Posts Tagged “charity”

The Caneel Bay resort on St. John was heavily damaged. Credit: Hilary Swift for The New York TimesNote: There’s a little more news, since I posted this, about how the president feels about Puerto Rico; see below.

I apologize for another off-topic post, but something really fucking needs to be done. The Groper-in-Chief administration’s latest petulant and childish whine about how the media cover their response to Hurricane Maria’s demolition of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands is just too fucking much (Archive.Is cached article).

First of all, let’s be clear about this. Contrary to what nearly half of Americans think, Puerto Rico is part of the United States (cached). It, and some of the Virgin Islands (St Croix, St John, St Thomas, and some smaller islands and islets) are US territories, and their residents are US citizens … every bit as much as those who live in the 50 states. That the land they live on isn’t in a “state” does not make them any less American. That’s just how it is.

Second, El Morro Castle, Puerto RicoPuerto Rico was particularly hard-hit by Hurricane Maria (cached), and so too were the Virgin Islands to the east, with St John having been whacked by Hurricane Irma previously (cached). They’ve been devastated.

Their local governments, obviously, have been wrecked along with homes and businesses, leaving them unable to render much aid to their own citizens. The federal government has responded, but in lackluster fashion. They’ve blamed damage to ports and airports for their inability to assist, and those certainly haven’t helped, but it’s taken a long time just to begin moving ships into place to render assistance from offshore (via helicopters and small craft). The USNS Comfort can help take the load off island hospitals, but it was only given orders to leave on Tuesday and it will take several more days to reach the islands and begin its relief operation. The GiC himself has been much more concerned with NFL players and being angry that his chosen candidate in the Alabama Senate primary lost, than he has about the hurricane response.

Full disclosure: USVI St. Thomas Charlotte Amalie Fort ChristianI’ve been to Puerto Rico several times, and the Virgin Islands a couple as well. I’ve enjoyed them all. They’re incredible places to go. They deserve much better — and much more — assistance than they’ve gotten so far. I urge you to help out in any way you can, and as much as you can. As I did with Hurricane Harvey 3 weeks ago, I’m providing a list of charities, followed by articles making further suggestions:

Many other viable options can be found at the following:

The Apricot Wonder and his minions might not think much of Americans in the Caribbean, but they do need our help. Let’s all provide it.

Update: This morning (9/30/2017) the Groper-in-Chief unleashed yet another of his infantile Twitter rants about how terrible the Puerto Ricans are, especially San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz (cached). She’s criticizing him, you see, not because his minions have failed her island, but because Democrats forced her to. And Puerto Ricans are nothing more than lazy good-for-nothings, lounging around waiting for a federal handout instead of fixing their own island. He apparently is not aware that Puerto Rico was wrecked by Hurricane Maria and its infrastructure demolished. There are very good reasons they need outside intervention. Now, for the love of all that’s holy, can we please impose a media moratorium on the Apricot Wonder’s tweet-tantrums?

Photo credit: Top, Hilary Swift/New York Times; middle, Wikimedia Commons; bottom, also Wikimedia Commons.

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Missionaries of Charity Mother HouseThe canonization of Mother Teresa has been brewing since her death in the late 1990s. The Pope at the time, John Paul II, had been a serious fan of hers, and greased the skids so as to speed up her sainthood — something that usually takes decades, if not centuries. He arranged for her beatification (the first step in the process) in 2003, and many in the Vatican have worked hard since then to get her sainted. As the Religion News Service reports, she is now “Saint Teresa of Calcutta” (WebCite cached article):

Mother Teresa, the tiny nun who devoted her life to the poor, was declared a saint by Pope Francis at the Vatican as he celebrated her “daring and courage” and described her as a role model for all in his year of mercy.

At least 120,000 people crowded a sun-drenched St. Peter’s Square for the canonization of the acclaimed nun who may have worked in the slums of Kolkata but was a force to be reckoned with by political and religious leaders around the world.

Mother Teresa’s reputation for charity goes beyond just the Catholic Church, largely thanks to her having won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. But the reality of her work doesn’t support this reputation. She’s been accused of not having actually helped all the ailing in her “hospital,” due to her devotion to the idea that it’s actually good for people to suffer (good for them, and for humanity as a whole).

