AI: Paying the “Enemy”

Yesterday, Tim3P0, r3v, and I went to visit a local museum here in San Jose with a nice collection of Egyptian artifacts.  It was a decent little place, part of a neat campus of ancient Egyptian style buildings and great vegetation.  I’m still torn over whether or not it was right for us to go, as the museum is owned and operated by the Rosicrucians, a spiritual group somewhere between Scientology, Gnostic Christianity, Freemasonry, and New Age-y things. My justification to myself is that I was able to get some information about the group for future research and writing on the topic for the blog and/or podcast.

How do you approach situations like this? Do you think twice about paying for an event when you know the money will go to a cause you don’t agree with?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.

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  1. There is a difference between outright donations and payment for information. If the organization is engaged in something that is utterly repugnant (see anything to do with Jenny McCarthy) then you should not facilitate its operations. If the group is somewhat benign but engages in things that are just laughable and the only way to get the information you seek is to buy it from them, go for it. To pay them for no content whatsoever is a donation and should be withheld. I buy from Chick-Fil-A even though the owner is an aggressive Xian because I get a good chicken sandwich. I would not just give a donation to one of his causes.

  2. As far as woo goes, the Rosicrucians are relatively harmless. They don’t espouse a religious belief system, don’t define themselves as a religion and don’t proselytise on street corners declaring that sinners will be lost without embracing their tenets. Given that the exhibit is of some benefit to you, I don’t think that paying to attend it is A Bad Thing.

    That said, I don’t shop in certain places because the owner/largest share holder supports causes/beliefs I cannot countenance. In-and-Out Burger? OK, because, altho’ the owning family are Xian and reference Bible verses on their paper cups, they also pay a decent wage and treat employees well, so they practice their beliefs, unlike some other so-called Xians. [They don’t preach at their restaurants; they just print John 3:16 on the paperware.] Urban Outfitters or Anthropologie? No, because the owner is a monetary supporter of Rick Santorum and other homophobic pols, is anti-choice and pulled a pro-same-sex-marriage T-shirt from the stores. I don’t want to contribute even pennies to his profits.

  3. I pondered precisely this puzzle at that very museum. In the end, for better or worse, I went in. At a certain point, trying to tease out just what causes, with what level of harm, are supported by each fraction of a dollar is an exercise in futility. I paid what seemed to be a fair market value for admission to a private museum and a day of entertainment (that, for the most part, kept the woo out of my face) and most of that money will go to paying janitors and curators and heating bills and in general maintaining access to some historical artifacts for the locals- and the cream will go into the pockets of people willing to do all the good and bad deeds and wootastic deeds people do with their pocket change.

    Old Geezer is right, though- there are boundaries. I certainly wouldn’t be stuffing extra coin into a donation box like I would at a public museum, or probably grace the gift shop. I’ve paid money to tour churches whose agendas I would almost certainly not support with the justification that I was supporting a historical artifact and receiving access to beautiful art- whether that rationale holds up to more scrutiny would take more time and effort than earning and giving away a matching ten bucks to someone perhaps more deserving.

    It’s all a continuing puzzle of how exactly one exercises moral choices in the face of things as amorous and variant as big organization. Should I withhold my money from Nestle thanks to the repugnant actions of one of their divisions in Africa, with the nursing mothers/clean water/formula fiasco? Should I examine the charitable contributions of the aforementioned Chick-Fil-A before I buy my once-a-month box of nuggets for a few bucks? Does that fit under the aegis of attempting collective, democratic action, or is it beating my head against a wall to spite people just trying to make a buck like everyone else?

  4. As Aristothenes suggest, where do you draw the line? Religous causes, Woo-meisters, Homophobes, Polluters, Globalwarmers?

    Most of the time you just don’t know what particular sin the owner of the store/museum/corporation is engaging in. When you do, and it irks you particularly, you can try to find an alternative, or decide to abstain.

    I can’t think of a particular situation here at the moment, thanks for making me think about it though.

  5. I have paid full price to see:

    – Transformers (I & II)
    – Both Twilight movies (saw the first one twice)
    – 2012
    – Speed Racer

    Nothing phases me any more. Whatever soul I had has long dried up and blown away. A Rosicrucian museum doesn’t even registered on my scabbed-over brain.

  6. I think twice about paying anyone money for anything anymore. And not in the skeptical way.

    I think museums and other repositories of artifacts, art, documents and information on subjects are valuable.

    I keep thinking of the dismissive attitude and downright FAILURE to see the value of the museums in the Baghdad area that were destroyed.

    Who the hell knows what Roscicrucians are anymore? Thanks for finding out first hand and not just deciding to skip the chance.

  7. Have you tried using an electrooptical phase modulator phlebas? Teheee, mai super nurdy homonym-based nonlinear optical physics joke, let me showz you it.

