Confirmed: Atheists more motivated by compassion in charitable giving than believers are; Update: Numbers added

posted at 10:15 pm on May 1, 2012 by Allahpundit

First nonbelief is linked to analytic thinking, now this. So that’s why people hate atheists. We’re too darned smart and soulful.

Obama’s been spiking the football all day. Now it’s my turn. Picture me pointing at the computer screen, performing an impromptu Ickey Shuffle, and then slamming that pigskin to the ground so hard that it knocks the money out of my wallet and straight into your favorite charity’s donation box. Touchdown.

That doesn’t mean highly religious people don’t give, according to the research to be published in the July 2012 issue of the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. But compassion seems to drive religious people’s charitable feelings less than it other groups.

“Overall, we find that for less religious people, the strength of their emotional connection to another person is critical to whether they will help that person or not,” study co-author and University of California, Berkeley social psychologist Robb Willer said in a statement. “The more religious, on the other hand, may ground their generosity less in emotion, and more in other factors such as doctrine, a communal identity, or reputational concerns.”…

In the first study, Saslow and her colleagues analyzed data from a national survey of more than 1,300 American adults taken in 2004. They found that compassionate attitudes were linked with how many generous behaviors a person was likely to report. But this link was strongest in people who were atheists or only slightly religious, compared with people who were more strongly religious.

In a second experiment, 101 adults were shown either a neutral video or an emotional video about children in poverty. They were then given 10 fake dollars and told they could give as much as they liked to a stranger. Those who were less religious gave more when they saw the emotional video first.

As usual with these studies about religion, the headline is irresistibly sexy — you’d be excused for thinking at a glance that it was claiming atheists are more compassionate — and then when you read the fine print the reality is more mundane. The study’s not saying that atheists are more compassionate, it’s saying that atheist charitable giving depends more heavily on actually feeling compassion for the victim than believers’ giving does. The believer may tithe or may decide that, as a matter of religious duty, he/she should set aside a certain amount of income to be donated among various charities. In that case, the motive is more an aspiration to behave virtuously than to satisfy some swelling of sympathy. For most (but not all) nonbelievers, I suspect, it’s sympathy that’s the key trigger. That’s how it is for me: I give generously when I feel moved to do so but I don’t set out to spend a specific aggregate amount annually. I do need to feel moved, though. Assuming most other atheists are like me, that means our pattern of giving is more volatile than a believer’s is likely to be, and that in turn probably means that believers are more likely on average to give. (Studies seem to bear this out.) I’d be curious to know, though, whether the amount of the average atheist donation is greater than the amount of the average believer’s donation. If it’s true that sympathy is more important to us, I’d expect that flush of emotion might drive us to give more when we do choose to donate. But since we’re probably donating less frequently than believers do, it may well be that we end up giving less annually in total than believers anyway. Anyone know of any numbers to confirm or challenge those assumptions? I can’t find any with quickie googling.

Update: John McCormack of the Standard e-mails with a link to this Arthur Brooks piece from 2003. The numbers are … not good:

The differences in charity between secular and religious people are dramatic. Religious people are 25 percentage points more likely than secularists to donate money (91 percent to 66 percent) and 23 points more likely to volunteer time (67 percent to 44 percent). And, consistent with the findings of other writers, these data show that practicing a religion is more important than the actual religion itself in predicting charitable behavior. For example, among those who attend worship services regularly, 92 percent of Protestants give charitably, compared with 91 percent of Catholics, 91 percent of Jews, and 89 percent from other religions…

Charity differences between religious and secular people persist if we look at the actual amounts of donations and volunteering. Indeed, measures of the dollars given and occasions volunteered per year produce a yawning gap between the groups. The average annual giving among the religious is $2,210, whereas it is $642 among the secular. Similarly, religious people volunteer an average of 12 times per year, while secular people volunteer an average of 5.8 times. To put this into perspective, religious people are 33 percent of the population but make 52 percent of donations and 45 percent of times volunteered. Secular people are 26 percent of the population but contribute 13 percent of the dollars and 17 percent of the times volunteered.

These differences hardly change when we consider them in isolation from the other demographics, using a statistical technique called tobit regression. Religious practice by itself is associated with $1,388 more given per year than we would expect to see from a secular person (with the same political views, income, education, age, race, and other characteristics), as well as with 6.5 more occasions of volunteering.

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The difference between a non-believer’s funeral and a believer’s. It’s always striking.

Cleombrotus on May 3, 2012 at 12:51 AM


The happiest, most hopeful, “My buddy is dead” song EVAH.

skydaddy on May 3, 2012 at 1:03 AM

skydaddy is absolutely right about the pleasant tone in this thread.

