Pharyngula

The researcher behind this study is “surprised and disappointed,” but I’m neither.

Although most religious traditions call on the faithful to serve the poor, a large cross-sectional survey of U.S. physicians found that physicians who are more religious are slightly less likely to practice medicine among the underserved than physicians with no religious affiliation.

In the July/August issue of the Annals of Family Medicine, researchers from the University of Chicago and Yale New Haven Hospital report that 31 percent of physicians who were more religious–as measured by “intrinsic religiosity” as well as frequency of attendance at religious services–practiced among the underserved, compared to 35 percent of physicians who described their religion as atheist, agnostic or none.

Charity, service, self-sacrifice, generosity, and kindness are human properties, not religious virtues. I wouldn’t expect a group of people from a common culture to show much substantial variation in empathy and public service along religious lines.

Despite the fact that he is disappointed in the result, I do have to commend the author for making a positive policy recommendation:

Policy makers and medical educators hoping to increase the physician supply for underserved populations should take these results into account cautiously, said the authors. “No one knows how to select medical students in a way that would actually increase the number of physicians eager to serve the underserved,” Curlin said, “but our findings suggest that admissions officials should ignore both the general religiousness of candidates and their professed sense of calling to medicine.”

Comments

  1. #1 Tom @Thoughtsic.com
    July 31, 2007

    Not surprising. Let’s face it: regardless of what they profess on applications to medical school, many doctors do it in part because of money. Large amounts of money and religion don’t mix: people want to make and have lots of it while religious organizations want to take it from you because they’re just as poor and dependent on mere humanity as poor individuals are. Imagine how better off the poor would be without those overhead costs of supposed nonprofit organizations.

  2. #2 Reginald Selkirk
    July 31, 2007

    What study? Got a link?

  3. #3 RickD
    July 31, 2007

    So, how many studies like this one will we need before we can shut down the office of “Faith-Based” initiatives?

  4. #4 Tom @Thoughtsic.com
    July 31, 2007

    Not the study itself but here’s the press release from the medical center: Press Release

  5. #5 Brett McCoy
    July 31, 2007

    Is there a link to this study?

  6. #6 The Pacifier
    July 31, 2007

    So, how many studies like this one will we need before we can shut down the office of “Faith-Based” initiatives?

    Posted by: RickD | July 31, 2007 10:15 AM

    http://faculty.maxwell.syr.edu/acbrooks/

  7. #7 Alison
    July 31, 2007

    Are there any schools or financial aid providers that will forgive debt in exchange for a certain amount of time served providing low-income or charity care? It might be something that would encourage doctors to try this area of medicine. Even if they don’t stay in it after they’ve fulfilled their work/debt agreement, there are bound to be a few who will continue to donate at least a portion of their time after they’ve been exposed to it (one would hope). I know this is probably an old idea, and idealistic, but it never hurts to float it out again from time to time.

  8. #8 Ragnor
    July 31, 2007

    Part of it may also be due to the subset of Christians who follow the “God wants you to be rich” philosophy. If you are not well off, then you are a miserable sinner.

  9. #9 Moogle
    July 31, 2007

    That’s an interesting link Pac, I read the first review linked there. Does the book cite any references to studies that the numbers came from? (Not doubting, just curious).

    There’s an argument there, I think, that the two sides might not be unbalanced as claimed, but would rather the support they give go through different channels. Some may want to donate to churches who help the poor, others may want their taxes to pay for social programs to help in different ways.

  10. #10 Steve_C
    July 31, 2007

    Pac. That study wasn’t about faith based iniatives. Which are government funded. It was about individuals donating monies to charities. An older more conservative demographic gives more. No big revelation there.

  11. #11 DSM
    July 31, 2007

    And religious citizens in general are more likely to donate to charities than the non-religious, but you’ll just ignore that in favor of this study of a specific group.

  12. #12 Dale Austin
    July 31, 2007

    DSM;

    Got a citation for that?

  13. #13 Blake Stacey, OM
    July 31, 2007

    PZ wrote:

    Despite being disappointed in the result, I do have to commend the author for making a positive policy recommendation

    Misplaced modifier alert! PZ Myers is not “disappointed in the result”, but the researcher behind the study is unhappy.

  14. #14 DSM
    July 31, 2007

    Got a citation for that?

    What? You didn’t add, “No? Didn’t think so.” What’s wrong with you? Are you sure you’re on the right blog?