  8. I was thinking about this after Tim tweeted about being tempted to buy something there. And I mostly agree with DominEditrix on all this. As far as the museum goes, it absolutely counts as research and education. I’d even say that about the “creation museum.” Yes, your admission fee does support silliness, but you get back the capacity for a more informed opinion than those of us who didn’t go. For a skeptic that is an acceptable deal.

    I try not to support organizations that I know are actively working against things I don’t believe in. And I agree with the other commenters in that there’s a point where you don’t necessarily know where your money goes — so I just do what I can. I’ll never donate to the Salvation Army or support anyone working with the Boy Scouts, for example, but am I certain that every cent I spend doesn’t go to any causes to which I may be diametrically opposed? No.

  9. well, if I goto Rome I might stop by to see where the Pope lives and check out his art collection.

    My Jewish neighbors have giant high quality prints from the Sistene Chapel on their living room walls. They just like the art.

  10. For me, it’s a matter of degrees. Places like In & Out are owned by mormons, yes, but not by the mormon church itself. and as DominEditrix said, it’s not like they’re heavily proselytizing. Yeah, there’s bible references on their packaging, but most of the people I’ve mentioned this to never even knew it was there. However, you’ll never see me giving to an organization like Catholic Charities, when there’s organizations like Kiva, The Secular Center, RDF, and other secular organizations that will put my money to better use. And in the case of certain organizations such as Scientology, I won’t pay money for anything that even has their stench near it.

    I recently lost my job, and in the little mountain town I live in, the only businesses that are still making money are kids camps run by Boy Scouts of America. As a bisexual atheist, I could certainly apply and just keep my mouth shut, but I’d rather be unemployed than work for them.

  11. @kittynh: The Sistine Chapel art, being hundreds of years old, is in the public domain.

    One may, of course, appreciate art without being a supporter of the original patron or an adherent to a particular religion. The Pietà is the most heart-wrenching piece of art I’ve ever seen, despite my utter disbelief in the historical existence of JC.

    BTW, if you do go to the Vatican, note that all the penes have been lopped off the statues; the offending genitalia are stored out of sight, in drawers. This was courtesy of a long-dead pope, who apparently had an issue with how his god made him. If you visit on the last Sunday of the month, admission is free, relieving you of any moral qualms re: supporting the church.

  12. I remember Penn saying on his radio show that he sometimes gets curious about certain popular religious books or movies, and has considering buying them but he didn’t want the money going to them. Generally speaking, if you agree with something or not is not taken into consideration, only the money brought in. Basically a record company doesn’t look at how many people enjoyed an album, only how many bought it.

    No matter how much Transformers 2 sucked, it made enough money to make an even worse part 3, but In this case, I say go to the musuem

  13. Money is power. Any time you use money, you exercise that power and you hand a little bit of your power over to someone else. I’d like for all my decisions to be based on what I need, and who I’m handing that power over to, but I will only sacrifice so much convenience. Which is why I won’t shop at the local pharmacy that sells homeopathic “remedies”, but will go to the other one, 200 meters away, that doesn’t, but I’d keep buying my groceries from the shop downstairs even if it was run by the church of scientology, cause it’s downstairs and I don’t even have to put on a jacket in the dead of winter to go there.

  14. I live a couple hours north of the Creation Museum. Several times over the past year, skeptic, humanist, and/or atheist groups from around here have made trips down there. Both Michael Shermer and P.Z. Myers detoured for a visit while here in town for a talk.

    I’m all for gathering knowledge (because you can’t rebut an argument you haven’t heard), but the Creation Museum is making more money than they expected, and we’re partially responsible for that.

    At this point, the contents of the “museum” aren’t a secret, so I don’t see what’s to be gained by further expeditions.

  15. I used to live in the world of woo and was a member of the Rosicrucians. (yes, I am embarrassed) They may be somewhat harmless, they don’t actively proselytise… except in magazine ads, but they do promote magical thinking. A lot of people join and later leave to pursue “deeper” forms of this sort of thing. But I guess I can still see going out of curiosity.

  16. When The Secret was so big you could barely find it at the bookstore, much less the library, I took the book to the cafe at my local bookstore and wrote quotes out of it for a post I did back in the day. Was not going to give one nickle to Rhonda.

  17. I pay my income taxes to the US Government and probably fund all sorts of jerks just by buying food and stuff. I don’t really see the problem of going to the Vatican’s or Rosicrucian’s museum or whatever.

  18. I go by the maxim, ‘All knowledge is worth having’. It won’t be a place I would visit twice, and unless the admission is, like, 50 dollars at the first go, I wouldn’t mind getting a glimpse of deranged minds… But perhaps I should accuse myself of double-standards here. I shall not pay an admission fee to enter Ken Ham’s Creation museum. One has to draw the line somewhere, yes?

  19. So far in my experience, I’ve only come across this situation when it comes to the Church.
    Thankfully, I don’t have to pay a dime if I don’t want to.

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