Last week I read that Black Skeptics Los Angeles is raising money for new First in the Family Humanist Scholarships, designated for “college-bound Los Angeles Unified School District students in South Los Angeles. Preference will be given to students who are in foster care, homeless, undocumented and/or LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning). Students must have a record of service and participation in school and/or community-based organizations.”

Women's Leadership Project scholarship winners
Sikivu Hutchinson with Women’s Leadership Project scholarship winners

I really liked the idea, so I helped get the word out online. A couple days later I looked at the ChipIn widget and was surprised to see very few new contributions, so I wondered how else I could help…until I realized that I now have for-real “disposable income” (like I just throw it away, ha!) and can choose to donate to charitable causes, something I previously didn’t feel comfortable doing due to crushing debt from years as a college student without medical insurance.

So I popped $25 towards the scholarships as the ninth contributor and posted something about the scholarship fund to Facebook and Twitter again. I was happy to see several people with sizable followings retweet my tweet—yay! But when I checked for new donations the next day, there were only three new contributors. Boooo. I’m glad to see that the fund is now up to $1372.88 and 16 total contributors after a blog boost from Crommunist, who wrote:

As a big proponent of education as a means of not only breaking the cycle of poverty, but as a way of better understanding the world around us, I am excited that this idea is moving forward.

(By the way: I’ve only ever donated money to something maybe four times in my life, unless you count buying Girl Scout Cookies, in which case it’s closer to a dozen times. I have lots of experience donating my time and energy as a volunteer, but I never thought it wise to give money when I was struggling with mountains of school debt. Even though I only donated $25 this time—hey, I’m new at this!—it felt awesome to give to others. I will do it again! Anyway, to go on…)

Walker Bristol

Over the weekend, a Google alert pointed me to a Huffington Post piece titled “The New Atheist Movement Should Care About Poverty.” Author Walker Bristol is a Tufts University student whom I’d gotten in touch with online after seeing his thoughtful response to a provocative and substantive (i.e., worthwhile and quite long) article in Counterpunch called “Atheism and the Class Problem.” Described on HuffPo as an “Atheist Interfaith Activist,” Walker is president of the Tufts Freethought Society, works with the Foundation Beyond Belief as director of communications, and contributes to interfaith wunderkind Chris Stedman’s NonProphet Status blog, “a forum for a compassionate and measured alternative to the contemporary atheist narrative, focused on sharing stories of interfaith cooperation and treating topics in social justice, science, and philosophy with nuance.”

My friend Stedman knows that I’m not as fluffy as he is about religion and I’m less kumbaya about interfaith work. I figured I’m probably more “angry-atheist” than Walker is, so I started reading the article with a critical eye. However, I found myself agreeing with several of his ideas. Parts of the article are quoted below, but please do go read the whole thing. (Note: emphasis is my own.)

When new atheism emerged at the beginning of the millennium, perhaps the quickest stereotypes to flank authors like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins were “elitist” and “self-satisfied.”


The last decade is peppered with blatant examples of outright classist language and motivation that has directly distanced the atheist movement from peer religious communities. Richard Dawkins has an affinity for referring to the “educated elite” (as he does in The God Delusion) or to “elite scientists” in discussing atheist demographics–essentially, he appeals to the fact that because those in the overclass of academia share a particular view, those below them ought to strive towards it as well. In doing so, he implies that they might too achieve some sort of enlightened intellectual prosperity that these privileged elite scientists have been graced with. Atheists today allege that the stereotypes discussed earlier are leveled purely out of the insecurity of the religious position. Yet, it seems they are rather an indictment of the movement’s narrow, upper-class focus, which both ignores and marginalizes the underprivileged who haven’t access to the same educational opportunities.


While the current movement limits itself to honing arguments and gleefully ridiculing the religious Others who don’t share their educational privilege, those in poor communities are often bound by a strong local church…[Sikivu] Hutchinson writes in her essay “Prayer Warriors and Freethinkers” for The New Humanism: “If mainstream freethought and humanism continue to reflect the narrow cultural interests of white elites who have disposable income to go to conferences then the secular movement is destined to remain marginal and insular.”


