Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lots of ways to help others this season!

The reason for the season? The tilt of the Earth! No doubt the reason so many cultures in the Northern Hemisphere turned this time into a period of lights and celebration was as a way to maintain hope for warmer weather to come, and to give people a reason to be happy, rather than scared, in these darker days when so much dies outside. Whether it's carnival parties that begin in Germany in November, the burning of a log to celebrate the Nordic God "Yule", the ritual lighting of candles, or the birth of a God in December - Dionysus or Jesus, depending on your religion or period on Earth - all the gift giving, singing and celebrating is a great way to cope with this dark, cold season for much of the Earth's population.

There is a misconception that only people of faith in the supernatural -- Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, etc. -- engage in acts of charity, donate to humanitarian causes, and volunteer at this time of year. But the reality is that many people who are not religious, and people who do not believe in God, engage in acts of charity, donate to humanitarian causes, and volunteer to help the environment, help children, promote the arts, help the elderly, etc. - year round, as well as this season specifically.

There's lots of ways you can volunteer now, in secular programs rather than religious ones. In addition, there are some terrific organizations that would welcome your donations, including:
  • Kiva, which helps fund people in developing countries to start micro-enterprises, so that they don't need aid money eventually. And note the number one donating group on Kiva: it's the "Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and the Non-Religious" group.
  • Bpeace, which helps fund and support people in Afghanistan and Rwanda to grow small businesses and employ more people.
  • CARE International, which is focused on giving access to education, employment, health care and nutrition.
  • Knowbility, a nonprofit based in Austin, Texas that promotes access to computer and Internet technology and related education for people with disabilities.
  • Goodwill, a national nonprofit with locations all over the USA that helps people trying to enter or re-enter the work place. Their thrift stores not only generate income to fund their training programs; they also provide a training ground for the people they are trying to help. Unlike the Salvation Army, the organization is secular and does not discriminate on the basis of religion or sexual orientation.
  • Join the Reddit atheist community in giving to Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres; the 2011 campaign has raised almost $200,000 for the organization.
  • Planned Parenthood.
  • Your nearest animal shelter, which is no doubt DESPERATE for funds right now.

Expect snarky comments from friends and family that believe in an invisible magical friend to say things like I think if I was an atheist I'd just figure what's the use? Lol, as someone did on my Facebook page recently. They don't understand why a human would be good to another human without a belief in an invisible magical friend who will reward you for your philanthropy, or punish you, after you die (great reasons to help - for gifts or out of fear. Whatever).

Maybe my desire to help is driven by evolution: humans prosper together, rather than singularly. Maybe my desire to help is driven by logic: the world is more peaceful and happy when people are content. All I know is that helping others makes the world a better place, and while I'm here on Earth, I'd like to enjoy my time here.

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