Category Archives: Humanists doing good

10 Ways to Start a Fund for Social Good Online

Mashable/Social Media: Fundraising is a key component for most social good campaigns and projects. Thanks to the the Internet and the social web, raising money for a non-profit, community project or charitable organization or relief effort is easier than ever before…

If you have an idea or a cause that you want to bring awareness to and raise funds around, there are lots of great online tools to help get you started… Read more

Holocaust Memorial Day – rescuers

“Only a few Evangelicals, a few Catholics a few Orthodox, a few agnostics, and a few atheists (and not necessarily in that order) helped the Jewish people during their persecution.

Varian Fry, a bespectacled, frail, moody intellectual; a man who would seem to be a most unlikely candidate to stand against the Gestapo, succeeded in organising the escape of approximately fifteen hundred men and women from Nazi occupied France in 1940-41. A man who appeared to have no religious motivation, Fry explained to his mother that he stayed because it took courage and ‘courage us a quality I hadn’t previous been sure I possessed’. To his wife he wrote: ‘Now I think I can say that I possess an ordinary amount of courage’

Source: Rausch, David A. (2000) ‘Hard Questions Asked by the Holocaust’ in Rittner, Carol, Smith, Stephen D., Steinfeldt, Irena (eds) The Holocaust and the Christian World Continuum: New York

Research suggests generosity is in the genes

The BBC reports that an Israeli study involving 203 people revealed those who had certain variants of a gene called AVPR1a were on average nearly 50% more likely to give money away in an online task.

Lead researcher Dr Ariel Knafo said: “The experiment provided the first evidence, to my knowledge, for a relationship between DNA variability and real human altruism.”

The gene AVPR1a plays a key role in allowing a hormone called arginine vasopressin to act on brain cells. Vasopressin, in turn, has been implicated in social bonding.

Humanists raise money for poor effected by Californian fires

Hemant Mehta,the Friendly Atheist reports the Center for Inquiry—Los Angeles is launching an effort through the Secular Humanist Aid and Relief Effort (SHARE) to raise charitable funds to assist low income and displaced families who have been affected by the recent fires sweeping Southern California.

SHARE is a charity, maintained by the Council for Secular Humanism for over two decades to channel aid to victims of natural disasters, forwards funds received to organisations providing direct relief to the victims.

Virtues linked to faith?

Canada’s National Post reports on new survey findings that religious believers are more likely than atheists to place a higher value on love, patience and friendship.

The researcher is reportedly claiming that the results could be a warning that Canadians need a religious basis to retain civility in society since those who are involved with religious groups are being exposed to a whole range of values that are not being propagated well by any other major source.

Although “he acknowledged that many non-believers still place a high value on morality and ethics” he attributes this partly to “a legacy from previous generations who held deeper religious views.

The smallest difference was in relation to the value of honesty (94% theists vs 89% atheists valued honesty) which the report notes is the least “emotional” virtue.

But as Justin Trottier, executive director of the Centre for Inquiry Ontario, points out the categories are not culturally neutral and are framed around Christian values ignoring other qualities such as “scientific thinking”, “Critical thinking” or [my own suggestions] equality, and respect for human rights.

Furthermore both Trottier and the study’s author acknowledge that claiming virtues is not the same as enacting them and so it rather than (or as well as) exposing people to the values themselves, religious organisations might merely be exposing people to the language and rhetoric of virtue.  And as Trottier says “Religion tends to be very polarizing, so religious people always feel very passionately about those values. They always feel ‘very strongly.’ Religion always does this black-and-white thing. An atheist is a lot more temperate, a bit more hesitant. An atheist might be more nuanced in his or her thinking.”

We should instead look to people’s deeds.  Of course we humanists should not be so defensive that we can never accept an unpleasant portrait of ourself (just as we would hope religious people can be accepting of their faults). These virtues are not things that we will ever have too much of but it does appear that this survey only tells part of the story.

Social virtues graph

World Food Day

John Boyd OrrToday is World Food Day which commemorates the anniversary of the founding of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on 16 October 1945.

The first Director of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (and the World Health Organisation) was John Boyd Orr (1880-1971) later Lord Boyd Orr. He was an adviser to the British Humanist Association, and put his humanist ideals into practice. As a scientist and a humanist, believed that we should use our knowledge to ensure that everyone in the world had enough to eat. The titles of his books, Food and the People , Health and Income , and Famine and Feast, showed the main concerns of his life. His efforts to eradicate hunger in the world won him a Nobel Peace Prize in 1949, and he was made a Companion of Honour by The Queen.

Daniel Dennett – works speak more loudly than words

Daniel DennettDanniel Dennet offered this gem in a recent interview with Hemant Mehta:

“We need to show those who fear us that atheists are not value-challenged, and works speak more loudly than words. I think that well-organized and well-publicized campaigns for health, justice, safety, environmental protection, etc. to rival the good works of the churches would actually swell our ranks. Many people want to be part of large, inspiring projects that make the world better. (And we should let believers participate in OUR projects as long as they don’t try to use them to spread their own messages.)

Wonderful