By Caitlin Greenwood
6th Nov, 2015
Charity is often considered to be a specifically Christian virtue, which is a tradition dating back at least to Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas stated that charity was the love between god and man, and between man and his neighbour. The 1822 New Catholic Catechism reaffirmed this: “Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbour as ourselves for the love of God”. While some other Christian traditions have defined charity in a more restricted way, better reflecting the modern definition, they are in a somewhat of a minority worldwide.
The origin, then, of “Christian charity” seems to be a conflation of a specific theological term, with a more generally used definition. But what of all those Victorian philanthropists, wasn’t their charity directed by Christian morals? Andrew Carnegie, perhaps the most famous philanthropist, was a member of a Presbyterian church, and surely he stands for so many others, too numerous to name? (Leaving aside, of course, the fact that Carnegie avoided theism for the first half of his life, and joined the church well after beginning his philanthropic efforts.)
Unfortunately, it is not quite so simple as all that. Simply wanting to do good does not mean one automatically does good. (more »)
By Martin Smith (Former AHS Secretary)
1st Sep, 2015
“There can be no progress without head – on confrontation.”
The AHS this year is delighted to be working in collaboration with the International Humanist Ethical Youth Organisation (IHEYO) to bring Non–Prophet Week onto the world stage. The 9th to 15th of November is this year’s Non–Prophet Week. IHEYO are calling it ‘Charity Week’. Why the name change you ask? Well, consider the effect of an international humanist group raising awareness and money for charity under the name of “Non–Prophet Week”. As many of you will be aware, blasphemy is punishable by death in many of the countries that immediately benefit from the AHS’ efforts during Non–Prophet Week. Indeed just a few weeks ago Niloy Neel was brutally murdered for “blasphemy” in Bangladesh.
Non–Prophet Week this year is even more essential because it is in a front line fight. You and I may take a (relatively) secular state for granted but we are the lucky ones.
The AHS’ chosen charity this year is GiveDirectly. You guessed it, GiveDirectly take money from donors and give it to the poor. They can do this because modern payments technology has drastically cut the costs of sending money directly to the extreme poor, at the same time as new research has shown the powerful effects this has on their lives. (more »)
By Richard Acton
13th Jul, 2015
On the interaction of Skepticism, feminism and other causes
Richard Acton, outgoing President of Nottingham ASH, has written a little on his considerations of scientific, sceptic and feminist cultures and the obstacles these groups may face in their interactions
In my admittedly limited experience of these two groups interacting, the skeptical community seems to have a slightly tense relationship with feminist groups. This is a little odd as humanists are natural allies of feminists as both want to see equality of opportunity irrespective of gender. It then occurred to me that this is not an issue limited to the interaction of skeptics with feminists but of skeptics with many different organisations, I have a hypothesis about what may be at least partly to blame for such slightly uncomfortable relationships.
The Skeptical community is dominated by people who ask tricky questions, challenge assumptions and demand substantiation of the answers. The skeptical community takes on board and seeks to live by the values of scientific culture; always asking, what do you think you know and how do you think you know it? This means that people in this community are desensitised to people, sometimes aggressively challenging their ideas. This is a very counterintuitive thing for people to get used to, to always be dissecting you own ideas, pushing at any weakness and resisting the urge to rationalise by for example rehearsing old arguments or double counting evidence. (more »)
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