Thanks everyone and God bless you all.


Elisa on May 3, 2012 at 1:04 AM

the gospels can’t even get their stuff together and make them all match. so many discrepancies.
kastor on May 2, 2012 at 5:17 PM

Which puts paid to the notion that they’re fiction, but jives exactly if they’re eyewitness accounts.

The Resurrection account is a perfect case in point – there’s no witness to the climax of the story! Worse, the first people to meet the Risen Christ are WOMEN who could not even testify in court. LOUSY fiction writing, but just what you would expect if Jesus were having a laugh on the Pharisees. :-)

skydaddy on May 2, 2012 at 5:43 PM

The timeline for the 4 Gospel resurrection accounts can easily mesh together. Take the 4 Gospels as a whole. Not 4 differing accounts. Like 4 accounts of an accident or event. With some points mentioned by one person and some mentioned by another. From different vantage points and experiences and senses of what is important to mention.

The 4 Gospel resurrection accounts give different details and aren’t clear on the timelines. So they sometimes seem to contradict. But they really don’t, because each verse in the 4 Gospels doesn’t have a time stamped on it. (This happened at 5:55AM and this happened at 6:10AM, and the next verse at 6:15AM.) The Gospels are supposed to be taken together as a whole.

One day I was pondering this and I read the following in the Catholic Encyclopedia. I thought it was interesting so I’ll post it here for anyone else who is interested.

Here is an outline of a possible harmony of the Evangelists’ account concerning the principal events of Easter Sunday:

* The holy women carrying the spices previously prepared start out for the sepulchre before dawn, and reach it after sunrise; they are anxious about the heavy stone, but know nothing of the official guard of the sepulchre (Matthew 28:1-3; Mark 16:1-3; Luke 24:1; John 20:1).

* The angel frightened the guards by his brightness, put them to flight, rolled away the stone, and seated himself not upon (ep autou), but above (epano autou) the stone (Matthew 28:2-4).

* Mary Magdalen, Mary the Mother of James, and Salome approach the sepulchre, and see the stone rolled back, whereupon Mary Magdalen immediately returns to inform the Apostles (Mark 16:4; Luke 24:2; John 20:1-2).

* The other two holy women enter the sepulchre, find an angel seated in the vestibule, who shows them the empty sepulchre, announces the Resurrection, and commissions them to tell the disciples and Peter that they shall see Jesus in Galilee (Matthew 28:5-7; Mark 16:5-7).

* A second group of holy women, consisting of Joanna and her companions, arrive at the sepulchre, where they have probably agreed to meet the first group, enter the empty interior, and are admonished by two angels that Jesus has risen according to His prediction (Luke 24:10).

* Not long after, Peter and John, who were notified by Mary Magdalen, arrive at the sepulchre and find the linen cloth in such a position as to exclude the supposition that the body was stolen; for they lay simply flat on the ground, showing that the sacred body had vanished out of them without touching them. When John notices this he believes (John 20:3-10).

* Mary Magdalen returns to the sepulchre, sees first two angels within, and then Jesus Himself (John 20:11-l6; Mark 16:9).

* The two groups of pious women, who probably met on their return to the city, are favored with the sight of Christ arisen, who commissions them to tell His brethren that they will see him in Galilee (Matthew 28:8-10; Mark 16:8).

* The holy women relate their experiences to the Apostles, but find no belief (Mark 16:10-11; Luke 24:9-11).

* Jesus appears to the disciples, at Emmaus, and they return to Jerusalem; the Apostles appear to waver between doubt and belief (Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:13-35).

* Christ appears to Peter, and therefore Peter and John firmly believe in the Resurrection (Luke 24:34; John 20:8).

* After the return of the disciples from Emmaus, Jesus appears to all the Apostles excepting Thomas (Mark 16:14; Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-25).

(end of quote)

The same goes for when Jesus met and called the Apostles. At first glance the 4 Gospels seem to differ in how the first Apostles were called.

But when we read the passages that describe the first Apostles being called, they are to be taken together as a group, not in opposition to each other. One may be talking about an initial meeting with Jesus. Another may be a calling to follow Jesus more closely, but they had already met Him. And another may be the final calling, when the Apostles left their former way of life altogether to follow Jesus. It doesn’t all have to be on the same day, but could be over weeks or months. Because the Gospels don’t say exact dates and hours of the day.

