Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Religious Conservatives More Generous than Secular Liberals?

Uh-oh.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Syracuse University professor Arthur C. Brooks is about to become the darling of the religious right in America -- and it's making him nervous.

The child of academics, raised in a liberal household and educated in the liberal arts, Brooks has written a book that concludes religious conservatives donate far more money than secular liberals to all sorts of charitable activities, irrespective of income.

In the book, he cites extensive data analysis to demonstrate that values advocated by conservatives -- from church attendance and two-parent families to the Protestant work ethic and a distaste for government-funded social services -- make conservatives more generous than liberals.

The book, titled "Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism" (Basic Books, $26), is due for release Nov. 24.

When it comes to helping the needy, Brooks writes: "For too long, liberals have been claiming they are the most virtuous members of American society. Although they usually give less to charity, they have nevertheless lambasted conservatives for their callousness in the face of social injustice."

...

The book's basic findings are that conservatives who practice religion, live in traditional nuclear families and reject the notion that the government should engage in income redistribution are the most generous Americans, by any measure.

Conversely, secular liberals who believe fervently in government entitlement programs give far less to charity. They want everyone's tax dollars to support charitable causes and are reluctant to write checks to those causes, even when governments don't provide them with enough money.

...

[L]iberals give less than conservatives in every way imaginable, including volunteer hours and donated blood.

...

To make his point forcefully, Brooks admits he cut out a lot of qualifying information.


That last line is pretty odd, but the rest of the article doesn't make us secular liberals look too good.

27 comments:

skcorefil said...

Makes sense. Liberals think taking care of the poor is the government's job. Religion tends to teach the importance of giving.

Ezzie said...

To some extent, skcorefil is correct. Though one piece of qualifying information that probably has a large effect: Religious people will give to places such as their church, schools, etc. Liberals simply don't have such causes to give to if they're secular.

Nu, JA - 2 days in a row? Are you really a closet religious fundamentalist who was just sucking everyone in? :P

Jewish Atheist said...

Nu, JA - 2 days in a row? Are you really a closet religious fundamentalist who was just sucking everyone in? :P

Hehe. Wouldn't that be a neat trick. And cross-currents is really an atheist conspiracy driving people away from Orthodoxy.

Seriously, though. I've pointed to Gates and Buffett in the past as evidence that atheists are generous. It wouldn't have been fair not to post this, especially since I'm all about empiricism rather than dogma. I thought the article I posted yesterday was interesting to atheists and theists, albeit for different reasons. I've been rethinking my position on Dawkins as well, and that was an interesting chapter in his story.

wil said...

Mr. Atheist,

Michael Shermer talks about Brooks in the current Scientific American Skeptic column: "Is religion good for society? Science's definitive answer: it depends."

Jewish Atheist said...

wil:

Thanks for the pointer -- very interesting. He makes a good point that charity is not the only issue:

"In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD [sexually transmitted disease] infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies," Paul found. Indeed, the U.S. scores the highest in religiosity and the highest (by far) in homicides, STDs, abortions and teen pregnancies.

It seems to be the same among U.S. states -- the most religious also have the highest homicide, unmarried teen pregnancy, and divorce rates.

dbackdad said...

Ezzie said, Religious people will give to places such as their church, schools, etc. Liberals simply don't have such causes to give to if they're secular. -- in general, I'd agree with you. Though, I'm a secular liberal that gives to both our schools and my wife's church. And by no means is my experience the rule or scientific, but at every business that I've worked at, when we had food drives or donation drives for various charities, the amounts given were greatly skewed in the direction of the liberal or progressive workers, irrespective of income.

I wonder if a lot of the "charitable" donations figures are skewed by people that tithe their churches. Mormons give an amazing amount to their churches. Is that considered a charitable donation? Without any pointers to actual data in the article, it's hard to know.

Ezzie said...

It seems to be the same among U.S. states -- the most religious also have the highest homicide, unmarried teen pregnancy, and divorce rates.

