When people find out I’m an atheist it often results in a small discussion about religion in general and my beliefs in particular that at one point or another inevitably gets around to a common question: “Even if it turns out there are no Gods what harm is there in believing?” One of the answers I give to that question is the simple fact that religious belief results in massive amounts of hours and money being wasted on a pointless pursuit.
Take for example the fact that religious organizations swallowed up almost a third of all charitable donations last year:
According to Giving USA Foundation Americans donated $295 billion in charitable contributions in 2006. About $97 billion went to religious organizations—that is just a shade under one third of all charitable gifts. Last year, Americans gave $93 billion to religion.
Education was a distant second, receiving $41 billion (13.9 percent). Human Services received $29.6 billion (roughly 10 percent). Public-society benefit received $21.41 billion (7.3 percent) and health received $20.22 billion (6.9 percent). Arts, culture and humanities received $12.5 billion (4.2 percent) of the total, while the environment and animals received a total of $6.6 billion (2.2 percent).
Presumably the vast majority, if not all, of that $97 billion was tax free. Sure some of it goes to support programs set up and run by various religious organizations that are designed to help out the poor and disadvantaged, but a good chunk of it went to supporting the organizations and churches themselves. Not to mention more than a few lavish lifestyles led by some of religion’s biggest church leaders. That’s a lot of money spent on the pursuit of a comforting delusion. Imagine how much benefit could be derived if that money was given to programs that aren’t out to deliver a heaping of Jesus with their helping hand. For that matter, imagine how much better off some folks with limited incomes would be if they weren’t ponying up to some Evangelical preacher in hopes of winning Jesus’ favor.