Elisa on May 3, 2012 at 1:01 AM

Elisa on May 3, 2012 at 1:06 AM

Elisa on May 3, 2012 at 1:01 AM


The only thing that can really be called a discrepancy is John’s claim that he got to the tomb and went in first, vs the other witnesses. IMO that’s trivial, along the lines of whether Jesus healed the lepers on the way to or from Jericho.

(Funny how mockers often want to insist on a more rigid interpretation than most believers.)

But, thank God (or thank G-d), there have been few mockers indeed.

So, for you lurkers, if you want the “blessed assurance” that we believers have, just open your heart to God. Use whatever words or images or sounds work for you – God will understand.

Tell Him that you’re really sorry for the wrong things you’ve done, and that with His help you’ll try to do better.

Tell Him that you’re really thankful that He sent His son, Jesus, to die on the cross and suffer God’s punishment in your place (the ultimate “whipping boy”).

Ask Him – honestly, now – to come into your life and heart and change you into the person He wants you to be.

You’ll feel different. You’ll BE different.

(Want proof of that? NO WAY would anyone I knew in college – including me – have thought I would EVER write anything like what I’ve written here.)

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

skydaddy on May 3, 2012 at 1:18 AM

I gotta get to bed, but just so subsequent readers will know, there is no Christian tradition of rendering God as “G-d.”

Because Christians eschew superstition.

Akzed on May 3, 2012 at 12:41 AM


You must be talk about me.

On occasion I employ the practice of writing YHWH’s name in English as G-d out of respect for any Orthodox Jews who might read a particular thread.

Mike OMalley on May 3, 2012 at 6:20 AM

Mike OMalley on May 2, 2012 at 4:45 PM

That’s a he said Rome said argument. Others, not affiliated with the whore of Rome agree with her dates.

Annar on May 2, 2012 at 4:56 PM


That’s because he and you don’t know what he and you are talking about. The distinction is meaningless.

No competent 21st century Biblical scholar dates the Gospel of Luke to the later half of the 2nd century. None.


BTW: I drew in no small part upon the work of John W. Mauck, a Protestant Biblical scholar and a lawyer, when I discussed the dating of the Gospel of Luke.

Mike OMalley on May 3, 2012 at 6:33 AM

Even if the inscription was authentic and written in the 1st century, the 3 names (Jacob/James, Joseph and Joshua/Jesus) were very common in that day, including having all 3 in one family. Heck, I think half the women alive in that area at the time were named Miriam/Mary.

Elisa on May 2, 2012 at 8:43 PM

Early on Israeli statisticians did a probability analysis based upon the a lexicon of 1st century Jewish names used in Jerusalem. They estimated that the probability that the particular combination of three names on the Ossuary would have occurred three times in Jerusalem by chance before the destruction of the city.

They were unable to provide help regarding the likelihood that one of those three persons named James would have arise to such prominence as to have his bones placed in an Ossuary, I recall.

Mike OMalley on May 3, 2012 at 6:42 AM

They were unable to provide help regarding the likelihood that one of those three persons named James would have arise to such prominence as to have his bones placed in an Ossuary, I recall.

Mike OMalley on May 3, 2012 at 6:42 AM

So are you saying that the results were inconclusive as opposed to assuming the results would come up with it being common?

That is very interesting. I can’t remember if I’ve ever read the website you mentioned, the Biblical Archaeology Society. If I haven’t, I’ve read similar. I love that stuff. When I was a little girl I wanted to be an Archaeologist. lol Combine that with me wanting to be a nun when I was 6 and you can see why I like this stuff. lol

Seriously though, I did keep up a little with the ossuary news over the years and found it very interesting. I totally believe that everything in the Bible is true and I have read many times about instances where modern archaeology confirms things that were previously thought to be in error. Example being the pool of Bethesda.

But the ossuary never rang true to me. For several reasons. I understand that it would be possible that they would put Jesus’ name on his possible step-brother’s ossuary. (as a Catholic who has looked deeply into James, I believe he was either Jesus’ cousin or like Eastern Catholic believe he was Joseph’s son from a previous marriage.) But James died only a few decades after Jesus. I realize he was the Bishop of Jerusalem, as well as an Apostle, but if it did merit him having an ossuary and putting Jesus’ name on it, I would think that that relic would have been preserved by early Christians, like so many other relics were over the centuries.

Heck, some poor Saints have more than one place claiming their relics. lol I believe in some relics and I believe it is possible that there are some pieces of the true cross. Not sure. But it is said if you put all the piece of the “true cross” together around the world you would have enough for Noah’s Ark. lol I don’t know if that’s true, but you get my point.