But that's misleading - while it's true that those states are often higher, it is not necessarily the religious themselves who are the ones becoming statistics.

DBackDad - I'd guess that the food drives et al would lean secular liberal because those are the primary causes for such people to give to. A religious person would often give to a similar or even the very same drive, but through their synagogue/church. There was a food drive the last few weeks in my company; I'm more likely (along with the other religious people) to give to a food kitchen I'm familiar with or similar organization than this food drive for a variety of reasons (mostly convenience).

Overall, that adds up to my statement from before: The religious will end up giving more.

dbackdad said...

Ezzie,

You may be right. I may be right. My point is that your stories and mine and even this article's points are all largely anecdotal.

And I believe that charitable giving is borne out of social organizations (which include churches) but not limited to churches. I am a member of many secular groups that encourage their members to give to charitable causes.

If someone would read this book, I'd be curious to see the author's sources.

Jewish Atheist said...

It seems to be the same among U.S. states -- the most religious also have the highest homicide, unmarried teen pregnancy, and divorce rates.

But that's misleading - while it's true that those states are often higher, it is not necessarily the religious themselves who are the ones becoming statistics.


I don't have time to look it up now, but if I recall correctly, southern Baptists "led" in most of those categories.

Karl said...

I think the above mentioned tithing issue is significant. When I was a Christian, I tithed to my church and most of that money went to the pastor's salary, the upkeep of the building, running church programs and to missionaries. I was frustrated that only a small percentage went to people with real needs, such as the poor. I don't know if the breakdown is similar for most churches -- my church was more evangelical than most -- but I wouldn't be surprised. From a secular perspective, it appears that most of the Christian donations are for maintaining a social club and for propagating religion. While it takes significant generosity to tithe, I'm not sure that the money solves real social problems. The money mostly serves religion and the in-group.

Random said...

Slight problem with blaming tithing for the trend is that according to the Scientific American article religious people are also 14% more generous than non-religious when it comes to donating to non-religious charities and a whopping 57% more likely to help a hopeless person they run into (put a coin in a cup, I assume...).

As for:

"In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD [sexually transmitted disease] infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies," Paul found. Indeed, the U.S. scores the highest in religiosity and the highest (by far) in homicides, STDs, abortions and teen pregnancies."

My first thought was that surely homicide rates are going to be more strongly correlated to gun-ownership statistics than religious observance ones? FBI statistics seem to show that that there is a correlation between loose gun ownership laws and a high homicide rate. Unless it can therefore be shown that religious people are more likely to both own a gun and turn it on another human being than non-religious people, then I don't think we should blame religion for this one.

As for teen pregnancy, religious people tend in my experience to get married younger than non-religious (that whole disapproval of sex before marriage thing, I expect). It is still a statistic, but is it still a social problem if the mother in question is married and part of a stable family unit?

asher said...

As Amercian is the most religious nation on earth, it is also responsible for the majority of private giving to all causes. I mean, where was liberal France to help out after the Sunamis? Why did millions of americans give millions to the red cross after 9/11? (which was summarily embezzelled). And all the private money and volunteers for the victims of Katrina.

On the other hand, 50,000 elderly Frenchmen died one summer about 4 years ago when the government failed to provide them with air conditioning.
And that situation hasn't been addressed there yet....so much for a 35 hour work week.

UJA which is a Jewish charity, raises more each year than the United Way which is an umbrella fund of many charities.

The question is: where do you see the influence of secualar humanists in society? Would it be their championing of things like getting rid of public displays of the 10 commandments? Explaining why school vouchers are not a good choice? Advocating abortion on demand, gay marriage, and higher taxes on the rich?

Great track record, guys.

beepbeepitsme said...

Don't forget your "pro-life" stance on the ritualised murder of adults by injecting them with poison.

beepbeepitsme said...

This question is entirely off the wall, but I figure this is the place to ask it.

