© Glendon Mellow, The Flying Trilobite

Introducing…Foundation Beyond Belief

Being a humanist means trying to behave decently without expectation of rewards or punishment after you are dead.Kurt Vonnegut

I don’t give as much as I’d like to the causes I care about. I consider myself a pretty generous guy, and when I give, I give generously. But I get to the end of each year and realize that I just haven’t given as much as I wish I had. Again.

Another thing: When religious folks give through religious charities and churches, it registers as an expression of their worldview. I want that too. I want my contributions to “count” as a visible expression of my secular humanism.

Then there’s this: Multiple solid surveys by philanthropic research organizations like Independent Sector and the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey1 show that churchgoers give a much greater percentage of their income to charitable causes than non-churchgoers like me. Arthur C. Brooks (author of Who Really Cares) is pretty sure he’s got my number: he says it’s “evidence of a gap in everyday virtue” (p. 40) between the religious and nonreligious.

I think he’s missing something obvious. If people in Group A are asked to pass a plate full of the generous donations of their friends and neighbors and either add to it or not, 52 times a year, while people in Group B have no such regular and public nudge — I’d say something other than virtue is in play.

offer5400I think the difference has much more to do with whether or not you have systematic opportunities for giving than some “gap in virtue.” I speak at Unitarian fellowships and Ethical Societies all the time, places brimming with friendly atheists. And when that offering plate passes by, I give, and so do they, knowing that these places will use it to do some good.

The offering plate is also passing through a million mainstream church pews every Sunday, giving the religious an easy and regular way to give and to combine their giving with others as a positive collective expression of their worldview.

I don’t agree with those who insist religious people give primarily out of fear or guilt. That may be in the mix, but most I know give because they are challenged and encouraged to do so, because generosity feels wonderful, and because the habit of giving turns giving into a habit.

I want to do better. It’s time for those of us who are otherwise engaged on Sunday mornings to have our own easy and regular means of giving, one that focuses and encourages humanistic generosity and demonstrates it to the world.

Welcome to Foundation Beyond Belief.

> what it is

FBBlogoFoundation Beyond Belief is a new charitable and educational foundation created (1) to focus, encourage and demonstrate humanistic generosity, and (2) to support a nationwide nonreligious parent education program.

The Foundation will highlight ten charitable organizations per quarter–one in each of ten areas (health, poverty, environment, education, human rights, and more). Members join the Foundation by signing up for a monthly automatic donation in the amount of their choice, then set up personal profiles to indicate how they would like their contribution distributed among the ten categories. Maybe you’d like to give 25 percent each to human rights, poverty, education, and the environment. We’ll distribute it accordingly. By year’s end, you will have helped support a dozen organizations in the areas you care most about.

The centerpiece of the Foundation will be a lively online community. Active members can join a social network and discussion forums centered on the ten categories of giving, upload videos, recruit new members, advocate for causes and help us choose the new beneficiaries each quarter. We’ll also create and host a multi-author blog of world-class contributors focused on the cause areas, as well as humanism, philanthropy, and the intersection of the two.

Carefully selected for impact and efficiency, the beneficiaries may be founded on any worldview so long as they do not engage in proselytizing. At the end of each quarter, 100 percent of the donations will be forwarded and a new slate of beneficiaries selected.

On the educational side, the Foundation will build the next stage in nonreligious parent education—a nationwide training program for parenting seminar leaders. We plan to have 30-40 people teaching nonreligious parenting seminars in cities across the country within a year.

We’ve begun assembling a stellar cast to guide the Foundation through its infancy. The Board of Directors includes Hemant Mehta (author, Friendly Atheist blogger, Secular Student Alliance board chair), Dr. Wayne Huey (ethicist, educator, author, former Georgia and U.S. High School Counselor of the Year), Trish Hotze Cowan (Sunday School Director, Ethical Society of St. Louis), and executive director Dale McGowan. (That’s me.)

The Foundation will launch in two stages. On October 1 we’ll unveil the pre-launch website, where members can begin setting up profiles and basic donations. On January 1, 2010, we will launch the full site, including the ten featured causes, all profile options, blog, social networking, and the means for members to select and change their preferred distributions.

We’re making no little plans here, and there’s the potential to do something pretty earthshaking. But this is a community thing, or it’s nothing. We’ll need your help.

> what you can do now

There are two ways to stay in the loop as we work toward the Foundation’s partial launch in October and full launch in January:

Facebook users: Click here to join the Foundation Beyond Belief group on Facebook Causes. No donation required — just keeping yourself in the loop.

