Atheists Set Up 'Religion-Free' Fund for Haiti Relief

Famed New Atheist Richard Dawkins has opened up a "religion-free" way of helping the victims of the deadly earthquake in Haiti.

Dawkins has joined 13 other groups to create the Non-Believers Giving Aid. Donors are told that when they give they are "helping to counter the scandalous myth that only the religious care about their fellow-humans."

"[W]e do not hide behind the notion that earthly suffering will be rewarded in a heavenly paradise, nor do we expect a heavenly reward for our generosity: the understanding that this is the only life any of us have makes the need to alleviate suffering even more urgent," the atheist and freethought groups say.

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The Non-Believers Giving Aid was set up in response to the devastation from Tuesday's 7.0-magnitude quake that left more than three million people in need of aid. Current estimates place the death toll between 50,000 to 100,000 people.

The atheists' appeal comes amid an increasing number of ad campaigns, books and debates touting morality or goodness without God.

The New Atheists, who are more outspoken than previous humanists and non-theists and endeavor to make belief in God socially unacceptable, have widely put out writings and oral arguments making the case that one can live a good moral life and know right from wrong without God.

Creating a fund for Haiti victims is just one several ways they are demonstrating their point.

"Non-Believers Giving Aid is not a church (that's putting it mildly) but it does provide an easy conduit for the non-religious to help those in desperate need, whilst simultaneously giving the lie to the canard that you need God to be good," the groups behind the fund maintain.

Though adamant in their argument, New Atheists have provided no objective foundation for their belief, says Chad Meister, director of philosophy at Bethel College and contributor to God is Great, God is Good: Why Believing in God is Reasonable and Responsible.

"No one is arguing that atheists cannot utter ethical statements or live good, moral lives. Of course they can," Meister writes in God is Great. "Believing that something is right or wrong and justifying one's belief that something is right or wrong are two very different matters."

He argues that the New Atheists confuse an epistemic (knowledge) issue with an ontological (foundational existence) one, or in other words, they believe in morality without justifying morality.

Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, has argued that moral action is rooted in biological evolution.

"On Dawkins's schema, one is kind to his neighbor because he's been preprogrammed by his genes to do so (at least some individuals have been so preprogrammed; others perhaps not), and he's been so programmed because acting this way confers evolutionary advantage," Meister summarizes. "It's not that it is a universally binding moral value to be kind. We simply call it 'morally good' because our genes have, through eons of evolutionary struggle, gotten us to believe that it is so."

Meister goes on to note that he has several friends who adopted children and he doesn't suspect they would agree with Dawkins's explanation for why they did so.

"In order to have a consistent and reasonable objective moral stand – a moral view in which you can substantiate a claim that this is right and that is wrong, this is good and that is evil – you need to have an objective moral basis," Meister argues. "I don't see how one can have an objective lawgiver with anything other than a transcendent God. Surely from the physical perturbations of the big bang, moral values didn't spew forth.

"And indeed nothing in biological evolution ... is capable of providing the foundation necessary to ground unconditionally binding moral values" such as compassion, dignity and respect.

The Non-Believers Giving Aid participants include Atheist Alliance International, Atheists Helping the Homeless, Atheists United, The British Humanist Association, and The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, among others. Dawkins has vowed to cover up to $10,000 in PayPal fees so that 100 percent of donations could reach Haitians in need. The groups have chosen to direct donations to two aid organizations "that do not have religious affiliations" – Doctors Without Borders and International Red Cross.

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