What is the jewish story, according to jewish tradition, associated with the covenant between man and god being a foreskin?

I have to say that as a non-jew who is also a woman, I find it quite intriguing and I have to admit it, slightly humorous. (Maybe that it the "evil atheist" part of me coming to the fore ;)

Why not a lock of hair? Why not a fingernail clipping? Why not chop off the last digit of the little finger?

My research, limited as it may be, has suggested that the first recorded instance of circumcision occurred in Egypt, but it offers no real insight as to why it was performed except the assumption that it was part of a religious ritual.

I have my own theory on this of course, but I am interested if there is an explanation from a jewish perspective.

beepbeepitsme said...

Oh, I forgot to comment on the secular liberals and charity.

Let's not forget that the richest man in the world, Bill Gates, is an atheist and a secularist who donates billions of dollars to charity.

Also also William Buffet, another extraordinarily rich atheist who recently bequeathed his billions to charity.

Jewish Atheist said...

dbackdad, Karl:

I wonder if a lot of the "charitable" donations figures are skewed by people that tithe their churches. Mormons give an amazing amount to their churches. Is that considered a charitable donation? Without any pointers to actual data in the article, it's hard to know.

I think the above mentioned tithing issue is significant.

As Random points out, religious conservatives give more although not by as much (according to brooks) even to secular causes.


Random:

The statistics are true of unmarried teen pregnancy as well.


asher:

The question is: where do you see the influence of secualar humanists in society?

Judging from the meeting mentioned in my last post, they're advancing the state of science, for one.

beepbeepitsme said...

Is the circumcision thing "secret men's business."?

asher said...

Europe has been circumcizing their young men forever and they have suffered through 500 years of war. In America, 90% of boys are circumcized. Can you compare the two civilizations?

beepbeepitsme said...

Asher:
I am not trying to compare europe and the US, I am asking for an explanation of the religious origin of circumcision

Half Sigma said...

"a whopping 57% more likely to help a hopeless person they run into (put a coin in a cup, I assume...)."

It's easy for people who live in the suburbs or country to say on a survey they'd give money to a homeless person.

When you live in the city (where most liberals live), there are zillions of homeless people and you can't give to all of them, and most develop the attitude that you shouldn't give to any of them because it only encourages more panhandling.

jewish philosopher said...

Atheists want others to be virtuous. And why not?

Agkyra said...

I'm a bit late coming to this discussion, but I have to weigh in.

I suspect that giving to the church as part of a tithe is counted as charitable donation. It is for tax purposes, anyway.

That doesn't mean, however, that most of that money is going to maintaining a private religious social club, pace Karl. For example, lots of missionary work, which is often underwritten by a combination of churches and private donors, is accomplished through providing for practical needs. For example, my wife and I supported a missionary (if that's what you want to call her) in India for three years. She was actually an occupational therapist, who worked as part of a health clinic working with poor disabled Indian children. Lots of missionaries' main job is to set up schools, build houses, establish health clinics, operate food banks, and so forth. It's not all, nor even mostly, preaching on a street corner.

What's heartening about the report to me is not what you might think. It's not that "See, we're better than you!" or some such nonsense. We're not better than you! (That's the whole message of the gospel.) What I find heartening is that at least some of those religious people are Christians who have sincerely embraced the gospel and it is having an effect in their lives. They really believe it, and that shows in the way they live. Would that such were the case with more Christians!

That raises the question of second-order benefits to what we might call "pure missionary work," where the missionaries are doing nothing but preaching the gospel and not also teaching in schools or building houses. If it's true that Christians (as part of the larger religious population) are more giving, then even a pure missionary is ultimately contributing to the greater welfare by turning hearts and minds to the gospel. Money given to churches redounds to the benefit of society as a whole!

Anonymous said...

When you take out religious giving, the difference between charitable giving by secular people and religious people is $88 per year (according to Brooks.) This is a very insignificant amount, and renders the difference meaningless in my opinion.