 In the South in the ’50s and ’60s, it was through the incredible network of black churches in African-American communities that activists were able to organize and share information, and ultimately achieve to the unprecedented successes of Civil Rights. These communities empowered their members, yet atheists construct a presumption that these communities must be in need of empowerment…Ostensibly, that empowerment would come from outsiders, from white elite atheists who by all accounts seem more interested in pointing fingers and laughing at believers rather than investing in improving the educational complex and broken welfare system that has destroyed these communities in the first place.


[O]ur national leaders continue to pour funds into self-righteous billboard campaigns rather than improving quality of life for those whose economic turmoil leaves them without access to the education that might improve their critical thought. And as long as that’s the case, the rest of society will continue to look on atheists with scorn, and potentially fruitful relationships with the religious will be shattered.


So there’s a lot that can be said, and I’m interested to hear feedback from commenters here. I do think that some parts of the article give a limited picture: for example, well-executed billboard campaigns attract new members and new funding, both necessary for secular and atheist organizations to advance their missions. But Walker’s piece is in the style of a persuasive essay, written with limited space, and I think his main idea is a good one. I want to close by highlighting an important theme discussed by both Walker and Crommunist:


Education, education, education.

It’s because I believe in the transformative power of education that I donated money to the Black Skeptics Los Angeles scholarship fund. It’s because I have some small idea of the sacrifices my parents made to send my siblings and me to private school—instead of to the low-performing and often violent local public schools—that I want to see the movement do more than pay lip service to the value of education. I’ve talked about this before, but I am frustrated that we-the-movement only seem to get involved with public education when a teacher puts Bible quotes on the walls of her classroom, when a football coach leads his high school team in prayer, when a science teacher spends time promoting intelligent design, when an administration prevents a student from starting an atheist club, or when a high school graduation is scheduled to take place in a church. Then we swoop in with our science advocates and Wall of Separation to make everything right…but don’t seem to worry about the fact that the high school’s graduation rate might be less than 50% and the shared science textbooks are older than the students.

Unless we address the classism and broaden the elitist culture of the atheist movement, the underprivileged students in the Philadelphia public school classrooms that I’m familiar with and in the South Los Angeles classrooms that Sikivu Hutchinson works in will continue to be marginalized and will never have access to the “enlightened” educational opportunities that the movement too often takes for granted.

Some would say it’s not the movement’s responsibility to address poverty and public education. I disagree. This is a movement; we want the world to be a better place than it is now. We want to reduce suffering and foster a just society. If we agree there’s no cosmic justice system and there’s no reward for suffering after we die, we need to effect change here, now, in this life, in this world, for as many people as we can reach. Education is key for change to occur.


Note: I honestly think it would be more appropriate to describe these as the goals of the humanist movement, rather than the atheist movement, although there’s significant overlap. There’s also overlap with the skeptical movement, and some of the goals are the same. I think the points above can still be considered in these other contexts.



Debbie is keenly interested in secularism, skepticism, magic and deception, LGBTQ issues, language and perception, and general geekery. She works at the Center for Inquiry as director of outreach, director of African Americans for Humanism, and intro-doer for Point of Inquiry. You can find her on Twitter: @debgod.

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  1. Avatar of dr. dr. professor
    February 5, 2013 at 3:00 pm —

    Well atheists and skeptics don’t donate as much as religions because there’s no ethic creed as in religion. Also westerners in general don’t tend give a shit about poverty en masse unless there’s some compelling media that appeals to their emotions. Just watch, I estimate this post will have less than 20 comments, whereas a post on GLEE garners hundreds of comments. It’s not like either issue (statutory rape glorfification & poverty) is any less important than one another, but GLEE is simply more interesting to people than helping the poor.

    So what are you running up against is basic human self-interest…

    • Avatar of Joshua
      February 5, 2013 at 3:13 pm —

      Yes, and?
      Posts like this one are exactly how we, in the long run, will change that culture, so I don’t see the point of your comment.

      • Avatar of dr. dr. professor
        February 5, 2013 at 5:32 pm —

        It’s not a criticism of the poster (yes I know the commenters here hold them as infallible been though the posters themselves know they’re only human).

        What it is a criticism of society for being so self interested. I think it’s astute to note that a minority group did it because I think often that minorities know a little better what it is to be less privileged (being one myself). White people often have less of a care for poverty issues because they often have hidden advantages that allow them to avoid it and know little about what it’s like. I applaud their efforts in trying to bring awareness of it to a broader crowd.

