheist charities do not exist. That's not fanfare, that's just correcting a misconception many people hear at church on Sunday. It's not a contest. I've worked at a number of Christian charities myself. Many of the charities I volunteered at that served the homeless were religiously affiliated.I'm not sure what you see as so wrong about dispelling the myth that there are no charities but religious charities.To me, it maybe "smacks of desperation" to hunt up atheist charity websites to make comments voicing your disapproval of them. Why not spend your time spreading the word about the charities you support instead so others will perhaps support them, too?Also, the vast majority of the population is religious so why bother comparing the size and contributions of charities created by groups that make up a tiny percentage of the population with them? Surely eighty percent of the population can do more than four percent?
anonymous on June 04, 2013:
There may be handful of atheist charities, but they are not even in the same league as Christian charity organizations. The average local church collects canned goods and clothing on a weekly basis, has members that regularly volunteer time with the needy, and may even run or support a soup kitchen. And all of this is done mostly without fanfare. In contrast, sites like this seem to have to go out of their way to find groups to hold up to the world to say "see, atheists can do charity too!" It smacks of desperation, trying to justify something to themselves or others.
anonymous on May 31, 2013:
@anonymous: Isn't it refreshing to see how David has everything neatly figured out? Christians are deluded idiots and could not recognize a scientific principle if it.... Atheists are no better, being "equally stupid." Only David, who doesn't know what to believe, has everything together, intellectually, morally, and in every other possible way. Let's all be like David, shall we? He sounds like such a happy and intelligent guy.Atheists "have a little giggle" whenever they ridicule Christians, but evidently David is just overflowing with bitterness and anger.Christians are happier, give much more, not just to their churches, but to secular institutions, and to their friends and families as well. Christians donate more of their time, more of their blood, more of just about everything, as documented in "Who Really Cares" by Professor Arthur C. Brooks.
anonymous on May 01, 2013:
It's nice to see that not only are there charities that identify as atheist, but that there are so many of them. Hopefully spreading knowledge of these charities will lessen the negative publicity that atheism seems to get.
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on March 28, 2013:
@anonymous: I don't think religious people or atheists are deluded idiots. I don't think agnostic atheists, agnostic theists, or straight-up agnostics are deluded idiots, either. I do think it's odd to decide what kind of person a person is based on what they believe or don't believe instead of on what they do.
anonymous on March 28, 2013:
I think moral values are intrinsic to all human beings and there are good atheists and bad atheists just as there are good and bad religious people. I have a lot of problems with how some religious people behave. They often put religious ideology and symbolism ahead of the inherent demands of their conscience and reason. Similarly atheists behave as if they are little children whose feelings are hurt because people think badly of them and so they are out to prove to everyone how good they are and how rational they are and they like to say clever sounding, nasty things about religion and all have a little giggle. Most of them claim they have science on their side, but not recognize a scientific principle if it bit them in the @ss. When religious people do charitable things that's fine. Most of them are motivated by a desire to help less fortunate people. Exactly the same is true of most atheists. The only thing that differs is the rationalization they use to explain what they are doing and why.Personally I think both groups, religious and atheists are deluded idiots. I am an agnostic. I don't have to believe or not believe in a God. We can use the word God, but we cannot even begin to define what we actually mean by the word God in any rational way. Likewise it is equally stupid to say God doesn't exist when you have no idea what you mean by God.
CristianStan on March 14, 2013:
I actually found this quite humorous. But yes I must agree, it is a common misconception that atheist care only for themselves, but that isn't true
anonymous on March 05, 2013:
@Kylyssa: Well said.
anonymous on March 05, 2013:
@anonymous: I'd wager most atheists and religious people do charitable acts for the same reasons: it feels good, it feels right, gratitude, etc.
anonymous on February 21, 2013:
Atheists are the only charitable people, a religious person acting in a charitable manner is doing so (consciously or not) as a means of scoring points fr the afterlife. if an atheist does something charitable it is because they want to do good
anonymous on February 16, 2013:
I'm an atheist, and I didn't know much about atheist charities, so this lens was very useful and enlightening. I want to apologize for one of my votes. On the poll about whether atheism is incompatible with charity, I misread it as "compatible" and voted yes.