As to the question of whether or not giving to my church constitutes a "charitable gift"....it seems to me that my tithe is much more akin to a "dues" payment than it is a gift to charity. The percentage of church budgets (especially evangelical church budgets) that can be called charitable is woefully small, and I'd be willing to bet that it is irrelevant to the vast majority of the dollars coming in from church members. They're paying for the church gym and the new organ, because they derive a benefit from them.

BTA said...

I'm too lazy to read the comments, so my apologies if this is duplicative.

Depends on how you define "charitable." Yes giving to a 501(c)(3) is the easiest definition. However, I believe that liberals have a better track record in the actions speak louder than words department.

Liberals are more likely to donate their time and energy to causes that help the needy. Even spending hours and hours blogging for the environment is a gift of one's time. Taking a job at the Public Defender or the ACLU right out of an Ivy League Law School rather than going to a big firm defending Enron and Halliburton is a form of charity in my view. Even buying a hybrid car. They cost more and the payoff is very slight. In fact, there is no payoff on a Prius when you calculate the rebate on a GM gas guzzler SUV or car. That rebate buys a lot of gas.

So, this is one take.

Also, I just find it so hard to believe, because every hospital, opera, cancer or aids or whatever research that I've seen is always funded by secular folks like Spielberg, Geffen, Bloomberg, and so on.

In Orthodox Jewish circles all the charity is going to kollels, day schools, shul namings, Artscroll dedications and the like. They aren't building up opera houses or medical institutions and neither are bible beaters.

Last, not sure how the study was constructed, but since the atheist population is under 10% in america, it's obviously a biased sample. He probably addressed that, but I'm going to throw that out there.

BTA said...

"Mormons give an amazing amount to their churches. Is that considered a charitable donation?"

yes, it absolutely is. And look at all the prime real estate the Catholic Church owns around the world. They are the biggest high value landowner in New York city.

One thing I really can't understand is, why exempt religious organizations from taxation at least property tax? If they sell it, do they pay capital gains? I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

I would like to resopnd to BTA who said that in orhtodox circles all the charity is going to yeshivas, kollels, etc. In my neighborhood, people support tomchei shabbos, a food bank, bikkur cholim, services for the sick,(including paying for medical insurance for poor people), hatzola the volunteer ambulance service, yad batya lechallah, to help poor newlyweds, Davis memorial fund, which provides emergency financial help. This list is by no means comprehensive. I know people who also give to non-denominational charities such as medical research. Just one more quick observation. I noticed that panhandlers of every ethnic background pick me out of a crowd to hit on me for money. COuld it be because they assume that since I am obviously Orthodox, I will be more likely to give? Just wondering.

Anonymous said...

1# One more quick response to BTA. The Book mentioned by Schwermer in his SA article says that conservative people are moe likely to volunteer their time than liberals. It also says that conse4vative people are more likely to give blood. I know of two Yeshivas that have annual blood drives. I know of one synagogue that has an annual blood drive, and one that has a biannual blood drive. I myself have donated aproximately six gallons of blood, one pint at a time. Bikur Cholim of Boro Park, an orthodox oranization holds a weekly blood drive. As far as his statement that the only secular people donate to build hospitals, I can only respond that if he hasn't heard of Mt. Sinai Hospital, Beth Israel Hospital, Brooklyn Jewish Hospital, Maimonidese Hospital, Long island Jewish Hospital,Columbia Presbiterian, St. Johns Epsicopalian and the Numerous Catholic Hospitals, he has been living a very sheltered existance or he has very a very selective memory.

#2 The article sites another study the says that certain social pathologies, such as murder are more common among religious people. The social very problems he sites are also much more prevalent among poor people. Poverty contributes heavily to social pathologies. Could it be that the author compared poor religious people to rich secular people? Did he factor out other factors when he did the study, like every good social scientist should? just womdering