Tag Archives: Charitable Giving

UK Guardian claim: religious children are meaner than non-religious children

A conflict of worldviews
A conflict of worldviews

Here’s what the the radically secular and leftist UK Guardian had to say about a recent study:

Children from religious families are less kind and more punitive than those from non-religious households, according to a new study.

Academics from seven universities across the world studied Christian, Muslim and non-religious children to test the relationship between religion and morality.

They found that religious belief is a negative influence on children’s altruism.

“Overall, our findings … contradict the commonsense and popular assumption that children from religious households are more altruistic and kind towards others,” said the authors of The Negative Association Between Religiousness and Children’s Altruism Across the World, published this week in Current Biology.

“More generally, they call into question whether religion is vital for moral development, supporting the idea that secularisation of moral discourse will not reduce human kindness – in fact, it will do just the opposite.”

Now, whenever I read studies like this that trumpet how great secularism is, I always look more closely to see how they define the terms. Usually, what’s been done is that the study will define the “good” behavior as “leftist” behavior. For example, “punitive” might mean “judging something morally wrong”, which the secular left regards as bad. So, if your starting point is feelings of compassion, moral relativism, non-judgmentalism, then yes – religious people will look bad.

Anyway, here is a response to the Guardian’s article, and the study they cite, from statistician William Briggs.

He writes:

Here’s how to you can replicate their study at home. First, define altruism. Go on, I’ll wait.

Have a definition in mind? I’m sure it’s correct and matches everybody else’s definition in precise detail, details like no-greater-love, supreme sacrifice, kindness, patience, love, and so on, right? Well, maybe not, but never mind. Instead, think about how you would quantify your definition. Quantification makes your definition scientific. Science means unquestionable truth.

Was your answer about quantification the “Dictator game”? Like this (from the Supplementary description)?:

[C]hildren were shown a set of 30 stickers and told to choose their 10 favorite. They were then told “these stickers are yours to keep.” Children were instructed that the experimenter did not have the time to play this game with all of the children in the school, so not everyone would be able to receive stickers. Children were finally shown a set of envelopes and informed that they could give some of their stickers to another child who would not be able to play this game by putting them in one envelope and they could put the stickers they wanted to keep in the other envelope. Experimenters turned around during the child’s choice and children were instructed to inform the experimenter when they were finished. Altruism was calculated as the number of stickers shared out of 10.

Yes, this scientifically captures every possible nuance of the scientific concept of altruism, doesn’t it? Science science science science. Science. It must be science! Scientists wrote this, peer scientists reviewed it, and scientists nod sagely when reading it.

Now define “religiosity” for kids. I’ll wait again.

Have it? Ha ha! That was a trick question. The authors never assessed the “religiosity” of kids; they did it for the kids’ “caregivers” instead. How? The authors asked parents to name their religion. They also asked parents questions like “How often do you experience the ‘divine’ in your everyday life?” They took pseudo-quantified answers from these and combined them scientifically with a quantification of religious attendance and derived a complete scientific quantification of “religiosity.” This was assigned to each kid in the study.

One of my friends in academia who publishes studies with regression analysis writes:

[I] Don’t buy all of his critiques of regression analysis but he is dead on in that the operationizing of the variables in that research is poor. I would also add that the regression model is underspecified.

So that’s two scholars who deal in statistics who don’t like the study. Sociologist Dr. George Yancey also responds to the study’s methodology in detail over at The Stream.

So here are my thoughts: first of all, children typically are little monsters, and they do not understand religion enough to act consistently with it until much later. So it’s a mistake to look at the religion of the parents and assume that in most cases, the children will have accepted that and be operating from that worldview. Second, if you were judging my religiosity at age 12 by talking to my parents, I would not have been considered religious at all, except I was. Third, giving stuff away to strangers is the secular left’s definition of altruism. Earning things through work and then sharing with people you actually know is what conservatives consider “altruism”. The study didn’t ask about how many stickers the religious kids shared with their friends and family when they got home. Conservatives tend to not want to hand out goodies to strangers through some unknown intermediary like big government. We prefer to give to people we know or through private organizations we know. Government is known to waste money on nonsense.