    Anyway, here’s your citation:

    http://www.hoover.org/publications/policyreview/3447051.html

    The differences in charity between secular and religious people are dramatic. 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). And, consistent with the findings of other writers, these data show that practicing a religion is more important than the actual religion itself in predicting charitable behavior. For example, among those who attend worship services regularly, 92 percent of Protestants give charitably, compared with 91 percent of Catholics, 91 percent of Jews, and 89 percent from other religions.

  15. #15 ERV
    July 31, 2007

    Alison– Yup! National Health Service Corps!

    What I find even MORE telling is that you have to actively TRY to find a location that is NOT underserved. When I was a pre-med, I was going to go into NHSC, and only a handful of counties in Missouri didnt qualify.

  16. #16 DSM
    July 31, 2007

    Oh, and this:

    Charity differences between religious and secular people persist if we look at the actual amounts of donations and volunteering. Indeed, measures of the dollars given and occasions volunteered per year produce a yawning gap between the groups. The average annual giving among the religious is $2,210, whereas it is $642 among the secular. Similarly, religious people volunteer an average of 12 times per year, while secular people volunteer an average of 5.8 times. To put this into perspective, religious people are 33 percent of the population but make 52 percent of donations and 45 percent of times volunteered. Secular people are 26 percent of the population but contribute 13 percent of the dollars and 17 percent of the times volunteered.

    It sucks to be secular (or to rely on them to be charitable).

  17. #17 blf
    July 31, 2007

    I wonder what a similar survey(? study?) would show for MDs in the UK, which come in three types: NHS only, private only, and NHS with a private practice on the side?

    (The UK is also a lot less magic invisible woman in the sky bothering than the USA, which might (de?-)confuse things a bit?)

  18. #18 DSM
    July 31, 2007

    Hey, PZ – got a link? I’d like to see the variance for the percentages in that study. 31% vs. 35% seems like it would fall close to or even within the margin of error, making your assertions rather ridiculous.

  19. #19 Dale Austin
    July 31, 2007

    “What? You didn’t add, “No? Didn’t think so.” What’s wrong with you? Are you sure you’re on the right blog?”

    DSM;

    Far too many folks make the assertion without evidence. I was aking if you had any-since you said: “but you’ll just ignore that in favor of this study of a specific group.”

    Putting words in our mouths, in other words. Tripping over your own assumptions about others, in other words.

  20. #20 FrumiousBandersnark
    July 31, 2007

    I agree with what PZ wrote: “Charity, service, self-sacrifice, generosity, and kindness are human properties.”

    However, I’m curious to know more about the sampling process and the respondants. It seems entirely reasonable that physicians in private practice have monetary gain rather than altruism as their _primary_ motivator, but this does not give an accurate picture of the medical profession as a whole. Was any attempt made to include doctors from medical relief organizations, such as “Doctors without Borders,” Catholic Relief Services, or the American Friends Society?

  21. #21 Tulse
    July 31, 2007

    DSM, do you have any figures on how much religious folks donate to nonreligious charities? Religious people may very well donate more money, but if it is all going to Benny Hinn and his mansion (or the salary of the local minister, or upkeep of the local church), that doesn’t provide much in the way of social good. At the very least, I’d be interested in what the level of donation is for organizations outside of the individual’s local church.

  22. #22 The Primate Diaries
    July 31, 2007

    FULL TEXT OF THE STUDY CAN BE FOUND HERE:

    http://www.annfammed.org/cgi/content/full/5/4/353

  23. #23 Peterte
    July 31, 2007

    I thought the U.S. was relying on Cuba to fill medical posts in underprivileged areas?

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/6914265.stm

    The godless and* communists looking after your ill, whatever
    next?

    *Please note, I’m making no assumptions about the religiosity of the graduates in this story.

  24. #24 Mike O'Risal
    July 31, 2007

    Report by Giving USA on the types of organizations to which Americans donated in 2005; this is the same report on charitable contributions that is cited on the US State Department’s website. Interestingly, religious organizations saw an increase of less than 5% over 2004 donations, while research universities and environmental organizations had double-digit increases over the previous year. The only types of organizations that fared worse were cultural/arts and health organizations (pretty sad, that).

    So I don’t know if the Hoover Institution Report is reliable, but the US government is itself citing Giving USA’s report.

    Given the figures presented in that report, I wonder… if religious people are so much more likely to contribute, to whom are they contributing? It wouldn’t appear to be religious organizations, or at least not in the kinds of increasing numbers and amounts that other types of organizations received during the same period.