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on January 08, 2013:
@anonymous: I usually try to give anonymously and secretly. It embarrasses me if people make too much of what I do or give. I don't know what other people are thinking when they give. I'm surprised you have openly atheist friends who discuss such private things with you, considering your obviously unkind attitude toward them. Seeing how you feel about atheists, I'm surprised you'd call any atheists friends.You seem to think humanism is a bad thing. It doesn't mean, as you've probably been taught, people who worship themselves as if they were deities, it simply means feeling responsible for your fellow human beings. It means helping those who are in need of help. I just do not understand why that is seen as such a terrible and arrogant thing by evangelical Christians.It doesn't matter to me why people help others in need, just that they do. Every year near Christmas, I purposely try to reach those who will give out of Christian pride if one just prods them a bit. I don't care if they shout praises to the glory of their God when they give or help, I just hope that they will give or help someone somehow. I think if you care too much about what motivates people to do kind things then you are forgetting the person in need. Giving is not about the givers but about those in need. You might ask yourself why you are thinking about what motivates others to give rather than thinking about how you can give or help.
anonymous on January 06, 2013:
It's nice to know that compassion runs beyond religious/spiritual boundaries. Being a Christian, I'm curious though, if atheists generally give with humility as well as compassion. This is the one trait I've failed to see in the atheists friends I have...they all seem to not only have a humanist outlook, but a strong degree of pride/ego. I've often analyzed what draws me to faith so strongly, and I think this is one of the key elements...that without a belief that something greater is out there, it is very easy to find yourself stroking your own ego. I'm not saying that all atheists feel that way, or exhibit that, but I think it's a point to ponder.
Rose Jones on December 05, 2012:
Another excellent informative lens. There is a lot of human need out there, and we all need to get together and help as we can.
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on December 04, 2012:
@anonymous: It IS highly revealing. It shows that anti-atheist folks don't think atheists have human feelings. I met a lot of people like that when I worked in homeless charities. People were shocked to learn I'm not Christian and wondered why on earth I'd volunteer with a charity when I'm not doing it to please God or under pressure from church. Atheists do charity work because they have feelings and emotions just like religious people do. I'd even bet you most religious people engage in charity work because they have feelings and care about their fellow man rather than just because their church says they ought to. If you read the page you just commented on instead of just using it to get in an anti-atheist zinger, you might see how, well, nasty, your comment makes you seem. Millions of people in India have been saved or had their quality of life improved greatly since the 1940s by the Atheist Centre of India.Worldwide, less than four percent of the population identifies as atheist. That means the other 96% does not and are thus religious. Since atheism is also compatible with some religions such as Buddhism, some of those atheists are Buddhists or other religions, thus making them religious atheists. Buddhists do charity in the name of Buddhism but many Buddhists are atheists. OK, so fewer than four percent of the human population worldwide is made up of non-religious atheists. 96% is bigger than 4%. There are twenty-four times as many religious people as atheists (and no, Catholics, Muslims, Jews, and Hindus do NOT count as atheists!) in the world. Who can accomplish more, one person or twenty four? OK, now imagine the one person gets very little tolerance in the culture he lives in and the other twenty-four are a few hundred times more likely to hold positions of power. So, why do you expect one outcast to be able to do as much as twenty-four people accepted by mainstream society? If you look at how many people have been helped or saved by atheist charities in the past seventy years, the number should shock you in the direction you would not expect as someone who devalues human beings outside your religion. I'm sure you'd be shocked by how many religious folks those dirty old atheists have helped. The vast majority of people helped by atheist charities are not atheists and they don't get turned into atheists in the process of being helped, either.But you are right about something, the atheism doesn't matter. Atheist charities have been, by and large, started by people in response to religious charities with strings attached, regional religious oppression, or charities which only served spiritual "needs" instead providing real-world assistance to people needing physical help of some kind. They use the words "atheist" or "humanist" to make their mission clear. The mission of most religious charities is to spread their religion, often using food and medical supplies to compel people in need to go through the motions of their religion to feed their children or to survive. The mission of atheist or humanist charities is to help the people they identify in their mission statement. The pushiest thing I've seen an atheist charity do is include a "love note" in boxes of supplies handed out to poor people that read something like "You are a deserving human being . If you are ever in a position to do so, please "pay it forward" and help someone else in need."Religious people have no more moral obligation to help people in need than atheists do. In fact, in America, some religious people use religious assertions to justify not helping poor people.
