The journey from there to here

Several years ago, my brother manned a suicide hotline. In the course of doing this, he would often refer troubled callers to the Covenant House for help.

About the same time, I was seriously considering giving a year's service to the Covenant House. I had received the paperwork and was looking it over and it was a topic of discussion among us (we were sharing a place at the time). One of the requirements of the Covenant House is that its volunteers must spend a specified amount of time in prayer each day.

My brother, who was probably best described as an agnostic at the time, was somewhat taken aback. He was disappointed to know that Covenant House was a Christian charity, and was seriously wrestling with the idea of referring callers to their services.

And while I am a Christian, I will concede his point to a degree. One of my hard wired beliefs is that nobody has done something so bad that they don't deserve a roof over their head or food in their belly. And I do not favor the idea that it is the federal government's responsibility to care for the poor and needy. I believe that the federal government only had to step in because the church, quite frankly, failed. And that the church should reclaim its responsibility. But I also understand why some people have an aversion to Christian based charities, and believe that that enmity should not be a barrier to them receiving the assistance they need.

That set me to wondering, very seriously, why secularists aren't more active in setting up charities. I won't say there are none, but there do not seem to be many, and they don't seem to be very visible. Certainly you don't find secular homeless shelters in  our inner cities. While thrift stores may not be religiously based, when they don't have a religious mission, they typically tend to be for-profit enterprises(a notable exception being those run by sheltered workshops). Even Goodwill Industries, while having little apparent connections to its early roots, was founded by a Methodist minister.

Many secularists I have known (not all, and, frankly, not even most) make a point of belittling Christians or people of other faiths precisely because of their faith. They say how much better the world would be without religion, ignoring how much religious orders have contributed to health care, education, and social services throughout history. And, more to the point, few secularists seem to be active in supporting secular organizations to make those contributions to society. And certainly the ones who whine the loudest about it do not contribute.

If secularists really believe the world would be better without religion, they should be more progessive in setting up charities. Until they put their money where their mouth is, though, their arguments ring more than a little hollow.

on May 23, 2008
I think there are some, but the problem is that secularists are not as organized as religious. And it is very difficult for an individual to set up any kind of outreach program solo.