    Charitable burn-out, maybe? Or maybe they just lack faith in their own institutions in increasing numbers? There have been a lot of scandals lately…

  25. #25 Steve LaBonne
    July 31, 2007

    Unless one is a free-market fundamentalist one should, in estimating the net impact of religion on social welfare, subtract from private religious-oriented giving an estimate of the lost tax revenue from the huge tax subsidy to religious organizations.

  26. #26 Dale Austin
    July 31, 2007

    DSM;

    Quick scan of the article. I note that the giving information is all self-reported, a notoriously bad survey methodology. Since we know that there are religious folks *cough*Hagggard*cough* who make public statements that are at odds with their actual behavior, this is a major issue.

    And this: “It sucks to be secular (or to rely on them to be charitable).”, is actually at odds with some of the statements the author made-and I would argue that his choice of phrasing is decidedly biased in your direction.

  27. #27 DSM
    July 31, 2007

    Interestingly, religious organizations saw an increase of less than 5% over 2004 donations, while research universities and environmental organizations had double-digit increases over the previous year.

    There’s nothing interesting about it when you look at all the figures:

    Total given to religious organizations: $93.2-billion
    Total given to environmental orgs: $8.9-billion

    It’s easier to get a higher percentage increase to much, much lesser amounts.

  28. #28 Pablo
    July 31, 2007

    Do the charitable contributions from religious people include contributions to their church? If so, that easily accounts for a lot of the 90% that “give to charity.” Similarly, how much of the “volunteering” is for the church?

    I see Tulse has made a similar point. Perhaps the difference just comes down to the fact that atheists are much less likely to donate to the church or spend time helping at church bingo?

    It also needs to be normalized by age, but ISTR they have done that in some places.

  29. #29 DSM
    July 31, 2007

    I note that the giving information is all self-reported, a notoriously bad survey methodology.

    Many, many studies rely on self-reporting. If you are asking people about their religious affiliations (studies that you guys like to tout to show how many non-religious people there are), it’s based on self-reporting. I don’t see you complaining about it then.

    Since we know that there are religious folks *cough*Hagggard*cough* who make public statements that are at odds with their actual behavior, this is a major issue.

    Oh, please! Now THAT’S bad survey methodology. You could just as well say that since most people at one time or another have lied, you can’t trust anything they say ever. Additionally, you are using an insignificant sample of people (i.e. the handful of Ted Haggards of the world) to represent the majority. Finally, there are just as many non-religious people as religious people “who make public statements that are at odds with their actual behavior,” so your complaint smacks of hypocrisy.

  30. #30 Steve_C
    July 31, 2007

    Religious give to religious charities… not a big surprise. There’s many more religious people than non-religious. Wow. Which organizations are going to get more donations.

    Here’s another no brainer… if you’re not religious why would you give to charities that are by in large religious? I won’t because they use their charitable work for missions who’s secondary if not primary goal is to spread their religion.

  31. #31 Dale Austin
    July 31, 2007

    DSM:

    I’m confused, are percentage-based calculation valid or not? Your last indicates the base must be taken into account, but your earlier assertions do not.

  32. #32 Dale Austin
    July 31, 2007

    “Many, many studies rely on self-reporting. If you are asking people about their religious affiliations (studies that you guys like to tout to show how many non-religious people there are), it’s based on self-reporting. I don’t see you complaining about it then.”

    True enough. The problem is the category of question. “Are you religious” is a qualitative issue. Folks tend to be a bit more honest about those-there is generally less wiggle room. “How much do you give?” is more likely to suffer from a round-up error.

    Oh, and who, exactly, is “you guys”?

  33. #33 Charley
    July 31, 2007

    Pablo, I agree this is a very important question. Most money taken in by churches stays in the church where it is used to pay for personnel, facilities and programs which “benefit” only the members and missionaries.

    If the giving gap does not include churches, then I am impressed.

  34. #34 DSM
    July 31, 2007

    Do the charitable contributions from religious people include contributions to their church? If so, that easily accounts for a lot of the 90% that “give to charity.” Similarly, how much of the “volunteering” is for the church?

    I seriously doubt researchers would include church contributions in the definition of “charities.” I’ve seen no indication in anything I’ve read about this and other surveys that they are. If you can find information to back up your bald-faced assumption, please present it. If you can’t, well, I won’t expect you to stop believing the assumption.