        • Avatar of punchdrunk
          February 5, 2013 at 10:23 pm —

          (yes I know the commenters here hold them as infallible been though the posters themselves know they’re only human)

          Wait. What?

          • Avatar of dr. dr. professor
            February 5, 2013 at 10:56 pm

            Sorry about the bad grammar, I’m on mobile. I’m just saying that some of the commenters on Skepchick threads tend to be dittoheads.

            However, I think the posters aren’t always looking for flat out agreement, I think they often appreciate honest challenges and differing viewpoints (minus the “feminists r stoopid” troll posts).

          • Avatar of Will
            February 6, 2013 at 3:34 pm

            Oh you did not just compare the commenters here to Rush Limbaugh fanatics.

      • Avatar of dr. dr. professor
        February 5, 2013 at 5:34 pm —

        Also my point is that emotionally appealing outreach can help a lot and I would be happy to offer some of my production resources to help.

        • Avatar of punchdrunk
          February 5, 2013 at 11:25 pm —

          I don’t know about ‘dittoheads’. Defensive, maybe.

          Most of what the site posts isn’t really controversial. More information and outreach than provocation or sensationalism. Not a lot of argument to be had, I think.
          Or they got me too, and you should save yourself while you still can. :P

    • Avatar of dorothy
      February 6, 2013 at 7:42 pm —

      My experience is that people blame the struggling for their struggles so why help. In fact, many claim that helping just perpetuates their “victim mentality,” glossing over how they are in fact victimized.

  2. Avatar of Rebecca Watson
    February 5, 2013 at 3:27 pm —

    Thanks for writing this, Debbie! Skepchick has now contributed to the scholarship.

  3. Avatar of Amy Roth
    February 5, 2013 at 3:42 pm —

    Great post, Debbie. Thank you for this.

  4. Avatar of simonsays
    February 5, 2013 at 4:41 pm —

    The endeavor by Black Skeptics looks quite promising indeed.

  5. Avatar of Buzz Parsec
    February 5, 2013 at 4:47 pm —

    “If we agree there’s no cosmic justice system and there’s no reward for suffering after we die, we need to effect change here, now, in this life, in this world, for as many people as we can reach.”


    • Avatar of scribe999
      February 5, 2013 at 5:01 pm —

      Reminds me of the Phil Ochs song:

      And I won’t breathe the bracing air when I’m gone
      And I can’t even worry ’bout my cares when I’m gone
      Won’t be asked to do my share when I’m gone
      So I guess I’ll have to do it while I’m here

      This indeed

  6. Avatar of Louis Doench
    February 5, 2013 at 6:29 pm —

    I chipped in $10 and shared it with my dozens and dozens of fans!

  7. Avatar of mrthumbtack
    February 5, 2013 at 7:01 pm —

    Well said.

  8. Avatar of Adam Lee
    February 5, 2013 at 7:03 pm —

    There are hardly any causes where a donation can do as much good as it can here. I’m in, and I’ll see if I can drum up some more publicity for it too.

  9. Avatar of SteveT
    February 5, 2013 at 10:49 pm —

    From my perspective as a progressive theist, I think Mr. Bristol (and Deb, in turn) make some excellent points. If atheism is ever going to shed it’s overwhelmingly negative image in the public eye, then it is efforts like the First in Family scholarships that that will help to accomplish this. Right now, you guys rank at about the absolute bottom of the “trustworthiness” scale in public polling. As long as Dawkins and Harris are the only thing most people ever see related to atheism, this seems unlikely to change. So yeah, get out in the world and work to reduce suffering and to foster a more just society. If the general populace start seeing atheist groups out in the trenches, helping the disadvantaged get a decent education, that will have a HUGE impact on your ability to recruit a more diverse membership across a wide range of socioeconomic levels.

    • Avatar of simonsays
      February 5, 2013 at 11:31 pm —

      Giving to this cause is worthwhile in and of itself.

      However, the idea that atheists’ perceived “trustworthiness” in American society is significantly affected by Dawkins or Harris is tenuous at best. Presumably you are referring to polling numbers asking people if they would vote for an otherwise qualified atheist as president. This number has always been low (though it should be noted that the trend is upwards in recent years) and certainly long before Dawkins achieved notoriety in the US. Many people blamed the low numbers on Madalyn Murray O’Hair before that. Unless we have some information that shows Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris is someone that the vast majority of the population has even *heard* of (ie more than just the amount that buys non-fiction), we can’t say that he is a factor in such polling to a significant degree.