Non-Facebookers: Click here to put your email on our mailing list.

Either way, sign up and we’ll keep you informed as it takes shape.

1And the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, and the American Community Survey of the U.S. Census…the list goes on. The facts themselves are not in doubt.



This was written on Sunday, 31. May 2009 at 23:25 and was filed under action, Foundation Beyond Belief, meaning and purpose, morality, nonbelief and nonbelievers, Parenting, values. You can keep up with the comments to this article by using the RSS-Feed.

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Comments »

  1. Wonderful, Dale. I love that it’s not just about donating, but it’s also about interacting. I will be joining!

    Comment: Kelly – 01. June 2009 @ 7:47 am

  2. That is awesome Dale! I really like this idea and hope it takes off big time.

    One idea I would suggest (take it for what it’s worth) is to get yourself on the list of charities given too by the US government’s Combined Federal Campaign. I know, after being in the military and seeing the information and giving every year, I saw way too many religious charities that were available (most of them proselytizing ones) for gov’t employees to give to through the CFC. They could use more organizations like this.

    Comment: jcornelius – 01. June 2009 @ 8:23 am

  3. What a wonderful idea, Dale. Thanks once again for your inspiration and dedication.

    Comment: maxandgraysmom – 01. June 2009 @ 9:53 am

  4. I’m so excited about this, Dale! Can’t wait to get started. Thanks so much for all your hard work in setting this up. Are you going to have a mechanism that lets members suggest charities to support?

    Comment: kjcwright – 01. June 2009 @ 10:09 am

  5. So what was the big news you were going to announce today? 😉

    This sounds absolutely wonderful. Count me in.

    Comment: Ryan – 01. June 2009 @ 10:34 am

  6. Thanks everybody! Always nice to hear that my own enthusiasm isn’t misplaced.

    Are you going to have a mechanism that lets members suggest charities to support?

    Yes indeed. Input from an informed and engaged community is going to be central to it. The Board will choose the first slate for Jan 1 to give a good sample of what we’re generally shooting for (in type, size, variety, etc). Interested members will then spend the next three months discussing, learning about, suggesting, and promoting beneficiaries for the next quarter. The Board will take that input, add their own, and choose the next slate for April 1. And so on.

    Comment: Dale – 01. June 2009 @ 10:42 am

  7. Amazing, Dale!


    Comment: Glendon Mellow – 01. June 2009 @ 6:10 pm

  8. […] we aren’t generous.  It’s just that there’s not a systematic way to give.  So Dale McGowan, author of Parenting Beyond Belief is starting Foundation Beyond Belief, along with Friendly Atheist Hemant Mehta (who has linked to […]

    Pingback: Foundation Beyond Belief – 02. June 2009 @ 12:23 am

  9. Great article and keep up the great job blogging! WOW. Nice written instructions.

    Comment: dreamhello – 02. June 2009 @ 2:30 am

  10. get yourself on the list of charities given to by the US government’s Combined Federal Campaign.

    Brilliant, thanks Jeff. Please remind me of this when I forget.

    Comment: Dale – 02. June 2009 @ 9:39 am

  11. […] big news this week is that the folks at Parenting Beyond Belief have put together a non-profit organization specifically for atheists, agnostics, and humanists […]

    Pingback: Foundation Beyond Belief « SCIENCE-BASED PARENTING – 02. June 2009 @ 7:50 pm

  12. […] do humanistic community better than we do, and that we can and should fix that. Then in my first announcement about Foundation Beyond Belief, I pointed to the statistical fact that the average individual religious believer gives more to […]

    Pingback: The Meming of Life » Unsilos (Can You Hear Me Now? 4) Parenting Beyond Belief on secular parenting and other natural wonders – 27. October 2009 @ 1:01 pm

  13. […] causes. Imagine if we had a way to encourage generosity that is specifically not based in religion.A solution is coming.I’m thrilled to help my friend Dale launch Foundation Beyond Belief. This is his brainchild […]

    Pingback: Foundation Beyond Belief Launched! – 06. October 2012 @ 9:07 pm

  14. […] Beyond Belief, the humanist giving community I first announced on this blog, is continuing to grow. We now have over 1,300 contributing members and have raised over […]

    Pingback: The Meming of Life » Are you a generous humanist? Parenting Beyond Belief on secular parenting and other natural wonders – 05. March 2013 @ 3:51 pm

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