Monday, January 18, 2010

Non-Believers Giving Aid

The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science and others have set up a charity account called Non-Believers Giving Aid, to collect donations for Doctors Without Borders and the International Red Cross, in order to help alleviate the ongoing tragedy in Haiti. Richard Dawkins himself, in his characteristic altruism, is personally covering the PayPal fees deducted from everyone's donations, so that the entire sum one donates goes to the charity designated.

According to PZ Myers, the account raised "over $150,000 in contributions for Haiti within 24 hours, and at the last tally I heard was somewhere over $180,000."

I just made a donation, myself. I'm finding myself increasingly pulled along by Peter Singer's arguments in The Life You Can Save, and the example of great men like Richard Dawkins. I'm not yet ready to be optimistic again about humanity, not after everything I have seen, but I'm increasingly willing to fight as time goes by—just much more cautiously than before.

H/T: Pharyngula.

Update 1/19: Predictably, attacks and smug insinuations have already started to emerge from some religious quarters, where at least a few loathsome individuals are more upset by the compassion of nonbelievers, than by the suffering of Haitians. Even with my pessimism, I boldly dare to believe that such sentiments are in the minority.

Update 1/20: From some non-religious quarters, too! It's true, there are certain liberal circles in which it is fashionable to try to prove to the world what a class act one is by lambasting the "new atheists," even when the "new atheists" are raising aid money for people who will otherwise die. This just confirms what I have said all along: stupidity and corruption are human universals.

3 comments:

Hume's Ghost said...

I made a small donation to the ICRC but I didn't go through the Dawkins site.

Although I have not read Singer's book on charity, I have found the fact that he donated (I think) something like 20% of his salary to charity fairly inspiring in itself.

Mark Vuletic said...

Myers appealed to his readers to give to charities several days before he mentioned Non-believers Giving Aid, and makes it a point to let everyone know that the response even then was overwhelming. Nonbelievers are giving out of conscience, not to make a point, though I prefer to both at the same time.

Singer gives about 25%, according to his FAQ at Princeton. This falls far short of what he thinks is morally required, but I agree that it's still heroic, relatively speaking. I will have to blog about it sometime, but here's the gist: Singer thinks that if everyone gave a modest amount, there would be no need for more (as Steelman said, oceans are made of molecules); however, given that most people do not give, those who do are morally required to pick up the slack, all the way until they are reduced to the level of marginal utility (i.e. continuing to give would make them worse off than the people they are giving to). This is a crushing view of what is morally required, but I can't see any problem with it, at least on the days when I feel sympathy for others at all.

The only reason I have any savings is because most of the time, I am very untrusting of people—even the ones I think I know, much less the ones I don't. You know the saying about biting the hand that feeds you? Well, I've already lost most of my fingers. But, part of me is not convinced, and if it gains the upper hand, my entire life will change beyond recognition.

Steelman said...

I contributed through Dawkins' site since he, rather than the charity, was paying the transaction fees. If my company had offered to match contributions, like they did after Katrina, I'd have stretched my dollars that way instead.

And thanks to those religious killjoys for the free press; they've played right into our godlessly generous, caring, altruistic...er, fiendish plot. Would it be too much trouble for them to say something like what I would say to them? "While I differ with that group's metaphysical beliefs, it's wonderful that good people are willing to help their fellow human beings in a time of crisis."

True, the contribution page at RD.net takes a rather generalized ideological shot at the religious, but it doesn't imply that they must renounce their beliefs for their charitable giving to be considered morally valid (well, maybe a little). Nevertheless, it doesn't match the attitude of some of those who have had their self-righteous feelings stepped on by the human kindness of atheists.