Atheist Hospitals, Soup Kitchens?

National Review Online posted an interesting e-mail that raises an interesting point (if only to highlight a P.R. problem among faithful atheists):

Let’s see, we have scores of Baptist Hospitals, Methodist Hospitals, Jewish Hospitals, Catholic Hospitals, etc., etc. Each of these have ‘outreach’ programs both here and in the most dismal places on earth, staffed with dedicated medical doctors and nurses. Where oh where are the Atheist’s hospitals, or soup kitchens? I, perhaps somewhat leaning to your ideology, am not so religious… but I am married to one of the most delightful, beautiful and dedicated Catholics on this earth. I delight in her absolute faith, her praying, her laughter, her zest for life, her acceptance of those of lesser faith (like me), her tolerance. All which seems so absent from the liberal atheist.

I marvel at the compassionate service I see from the Christian community. In spite of theological differences, the work of serving selflessly brings Christians together from all over the world. Other religions also organize for great humanitarian causes (Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc.). But do we see similar organized efforts from the atheists? Yes, I do have atheists friends who have done things like Peace Corps and engage in plenty of community service – but they honestly seem like exceptions. Maybe it’s just a perception problem. If you know of any atheist hospitals, soup kitchens, and foreign missionaries serving the world, please let me know.

(Nov. 10 update: Some atheists have taken objection to this post. I know a lot of you are actively engaged in service, but there is at least an image issue involved here. And from my perspective, biased as it is, I will still admire the outstanding humanitarian efforts that seem to naturally flow from religious faith. It’s one of the very positive fruits of true religion, in spite of the bitter fruit that its power-hungry corruptors have brought from time to time. But if bitter fruit is your hang up, don’t blame religion! Yes, religious bigotry has led to terrible crimes – not the least of which was the persecution of early Latter-day Saints and the murder of Joseph Smith. But the most terrible mass slaughter of human beings has occurred in this century at the hands of atheistic and Marxist totalitarian governments – 60 million in Mao’s China, 40 million in Stalin’s Russia, millions under the National Socialists of Germany, millions under the Marxists of Cambodia, and so forth. And the radical Marxist leaders of today’s terrorists, such as Yasser Arafat, are hardly sincere believers motivated by the teachings of their religion, but abuse religion as a tool to achieve their totalitarian aims. The blood of over a hundred million murdered people screams from the ground against the godless crimes of Marxism. Be offended, but so it is.)


Author: Jeff Lindsay

24 thoughts on “Atheist Hospitals, Soup Kitchens?

  1. Black and white. Us versus them. There is no organized “Atheist Movement” or “Atheist Church.” Atheists don’t feel the need to form a formal group, they are called such simply due to their lack of belief in God. So why would we expect Atheists to group together in order to participate in such causes?

    Your underlying insinuation that someone who is Atheist has no concern for the welfare of his fellow human is ignorant and prejudice. You said yourself that you have Atheist friends who participate in community service but that they seem to be the exception. Based on what evidence? There are also no “clown hospitals.” Does that mean that clowns don’t participate in good works? Sillyness. It just means that clowns have not formally organized for such a thing. Wow, it’s interesting to see how you think.

  2. Ever visited a Unitarian church? Many Unitarians are athiests, and many of the churches give a free meal to any who need it on a regular basis, amoung other types of community involvements for the needy.

  3. There are also many atheists involved with organizations like the Elks, Moose, Masons, Kiwanas, etc. I was involved with Habitat for Humanity with an atheist friend of mine in Arizona and she was always trying to get them to remove the Christian angle from it. I kept trying to tell her if she wanted to do that, maybe she should try starting her own atheist organization instead. I’m still working on her. :o]

    But as to the hospitals, I think it’s kind of like not finding atheists in foxholes…

  4. most of the mormons i know rarely if ever do any kind of service. at most they’ll go w/ the elders’ quorum to help someone move who could probably afford to pay for movers anyway and call it service. i only know of one mormon operated hospital (primary childrens), which is nothing compared to other religions. for a church w/ a professed 11 million members they don’t do that much humanitarian service.

  5. Sorry for the offense! My message also raised the issue of a public relations issue, which may be a real factor. Of course there’s no “Atheist Church.” And when the Unitarians do service, do atheists get credit? Not from what I’ve seen. (The Unitarians I know generally believe in God in some way, or might be agnostic, but not true-blue atheists.)

    I should add that nominal Christians who really serve mankind are also an exception, because most people of whatever religion just don’t get involved enough, in my opinion.

    On the other hand, it’s hard to deny that religious organizations tend to be the dominant driving force for the voluntary compassionate service work that is done.

  6. Back again. I’m glad that others have joined me in “objecting” to your prejudicial post. Your disclaimer that you added doesn’t really do much for your cause either I’m afraid. An “image issue?” Is that what this whole problem boils down to? You are concerned that Atheists aren’t trying to bolster their image by providing service in a high profile manner? Just because our church (LDS) can only mobilize when such an event occurs doesn’t mean that low profile needs shouldn’t be met by someone else.