      To illustrate further why this analysis is lacking, look at the same statistic over time for Jewish people in the US. This is a group that has a long history of very generous charitable giving in the US and yet only fairly recently has their “trustworthiness” (based on the same above metric) gone up to satisfactory levels. I am pretty sure this had little or nothing to do with the perceptions of any of the more famous adherents when the number was lower.

      • Avatar of SteveT
        February 6, 2013 at 12:46 am —

        Simon, I agree that giving to this cause is worthwhile in and of itself, and have done so myself. I didn’t mean to imply that perceptions of Dawkins or Harris were in any way causative of the low poll numbers, since (as you pointed out) they existed long before Dawkins etc came on the scene. My comment was more to the point that, far from doing anything to change the negative public perception of atheists, the comments and behavior of Dawkins et al only seem to reinforce the existing perception for those (possibly few) who are aware of his existence.

        I also don’t think that there would be much, if any, positive impact on the public perception of atheism simply from the act of charitable donations to worthy causes. It is more the active and public involvement (boots on the ground) in campaigns like First in the Family that seek to actively improve people’s lives by increasing access to education, promoting feminism and other social justice causes that will likely raise atheism up in the eyes of the public.

        This is not intended to be some kind of deep, well researched treatise on the subject. Simply my opinion, based on my perceptions and experiences within both the secular and non-secular communities.

        • Avatar of simonsays
          February 6, 2013 at 8:29 am —

          There may be something to this. I do know that there are many of my fellow lefties (both well known as well as “boots on the ground”) who like to keep their atheism/humanism to themselves (or at most are very understated about it). IMO they ought to reconsider their position, largely for the reason you cite.

    • Avatar of simonsays
      February 5, 2013 at 11:39 pm —

      I would further add that charitable giving to the poor is to a large extent an exclusively American tradition of Christian identity. In many other countries this is not the case because reducing poverty and improving education is seen as something the government has an obligation to do. Many times it is part of their constitution and considered a right of citizenship.

      • Avatar of Laurel Halbany
        February 6, 2013 at 2:09 am —

        “Many other countries” have no separation between (Christian) church and state, and charitable giving to the poor is a major tenet of faiths other than Christianity (hint: where did Christianity come from?).

        • Avatar of Luarien
          February 7, 2013 at 6:58 pm —

          Most European nations that have Constitutional charges to fight poverty and provide education do so for secular reasons that rose in the Enlightenment. The same things that caused those same arguments to happen in the US where we didn’t get the poverty argument (thanks to certain arguments for state autonomy) but we did get the secular governance (which many governments also got in Europe post-Enlightenment).

          Your implied connection between religion and social justice is false, historically and currently. Especially since the most forward-thinking, anti-classist policies from governance come in countries that are largely secular like Switzerland.

  10. Avatar of pascale68
    February 5, 2013 at 10:52 pm —

    Thank you for this! I just made a contribution and passed the info along.

  11. Avatar of mattir
    February 5, 2013 at 11:01 pm —

    Thank you for this idea. Contributed and shared.

    I would also suggest that the secular community really needs to up its commitment to in-person, one-on-one volunteer work – literacy services, tutoring, mentoring high school and college students, leading school science clubs, judging science fairs, being a scout or youth group leader – all that boring, very non-glamorous work that can change lives and decrease dependence on religious organizations which provide social services as a lure for their religious activities.

    It’s often not dramatic or showy, but as a bonus, it’s a huge amount of fun. And it can lead to mutually supportive relationships with the people one meets, not just more fodder for bragging holiday letters about how much one has done to help The Poor.

  12. Avatar of Laurel Halbany
    February 6, 2013 at 2:11 am —

    These are important points and your post is a fine thing.
    One quibble, with ‘This is a movement; we want the world to be a better place than it is now.’ You want the world to be a better place than it is now. So do many atheists. I believe you are in error when you assume that ‘we’ and ‘the skeptic community as a whole’ are overlapping or nearly-identical sets. There are, unfortunately, plenty of skeptics who are perfectly happy for the world to stay as it is, except for the one small part where their skepticism is a disadvantage. An activist friend of mine (in the LGBT context) calls these sorts of people but-for activists: but for the one tiny thing that makes their lives less than 100% privileged, they wouldn’t bother to lift a finger. I am hoping that this changes.

