|A Scandal of
the Secular Conscience?
Who really cares.
January 1, 2008
The belief that religious conservatives are less
charitable and more hard-hearted than secular liberals has
seemed so obviously true as to require little empirical
investigation. In fact, conservatives themselves have helped
fortify this view by accusing liberals of possessing "bleeding
hearts" and by amending conservatism with "compassionate."
Religious believers have fared little better. Even serious
evangelicals, such as Ronald J. Sider, conclude that Christians
live just like the secular world despite their convictions.
But as the ink dried on Sider's The Scandal
of the Evangelical Conscience, Arthur C. Brooks'
Who Really Cares soon followed with a starkly different
conclusion. Drawing on some ten data sets, Brooks finds that
religiosity is among the best predictors of charitable giving.
Religious Americans are not only much more likely to give money
and volunteer their time to religious and secular institutions,
they are also more likely to provide aid to family members,
return incorrect change, help a homeless person, and donate
blood. In fact, despite expecting to find just the opposite,
Brooks concluded: "I have never found a measurable way in which
secularists are more charitable than religious people."
Consider some examples. Religious citizens who
make $49,000 gave away about 3.5 times as much money as secular
citizens with the same income. They also volunteered twice as
often, are 57 percent more likely to help homeless persons, and
two-thirds more likely to give blood at their workplace.
Meanwhile, those who insist that "beliefs don't matter as long
as you're a good person" are not as good as those who do think
beliefs matter. The former group gave and volunteered at much
Yet even these findings tend ... [this is the
end of the snippet on the website...]