Ace magician Luís de Matos recently posted this photo on his facebook post (and David B brought it to my attention):


I think it is an interesting idea. Would it be good for charities to ask people to specify their religion when they make an online donation, and then show the results per head per religion? Do you think it would encourage people to give more?


  1. I don’t think it’s really fair, it depends on the area he’s begging in ie how many Buddhist’s pass by compared to Xstians? How many Jews will be passing him on a Saudi street?

    1. I think you’re taking this “study” too literally. Obviously this isn’t a sanctioned experiment, but rather a neat thought experiment that would leave anyone who had encountered this man with plenty to think about – both about the results, and their own participation.

      As for Buddhists vs. Xstians, I think we can safely assume what the relative concentrations are.

    2. I think this is a blatant attempt to benefit from the most zealous and competitive group more than which is more generous. (That being the case my money is on the Atheists.) If this were a study it would be done blind, without the parties involved knowing their involvement until the result. As it is this guy is going to get a lot of donations, but not a lot of data, which really is all he cares about I’m thinking.

  2. Gamification for the win! I think it could encourage people to give more, but only in some situations, like if a persons favourite religion looked like it might be able to catch up with the next most donated.

    Of course, atheists and the generally unrelgious will love it, because it’ll show quite clearly how much more giving they are comapred to their ‘compassionate’ clasically relgious bretheren, and that’s a big thing for atheists (because of the silly perception that they are just selfish, uncaring headonists).

    The actual collected data would only be interesting if it were aggregated over a number of charities in a large number of regions. As Steve says, it’s subject to more bias than you can shake a stick at if you just set up stall like the guy in the photo.

    Great idea though 🙂

  3. I think it would be rather inconclusive. There’s just too much variation amongst the ideology of people let alone people from each religious groups. Some people are more connected to their religion whilst others are just aren’t.

    Food for thought though. From a Christian standpoint, “If all Christians acted like Christ, the whole world would be Christian.” Mahatma Gandhi and there simply wouldn’t be guys like this.

    Go Figure.

    1. The question isn’t whether this is a good experiment or we can trust the results, the question is whether this works. Is this kind of competition likely to lead to this guy (or a charity) taking home more money at the end of the day?

    1. Oh yes. They have their own beliefs. You would consider them a religious catagory. And it will be ONE of these people, that cared about their fellow man.

    2. I don’t know about the Pagans, Sid, but the other two are characterised by a lack of belief in imaginary or nebulously unverifiable concepts.

      So no, they are not religions, but the experiment would be a bit rubbish without them being included.

    3. @Sidnety18511

      “Atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby.” – Penn Jillette

    4. Dave
      Atheists are characterised by their unverifiable belief in the non-existence of God.

    5. Atheists don`t believe that the God does not exist, they think so. There is a great difference between the blind belief and the logical conclusion.

  4. I think you have a good point there, and I think charities would get more money from people. I think a lot of people have strong beliefs and would want to show that there belief was the best.

  5. I have a better idea. collect all beggers around the world and asked them which religion they believe. Then we can conclude which relegion is more generous and which one more mean.
    for example, if most of them are Muslems, then Muslems are mean ….

  6. Full marks to Al Murray, he’s probably massivly increased his ‘take’ with that strategy, next week he should try ” Fans of which breakfast cereal are the most generous?”

    1. I think bowls labeled Democrat, Republican, and Independent would work well.

      I’d add Tea Party, but he might get shot.

  7. I think creating this kind of game absolutely encourages more giving. Of course, one has to rely on the recipient being honest about the results of the game – in the case of the panhandler, he could easily shift the money around to favor his religion of choice or to goad other religions when no one was looking.

    Look at They’ve been using lending teams for a long time, the competition is fairly friendly, and many people are on many teams, but the top team is the atheist team, followed closely by the Christian team. There’s also a Mormon team that’s doing very well.

  8. Many structured religions have organized charitable activities and thus their members, when passing a beggar, are likely to have an “I gave at the church” reaction. This would skew the beggar’s results towards non-structured religions or the non-religion categories.

    1. Maybe. On the other hand, I as an atheist routinely give to my local food bank and homeless shelter, and never to panhandlers. I’m not sure there’s a systematic bias there.