    • Avatar of DebGod
      February 6, 2013 at 8:08 pm —

      Hi Laurel, thanks for the feedback!

      You say, “I believe you are in error when you assume that ‘we’ and ‘the skeptic community as a whole’ are overlapping or nearly-identical sets.”

      When I said of the atheist movement that “[t]here’s also overlap with the skeptical movement,” I’m not saying at all that they’re “nearly-identical sets.” (I say that even though I work for CFI, which tries its darndest to mash the different groups together.) But certainly some of the goals are the same.

  13. Avatar of knitty
    February 6, 2013 at 3:24 am —

    Being Canadian and currently broke I will not be donating. However! I yearly donate to a local charity that helps underprivledged youth. Often aboriginal Canadians.

    I think the underscoring issue of raising people out of poverty is education. But pardon my language but what I know of the US system is that it is fucked up. If you can’t gaurentee that a moderate student going from grades 1-12 isn’t going to have enough knowledge to pass their SATs. Then your system is wrong. Every student regardless of where they go to school should be able to have the possibility of going to university or college. But then the cost to do so means that poor kids have to rely on scholarships to get in. And loans become so overwhelming that they will never be able to break the poverty cycle. In Canada it is being

  14. Avatar of knitty
    February 6, 2013 at 3:27 am —

    Being Canadian and currently broke I will not be donating. However! I yearly donate to a local charity that helps underprivledged youth. Often aboriginal Canadians.

    I think the underscoring issue of raising people out of poverty is education. But pardon my language but what I know of the US system is that it is fucked up. If you can’t gaurentee that a moderate student going from grades 1-12 isn’t going to have enough knowledge to pass their SATs. Then your system is wrong. Every student regardless of where they go to school should be able to have the possibility of going to university or college. But then the cost to do so means that poor kids have to rely on scholarships to get in. And loans become so overwhelming that they will never be able to break the poverty cycle. In Canada it is being pushed that way. But comparitily it is not that bad -yet. I might be completely wrong. But we so know atheism correlates with increased education. Supporting education is in the best inte best interests of those of us who feel a secular society is the best way to live.

    • Avatar of theia
      February 6, 2013 at 12:18 pm —

      Off Topic
      Knitty; Where did you find a charity like that in Canada? I have, in particular, looked for something along the lines of Plan with no luck. We have tons of kids living in poverty that are supposedly getting help from the government but just aren’t. I’d like to find Canadian groups helping Canadians… breakfast programmes or community centres, adult learning groups etc., in say Rankin Inlet? Surely they need money? I’m way too shy to actually help these groups in person but I’d like to do what I can.

  15. Avatar of knitty
    February 6, 2013 at 3:30 am —

    Ugh. Writing on my phone sucks. Also not so. There are a few other errors. I hope that made sense lol

  16. Avatar of IsisUptown
    February 6, 2013 at 5:01 pm —

    Y’all, this is why I do this:
    I don’t get anything but an occasional “Thank You” letter from Second Harvest, but I know people get to eat and don’t have to go through a church food pantry (not that I object to church food pantries, just the church part).

  17. Avatar of Vladimir Chituc
    February 6, 2013 at 5:17 pm —

    This was great, and I’m always really happy and excited to read your thoughts. I hate to be nitpicky, because there’s so much about your post that’s wonderful. So maybe this is just trivial quibbles, but I kind of take issue with describing interfaith work as “fluffy” or “kumbaya,” or at least using those as associations with the work.

    It just feels like it trivializes it and enforces the idea that interfaith work is just asking everyone to get along and play nice together and never really do anything substantive or serious, like something kids might do at camp.

    Again, I can’t say enough how much I appreciated this piece, so don’t let this minor issue suggest otherwise. Just sorry to see this stereotype popping up everywhere.

    • Avatar of DebGod
      February 6, 2013 at 9:44 pm —

      Hey Vlad! Nitpick and quibble all you want. This is the internet, after all, and language is fun! Let’s see…

      You said, “…I kind of take issue with describing interfaith work as ‘fluffy’ or ‘kumbaya,’ or at least using those as associations with the work.”