  35. #35 Loc
    July 31, 2007

    DSM,

    You can make numbers say anything. Read this article by a pastor. He shows how religious people are no more loving or charitable than “secular” societies. They are actually worse.

    http://www.harpers.org/archive/2005/08/0080695

  36. #36 DSM
    July 31, 2007

    Religious give to religious charities… not a big surprise. There’s many more religious people than non-religious. Wow. Which organizations are going to get more donations.

    Religious people also give more to non-religious charities.

    Here’s another no brainer… if you’re not religious why would you give to charities that are by in large religious?

    Why wouldn’t you? You seem to be taking a rather bigoted standpoint. Why does it matter [to you] if a charity is religious or not? Shouldn’t the bottom line be helping people in need instead of the religiousness of the organization? I and many other religious people don’t draw that line (as evidenced by the studies).

    I won’t because they use their charitable work for missions who’s secondary if not primary goal is to spread their religion.

    So you would prefer that people suffer and possibly die because of your distaste of the questionable belief that religious charities exist primarily to spread their religion?

  37. #37 Rance Mohanitz
    July 31, 2007

    Ragnor said:
    Part of it may also be due to the subset of Christians who follow the “God wants you to be rich” philosophy. If you are not well off, then you are a miserable sinner.

    This is a common enough philosophy to have been written about in Max Weber’s 1905 work, “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.”

  38. #38 Bob
    July 31, 2007

    DSM, I think you are misreading what is being said. It’s not just the cash in Sunday plate passing, it’s all the attached charities. So I do not donate any money or time to religious soup kitchens, or religious missionaries, or write checks to 700 Club or any of a zillion other religious oriented charities. BUT, the people who are religious will. And I would guess they put more into the charities (easier write-off at tax time, too) than the dollar or two they drop in the plate.

  39. #39 stogoe
    July 31, 2007

    DSM, we’re not wondering whether the pollsters included tithing in their question. We’re wondering whether Ma and Pa Churchgoer included their payments to the church in their self-reported charity.

  40. #40 Dale Austin
    July 31, 2007

    DSM:

    Some bits from the citation:

    “The SCCBS asked respondents whether and how much they gave and volunteered to “religious causes” or “non-religious charities” over the previous 12 months. Across the whole population, 81 percent gave, while 57 percent volunteered.”

    So, donation to religious causes was included.

    “From these data, I have constructed two measures of religious participation. First, the group I refer to as “religious” are the respondents that report attending religious services every week or more often. This is 33 percent of the sample. Second, the group I call “secular” report attending religious services less than a few times per year or explicitly say they have no religion.”

    Please note the definition of secular vs. religious lumps the non-religious with the, what, “casually?” religious. What is the justification of a division based on church-going frequency? Would a shut-in 90-year old grandmother who gets her weekly god-dose from the TV be religious or secular? I think it was the Volokh (sic?) folks who pointed out that breaking the data at a different point resulted in a completely reversed conclusion-the completely unchurched gave at a higher rate than religious moderates and the uber-churched (who to be fair also gave at a rate higher than the moderates).

    While the infamous Stat 402 is thankfully decades behind me, I do recall that inappropriate grouping is the death of good statistics.

  41. #41 Loc
    July 31, 2007

    Sorry…I guess the writer, Bill McKibbon isn’t a pastor. I am confusing this with another article. But the message is the same.

  42. #42 Molly, NYC
    July 31, 2007

    Charity, service, self-sacrifice, generosity, and kindness are human properties, not religious virtues.

    For a lot of people, religiosity doesn’t drive morality–it’s a morality substitute. It’s not just the idea that, if you go to services every week and get appropriately outraged at other people’s sex lives, you’ve got your decency thang covered. It’s also that your best instincts–those kindly human properties you mention, and your desire for truth and fairness, and more–get perverted into mere faith.

  43. “…our findings suggest that admissions officials should ignore both the general religiousness of candidates and their professed sense of calling to medicine.”

    Forgive my ignorance, but do you really have to state your religion when you apply to medical school? I can’t imagine that’s the case. I don’t know why an admission official would have an applicant’s religious affiliation available to them during the admissions process, but maybe that’s a standard question on an application.

    It’s a shame if it is.

  44. #44 Dale Austin
    July 31, 2007

    “So you would prefer that people suffer and possibly die because of your distaste of the questionable belief that religious charities exist primarily to spread their religion?”

    Strawman. Presumes understanding of the internal state and motive of another.

    For me, I read the mission statement and look into their history. I’m a flaming atheist and give to several religious-themed groups. Habitat, for instance. And there is this Baptist Church in the South as well . . .