anonymous on December 03, 2012:
BrendanSanlatte said: "Interesting. I didn't know there were any."That alone is highly revealing.Atheism has no foundations for any moral obligations whatsoever so do the math. Atheist high priests say so - in case you're another ignorant atheist that doesn't even understand atheism's logical implications. You see why the vast majority of charities are founded on some belief system other than atheism - mostly christian as a matter of fact.Most secular orgs were not and are not started by atheists but by governments, groups of doctors and other health workers or social workers, etc.Atheism - an idea that doesn't matter.
BrendanSanlatte on November 30, 2012:
Interesting. I didn't know there were any.
brody1848 on November 27, 2012:
Thanks so much for posting this! I wish more people realized how many secular charities there were.
anonymous on November 08, 2012:
This was an awesome resource - thanks so much for putting it together!
anonymous on November 06, 2012:
Whether or not people are kind to each other has nothing to do with whatever system of belief they subscribe to, but this is an excellent reference for anyone going toe-to-toe with the ignorant portions of the apologist community who insist that we cannot be charitable. Thank you for this.
anonymous on October 22, 2012:
@anonymous: Atheists for Humanity does something like that.
anonymous on October 21, 2012:
I'm an atheist, and I've been doing volunteer and charitable work for ten years and have never worked for an explicitly religious organisation. Many religious organisations state that you must have a religious affiliation to work for them (I'm in Scotland).
anonymous on September 30, 2012:
There should be an Atheist charity that simply tries to spread the word about atheist charities!!! We have to break the common misconceptions.
RationalHedonist on September 12, 2012:
Thanks for posting your list. It's good for people to know 1) that those who are Atheists do donate time and money to humanitarian causes, and 2) that there are alternatives to religious-based charities.
anonymous on August 15, 2012:
Charities are about people, not about God or the Church, or even religion.No one should have a monopoly on humanitarianism, and some countries focus upon humanitarianism and ethics rather than religion for their morality.
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on August 14, 2012:
@hanztutan: I point out the word 'atheist' before the word 'charities' because it is an argument I hear over and over again that there are no atheist charities and atheist are not charitable. I even was told that by someone working beside me at a soup kitchen I was volunteering at! So here's the page that shows those folks who think atheists are incapable of charity, look, we're just like you.
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on August 14, 2012:
@anonymous: A group of atheists and humanists in Amsterdam in the 1950s had the exact same idea. That's why the the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) is comprised over a hundred substantial atheist charities in forty countries around the world. The organization has been in existence since 1952 and has been growing ever since. They have helped millions of people.Atheist Centre of India has helped hundreds of millions since it started in the 1940s. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has helped hundreds of millions, possibly as many as a billion people. The Fred Hollows Foundation has restored sight or prevented blindness in millions of people. There are atheist charitable organizations that save or help millions. Taken all together, it would not be a stretch to say atheist charities have helped or outright saved over a billion people in the last seventy years. A billion is 1,000,000,000. Considering that atheists make up only about 2.3% of the world's population and sometimes have difficulty getting donations from religious folks, I'd say that's pretty darned impressive.
anonymous on August 13, 2012:
Just wondering how much good each of those organizations actually do? You can have a 100 organizations that provide very little and still do very little. Why not combine them into organizations that can generate enough donations to put a dent is the social problems of the world? It would be great to have just a handful of atheist charities that would provide as much or near as much as any of its church counterparts.
anonymous on July 09, 2012:
This is an interesting way to look at how labels change things. There is no doubt that humans are compassionate beings, regardless of religion. Now if only we could all stop the backbiting!
hanztutan on July 08, 2012:
I see Atheist Charities like any other Charities, only with the word Atheist... Why should the word Atheist matter? For me, it's like turning the phrase "a guy and a boy" into "a black guy and a white boy."