Hypocrisy on the left

There’s a lot of hypocrisy on the secular left. On the one hand, they want to give away lots of taxpayer money to the poor, on the other hand, they personally give far less in charity to the poor. I.e. – they are very generous with other people’s money – especially when they can brag about it to others to appear generous. But in their personal lives, they are often much less generous about giving away their own money. In fact, Arthur Brooks did a study of non-religious and religious people and charitable giving, and he found that the religious people gave away much more than the non-religious people.

Take a look at this video to understand how secular leftists think about “morality” and giving away money:

So, yes – they may sound generous when they are talking about spending someone else’s money, but they themselves are not generous. And that’s not unexpected, since secular leftists believe that this life is all they have, and there is no objective moral standard, nor any accountability to a Creator / Designer when they die. How will you generate a robust notion of generosity, when your story of origins is “survival of the fittest”? You can’t.

Three ways that generosity makes sense in the Christian worldview

Note: I am re-posting a series of five Bible studies this week that I wrote last year. Every 2 PM post Monday to Friday this week will be a Bible study.

First, let’s look at a few passages from the Bible that show the importance of sharing generously with others. I also want to emphasize the need to work and to not be a burden to others, and to emphasize that the goal of sharing with others is to build them up.

2 Thessalonians 3:10-11: (Paul speaking)

10 For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.

11 For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies.

Acts 20:32-35: (Paul speaking)

32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

33 I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes.

34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me.

35 In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said,‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

Philippians 4:14-18: (Paul speaking)

14 Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.

15 You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone;

16 for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs.

17 Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.

18 But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.

Luke 21:1-4: (Jesus speaking)

1 And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury.

And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins.

And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them;

for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.”

So in an effort to keep this post small, I’m going to be brief. And practical.

Make as much money as you can

The first point I want to make is that it is impossible to share with anyone else unless you have your own financial house in order. Don’t borrow money. Don’t ask for money.  Study hard things (STEM and useful trades) so that you always have work and are always earning money. In the 2 Thessalonians 3:10-11 passage, we learn that able-bodied people need to be working. That is a practical pre-condition of sharing with others. The more money you make the more you have to share. If you want to advance the gospel and build up others, money is absolutely vital. Don’t study crap subjects in school, don’t take useless jobs, don’t neglect the need to build a gapless resume of increasingly more challenging work, don’t get tied down by worldly goods and recreational dating early – so you can finish your education as much as you can. Be practical – charitable giving doesn’t come from nowhere. It comes from a person who is ordered and disciplined. Unless you are some sort of skilled Christian scholar, don’t be flying all over the world willy-nilly on expensive mission trips, either – there is plenty of work to do right where God planted you. Be a good steward of your money, and the donations of other Christians.

Partnering with others for the gospel

The second point I want to contrast is the giving I prefer with the giving I do not prefer. The giving I prefer is to give to another Christian who I know personally who is involved in ministry that advances the gospel by arguing for the truth of the gospel using apologetics. So, I like to give to groups like Ratio Christi and to Christian scholars who have ministries or who are doing useful degrees. My goal is to spread the gospel in the only way it can be spread – by demonstrating the truth of it using arguments and evidence. I do not give money to anti-poverty groups like World Vision or to unskilled missionaries who just want an extended vacation in order to satisfy some childhood fancy animated by pride and/or vanity. When I give money to another Christian, my goal is to partner with them, not to feel good about myself. I am trying to get something done for the Lord, not to feel better or to make people think I am nice or to “balance the books” with God (which is heretical).

Building your rewards in Heaven

The third point I want to make is to emphasize that this is not a pointless exercise. Everyone who is a Christian accepts that reconciliation with God is achieved not by human efforts to be good, but by acknowledging and conforming your life to a free gift that was offered by Jesus Christ. Christ died in order to pay the penalty for every individual person’s rebellion against God the Father. That atoning death is the basis for our reconciliation with God, and our eternal life with him. However, the passage in Philippians makes clear that our experience of Heaven after we have been saved by grace is affected by what we do here and now. So often, what you hear in church is do this, do that, and there is never any rationality to it, no emphasis on long-term planning or wisdom in decision-making. It’s all just ad hoc emotivism. But I am telling you something different today. You have a few years on Earth to understand the example of Christ, to follow him, and share in his sufferings as you imitate his obedience. You better have some sort of plan to produce a return on God’s investment in you, and it has to be a good plan. Not one that makes you feel good, but one that is likely to achieve results. Plan your charitable giving like your life were an episode of Mission Impossible, and focus on outcomes, not feelings. That doesn’t mean that results are the measure of success, because that’s God’s job. But it does mean that you should prefer the Thomas Sowell approach to the Disney Princess approach.