    As for your examples of the horrendous crimes of atheistic regimes against humanity, it could be argued that the reason the U.S. government is so successful is because of our commitment to freedom of religion, i.e. not forcing anyone to believe NOR forcing them NOT to believe as the atheist governments you condemn. As humanity has become less superstitious (read “religious”) we have seen tremendous advances in medicine, science & technology. Perhaps there are those of you who wish to return to a more “enlightened” time when religion, divining, and white magic were pretty much interchangeable. I, on the other hand, am glad for the contributions of skeptics whose world view wasn’t constrained by the definition of absolute truth forced upon us by religion.

  7. We as Mormons can sit here and congratulate ourselves on our commitment to service all we want. I’ve “met” lots of Mormons since I am one and have been active for over 35 years. From my perspective the majority of Mormons consider home teaching, fulfilling callings, donating to D.I. and helping their other Mormon neighbors as their only need for service. Very few are involved with helping at soup kitchens, visiting prisons, clothing the naked, etc. (see Jesus’ words on this). You can say all you want about the service religious organizations provide but the majority of this, at least in the LDS church, if self-serving.

  8. There is a strong reason that religious organizations tend to be at the forefront of charity. First, they are organizations. Atheism is its own religioun. It requires an equal amount of faith to believe in nothing as it does to believe in something. But because ther is no universal “church” per se it is difficult for this group to band together in a common goal for charity. Certainly, this makes credit, publicity, or recognition nearly impossible as well.

    Second, churches that believe in God tend to do good works because of thier teachings and doctrine. I know in our neck of the mission field, we are active in different community events and projects. Many of the things we have done here don’t have to do with members or the church. Perhaps part of the low profile is that the LDS church doesn’t always seek after the recognition.

  9. I’ve always found it interesting how people want to attack religion as a constraint on society. Medicial and scientific examples are often used. Infamous stories of heresy abound and people often forget that all knowlege comes from God. People often loose sight that religion and science can work together, they are not in opposition. They simply answer different questions. Science – How and Religion – Why.

  10. I would have to disagree that Atheism is a religion. Webster contains language such as: the service and worship of God or the supernatural, or a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices. I can hardly see how the LACK of these could be considered a religion. How can you seriously say that it takes faith to have a lack of faith in God?

    Also, you appear to believe that religious belief has not constrained the advancement of science. What about religions role in maintaining the belief in the flat world theory? or that the sun revolves around earth, or that polygamy is a workable social system, or that the earth is only 6000 years old, or that we should rely more on faith that medicine or surgery to heal us, or that women are subservient to men, or that we shouldn’t do stem cell research because God is against it, etc., etc., etc.

    The why of religion is either backed up by verifiable scientific research or it is a theory waiting to be verified or disproved by science. There is no problem with having theories, its just thinking they are infutible and complete. At least scientists admit that their theories may be disproven AND their theories are flexible to accommodate continuous discoveries. Religious theories are presented as fact well beyond the time that science disproves them until those that base their faith on such nonsense die and the religion changes.

  11. An equal amount of faith? One is to believe in things that are at best completely unproven by science and at worst totally contrary to scientific discoveries. The other is to beieve in scientific discoveries with the understanding that it is not absolute.

    It is the need for the absolute and the confidence in it that is contrary to science. Science says that it’s knowledge and claims are subject to revision whereas religion claims that it’s knowledge is unchangeable. And then 20 years later they are changing it to fit with current scientific thought.

    The only thing that religious faith is good for is to make us feel secure that someone knows all the answers, that we are not going to die and cease to exist forever, that something we don’t understand can be explained by miracles and/or God’s intervention, and that life has a purpose.

    Even considering that any of these things are not true brings such fear into the hearts of the faithful that most won’t even consider studying, examining, and thinking about the world around us if it doesn’t fit into their faithful worldview. That is how religion hurts scientific advancement.

  12. Someone mentioned atheists among Masons. One can’t be an atheist and be a mason honestly. Part of the requirement is a belief in God and many of the rites are overtly religious in nature. I suppose one could join dishonestly, but that’s an other matter. Of course there were quasi-masonic rituals atheists did participate in, however the whole quasi-masonic club trend more or less ended in the 1920’s with the rise of private insurance companies. (A lot of those clubs were joined as much for insurance as anything)

  13. Some Mormons don’t get involved enough – but doing home teaching and other things in the Church is ministering personally and certainly should count as much as other forms of service.

    From what I’ve seen, Latter-day Saints are heavily involved in community service – perhaps just a few in each ward, I admit, but enough to really stand out.

  14. Where have the gods dispensed medical knowledge to us?

    For argument sake, the following choices are _mutually exclusive_.

    You have a medical condition which will induce severe suffering. You can:
    a) Receive a priesthood blessing.
    b) Receive surgery/medication.