Cecil Kenmill from Osaka, Japan on June 18, 2012:
great lens. when we tell people we're atheist, they look at us like we have the plague. that must stop. let's not forget that good old honest abe was atheist.
sunny saib on June 10, 2012:
great topic.. and i must mention, great questions raised in polls.. also mind stimulating results of Would You Support an Atheist Charity? enjoyed reading.. :)
Hanziejane on May 28, 2012:
Thankyou so much for this article, the stigma attatched to atheists is ridiculous.
anonymous on May 19, 2012:
Great, a human heart is a human heart.
anonymous on May 09, 2012:
@anonymous: You just cant believe that we (Atheists) can care about people without god. Typical Christian thinking......If your god would take care of these people we [all of us] wouldn't have to. I know what you're thinking, god makes people suffer to see who the Christians are. I bet he's surprised
Lacy from Chenault on April 23, 2012:
I always check before donating to make sure at the very least that the charity has no attachments to churches - secular charities are definitely preferred.
Alex1138 on April 18, 2012:
I'm an atheist and I run two charities. A soup kitchen in Dilijan Armenia which I fund mostly myself and a kindergarten in Armenia which I and members of my family fund and run. I started the soup kitchen about 4 years ago, we feed about 60 people 3 meals a day. I don't take any donations and I don't make a dime from any of this. Many of the starving people I feed are devout christians (as most Armenians are) not that any of that is important. They are my fellow man and we must all stick together as brothers and sisters in humanity. The church in armenia is horribly corrupt. They do nothing for these people but they do launder money for the state.
anonymous on April 11, 2012:
Despite all these charities done by atheism, the reason for doing this is wrong. I see a lot of sign saying this phase "we are a non-religious and much more charitable" ON SOME, not all. However, the REAL difference between Christian and atheist charities is we, Christian DON'T ask for anything, we do help help non-believers as well (I did that one time and I didn't push my faith into them. Only talk about it), give more then we take (We are not rich church cause we gave away money then we keep and yes I know people have to paid the bills but sacrifice our payment for other), and the one issue with atheist charities is competing with religious charities. I mean, really? Grow up, the reason you have these charities is not to compete with us or just do good. The main reason why you have these is deep down inside you develop some kind spiritual, yet unknown connection. Call me crazy but everyone has a little voice inside of us. ;)
anonymous on April 08, 2012:
@anonymous: First atheists get attacked for not having charities. Now atheists get attacked for having charities. You can't win.
anonymous on April 04, 2012:
You might want to update your entry on Foundation Beyond Belief. They now have 5 categories so that more money can be brought to bear on each one. Plus they're in the process of starting a sister organisation in Australia. (I'm helping with that.)
anonymous on March 27, 2012:
@anonymous: Atheism is not a "belief," it's just the way you were on the day you were born. But I agree with "just be charitable" (i.e., "be good for goodness sake").
anonymous on March 23, 2012:
Im glad they are charitable but By naming it an "atheist" charity, they push their beliefs just like "christian" charities. How 'bout everyone just be charitable and stop putting your beliefs in the name and on everyone else :)
anonymous on March 15, 2012:
Atheist Charities are very prominent in christian charity helping poor peoplehttp://www.ukchristiancharity.org/
Joy Lynskey from Vinton, Va on February 29, 2012:
Another Great Lens!! You have earned a new fan!
gazingupwards on February 25, 2012:
All charity groups that put the money towards what they say they will do with it are good in my book.
ifuturz on February 01, 2012:
This is a great lens
Edutopia on January 29, 2012:
This lens is great. Too often people in America are ready to portray Atheists as amoral and incapable of community or help and that is simply not the case.
ChristosTsotsos on January 19, 2012:
Thanks for the lens! I have learned quite a lot from it. I am uneasy with religious based charities. I perceive them as another marketing stunt, any self respecting business will not invest in something unless they profit in the end. They gain a lot and give little.
anonymous on January 15, 2012:
I think that any charity that does what it says it does is a good thing, returning with a blessing.