The soul-making theodicy

The fourth point I want to make is that one of the reasons why God allows evil and suffering in this world is to allow us the opportunity to be active partners with him in demonstrating the love of Christ to others. God’s goal for us is not to make us safe and happy. God’s goal for us is to get us to freely enter into and sustain a relationship with him – a relationship that includes an accurate knowledge of who he is, and a free response of love and obedience to him. With respect to that goal, God is fully justified in permitting all kinds of evil and suffering, which in turn provide opportunities for us to 1) enter in to his plan of love and redemption for others and 2) demonstrate his character to the watching world through our actions as his agents. The situation is identical to what parents do in allowing their children to be hurt while learning – God holds back from annihilating some evil and suffering so that we have an opportunity to step into the breach. This advances our relationships with him through shared purpose and shared experiences. This is fellowship with God – not just reading devotional, pious-sounding bilge, but active partnering and dangerous action in some non-trivial enterprise. Give him your best – the same best you bring to your work or anything else in your life that really matters.

Three ways that generosity makes sense in the Christian worldview

I’m planning to be study Philippians today with the woman I am mentoring in apologetics, so I thought I would post something about generosity and sharing.

First, let’s look at a few passages from the Bible that show the importance of sharing generously with others. I also want to emphasize the need to work and to not be a burden to others, and to emphasize that the goal of sharing with others is to build them up.

2 Thessalonians 3:10-11: (Paul speaking)

10 For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.

11 For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies.

Acts 20:32-35: (Paul speaking)

32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

33 I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes.

34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me.

35 In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said,‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

Philippians 4:14-18: (Paul speaking)

14 Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.

15 You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone;

16 for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs.

17 Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.

18 But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.

Luke 21:1-4: (Jesus speaking)

1 And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury.

And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins.

And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them;

for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.”

So in an effort to keep this post small, I’m going to be brief. And practical.

Make as much money as you can

The first point I want to make is that it is impossible to share with anyone else unless you have your own financial house in order. Don’t borrow money. Don’t ask for money.  Study hard things (STEM and useful trades) so that you always have work and are always earning money. In the 2 Thessalonians 3:10-11 passage, we learn that able-bodied people need to be working. That is a practical pre-condition of sharing with others. The more money you make the more you have to share. If you want to advance the gospel and build up others, money is absolutely vital. Don’t study crap subjects in school, don’t take useless jobs, don’t neglect the need to build a gapless resume of increasingly more challenging work, don’t get tied down by worldly goods and recreational dating early – so you can finish your education as much as you can. Be practical – charitable giving doesn’t come from nowhere. It comes from a person who is ordered and disciplined. Unless you are some sort of skilled Christian scholar, don’t be flying all over the world willy-nilly on expensive mission trips, either – there is plenty of work to do right where God planted you. Be a good steward of your money, and the donations of other Christians.

Partnering with others for the gospel

The second point I want to contrast is the giving I prefer with the giving I do not prefer. The giving I prefer is to give to another Christian who I know personally who is involved in ministry that advances the gospel by arguing for the truth of the gospel using apologetics. So, I like to give to groups like Ratio Christi and to Christian scholars who have ministries or who are doing useful degrees. My goal is to spread the gospel in the only way it can be spread – by demonstrating the truth of it using arguments and evidence. I do not give money to anti-poverty groups like World Vision or to unskilled missionaries who just want an extended vacation in order to satisfy some childhood fancy animated by pride and/or vanity. When I give money to another Christian, my goal is to partner with them, not to feel good about myself. I am trying to get something done for the Lord, not to feel better or to make people think I am nice or to “balance the books” with God (which is heretical).

Building your rewards in Heaven

The third point I want to make is to emphasize that this is not a pointless exercise. Everyone who is a Christian accepts that reconciliation with God is achieved not by human efforts to be good, but by acknowledging and conforming your life to a free gift that was offered by Jesus Christ. Christ died in order to pay the penalty for every individual person’s rebellion against God the Father. That atoning death is the basis for our reconciliation with God, and our eternal life with him. However, the passage in Philippians makes clear that our experience of Heaven after we have been saved by grace is affected by what we do here and now. So often, what you hear in church is do this, do that, and there is never any rationality to it, no emphasis on long-term planning or wisdom in decision-making. It’s all just ad hoc emotivism. But I am telling you something different today. You have a few years on Earth to understand the example of Christ, to follow him, and share in his sufferings as you imitate his obedience. You better have some sort of plan to produce a return on God’s investment in you, and it has to be a good plan. Not one that makes you feel good, but one that is likely to achieve results. Plan your charitable giving like your life were an episode of Mission Impossible, and focus on outcomes, not feelings. That doesn’t mean that results are the measure of success, because that’s God’s job. But it does mean that you should prefer the Thomas Sowell approach to the Disney Princess approach.

