Skeptics with a K: Episode #107

Flowers, travel sickness, food banks and the European Union. Plus Julius Caesar, the abolition of Income Tax and the return of Question of the Week! Though Mike is still in Texas, it is Skeptics with a K.

Question of the Week

On the assumption that donating to a food bank is a Good Thing, should we donate to Christian food banks in the absence of a secular alternative? Is it okay for the church to use donating products as a tool to proselytise? What about corporate food banks? Answer in the comments below.

  1. #1 by Sara on October 3, 2013 - 15:52

    When I was a Christian, if I had been asked if I’d give to an atheist-run charity, I would have said yes. The good work is worth it, and I still kind of have this vestigial, self-flagellating protestant in me that says “who cares if someone else gets credit, you know it’s right.” However, it is a little trickier to me now – the church can do good, but it can also be really toxic. Maybe you guys can help organize a secular food bank?

  2. #2 by Devonian on October 3, 2013 - 19:52

    Co-operative and Sainsbury’s also have food collection boxes in their stores.

  3. #3 by Murff on October 4, 2013 - 01:40

    Hard to answer, but I wouldn’t. Although the desire might be to help people locally, a hungry family is just as hungry no matter where they live, so I would donate online with a secular charity.

    Hope Mike is enjoying Texas, it’s really not bad at all.

    Also, I wanna thank you guys for all the work you are about to be doing for QED. QED 2013 was my first conference, and it was awesome!

  4. #5 by Chay on October 4, 2013 - 10:25

    My wife was in a similar quandary with those shoe boxes full of small toys and books that people make up and then donate for third world charities. They seem like a good idea and she has done them in the past, but recently they seem only to be organised by very strongly Christian groups who I think add their own propaganda to the boxes. It’s a tricky one although for a 4 year old child a soft cuddily toy and a pamphlet on Jesus might be better than no cuddily toy? :/ Wow, now I’m depressed.

  5. #6 by Olov Livendahl on October 4, 2013 - 22:31

    I agree that you should organize a secular food bank – which is easier said than done, of course. However, if you split the work between yourselves and the local humanists and maybeother secular organisations, then perhaps it’s possible?

    Now on to more important issues: It’s good to hear that Colin is playing Alpha Centauri, arguably the best computer game ever made. Makes me want to get better at modding so I could make a Merseyside Skeptics faction for you to play. If you want mods and patches (with bug fixes and stuff) you’re welcome to join us at . 🙂

  6. #7 by Chris Basten on October 5, 2013 - 01:40

    I’d donate through the church but write on the food packet that “This item was donated by an atheist.”

  7. #8 by Chris Basten on October 5, 2013 - 01:41

    Listening in Sydney. Cheers

  8. #9 by Julia on October 5, 2013 - 19:03 supplied me this fact: “Of Food Bank Partner Agencies, 71% of pantries and 37% of the soup kitchens are run by faith-based agencies.”

  9. #10 by Declan on October 5, 2013 - 21:13

    I agree with Colin – the worst that’s likely to happen is the food will be accompanied by a leaflet that few people will heed anyway. My local church do a lot of community work, some of which I directly benefit from. There’s no secular equivalent to much of the work they do.

    Tesco, on the other hand, can suck my cock.

  10. #11 by Arthur Foxake on October 12, 2013 - 18:25

    Does a hungry child care if the meal cam from an athiest via a church charity or from a christian via a ‘secular’ charity?
    You self righteous posers are not sceptical at all are you, your minds seem to be made up and tightly closed on every issue.

    Declan, you’ve more chance of getting a BJ off the chief fairy.

  11. #12 by Rich on October 17, 2013 - 03:30

    I would prefer my donations are funneled via a group that are not agenda driven. So I will seek out secular charities that appear to spend money wisely. That said, giving money must be a better way to give, buying food to get the charity to redistribute is inefficient. Better that the charity buys in bulk at a cheaper price.

  12. #13 by John on October 22, 2013 - 12:46

    I found the position taken on the podcast to be quite strange. Yes, it’d be better if the food was not going to be accompanied by a message with which you do not agree, but surely second best choice is that the food makes it where it is needed accompanied by the message. Having no food at all is surely worse than food with a message that you don’t ike much.

  13. #14 by Mike Hall on October 22, 2013 - 15:07

    Did you listen to the same show I did, John? 🙂 The position on the show (at least from me) was that I would try to find a secular alternative, but if one were not available then I would donate via the church.

    That seems to be the same position you’re advocating to me?

  14. #15 by maddi on October 30, 2013 - 13:05

    George Orwell wrote about this in “Down & Out in Paris and London”…….. the worrying thing for me is the lack of dignity permitted to poorer people. Attaching religion to generosity to the poor implies all sorts of awkward ideas, for example that they are poor through lack of morals, or that compassion only comes from those with religious faith. It also raises questions about the principle of “charity”, about making the givers feel good, and true generosity which does not judge. If the only option was faith groups, then maybe the argument that better that than nothing would stand. As it is, I would give money to secular charities to not just buy food, but campaign on the causes of poverty and uneven wealth distribution

  15. #16 by Ian on June 9, 2014 - 11:56

    I wouldn’t give food to a food bank at all. I’ve heard one of the Ottawa Skeptics make a very good case for this being actually a pretty terrible use of your resources. Instead, he argues, you should just give the money you would have spent on the food, as then the food charities not only don’t have to deal with the difficult and costly logistics of getting that can of beans from you to whoever needs it (lowering their operating costs and general headache), they can actually buy food in bulk at a rate much better in units of food per unit of currency spent than you could ever hope for.

    And then you don’t have to worry about this question at all, since money can be easily donated to secular charities online, enabling you to do much more good with no extra fuss.

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