Paul from Liverpool, England on December 15, 2011:
I do actually try to give to non-secular charities: the only charity I regularly support that has a religious bent gets my money because it is so effective in its improvement of people's lives.
anonymous on December 14, 2011:
I think Atheists for Humanity is a worthy charity.
anonymous on November 21, 2011:
I never thought about it!
anonymous on October 09, 2011:
Thanks for this lens! I am an atheist and was unaware of how widespread atheist charities are. I live in the Bible Belt and am unaware of any charities in my area that label themselves as secular or humanist. However, they may be here...I am going to look into it.
BusinessSarah on September 29, 2011:
Some people give in certain ways because it's the Christian thing to do; others, like myself, give in certain ways because they know within themselves that it's the right thing to do. A noble cause is just as noble no matter what you believe to be true about the universe. No one group has a monopoly on giving back.
anonymous on September 28, 2011:
I am a part of a church-based soup kitchen with a food pantry and clothes pantry. I'm not sure about other church-based ones out there, but I know ours doesn't "push" religion onto the needy people, and we don't require them to attend church services or anything. We are there to help them in any way they can, and if they have questions about God, we're of course always willing to talk with them about God for as long as they'd like.That aside, I'm surprised (and pleased) that there are non-religious charitable soup kitchens and pantrys. I have plenty of atheist friends who definitely care about homeless people and those in need, so I'm not baffled by the idea that atheists are charitable~! I know that not everybody in the world is Christian (or comfortable being around Christian environments), so I suppose it's good for there to be atheist/humanist organizations who are willing to lend a helping hand to those in need. It's good to know this; I'd been unaware up until now... thank you for sharing!
cheech1981 on September 27, 2011:
i'm agnostic and lean toward atheist and have spent most of the past decade in giving roles in one way or another in work, volunteer, school, and travel. especially when i was looking for volunteer abroad opportunities, most of the ones that were affordable were run through religious organizations and had a component of evangelism to them, which i wasn't comfortable with. also when i was community organizing one summer, the part that was most challenging was that it was faith-based. we can all come together around common values, and i think that is a great reason to work together, but that element of evangelism and the differing belief systems does kind of nag at you...
anonymous on September 25, 2011:
@Ramkitten2000: sorry, my mistake. i seem to have misread your post, i read 'incompatible' as 'compatible'
anonymous on September 25, 2011:
@Ramkitten2000: So why exactly do you not think atheism is compatible with charity?
Laurel Johnson from Washington KS on September 05, 2011:
I'm thankful for any person or group who shows empathy and compassion for those less fortunate and often less acceptable in society. The parable of the good Samaritan, told by Jesus to make a certain point, applies here. Samaritans were hated and vilified by the religious community of Jesus' day, and yet he used the kindly Samaritan as an example of how He wanted us to treat others. "Go and do likewise." was Jesus' charge to everyone, not just to His followers.Loved this lens.
TollysWorld on August 21, 2011:
Extremely interesting lens, thanks. As an atheist myself - and regular donor and volunteer - I've always found it odd that many religious people (of any faith) feel they have ownership of or the rights to moral and compassionate behaviour and feelings.
Frankie Kangas from California on August 15, 2011:
Excellent lens. I don't get the problem. Good people doing good things. Those good people happen to have labels of Christian, Atheist, Budhist, Gay, Straight, Married, Single, Man, woman, etc. We have to stop looking at labels and looking at deeds. Blessed. Bear hugs, Frankster
Deb Kingsbury from Flagstaff, Arizona on August 12, 2011:
Oops, I clicked on the wrong response in one of the polls. Crud. I read it wrong and realized to late. I meant to say NO, atheism is NOT incompatible with charity at all! Excellent lens and resource, Kylyssa. *Blessed by an angel on the Back to School Bus Tour*
anonymous on August 01, 2011:
Check out www.responsiblecharity.org
B E Newman on July 02, 2011:
I am not an atheist, but I really enjoyed this "lens"
Bernie from Corbin, KY on June 07, 2011:
i work for a church. a atheist is far more cheritable. it is working for a church that made me an atheist.
anonymous on May 27, 2011:
You always make us think and raise awareness Kylyssa, well done once again! I don't give based on what category a charity is in but on what it does to help people. Just because the word "church or "Christian" is attached, does not mean that a Charity is reputable and one needs to investigate.