The soul-making theodicy

The fourth point I want to make is that one of the reasons why God allows evil and suffering in this world is to allow us the opportunity to be active partners with him in demonstrating the love of Christ to others. God’s goal for us is not to make us safe and happy. God’s goal for us is to get us to freely enter into and sustain a relationship with him – a relationship that includes an accurate knowledge of who he is, and a free response of love and obedience to him. With respect to that goal, God is fully justified in permitting all kinds of evil and suffering, which in turn provide opportunities for us to 1) enter in to his plan of love and redemption for others and 2) demonstrate his character to the watching world through our actions as his agents. The situation is identical to what parents do in allowing their children to be hurt while learning – God holds back from annihilating some evil and suffering so that we have an opportunity to step into the breach. This advances our relationships with him through shared purpose and shared experiences. This is fellowship with God – not just reading devotional, pious-sounding bilge, but active partnering and dangerous action in some non-trivial enterprise. Give him your best – the same best you bring to your work or anything else in your life that really matters.

Obama budget proposal likely to decrease charitable giving by billions

Story here from Newsbusters.

Excerpt:

On the April 16 broadcast of Fox Business Network’s “Varney & Co.,” Rick Dunham, CEO of fundraising consultant Dunham & Company, weighed in on the new budget proposal that would scale back charitable deductions for families making over $250,000.

“Do you think you’re going to take a really big hit in terms of lower donations to charities? How big a hit?” host Stuart Varney asked.

“Well the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University did a study last year to look at the impact of the rise in the marginal tax rate and the capping of charitable deductions at 28-percent and they believe that it’ll be about almost a $4 billion hit based on 2006 dollars,” Dunham said. “So we’re probably looking at about a $5 billion hit.”

“That’s a sizable chunk of money,” Varney said. “There has been some talk that the administration wants to control charitable giving, and direct where your charitable gifts should go, therefore do it through the government and not through private charities. You think there’s anything to that?”

Dunham didn’t reject the idea out of hand. “I think all the actions kind of lead that direction. Part of the challenge charities are facing right now is they’re coming off of two years of a decline in giving to charities,” Dunham stated, citing the approximate $12 billion decrease in charitable giving the last two years.

“The government has always encouraged it through the tax incentive. And I think that’s been a huge part of giving in America – that the government has stood behind private philanthropy by saying ‘we want you to invest in charitable institutions for the good they do to our society.’ And I think that’s what they’re beginning to undermine.”

This is similar to what happened in Europe. As the secular leftists welfare states grew, people paid more and more in taxes. People had no money after the high taxes to give to charity, because they had “already given” to state. It was the state’s job to take care of people, not private charities. People became very selfish and hedonistic, and religious practice and charitable giving declined.

The problem with this for Christians is that the state never uses tax money to achieve Christian goals. With a Christian charity, the goal is usually to give the person with money, but also to help the person up and out of their current situation. Christians aren’t trying to give a man a fish, they want to teach him how to fish. It also helps to feel a little humble when someone is helping you.

Obama’s federal budget: thinking beyond stage one

House Republican Leader John Boehner
House Republican Leader John Boehner

Everyone who reads Thomas Sowell knows that the most important question to ask when talking about any economic proposal is “And Then What Happens?” That was the point of his one-two punch of introductory books on economics, “Basic Economics: A Citizen’s Guide to the Economy” and “Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One”. Don’t examine the intentions of the proposal. Examine the incentives it creates.

But this idea goes back even earlier to Henry Hazlitt, who wrote about it in “Economics in One Lesson”. (The link goes to a statement of the “one lesson”)

…the whole of economics can be reduced to a single lesson, and that lesson can be reduced to a single sentence:

The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.

Well, what are the long-term effects of Obama’s federal budget, for all groups?

