Charity refers to the act of helping other people for no personal benefit, normally by donating resources to those less fortunate than yourself.
 Secular charity
Due to the historical dominance of Christianity, many charities with a secular mission were either founded by Christians (such as Amnesty International) or use Christian imagery (such as the Red Cross), but the British Humanist Association recommends giving to secular charities where possible, seeing no need to make charities that are exclusive except in areas where all existing charities are religious. There are a number of explicitly atheist charities, and for people interested in giving to charity, there are sites dedicated to effective giving[wp] such as GiveWell and 80,000 hours.
 Religious charity
Charity is called for in all the Abrahamic religions and in most other ethical systems (about the only one to openly consider Charity a vice is Objectivism). Unfortunately many religious organisations have managed to skew the figures so that despite functioning largely as a social club, donations made to their churches are classed as charitable giving.. Organisations like Christianity Today like to trumpet this sort of distortion but the evidence is that donations to secular charities correlates with lack of belief. That said, almost a third of charity in the US is to religious causes, down from 36% in 2005.
The Bible is full of injunctions to give to and provide charity, such as the rule to not cut the corners of your field or glean your vineyard so there is something for the poor who need it to pick up. The historical tithe was intended to support the Levites and the poor. And Jesus himself enjoined people to sell all they have and give the money to the poor.
Many religions and Christian denominations even have a mandated amount to give. For example, Catholics and Mormons are both supposed to tithe 10% of their money, normally to their church (which can decide who to give the money to), and Muslims are obliged to give 2.5% of their salary to charitable causes, whether they be private charities, their own mosque or beggars on the street.
That said, the teachings of Jesus weren't always as strongly skewed towards charity as they seem. The advice that if someone sues you for your tunic you should give him your cloak as well was intended to make the person who wanted the shirt off your back look like the asshole he is. And Going the Extra Mile was Civil Disobedience against Roman impressment laws under which a legionary could demand his pack be carried one mile and no further.
Although called on to Tithe, even in more religious areas, few do; average charitable giving in the most religious areas of the United States is only around 5%; Before any works that are remotely charitable can be paid for, the upkeep on the church needs to be paid, as does the priest's salary ($40,000 p.a. for an average protestant pastor, over three times that for a Rabbi). According to Christianity Today International 43% of Church income goes on staffing - with a further 29% on the facilities, supplies, and fees.
The money to the pastors and priests is, of course, badly skewed; five Nigerian priests are worth ofer $3 million each with one worth at least $150 million , Billy Graham is worth $25 million,, Rick Warren is worth $14 million , and Tim LaHaye has given $4.5 million to Liberty University, and the personal riches of the Pope are somewhat irrelevant.
Even once the leaders and buildings have been paid for, membership drives are commonly a big expense, making up 16% of church spending. And evangelism also underlies the actual charity work which makes up some unknown proportion of the remaining 12% of church spending on "Programs" and "Other". In a case study of St Alban's Cathedral, 5.5% of the expenditure was on "donations" with probably the majority being given to members of the diocese. And that assuming the money isn't stolen; a 2005 study found 11% of Catholic diocese had had more than $500,000 stolen from them in the previous year.
The actual charity comes out of the tiny fraction of money spent on churches that isn't simply used for the benefit of the members, and isn't stolen. This tends to be in one of two categories; soup kitchens (a handy form of Evangelism because it brings people into the churches and makes them sit in one place) and political campaigns. Although some political campaigning is campaigning for things like debt relief, far more is to deny medical care or just straight out homophobia.
Religious organisations are normally not above getting their name attached to a good cause like hospitals and when they do they run them in as cold blooded a manner as for profit institutions. At least when they aren't actively campaigning to deny medical care or simply refusing to provide it.
There are genuine religious charities that are dedicated to doing good work like CAFOD and Christian Aid. Perhaps ironically, they count as secular charities for the purposes of fundraising, and CAFOD is excoriated for being in dissent from the Roman Catholic Church on the issue of contraception, while the head of Caritas International (the umbrella group to which CAFOD belongs) claims the Vatican is just a particular brand of being Catholic.
In addition to the diversion of money away from charity, a number of Christian leaders are trying to pervert the concept. Some define bad things as good because they provide "Opportunities for Compassion" or, more rarely, claiming Jesus' statement that "The poor shall always be with you" to be a statement that we shouldn't try to solve poverty. Some even claim the poverty referred to several thousands of times in the Bible is "spiritual poverty". This might be confusing when compared to such verses as For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. (Luke 18:25) - surely this doesn't mean that a spiritually rich man wouldn't enter the kingdom of God?
- ↑ The British Humanist Association
- ↑ Philanthropy Today report on Faith and Giving
- ↑ Study reveals Church Goers give more to churches than people who don't go to churces give to those churches Slacktivist
- ↑ Ezra Klein in the Washington Post
- ↑ Centre for Inquiry
- ↑ Charity Navigator "Gifts to religious causes totaled $93.2 billion in 2005, almost 36 percent of all contributions".
- ↑ Leviticus 19:9-10
- ↑ Matthew 19:21
- ↑ Origin of Going the Extra Mile, Wiki Answers
- ↑ ibid Slacktivist
- ↑ "What Type of Clergy Get the Highest Salaries?" Brian Palmer. Slate. January 12, 2012.
- ↑ Radio Freethinker Infographic via blog post
- ↑ The five richest pastors in Nigeria Forbes
- ↑ Celebrity Net Wealth
- ↑ Celebrity Net Worth
- ↑ Wikipedia
- ↑ Google Image Search: Vow of Poverty Doing it wrong
- ↑ Radio Freethinker Infographic, ibid
- ↑ Giving to charity across the world, Vexen Crabtree
- ↑ Embezzlement Is Found in Many Catholic Dioceses New York Times, Jan 5 2007
- ↑ Womens News
- ↑ Contraception and Healthcare religious exemption debateNew York Times
- ↑ Catholic Hospital denies gay man HIV medicine
- ↑ Catholic Action UK
- ↑ Protect the Pope article
- ↑ Confessions of a Church Planter
- ↑ From Prodigal to Priest Chapter 11, David Chadwell
- ↑ Matthew 26:6-11
- ↑ Pope's message says spiritual poverty is worse than material povertyCatholic News Agency