    Which choose ye?

    I can’t believe anyone cited Ingersoll’s What Infidels have done. Which reminds us that there were no hospitals even hundreds of years after christ. Anyways, this was posted recently.

    I think it’s main point is to show how a significant portion of so-called “religious” hospitals are publically funded, so consequently, atheist funded. And it raises the better question.
    “where are the 100% (funded/run/etc) religious hospitals?”

    For what it’s worth, I’ve an atheist friend who works in an ER and frequently saves lives.

    Jesus established the preisthood (which failed, and need subsequent restoration) He did not even attempt to establish hospitals despite his desire to heal a few local guys.

    Ask yourself, what’s saved more peoples lives, the preisthood or medical practice?

    Two working hands are more effective than a thousand clasped in prayer.

    God knows my inner thoughts. I pray to him.

    Think harder.

  15. I’m an active LDS and I disagree with the assessment that majority of LDS do not participate in humanitarian services outside of the priesthood program. Most active members of LDS faith are paying full or part tithing. Every time I write that paycheck, I have in mind that a portion of it are going into the (priesthood) welfare program of the church which has served millions of people. When I fast every month and contribute the cost of my meals, I know that the money is going to some needy families in my ward. There are homeless, hungry, fatherless, widows, unemployed members in LDS faith too. Someone said that most of LDS services are self-serving. There is truth in that statement. However, the Lord commanded us to take care of our OWN first. Family, extended family, fellow saints, otherwise we deny the faith and we are worse than an infidel.

    Yes, and there are some I know (and many more that do not want to advertise their good deeds) that are selfishly serving the community. Some of us serve in the community prevention program (scouting, home teaching, soccer mom or dad, even singing carols on Christmas, etc). No small deeds are discounted. Others actively or passively participated in services that help heals the wounds and bring relief to the wearies. Most are not seen but the work is being done. Most do not advertise but silently give praise to God.

    Last time I check, atheists are still part of humanity. I believe religion, regardless of how Webster defines it, is a way of life which is fueled by beliefs, therefore atheism is a religion in my dictionary. A lack of belief in God does not nullify the human heart. C.S. Lewis used to be an atheist and God touched a tender fiber in his heart that caused him to believe.

    In deeper sense the reward/punishment concept of Judeo-Christian religion is self-serving. You do something because you hope for a reward or you are terrified of the punishment. Very few of us have reached the highest level of “what greater love than this, that one give his life to someone (friend or foe).” But the essence of giving a service at whatever level is to make us aware and change our heart, to strive to achieve the highest degree.

    To me there is no conflicts between science and God’s revealed truths. It’s the interpretations of men than gives birth to the conflict. I believe God design it that way, to encourage us to search by prayer and studies. Science is part of the equation. Truth is revealed in many different ways.

  16. While I am not a Mormon I can say that the Mormon church supplies the greatest ammount of disaster relief world wide. When the Us government or red cross go to a disaster the call the Mormons.

    Mormons grow and store millions of pounds of food for canning. I have even gone to their storehouses and made canned supplies for disaster supplies. I rotate them out to the local soup kitchen a few months before they expire.

  17. “Atheism is its own religion.”

    In the same way that not collecting stamps is a hobby.

    “Atheism” is a word that shouldn’t even exist as it’s not really an -ism as it is not a system of belief or an ideology. It’s simply how you answer a single question. After all, we don’t have a special word for someone who rejects astrology or alchemy.

  18. Count me in; I take issue with this post. I find it very disturbing that it takes threat of punishment by a supreme creator for human beings treat each other with dignity and respect.

    As Carl Sagan once said, "In our obscurity, in all this vastness [of the Universe], there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves."

  19. Atheist politicians are very generous — with other people's money. At least the liberal atheists tend to give almost nothing to charity on their own.

  20. Three of the four biggest philanthropists the world has ever seen are atheists (Gates, Buffett, Carnegie). The difference is that atheists don't use the opportunity to put forward atheism as a blatant form of advertising. I would suggest that it's more surprising that a large amount of religiously-connected "philanthropy" so clearly promotes the religion in question.

  21. In America, as of 1999, 13% of all hospitals were religious (totaling 18% of all hospital beds); that's 604 out of 4,573 hospitals. Despite the religious label, these so-called religious hospitals are more public than public hospitals. Religious hospitals get 36% of all their revenue from Medicare; they get 12% from Medicaid. Of the remaining 44% of funding, 31% comes from county appropriations, 30% comes from investments, and only 5% comes from charitable contributions (not necessarily religious). The percentage of Church funding for Church-run hospitals comes to a grand total of 0.0015 percent.

    Of the 13% of religious hospitals, all of them are maintained by public funds. Those public funds are not paid for exclusively by the religious, and they certainly aren't supported by American churches. If the religious hospitals were to be truly religious and separated from secular governmental subsidies, they would collapse.

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