Congressman John Boehner has a breakdown of some of the budget numbers on his blog.

The President’s budget calls for $1.4 trillion in new taxes that will affect every American.  There’s a $646 billion “cap and trade” energy tax; a $636 billion tax on income and small businesses; new  taxes on investors by raising capital gains and dividend rates; a resurrection of the death tax; and a reduction in charitable deductions which will result in $4 billion less in donations each year to charities across America.

But it’s worse than that. A while back, I wrote about how Obama wanted to discriminate against religious schools by denying them renovation funds. In the budget, he continues his anti-religious trend by de-funding private charities. This is the part that Christians who voted for Obama need to pay attention to, because this matters to us.

Boehner notes:

The proposed reduction in charitable deductions is especially troubling, since it would hurt charities at a time when American families are struggling and in need of assistance.

But remember, when government expands, the state becomes more secular. The capabilities and influence of private religious groups decreases as the state de-funds them and takes over their duties. Instead of people depending on their neighbors’ charity, they now depend on the state. Instead of letting workers decide where to give charity, workers are forced to fund secular government programs.

Boehner cites this Wall Street Journal piece:

According to the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, total itemized contributions from the highest income households would have dropped 4.8% — or $3.87 billion — in 2006 if the Obama policy had been in place.  That year, Americans gave $186.6 billion to charity, more than 40% from those in the highest tax bracket.  A back of the envelope calculation by the Tax Policy Center, a left-of-center think tank, estimates the Obama plan will reduce annual giving by 2%, or some $9 billion.

Before Obama’s budget, you might have given charity to a Crisis Pregnancy Center. Now that money could be spent by the government on coerced abortions abroad. Before Obama’s budget, you might have given charity to support William Lane Craig’s web site Reasonable Faith. Now that money could be spent destroying human embryos. Elections matter.

Representative Mike Pence
Representative Mike Pence

Congressman Mike Pence goes over the budget numbers on his blog.

The following is a summary of the Administration’s plans to increase taxes by $1.4 trillion over the next ten years.

Taxing Small Businesses: In 2010, the President’s budget will increase taxes on all taxpayers that earn more than $250,000. The majority of the burden for this $637 billion tax increase will be borne by small businesses that pay taxes as individuals. Small businesses create 60 to 80 percent of all new jobs in America. These new taxes will stifle job creation and economic growth in the midst of a recession.

Taxing Energy Consumers: The budget also proposes to raise taxes by $646 billion on consumers of oil, coal, and natural gas through a complicated “cap and tax” program that will increase the cost of energy for every American. These carbon-based fuels provide about 85% of all energy output in the U.S. This new tax will increase the cost of energy by up to $3,128 per household annually, taking more money out of the pockets of hard working families struggling to pay their bills each month.

Taxing Investors Part I: Under the President’s budget, taxes on capital gains and dividends would increase from 15 to 20 percent, increasing taxes on investors by $338 billion over ten years. These taxes would directly affect investors and shareholders, including many 401k holders and pension funds, most impacted by the declining stock market and would further discourage investments during a time when new investments are essential to jumpstarting our economy.

Taxing Charitable Giving: The budget also caps the value of itemized deductions at 28% for those with an income over $250,000 (married) and $200,000 (single), which will reduce charitable giving by $9 billion a year. The current economic crisis has severely damaged charitable organization’s ability to provide for people who are most affected by the recession, and the budget would leave these charities with at least a $9 billion deficit.

Taxing Death: The budget reinstates the death tax scheduled to be fully repealed in 2010. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, the death tax has “broad economic effects” and one study has found that the death tax is responsible for lowering overall employment by 1.5 million jobs.

Taxing Investors Part II: The budget would more than double taxes on carried interest, increasing taxes up from the capital gains rate (15%) to the income tax rate (35%). Carried interest is interest gained on profits from investments and is generally used to pay investment fund managers based on the fund’s performance for investors. This tax hike is yet another attack on profit, private equities, and investments in the middle of a recession.

High taxes and big spending is not good for business, and therefore not good for job growth. I predict double-digit unemployment (around 12%) by year’s end as a result of this socialist budget.

Already, Gateway Pundit is reporting that Caterpillar has laid off 2,454 employees, with more layoffs on the way. Hot Air has video on the layoffs here: Obama saying that his bailout will reduce layoffs, and the CEO saying that the bailout will not prevent layoffs.

Ooops.