After St. James (the lesser) was killed, I don’t know if they would have had an ossuary.

Elisa on May 3, 2012 at 7:34 AM

Perhaps a still more difficult time is when someone you love who is “too young to die” is critically ill, and you come to the point of saying, “God, not my will, but Yours, be done.”

THAT’S when you really know that you believe. When it’s NOT your life on the line, but your husband’s or wife’s or child’s.

In my experience, this isn’t some sort of peaceful acceptance but rather an acknowledgement that the darkness is coming and all the raging and pleading and praying and bargaining in the world won’t stop it. That is belief in the sense that it brings you to the end of yourself and places you squarely in front of the brick wall of faith.

I’ve been on both sides, and it’s far easier to be the one faced with dying, than the one faced with carrying on.

I’ve only been on one side, but I imagine facing your own death is pretty terrifying if you’re not certain of your salvation.

Exit question (ok, shameless ripoff): Is Allahpundit excused from this same patheticness because of a historical pattern of high-grade snark?

That’s a resounding yes.

Although I don’t think that’s what he intended with this thread.

mrsknightley on May 3, 2012 at 7:35 AM

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

skydaddy on May 3, 2012 at 1:18 AM

And you too. Bless you for offering the possibility of faith to others in your beautiful post.

The only thing that can really be called a discrepancy is John’s claim that he got to the tomb and went in first, vs the other witnesses. IMO that’s trivial, along the lines of whether Jesus healed the lepers on the way to or from Jericho.

John 20:3-8: “So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed.”

That is one of my favorite Bible passages. Look at it again. St. John was saying that he outran St. Peter and reached the tomb first. He wasn’t talking about getting there first, as opposed to the women. Since I was a little girl, I always assumed when John got there the women had left by then anyway. Mary had to go all the way back to the Apostles and then John and Peter went to the tomb. Lot’s of time for the women to go home.

John was saying he got there before Peter and waited for Peter before going inside the tomb. I always loved that detail. Would make no sense to put it in unless it simply was true and John was an eyewitness and that point stuck in his mind. He was so much younger than Peter and Peter was in charge and, out of respect (or fear), John waited for him.

I love St. John’s details. So beautiful and full of love and they ring true of an eyewitness.

Elisa on May 3, 2012 at 7:46 AM

I love St. John’s details. So beautiful and full of love and they ring true of an eyewitness.

Elisa on May 3, 2012 at 7:46 AM

Blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe.

swinia sutki on May 3, 2012 at 7:56 AM

Mike and skydaddy, you might be interested in this.

Related to the passage from St. John about the tomb and the burial cloths left there.

The blood on the Shroud of Turin, Italy is male human blood and has one of the rarest types of blood, AB. While it is rare worldwide, the highest concentration of people with it are found in northern Palestine.

A small ancient head/face cloth (mentioned in John’s Gospel) in a Church in Spain (the sudarion of Oliverto) of has the same blood type AB positive and the blood stain marks on both cloths match each other. Even though these two cloths have been independent from each other since the 7th century when we can definitely trace one’s history. Histories before that time cannot be independently confirmed.

I find this very interesting because blood typing wasn’t discovered by humans until the last century. It is a modern day science. So how would European forgers back in the 7th century have known to match those 2 cloths with a rare blood type.

Elisa on May 3, 2012 at 7:58 AM

I love St. John’s details. So beautiful and full of love and they ring true of an eyewitness.

Elisa on May 3, 2012 at 7:46 AM

Blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe.

swinia sutki on May 3, 2012 at 7:56 AM

Lovely way to start my day.

Have a good day everyone.

Elisa on May 3, 2012 at 7:59 AM

What you believe then is consistent with orthodox 21st century Christian belief in general and with the Catholic Magisterium in particular.

Mike OMalley on May 2, 2012 at 3:17 PM

“orthodox” Christian beliefs? Before I go down this path further, I believe it’s important for me to say that I don’t accept the authority of the RCC’s Magisterium, which is also the view of about 50% of the world’s professed Christians.

I agree with RC/most non-RC Christians that Jesus was a divine human being capable of doing miracles, but when getting into more specific Christian dogma, I have quite a number of ‘unorthodox’ beliefs that some would call heresy.

Bizarro No. 1 on May 3, 2012 at 10:36 AM

Correct. That is why it’s not the Bible’s central point. That we should love one another even a guy like John Lennon could figure out for himself.

Cleombrotus on May 2, 2012 at 3:26 PM

I understand that Christians accept that Jesus is God. I also know the NT teaches that God is love, that God’s love is evident from general revelation, and that the Mosaic Law completely rests on the OT admonitions for people to love God with their whole selves, and for them to love their neighbors as they do their selves.