    But, If they insist on a prayer meeting before handing out the goodies, or spend a nickel of the donation on their holy books (never mind the gold plated bathroom fixtures for “the leader”), they get nothing from me.

  45. #45 Blitzgal
    July 31, 2007

    Is a 4% difference impressive statistically? Was there a margin of error there?

    I am in perfect agreement that ethics and morals are not fundamentally religiously driven, however.

  46. #46 PZ Myers
    July 31, 2007

    I don’t think the difference is significant at all. That’s why the conclusion is that religiosity is not a good marker for willingness to work in underserved communities.

    People seem to be confusing this with a claim that atheists are more charitable. No one is claiming that.

  47. #47 Blitzgal
    July 31, 2007

    “Charity, service, self-sacrifice, generosity, and kindness are human properties, not religious virtues.”

    You’re right, PZ. This line illustrates that point perfectly. I read the post incorrectly. Sorry about that.

  48. #48 Steve_C
    July 31, 2007

    The poor are the low hanging fruit for missionaries.

    I support Habitat for Humanities too.

  49. #49 Dale Austin
    July 31, 2007

    Steve C:

    “I support Habitat for Humanities too.”

    Good. Haven’t had the opportunity to swing a hammer with those folks yet-though I’d like to.

    “The poor are the low hanging fruit for missionaries.”

    Yep. Lack of educational opportunities, poorer overall nutrition, the not always subtle message that you are a defective for being poor-all adds up to a greater susceptibility. As Ranor Said: “Part of it may also be due to the subset of Christians who follow the “God wants you to be rich” philosophy. If you are not well off, then you are a miserable sinner.” It’s kind of hard to make that arguement work with a comfortably middle class atheist.

  50. #50 Chris
    July 31, 2007

    The hoover.org study claims that the effect does not disappear when you consider only donations to “nonreligious charities”, but doesn’t specify how they distinguished nonreligious charities from religious ones. Is the Salvation Army “nonreligious” because it isn’t associated with a particular church? The Boy Scouts? You may not find it difficult to come up with reasons why nonreligious people are reluctant to support those particular organizations.

    Similarly, some groups may be classified as not charities at all but rather political advocacy groups – even though the giver/volunteer’s purpose is to contribute to the community by contributing to them. Various pro-science organizations, for instance, could be arbitrarily and silently ruled “non-charities”, which would have the effect of depressing the giving/volunteering numbers of people who devote part of their giving to such organizations.

    Furthermore, an even more important common factor is totally ignored: people’s personality tendency to be joiners. The “highly religious” group was identified not by the intensity or sincerity of their beliefs (which would be difficult to measure, in any case) but by active church membership and attendance – something that can just as easily result from simple gregariousness. Gregariousness would also make people more likely to contribute their time and money to other groups of people – charitable or otherwise. Conversely, anyone who is nonreligious in the U.S. has a demonstrated ability to resist peer and social pressure. Is it that surprising that they are less influenced by peer and social pressure to contribute to charities?

    On top of that, some charities may be promoted in church, giving the church attendees more exposure to “advertising” for the charities – in direct proportion to their church attendance. It’s hardly surprising if some respond. Non-churchgoers may not even know of the existence of that same group.

    The article also presents the concept of

    “social capital,” the stock of trust and social cohesiveness that promotes giving, volunteering, and participation in civil society.

    but never once considers that participation in churches may be an *effect*, rather than a cause, of social capital. They blindly assume that the causation can only go one way – from religiousness to greater concern for social capital. What a mindbogglingly stupid assumption to make in a society with such tremendous social pressure to be (or at least seem) religious!

    Of course social displayers in the U.S. go to church – it’s one of the preeminent venues for establishing and maintaining your status as a pillar of the community. Whether this is mere vanity or serves useful functions for the community I leave for another discussion – I merely point out that the same people who *ostentatiously* give and volunteer are also ostentatiously pious.

  51. #51 Pablo
    July 31, 2007

    “The hoover.org study claims that the effect does not disappear when you consider only donations to “nonreligious charities”,”

    Indeed, when you consider ONLY nonreligious charities, the difference drops from 91 – 66 to 71 – 61, much closer than before, and consistent with my claim that religious contributions account for a lot of that 91%. So much for DSM’s claim that they wouldn’t include church giving.

    They also claim to have normalized by age, but that isn’t broken down by religious vs non-religious organizations. They do note, however, that religious people are on average 8 years older than non-religious.

