Thursday, May 21, 2015

Theistic charity

The Pressure Project's most recent podcast showcased host Justin Garcia's responses to criticisms of his previously expressed atheism. One such criticism: "Still waiting for the St. Nobody's children's hospital to be built". Garcia dismisses this with equivocation, but the insinuation that there aren't differences in mean levels of altruism between the religious and the irreligious struck me as suspect for the obvious reason that the former are divinely instructed to partake in charitable giving while the latter are not.

Fortunately, the GSS has, since 2002, queried respondents four times on the frequency of charitable donations they've made in the past year. The percentages who have not made any charitable contributions in the last year by theistic orientation (n = 5,259):

On GodNoGive%
Uncertain theist30.0
Certain theist26.7

There's a modest trend in the expected direction, with the more godly tending also to be the more giving. Again, not surprising given that charity is a recurring theme in the New Testament, one of the five pillars of Islam, a fundamental precept in Judaism (tzedakah), etc.

Whether that tendency is perceived as a magnanimous feature or a pathologically altruistic bug depends on how one reacts to the idea of Nietzche's slave and master moralities, and, more sinisterly, how homogeneous or heterogeneous one's community is.

GSS variables used: GIVCHRTY, GOD(1)(2)(3-5)(6)

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