Among her critics was the late British journalist Christopher Hitchens, who hosted a documentary and wrote a book explaining that her charitable reputation was undeserved. You can watch that documentary, Hell’s Angel, right here:

But for many fans of Mother Teresa, particularly devout Catholics, wouldn’t accept anything Hitchens had to say about her; after all, he was one of those horrific “New Atheists” and isn’t to be listened to. But she had other critics, including Dr Aroup Chatterjee, who’d worked for her clinic for a time (cached), and a team of Canadian academics, whose review of her work concluded she was “anything but a saint” (cached). None of those folks has any anti-Catholic or anti-religious axe to grind. So their criticisms should get some attention … even if they weren’t enough to prevent her canonization.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Mother TeresaDuring the height of her popularity in the 1980s — in the wake of her having won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 — Mother Teresa was arguably the most famous Roman Catholic on earth (rivalled only by Pope John Paul II). In 1995, when the late Christopher Hitchens penned a book critical of her called The Missionary Position, it seemed to have come out of nowhere.

In spite of some favorable literary reviews of his book, Hitchens was widely excoriated for having dared take on a poor, frail old woman who was viewed, by most people, as a living saint. The book was frequently dismissed as a product of Hitchens’s presumed irrational hatred of all things Catholic, and not as the product of research into what she’d actually been up to, backed up by primary-source material.

Well, nearly 2 decades later, it seems Hitchens hadn’t really been that far off target. The (UK) Independent reports that some academics have assessed Mother Teresa’s career, and agree she wasn’t much of a champion of the poor and the sick (WebCite cached article):

The late Mother Teresa’s saintly image has been called into question by researchers conducting an in-depth study of her life.

Mother Teresa may have spent the vast majority of her 87 years looking after the sick and poor, but researchers from Montreal and Ottawa universities have now raised questions over the ‘dubious’ nature of her care, as well querying her “questionable” political contacts.…

Writing in the Journal of Studies in Religion/Sciences after analysing around 300 documents surrounding Mother Teresa’s life, Dr Serge Larivie and Dr Genevieve Chenard say they have uncovered details that compromise the Albanian-born nun’s saintly image.

They claim that many of the ‘missions’ set up by Mother Teresa were unfit for their inhabitants, calling them ‘homes for the dying’ due to their poor hygiene and a shortage of food, care and medication.

The researchers believe a lack of money cannot be the reason for the poor conditions however, as Mother Teresa raised hundreds of millions of pounds during her lifetime, although much of that money apparently appears to have vanished into several ‘secret’ bank accounts reportedly kept by the nun.

The researchers also questioned why, despite openly offering prayers and medallions bearing depictions of the Virgin Mary, Mother Teresa provided no direct or monetary aid to victims of a number of natural disasters in India.

Dr Larivie says: “Given the parsimonious management of Mother Teresa’s works, one may ask where the millions of dollars for the poorest of the poor have gone?”

The researchers went on to query Mother Teresa’s politics and political contacts, accusing her of accepting a financial grant from the brutal Duvalier dictatorship, which is deemed responsible for the murders of over 30,000 Haitians between 1957 and 1986.

But Mother Teresa had more political allies other than brutish tyrants like François and “Baby Doc” Duvalier; infamous banking swindler Charles Keating was also among her associates. Yeah, those were the sorts of people she made time for, and counted as her friends and supporters. Yuck.

I suspect these findings won’t rehabilitate Hitchens in the eyes of those who despised him. I also suspect they won’t convince Mother Teresa’s devout Catholic admirers into rethinking their devotion to her. They will, instead, dismiss them as the product of the Evil Secularist Elite that supposedly infests higher education in North America. (As though there’s no such thing as a conservative or religionistic college anywhere to be found.) After all … why put up with inconvenient facts, when you can rationalize some way to ignore them?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Haiti Port-au-Prince séisme 15/01/10
Creative Commons License Photo credit: Planete Vivante

It’s easy for me to laugh about the delusional Marion “Pat” Robertson and his insulting, ignorant remarks about Haiti (which I blogged about, which he stands by, and which have been defended by others). What’s much harder is to decide what to actually do about this horrifically devastating earthquake. Charities are easy to find, but charitable efficiency … i.e. the amount of money directly spent on the cause being supported … can be elusive. Whole Web sites (such as this one and this one) are devoted to measuring this.