      I said, “My friend Stedman knows that I’m not as fluffy as he is about religion and I’m less kumbaya about interfaith work.”

      I don’t describe interfaith as fluffy—I describe Stedman’s relationship with religion, or his interactions with religion, as fluffier than mine. I stand by that characterization. I’m generally a nice person, but I am definitely pricklier about religion than Chris is. That’s the scale I’m using, prickly to fluffy. Here’s an analogy:

      Chris’s relationship with religion : nice medium-haired housecat :: Debbie’s relationship with religion : hedgehog OF OCCASIONAL DOOM

      Hey, that works pretty well for both of us. The housecat is soft and fluffy but still has claws and sharp teeth for when she needs them. The hedgehog can be pet one way with no problem, but he has sharp spines and will hurt you if you attack him or pet him in the wrong direction. I like it! :)

      Now that you mention it, I’m thinking about the fact that the word “fluffy” can be used to mean “trivial,” but I didn’t have those associations when I wrote the sentence, and I don’t think that meaning makes sense there grammatically. Cats! Bunnies! Pomeranians! These are fluffy things. Those were my associations.

      I said I’m less kumbaya than Chris is about interfaith work. That’s true. I also say I’m probably more “angry-atheist” than Walker is. I don’t know Walker well, but I am certainly more angry-atheist than Chris is, yet more kumbaya about religion than Dawkins is… I associate “kumbaya” with…let’s see…people coming together with the goals of cooperation, peace, fraternity, amity, harmony….also, singing around a campfire with guitars, which I’ve done. On the opposite side would be fighting, arguing, discord, and the like. Even though I lean more towards the “angry-atheist” side than Chris does, I don’t think Chris’s work is trivial. I know I’m not nearly as nice and friendly about religion as he is, and I’m not as gung ho about getting involved in interfaith work qua interfaith work. It’s a better fit for my interests and skills to do issue-based “interfaith” cooperation.

      On a more serious note: I hear what you’re saying about negative stereotypes of interfaith. I believe that it is in the best interests of the “atheist movement” to work with religious groups on issues—in fact, it’s required if we want to accomplish our goals. That’s certainly true if we’re interested in social justice. We don’t have the infrastructure or the numbers otherwise. (I like the way Walker addressed religion in the HuffPo article.) Kudos to you, and Chris, and Walker for having a voice in the interfaith movement. To turn around my descriptions from earlier—I may be a little too prickly to fit in smoothly with much of it. (I challenge you to invite me to things and prove me wrong, though!)

  18. Avatar of dorothy
    February 6, 2013 at 7:34 pm —

    So I registered to comment and now I am not sure what to say. I lurk some on atheist forums and more or less know the issues that divide atheists. I think our first duty isn’t to the purity of atheism but to ourselves, our family, to humanity. If someone is struggling do you care if they believe in a god?

    I am originally from a very poor family and know that education doesn’t solve everything. My family was and is plagued with mental illness. Two of my siblings are seriously mentally ill. My niece is seriously mentally ill. I went through a period of mental illness myself, years ago. And then I was fine. A switch flipped. I went to college on loans, grants and work study. I went on from there to law school. I was lucky because I was smart and driven. I earned a lot of money. I am in the 1%. My family members who are mentally ill? One is on SSI and if I give him too much he gets his SSI cut. Not good, he need the medical care. I can afford to support him but I cannot afford his extension medical care. He is religious, in that way some seriously mentally ill people are religious. Do I care? No. I just want him to be safe and as happy as he can be and not put others at risk. My niece is also on SSI. She was conventionally religious but was turned off by the gay prejudice. But she still is very spiritual and very much into God and the blessings that may await her. I find it sad but not a priority. The priority is making sure she takes her medications. That she cares for her son properly and that he is OK. That she and her son find some peace in this only life that they will have. I never but ever talk about atheism to them. There are too many important things to talk about.

    The angry humanist in me wants to tell the atheist who is only interested in the purity of atheism to STFU.


    • Avatar of DebGod
      February 6, 2013 at 10:10 pm —

      I don’t know much about economics, but I know a little bit about stereotypes about economics. I was chatting with my roommate this morning about the atheist “elitism” Walker describes in his article. My roommate said it’s like trickle-down atheism: the idea is that if most of the elite academics and elite scientists are atheists, it’ll trickle down to everyone else. I can’t yet come up with a clever Reaganomics pun for this…but if my liberal friends who know more than I do about economics and politics are right, then trickle-down economics doesn’t work. I don’t think trickle-down atheism does either. Maybe it’s because the academics and scientists have limited power to influence public policy? Or they don’t care? I’m sure there are a lot of reasons.