If you agree with all of what I just said, I say that the difference you “see” between us on the Bible’s central point is actually a semantical one, and not real.

Bizarro No. 1 on May 3, 2012 at 11:00 AM

If the point of the Law is to love God/others as well as yourself
To capitalize jesus is to give him a level of importance and legitimacy that I don’t believe he is deserving of.
As I’ve said-my husband is a wonderful Calvinist guy. We agree to disagree.

annoyinglittletwerp on May 2, 2012 at 3:43 PM

In other words, your religious beliefs trump the rules of English. That’s wacky, imo.

Bizarro No. 1 on May 3, 2012 at 11:10 AM

Bizarro, I left out the smiley after “Well, now you know.” It was intended with a wink and a grin, not a humorless scold. Sorry for the confusion.

Thanks for the clarification! :)

I didn’t take what you did as a scolding – I was only surprised that you took my ridiculous statement as having serious intent behind it, for which I blame neither of us. If I did, I want to let you know I didn’t intend to come off to you as being critical of you for not knowing I was being so silly on purpose.

Christians are Gentiles, but we are Gentiles who have inherited a Jewish tradition that is very instructive.

skydaddy on May 2, 2012 at 3:55 PM

I absolutely agree with this – I am definitely not anti-Jewish.

Bizarro No. 1 on May 3, 2012 at 11:24 AM

Let me just say to everyone, THANK YOU for engaging in polite, considered, serious discussion. Far too often I’ve had to bail on these sorts of discussions because of the level of snark. (And far too often I’ve stayed too long in the mudpit, determined to sore debating points. Wasted time…)

Doubt is fine. Doubt spurs questions, which lead to answers, which leads to learning. There are a number of well-educated folk here, and I am grateful for the serious and polite tone of the discussion so far.

skydaddy on May 3, 2012 at 12:31 AM

I appreciate the discussion as well, even as an atheist. As I have said, I was raised in Catholic school, and as such I obviously had much opportunity to study the Bible and biblcal history. I have had a lifelong interest in ancient history, and find biblical and early Church history to be fascinating. I don’t believe it requires me to be a believer in order to understand and appreciate the rich history of the Church and the early biblical writers, especially when you consider it in light of the social and economic history of the period and how that influenced the history of the biblical writings themselves.

Thank you, skydaddy and Mike OMalley for the input of your clearly excellent knowledge of biblical history and early Church writings. It was very interesting reading.

gravityman on May 3, 2012 at 1:00 PM

They were unable to provide help regarding the likelihood that one of those three persons named James would have arise to such prominence as to have his bones placed in an Ossuary, I recall.

Mike OMalley on May 3, 2012 at 6:42 AM

So are you saying that the results were inconclusive as opposed to assuming the results would come up with it being common? …

After St. James (the lesser) was killed, I don’t know if they would have had an ossuary.

Elisa on May 3, 2012 at 7:34 AM


The 1st Century Jewish practice of using ossuaries has a long history in the region. Between the time of the Macabees and the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD it often reflected a sectarian Jewish expectation of the resurrection of Israel.

Currently the scientific evidence on the Ossuary of James can be understood on several levels:

1) the ossuary is without doubt authentic dating to the time between the Macabees and the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD and was manufactured long ago in Judea,

2) the ossuary most likely authentically dates to the decades or years before the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD,

3) first half of the inscription referring to James on the ossuary is without doubt authentic.

4) second half of the inscription referring to Jesus the son of Joseph, though disputed is supported by the overwhelming weight of the evidence,

5) This artifact is new and the evidence has only recently been heard by the scholarly community so I don’t think a scientific consensus exists at this time,

6) The particular combinations of Jewish names on the ossuary was rare in Jerusalem, so rare that only around three men would have possessed them, so it is more than plausible that the ossuary once held the bones of James the first bishop of Jerusalem.

7) The earliest Jewish Christian believed in the resurrection and James rose to such social prominence that seems likely that his bones would be so interred in an ossuary.

8) James the First Bishop of Jerusalem is the only person we know about of those three Jewish men with that particular combinations of Jewish names as on the ossuary, so rare in Jerusalem at the time, because he rose to prominence (see #7 above) that it is more than likely that his bones were so interned in that ossuary.


I expect that at this time scientific consensus exists only on points #1, #3 and perhaps on points #2 and #6.

One hopes that is helpful.

Mike OMalley on May 4, 2012 at 7:27 AM