    And then there are all the issues that Chris brings up. In the end, I think there enough issues to think that the 71% vs 61% difference is not all that meaningingful.

  52. #52 Rev.Enki
    July 31, 2007

    Sounds good. But if true, I suppose I’d have to admit it could just as well be attributed to the social “benefits” of being religious in a religious society.

    Rev.Enki (who got his ordination the old fashioned way–by filling out a form on the internets)

  53. #53 dr_igloo
    July 31, 2007

    do you really have to state your religion when you apply to medical school? I can’t imagine that’s the case. I don’t know why an admission official would have an applicant’s religious affiliation available to them during the admissions process, but maybe that’s a standard question on an application.

    In the district that the medical school I work at is in, there are no questions on the application form that have anything to do with religious affiliation, but there is a lot of scope for the applicants to provide information that can reveal their religious orientation.

    You would be surprised (or possibly appalled, as I am) at how many of the applicants make pretty explicit statements about their religious beliefs as part of their application. But even if they don’t state in such an obvious way, the list of volunteer activities says an awful lot about where their priorities lie.

    So it’s usually not hard to tell from an application whether or not a person is religious. Thus, when people are reviewing the applications, it is very very possible that if they had religious sympathies themselves, they could privilege applicants who shared their religious views by giving their applications higher scores; but equally, reviewers who were anti-religious could have the opposite effect. However, I suspect (but don’t know for sure) that the former is a more significant factor than the latter. Hmmm. Maybe I should do a little research project on that.

  54. #54 arachnophilia
    July 31, 2007

    i’m not surprised, but i am disappointed — in christians. for a religion that so emphasizes helping the poor, it’s a damned shame that all christianity cares about today is “kill the gays” and “stop abortion” and “no stem cells.” what happened to “love your neighbour?”

    yeah, i know we shouldn’t expect a real statistical difference. but still — religion COULD be pushing the right messages, and it’s not.

  55. #55 gex
    July 31, 2007

    I don’t know – I think this is significant. Not that 31% and 34% aren’t statistically close. It’s just that compared to the percentage of atheists in the general population, the atheist doctors are highly overrepresented in providing service to the needy, aren’t they?

  56. #56 RedMolly
    July 31, 2007

    It has been my experience–and, I would bet, the experience of many other women–that the most professional, caring and non-judgmental medical workers I’ve ever encountered have been the doctors and other staff at Planned Parenthood… any Planned Parenthood. (I’ve visited them in three states.) They treat each patient regardless of her age, income level or social background as an intelligent human being who has the right and responsibility to make informed decisions about her own health care. They’re certainly not getting rich working at a sliding-scale clinic.

    And I would similarly bet that the religiosity level of the staff of the average Planned Parenthood is, if not nil, then very close to it. Coincidence? You decide…

  57. #57 shewie
    July 31, 2007

    [i]”but our findings suggest that admissions officials should ignore both the general religiousness of candidates and their professed sense of calling to medicine.”[/i]

    Does that mean that currently admissions officials [i]don’t[/i] ignore the general religiousness of candidates? If that’s true that’s appalling.

  58. #58 blondie
    July 31, 2007

    What I find very sad is that the very people with whom Jesus Christ mainly associated — the poorest, the working poor, society’s outcasts, lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors, criminals, etc. — are the very sort of people spat upon by many in the so-called religious right of the present-day United States. Jesus had little use for the money-changers in the temple, for established religion, or for government. I’m no scholar, but I am unaware of any teachings in which Jesus spoke against abortion. He did “save” an adulterous woman from being stoned, you know, that whole “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” thing. It’s terrible that the actions of professed Christians turn so many away from the actual teachings of Jesus Christ.

  59. #59 Warren Terra
    July 31, 2007

    To repeat my comment from this weekend’s atheism thread, I strongly encourage people to listen to Marcus Brogstocke’s comedy monolog on this subject, from BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Now Show’, which presents similar ideas with passion and humor.

    (Realplayer link, valid for about the next three days).

  60. #60 AC
    July 31, 2007

    But, If they insist on a prayer meeting before handing out the goodies, or spend a nickel of the donation on their holy books (never mind the gold plated bathroom fixtures for “the leader”), they get nothing from me.

    Hear, hear!

  61. #61 Molly, NYC
    July 31, 2007

    What I find very sad is that the very people with whom Jesus Christ mainly associated — the poorest, the working poor, society’s outcasts, lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors, criminals, etc. — are the very sort of people spat upon by many in the so-called religious right of the present-day United States.