      This sentence is poignant: “I never but ever talk about atheism to them. There are too many important things to talk about.”

      Why is there a Tea Party in the U.S.? How are some political parties so good at getting people to vote against their own best interests? Why do people think the earth is 6,000 years old?

      Without thinking about it too much at this moment, and coming from a U.S.-centric perspective, I’d say that there are two major policy and government shifts that would result in more nonbelievers and a more secular society: 1) “fixing” the public education system, 2) having a well-functioning societal safety net. I mentioned being a broke college student with no medical insurance. I’m fortunate to have insurance now, but too many of my atheist friends don’t…and some of them have really been screwed by fate and genetics. Atheism is not a big deal to them. There are too many important things they have to be concerned about.

      • Avatar of scribe999
        February 7, 2013 at 2:05 am —

        Yeah, it’s a difference between the “trickle down” and the “rising tide”. I’m definitely more of the “rising tide” side of economics. And I feel like messaging on anything works a bit better when the intended recipient isn’t drowning.

  19. Avatar of marilove
    February 6, 2013 at 8:42 pm —

    Just gave a bit. Not much ($25), but I see their amount is climbing! Hooray!

  20. Avatar of knitty
    February 6, 2013 at 9:50 pm —

    @theia. The land of polar bears!

    The only charity I found was Kataujaq Society which is a shelter.

    You could ask around, unfortunately most charities in the territories are run by churches. You could see of there are charitable scholarships.

    It is very important to lift Aboriginal youth up in Canada. They are the fastest growing and youngest population in Canada and the most likely to be in poverty.

    • Avatar of dr. dr. professor
      February 7, 2013 at 6:38 am —

      Yeah, the sad thing about the Christians or Muslims being the only outreach groups, is that it doesn’t given any hyper-oppressed groups like aboroginal peoples any other outlet than gawd, which doesn’t work for all people and may not always be based on solving people’s REAL problems. Also, don’t forget the slow cultural genocide Christianity is famous for.

      • Avatar of theia
        February 7, 2013 at 2:36 pm —

        Yeah I was hoping to avoid religious groups entirely. Something run by First Nations people would be best as I think they have a better idea where help is needed. I will keep looking.

    • Avatar of theia
      February 7, 2013 at 2:32 pm —

      Actually the shelter might be a good place, I’ll email them so thanks. I was looking at First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada Which looks like a good option too.
      Anyway thanks for the reply.

  21. Avatar of Ani J. Sharmin
    February 9, 2013 at 9:41 pm —

    If we agree there’s no cosmic justice system and there’s no reward for suffering after we die, we need to effect change here, now, in this life, in this world, for as many people as we can reach. Education is key for change to occur.

    This, exactly. There certainly are many atheists who care about poverty and inequality, but I think that the “movement” is more vocal about other things than it is about these issues, and that should change. When it comes to education, it seems a bit … odd, to put it kindly, to care about only a few issues in education and not others.

    Part of the problem, in my view, is that religion as a whole gets credit when certain people or groups within it do something good, while the same isn’t true for atheism—so, religion gets credit for charity work, even if it’s not all religious people who contribute to the charity work, but doing charity work doesn’t get generalized to all atheism because of atheists who contribute. However, that can’t be the whole problem, because there really is a dearth of concern about poverty in our society, and that includes a dearth of concern among atheists.

    My own guess is that a contributing factor to the unwillingness on the part of some organizations to address this is that the organizations want to have as many members as possible, so they’ll stick to issues they know most atheists will support (like keeping creationism about of schools) rather than an issue that would divide atheists politically. But there are things more important than increased membership. Part of it may also be that is requires people to remember that, though they are being discriminated against, there are other ways in which they may have a privilege or unfair advantage over others.

  22. Avatar of DJGrothe
    February 12, 2013 at 5:51 pm —

    A very important and unfortunately neglected intersection, Debbie. Atheists resist calls for collective work to reduce poverty, especially world poverty. The most persuasive arguments I have heard counter this resistance have come from the atheist philosopher Peter Singer.

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