    2. A valid point, but there are other factors to consider.

      In the US, Christians are by far the largest group. Of those, only 25% attend church weekly, so the argument “they gave at church” is a weak one.

      I think the bigger concern would be the beggar intentionally skewing results by moving money around. He could easily short one group to shame them into giving more. We don’t know, but kudos to the man in the photo for his clever idea.

  9. I’ve studied this issue extensively, and while nobody carefully tracks it, a few things are clear from what statistics are available, and the “best practices” promoted by consultants who specialize in religious fundraising. 1) Most of the money and volunteer time donated by avid members of a religion goes to their own church, synagogue, mosque or temple. 2) Most of that money and time — typically 75-99% — goes to support the building, staff salaries and programs for members. 3) People who are not avid members of a religion typically donate less time and money to “charity,” but most of their donations go to secular charities or causes. 4) Most of the money and time donated to secular charities or causes — typically 60-90% — goes toward the mission of the group (e.g., alleviating homelessness, feeding the poor, curing cancer, etc.). So, the answer to Luis De Matos’ question is that religions care about perpetuating themselves, and if you really care about homelessness or some other charitable cause, stay away from religion.

  10. OK, so I’m being a bit arsey, but Buddhism isn’t (apparently) a religion. Isn’t it supposed to be a philosophy? And surely the whole point of Atheism is that it’s not a religion? I give to people on the street because I think it’s the right thing to do – I know many would probably disagree. I think it’s a good idea, but I don’t think that other people should HAVE to agree with me or that religion should have anything to do with it. States should look after all their people, homeless or not. I think the whole idea of charity is a bit suspect because it seems to absolve govts of having to look after some of their people – as if the people left out are somehow less worthy. But in practical terms, if the government sees fit not to look after these people, then they can’t just be left to try to get on with it – that’s heartless. (I say all this as someone with a disability, btw.)

    1. Buddhism is a religion because it deals with soul and afterlife and stuff and I would add Eastern ones are much more respectful of the completeness of human being, they have a depth some quick commandments could only dream of (you will never hear a bishop or imam speak about meditation to their followers).

      This said it feels funny for me because it assumes you perfectly know what religion you belong to. I am not so sure but I am sure what ones I do not belong to.

  11. Glad to see that Luis categorises atheism as a religion – which, of course, it is.
    Don’t think that agnosticism as a religion however.

  12. It is interesting that the “Agnostic” and Atheist” bowls appear to have the most money in them (thank G-d) for that! However, if this man was clever he could sit in front of a Christian-philosophy based church, “seed” his bowls such that his “Christian” bowl was overflowing with cash and watch what happens. Then he would move his operation to a Jewish synagogue , seed the “Jewish” bowl and watch what happens, etc.

  13. Open problem: what is the optimal amount of money to keep in each bowl in order to get the most total donations?

  14. Giving is good for the soul. If you want to know who gets government money to spend on charities read the Wall Street Journal 7/18/13. Personally I’d like the Government to let me have my money to spend on the charities I suppost, not what the Governmane wants to support

  15. As a part of the experiment itself, I would have added a bowl with the label “Satanist” and five five dollar bills (or the equivalent) in it. I bet that would have raised the amount of money several other bowl received.

  16. Sadly, this assessment is multiply flawed, the worst of which is checking which religion donates the most through a ‘show’ process. It is well noted by almost all people that having a camera publicizing will make individuals behave differently. A naturally non-donating individual may fill a cap with money just to propagandize his religion, to make it look the best.

    On the other hand, a neutral study confirmed that Muslims are the highest donors annually. The real reason should be explained, to know how to benefit the needy most effectively. After all, that is whom this issue should be concerned about, Being a Muslim, I would say that this is because giving charity is systematized in Islam, thus becoming the most effective manner. Anyone can know these charity requirements by scouting the internet.

    And this is one of the beautiful things of Islam, it is not just a religion of rules, but a religion of benefit and practicality for creatures, whilst being rational in every aspect concerning life issues. Please read the Quran to find out more. As for the logical issues in the Quran, I have gathered them in a book if someone is interested:
    Or contact me for a free copy, no problem.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s