    Look at it from the other direction, Blondie–suppose you were the sort who held the poor and luckless in contempt, cheated the people who had to deal with you and were cruel and manipulative to those who depend on you. What’s an easier way to rationalize all that than going to church every Sunday?

  62. #62 octopod
    July 31, 2007

    gex: It was 31% of all highly religious doctors and 35% of all nonreligious doctors that practiced among underserved communities, not 31%/35% of all doctors practicing in underserved communities that called themselves highly religious/nonreligious.

  63. #63 Gerard Harbison
    July 31, 2007

    Given that just one secularist — Bill Gates — gave $30 billion to charity between 2000 and 2004, and that Warren Buffett, another secularist, has matched the donation with another $30 billion, I’m inclined to doubt the Hoover’s average figures. In fact, divided among around 50 million ‘secularists’ in the United States, those two gentlemen alone account for $1200 in ‘secularist’ giving in the last few years.

    I’m inclined to suspect the figures anyway; self-reporting is a terrible means of data collection.

  64. #64 Samnell
    July 31, 2007

    “Jesus had little use for the money-changers in the temple, for established religion, or for government. I’m no scholar, but I am unaware of any teachings in which Jesus spoke against abortion. He did “save” an adulterous woman from being stoned, you know, that whole “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” thing. It’s terrible that the actions of professed Christians turn so many away from the actual teachings of Jesus Christ.”

    Christianity, by and large, has never been much interested in Jesus. He’s just a tribal totem trotted out to endorse whatever happens to cross the mind of the believer. This is true whether it’s a fundie screaming about the abortion Jesus ignored, or a liberal going on about the poor and happily ignoring Jesus’s problems with divorce.

    This is why attempting to persuade a Christian, or any believer, of anything through theology is as futile as debating a creationist in front of his church group.

  65. #65 Sophist, FCD
    July 31, 2007

    There is a time when a Christian must sell all and give to the poor, as they did in the Apostles times. There is a time allsoe when Christians (though they give not all yet) must give beyond their abillity, as they of Macedonia, Cor. 2, 6.[…]Lastly, when there is no other means whereby our Christian brother may be relieved in his distress, we must help him beyond our ability rather than tempt God in putting him upon help by miraculous or extraordinary meanes.

    — John Winthrop, “A Modell of Christian Charity” (1630)

    Indeed, John Winthrop’s seventeenth-century statement quoted above would probably not have sounded particularly zealous throughout most of the twentieth century. As many public opinion scholars have documented, however, a dramatic philosophical shift occurred in the 1960s, leaving us to this day with a pervasive secular rhetoric on the political left.

    Wait, let me get this straight. You’re citing an article that claims that, until the hippies fucked everything up somehow, the modus operandi of the average Christian was to give up to, and beyond, the point of personal privation and destitution? And you expect us to take it seriously?

    Oy, gevalt.

    I seriously doubt researchers would include church contributions in the definition of “charities.” I’ve seen no indication in anything I’ve read about this and other surveys that they are.

    The sccbs asked respondents whether and how much they gave and volunteered to “religious causes”or “non-religious charities”…

    Note the broad category “religious causes”, as compared to the much narrower category of “non-religious charities”. Also note that the response to a hypothetical objection that “Religious people might give[…]to finance the services that they themselves consume, such as sacramental activities” is nor countered with the claim that those donations weren’t counted, but with the claim that “Religious people are more generous than secular people with nonreligious causes as well as with religious ones.”

  66. #66 Azkyroth
    July 31, 2007

    I’m also curious as to exactly what the Hoover institute’s priorities and affiliations are; I’m not familiar with them.

  67. #67 Sophist, FCD
    July 31, 2007

    On the other hand, the secular group is disproportionately[…]unmarried (58 percent to 40 percent)…

    Do you volunteer at your kids’ school? Or help out senior citizens?

    Hmmm. Interesting.

    32 [Caution, approaching pdf. Consult physician before clicking.] In the past 12 months, have you taken part in any sort of activity with people at your church
    or place of worship other than attending services? This might include teaching Sunday school,
    serving on a committee, attending choir rehearsal, retreat, or other things.

    Does the Hoover Institution article perhaps count choir rehersal as volunteer work?

    Now I’d like to ask about other kinds of groups and organizations. I’m going to read a list;
    just answer YES if you have been involved in the past 12 months with this kind of group.

    33I A labor union.