FlynntheCat1 on March 28, 2011:
@mythphile: Oxfam is good! (very late response :D ) When I was in the UK they were our first choice for anything, and I remember they were on Blue Peter a lot. There was never a HINT of religion anywhere,a nd people in the UK tend to avoid any kind of overt religion like the plague. In fact, looking at Wikipedia.. Oxfam was founded by 'Quakers, social activists, and Oxford academics' (Name = Oxford... Famine relief)
Greenwickpress on March 09, 2011:
People who choose to do good because they think it is right are bound to be more charitable than people who think it is an obligation. I'm sure that is true for anyone regardless of whether they follow a religion or not. Awesome lens, thanks for sharing it!
anonymous on February 18, 2011:
I believe that only atheists can be truly charitable. Many religious charities only do so because "god" requires them to do so, and often the condition of the help is that those receiving the help accept copies of the charity's holy book and lectures by missionaries.
anonymous on January 29, 2011:
Atheists are more charitable because we are not doing good works for a bucket of skydaddy fun points.. We are doing them because we honestly want to help.
KeenanSteel on January 15, 2011:
I find something noble about charities that get donations based on the good work they do rather than what book(s) they believe in or what kinds of beliefs they tout. It would also bother me if the funds were to focus on helping only people who are religious, or helping people while telling them about their version of god.
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on January 14, 2011:
@mythphile: Oxfam is a good one. From my investigation of them, they seem pretty secular in their actions. I don't think you'd need to worry that they'd use the code "teaching supplies" to actually mean Bibles.Your instincts about World Vision are dead on, in August 2010, they won the right to fire all non-Christians and anyone who does not meet or agree with their ideological standards, including Christians. It was a four year battle fighting for the right to discriminate against employees based on religious belief after they fired three Christian employees in 2006 for failing a theological "purity" test. Apparently, the three Christian employees in question did not have the exact beliefs about the Trinity that the examiners required.
Ellen Brundige from California on January 14, 2011:
@PNWtravels: The Salvation Army won't let me volunteer for them because I'm *drumroll* bi. Before Bush left office, they actually sent a special request to the White House asking for legislation allowing charitable organizations to be exempt from discrimination laws against gays.They also don't get my donations anymore. I donate to other charities instead. ;)
Ellen Brundige from California on January 14, 2011:
Oh, I'm so glad KIVA is not affiliated with a religion! I really don't care that much, because the important thing to me is helping, not the religion of the organization. However, when the organization diverts some of my money to proselytization (as I fear it may be doing with WorldVision), I am then frustrated -- that's not what I gave them money to do, and they're against my religion and lifestyle, so that's...unfortunate. But also (b) there are some charitable organizations that would not accept me as a volunteer based on their religious beliefs, and they actively proselytize against people like me (bi), and I don't want my money going to an organization that wouldn't let me in the door!I wish there were a large, well-known charitable alternative to WorldVision: a group that provides food, shelter, emergency supplies like water purification tablets, and other essentials to people in the wake of large disasters. Oxfam, maybe? I don't know if it's Christian. Doctors without Borders is good, but they've been hammering me so much for donations since I first donated to them that I'm getting a little discouraged (how much of my donation do they use for fundraising rather than their work?)
Vicki Green from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA on January 01, 2011:
I prefer charities that are not based on religion, so this lens has some very helpful information. Some of the religion-based charities discriminate against those not of their faith which to me seems very uncharitable. Blessed by a SquidAngel.
anonymous on December 21, 2010:
i am donating to Doctors without Borders. Not explicitly atheists but non-religious.
MargoPArrowsmith on November 20, 2010:
I have featured this lens on Giving Charity for Christmas Gift GuideThanks for the help!
MargoPArrowsmith on November 20, 2010:
I am going to feature this lens on my upcoming lens which encourages people to give presents that say "a contribution has been given in your name" for Christmas!
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on November 16, 2010:
@Health-Gal: For some people it is a total surprise. I've had people who were totally surprised to find out I'm an atheist because they couldn't reconcile the idea with the fact that I've been an anti-homelessness activist for most of my adult life. One gent who worked with me at a homeless shelter found out and couldn't stop asking questions, as if he either couldn't believe or understand my answers. After about a month asking me questions daily or nearly daily, he finally decided I must secretly believe in God.