Atheist Priorities in Fundraising

Consider two examples of crowdfunding projects aimed at atheists.

Just before the holidays, Secular Student Alliance announced that it would be matching funds donated to the Los Angeles-based Women’s Leadership Project. As stated on its Indiegogo page,

Women’s Leadership Project (WLP) fills a vacuum in a school district that has few programs that specifically address the intersection of sexism, racism, misogyny and heterosexism in the lives of young women of color. The program is designed to redress the normalized violence that young women of color encounter on a daily basis and has trained hundreds of 10-12th students to question and challenge the normalization of violence against women and advocate for safer school-communities.

a Japanese high school classroom

As the project is run by secular author and activist extraordinaire Sikivu Hutchinson, along with Diane Arellano, it has a heartily humanist bent to it. The campaign ended last night having raised just over its $1500 matching funds goal.

As one atheist-aimed project reached its end on January 6th, another had begun earlier in the day. This one was for Ryan J. Bell, the pastor who decided that, for 2014, he would try being an atheist in the sense that he would live as if there were no god. An interesting thought experiment, to be sure, but after the announcement of the experiment, the man lost his sources of income with his perhaps unsurprisingly irate Christian employers. A GoFundMe campaign was created in response which asked for $5000. By the end of its first day, it had raised  triple that amount.

When I re-posted the link to the WLP project last night, I got responses that attempted to explain why it didn’t garner as much attention and raise as much money as the fundraiser for Ryan J. Bell. There were the “well, what did you expect?/Welcome to reality where page views and click-bait rule” type; these express a sense of capitulation and resignation to the status quo that I do not share. However, most of them were more along the lines of “Oh, I never heard of this so it must not have been promoted enough.”

I am not suggesting that the disparity was on purpose on the part of anyone involved. I am not suggesting that anyone promoting one fundraiser and/or not promoting the other is an evil, awful person in any way. I doubt that anyone deliberately looked at the one and then the other and said “meh, those lower-income female students of color can fend for themselves, I’m going to give my money to a white male Christian.”

Ryan J. Bell

That’s precisely the problem. So many of us don’t critically examine to what we pay attention and why, to whom we give our money and why, of what sort of news we keep abreast and why, about what we find out and why. We fail to recognize the disturbing patterns indicating structural injustices that emerge when we consider all the factors at hand and how these sorts of situations play out.

Obviously, fundraising isn’t a zero-sum game. There is more than one cause in the world that is worthy of attention and money. As someone who has suffered financially as a result of religion, I don’t begrudge Mr. Bell the money he will need as he figures out what to do in this brutal American economic climate. In the end, thankfully, WLP did exceed its matching funds goal.

Why do I bring this up?

One of my friends is a Christian minister and he jokes that every atheist in America must have at least 3 websites apiece. He is on-point in that we godless types tend to have strong Internet presences. It’s about time that we take a good, hard look at which causes and individuals we choose to follow, talk about, and promote using these platforms. Furthermore, given that atheists tend to be in the upper income bracket of society, it is also important to look at to whom we choose to give our money.

Atheist Priorities in Fundraising