August 20, 2010
(RNS) -- An atheist foundation that seeks to foster charitable giving among nonbelievers is encouraging members to donate to a religious charity -- and the move is stirring mixed feelings among members.
Foundation Beyond Belief, a nonprofit headquartered in Georgia, has designated London-based Quaker Peace & Social Witness as one of 10 charities its members will support this quarter.
"Reactions in the nontheist community have ranged from applause to gasps of dismay," said secular humanist Dale McGowan, executive director of the foundation, in a statement.
"Atheists are rightly concerned that many religious charities use their charities to evangelize their worldview. But others do outstanding work without proselytizing, and Foundation Beyond Belief is proud to support that."
Helen Drewery, general secretary of the department of Quakers in Britain, said her organization appreciates the additional support.
"We're happy to accept money from those who feel that it's valuable work and they are willing to get alongside it by funding it," she said.
"We don't pretend to be an atheist organization although, ... we do have people that would describe themselves as nontheists amongst our number here in Britain."
She said the funding will help peace projects such as training Kenyans in nonviolent political expression and strengthening nonviolence in South Asia.
McGowan said two members have quit since the group announced plans to include the Quaker charity, which shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947 with another Quaker group, the American Friends Service Committee.
More than two dozen new members have joined, however.
According to its website, the Foundation Beyond Belief has 562 members and has raised $46,985 since it began in January.