    33L Ethnic, nationality, or civil rights organizations, such as the National Organization for Women,
    the Mexican American Legal Defense or the NAACP?

    33M Other public interest groups, political action groups, political clubs, or party committees.

    And does it ignore this sort of volunteer work?

    38E Religion is very important in my life.

    Interesting that the survey has a question asking people to rate the importance of religion in their live, yet The Hoover institute chose to base their article an the question about attendence. I wonder why?

    It would really help to know what survey questions the Institution picked (or perhaps cherry-picked) for that article, but they don’t seem willing to share that.

  68. #68 Alan
    July 31, 2007

    Let’s see the Hoover institute. The right-wing think tank that Condoleezza Rice is on leave from. They have as much credibility with me as the ID/DI or the Templeton people. Give me a credible, unbiased source.
    As an ex-Mormon turned atheist, I know that Mormons are among the highest level givers to charity: 10% of their gross goes to the Mormon church and then they donate “fast offerings”, building funds, etc. Most of this goes right into church coffers. They also don’t have any paid clergy, so everyone gives hundreds of hours a year. Sorry, but most of these types of donations of money and time are not charitable: they’re requirements to maintiain membership in good standing.
    I’m not arguing that Atheists give more–I don’t, but you’ll need more than the Hoover institute and one of their biased studies to convince me that the religious give more.
    Alan

  69. #69 phat
    July 31, 2007

    Hoover Institution = right-wing think tank.

    phat

  70. #70 Bill
    July 31, 2007

    Alan hit it on the head. Consider the source.

    From the Hoover Institution Mission Statement:

    “Both our social and economic systems are based on private enterprise from which springs initiative and ingenuity…. Ours is a system where the Federal Government should undertake no governmental, social or economic action, except where local government, or the people, cannot undertake it for themselves.”

    The one thing all right-wing “think tanks” have in common: ideology and conclusions come first, then we’ll cook up a “study” to support them.

  71. #71 GunOfSod
    July 31, 2007

    Surely the conclusion should have been to give preference to Agnostic/Atheist candidates?

    Or are we still defying the evidence to console the theists?

  72. #72 John Mruzik
    July 31, 2007

    I am a physician serving the poor. I make litle money and don’t donate to charity, excepting my family. I am an athiest and proud to serve the poor. People say “God bless you doctor John,” and I say thank you, and go back to work. I will probably die young because I work so hard. I do it because I am human, not a believer. The Company makes all the money. So it goes; an “n” of one.

  73. #73 Louise Van Court
    August 1, 2007

    Thank you Dr. Mruzik for the work you are doing. We need more people like you. Take care.

  74. #74 Tomas
    August 1, 2007

    Holy selection bias, Batman!

    Republicans want poor people to pull themselves up by the bootstrap. Greater propotion of republicans are christians. Doctors who are christians are more likely to be republicans.

  75. #75 Tatarize
    August 1, 2007

    Giving gap, perhaps the atheists are just more honest. What religion are you? Christian. How much do you give to charity? Um… millions!

  76. #76 Suze
    August 1, 2007

    Hoover Institution is much more libertarian than right wing, although it leans conservative/Republican. Libertarianism tends to take from both the left and right, and there’s a heavy atheist influence. I’m not aware of any particular bias Hoover has for either religious or secular views (although Christopher Hitchens is listed as a media fellow). They’re associated with Stanford University. Thomas Sowell, Peter Boettke, and the late Milton Friedman are listed as fellows and are definitely free market types. But then there’s the Bush connection and Condi Rice’s fellowship. I’m neither defending nor attacking the study, but writing off the Hoover Institution as right wing and biased isn’t necessarily true.

  77. #77 djinn
    August 1, 2007

    As to the Hoover institute not being right wing, #76, above, forgive me? You must, surely, you must be kidding. A quick trip to Wikipedia tells me that not only is Dinesh D’souza a Research Fellow (Latest book–The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11) but the Media Fellows include such luminaries as Laura Ingraham– latest book (from wikipedia, again) “Shut Up & Sing (2006), which decries the elitist views Ingraham attributes to liberals working primarily in entertainment, academia and the media”; Newt Gingrich; John Podhoretz, the neoest of the neocons…. the list goes on and on and on. Yes. An organization dedicated to making life difficult for the likes of me, at least. Not our friends — recall that Christopher Hitchens is a fervent Iraqi war supporter, professionally apparently.

  78. #78 chat
    September 30, 2008

    Hoover Institution = right-wing think tank.

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