Adding to this is the consideration that a lot of charities are religious, and donating to them will add to the coffers of religious causes; as a non-believer, I’d like to find somewhere less religious, and more humanistic, to give my money to.

Well, famous atheist Richard Dawkins has come along with a solution to this dilemma: Non-Believers Giving Aid. He has selected as beneficiaries two organizations, the International Red Cross, and Doctors Without Borders. This page will allow you to donate to these as you wish, using PayPal. The great part of this is, all of your donation will go to the charity/ies you designate, since Richard will pay the PayPal fees (up to $10,000).

I urge everyone reading this to donate as much as s/he can. I urge non-believers to take advantage of Richard’s page to do so. Religious folks, donate as your conscience dictates … either there or to some other organization, so long as you’re sure the money will get to Haiti.

P.S. The White House Web site and numerous media articles and ads are telling people to donate using their cell phones to send a particular text message to a particular number, which will bill them for a donation to Haiti. I suggest not doing this, but donating directly to a charity … it’s not clear the money will be used for relief very quickly. (No, I’m not saying this isn’t a valid way to donate — it is! — rather, I’m suggesting it might not be an optimal way to donate.)

P.P.S. I hope this puts the lie to frequent accusations by theists, that non-believers are amoral, selfish, and greedy.

Hat tip: Numerous sources (Pharyngula, iReligion forum, Unreasonable Faith, American Atheists, Atheist News, British Humanist Association, and many more). It’s nice to see freethinkers around the globe are pulling together on this.

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The Religious Right loves to hold itself out as the sole arbiter of morality in a world full of increasing hedonism and selfishness, fostered (of course) by evil secularists trying to “push God out of the ‘public square’.” Unfortunately for them, however, it turns out that their own morality is a bit specious. Christianity Today offers an article about a book published last month about charity among Christians in the US. The picture is not a good one:

This could be the worst moment in our lifetimes to discover that American Christians give away relatively little of their money.

The economy is in the midst of the worst downturn in at least 17 years and the most serious U.S. banking crisis in at least 20. It has the potential to be as painful as the Great Depression. Banks are failing. Workers are losing their jobs. Homeowners are losing their homes. …

More than one out of four American Protestants give away no money at all—“not even a token $5 per year,” say sociologists Christian Smith, Michael Emerson, and Patricia Snell in a new study on Christian giving, Passing the Plate (Oxford University Press). …

American Christians’ lack of generosity might not be as shocking if it didn’t contrast so starkly with their astounding wealth. Passing the Plate’s researchers say committed American Christians—those who say their faith is very important to them and those who attend church at least twice a month—earn more than $2.5 trillion dollars every year. On their own, these Christians could be admitted to the G7, the group of the world’s seven largest economies. Smith and his coauthors estimate that if these Christians gave away 10 percent of their after-tax earnings, they would add another $46 billion to ministry around the world.

Wow. That’s a damned lot of uncharitability! More to the point, however, is that it’s the wealthiest of these American Christians who turn out to be the stingiest:

In addition, America’s biggest givers—as a percentage of their income—are its lowest income earners. The widow who gave out of her poverty rather than her wealth (Mark 12:42; Luke 21:1-4) has a lot of company, it seems. …

“Americans who earn less than $10,000 gave 2.3 percent of their income to religious organizations,” Smith, Emerson, and Snell write, “whereas those who earn $70,000 or more gave only 1.2 percent.” While the actual percentages are slightly higher for Christians who regularly attend church, the pattern is similar. Households of committed Christians making less than $12,500 per year give away roughly 7 percent of their income, a figure no other income bracket beats until incomes rise above $90,000 (they give away 8.8 percent).

In fact, in absolute terms, the poorest Christians give away more dollars than all but the wealthiest Christians.

Guess these folks are spending too much of their time complaining about “wealth redistribution” to worry about being charitable themselves.

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