The Reason Rally and Generosity

By Carson Weitnauer

The Reason Rally, hosted by “many of the country’s largest and most influential secular organizations, will feature “music, comedy, speakers, and so much more.” As “the largest secular event in world history” the goal is “to advance secularism” and focus “on all non-theists have achieved in the past several years.”

As you look at it, The Reason Rally, in its structure, actually seems to have a surprising amount in common with a megachurch service or a Christian festival. You have celebrity speakers, famous bands, comedians, poets, authors, and and activists. Overall, it looks like it will be a fun gathering.

It has obviously taken a lot of hard work, planning, and careful reflection to put this together. So, what do the organizers hope to achieve? The plan is “to unify, energize, and embolden secular people nationwide, while dispelling the negative opinions held by so much of American society… and having a damn good time doing it!”

For The Reason Rally to be effective, it needs to be asked: What are some of the negative opinions regarding atheists? According to The Atheist Revolution, a website committed “to improving the position of atheists in a world dominated by religious belief,” the atheist stereotype is quite a long list. To be fair, I’ll avoid repeating such negative views! The relevant parts of “the atheist stereotype” for this post are points number 5, 6, and 13. Those points, summarized, are that atheists are often seen as ‘immoral, moral relativists, who are stingy.’

Here’s the question: is this an unfair stereotype? Perhaps surprisingly, this item is actually supported by some sociological research. According to Bradley Wright, a sociologist at the University of Connecticut, when you compare generosity between the most and least religious in America:

•The most religious 20% of Americans give an average of more than $3,000 a year to charity, the least religious 20% give about $1,000.
•In terms of percentage income, the most religious Americans are four times as generous as the least religious, giving about 7.5% of their income compared to about 1.5%.
•The most religious Americans give more money to religious causes (obviously) and to secular causes. In particular, they favor organizations that benefit the needy and young people.
•The most religious volunteer more often, to both religious and non-religious causes.
In other words, there’s a very significant generosity gap between the most and the least religious in America.

Richard Dawkins, a central leader of The Reason Rally (an organized gathering for secular people), has recently stated that he is looking forward to witnessing the “complete death of organized religion.” He’s also said, “Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish.” As it stands, these two goals are contradictory.

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