Homeless man's A/B test of generosity based on faith

Redditor Ventachinkway caught a photo of a homeless man conducting a clever exercise in behavioral economics disguised as an inquiry into the levels of spontaneous generosity as determined by religious creed or lack thereof.

When I passed him he proudly announced "The atheists are winning!" (i.imgur.com) (via Glinner)


    1. Just ‘Iiiiiish’ as in some o’ dis, some o’ dat, mebbe a little of de udder, sorta kinda well y’know.

      Oh!  Yes, then Irish.

        1. Because there are fewer Jews in the U.S. than the other religions? Or are you just perpetuating anti-Semitic stereotypes?

          1. My wife, who is Jewish, read the above comment and found it to be humorous and not even remotely anti-Semitic.    
            Lighten up.

          2. Yep. Surprised there wasn’t a joke too, something about “jewing down” beggars. 

          3.  I think it can be anti-semitic and at the same time intended to amuse rather than offend.  I wouldn’t make such a joke myself and it seems pretty ballsy to me but in context here on BoingBoing it doesn’t offend me.

            Also, in my experience Jews often find actual anti-semitism funny rather than offensive.  I bought a Persian rug from an Iranian Jew who told me he was reading some David Duke stuff about how Jews run the world and said he wanted to print it out and bring it to the bank so he could apply for a loan and be like “Don’t you know who I am?  You work for me!”

            I’d also bet I’ve heard more anti-semitic jokes from Jews than from all other religions and ethnic groups combined.

          4. Yes, it *was* a reference to the old ant-semitic stereotype, written in the full knowledge that boing-boing readers are unlikely to be anti-semites and will see this as less “perpetuating”, and more of a reference, as in “such stereotypes exists, lol”.

            I’m in the camp that’s only afraid of stereotypes that are likely to have a negative influence on their audience. You lot are grown-up enough to deal with a joke about jews,  without organizing a new holocaust. 

    2. Jesus Christ in a sidecar, it’s funny because the way it is obscured it could say, but could not possibly say, Irish instead of Jewish.

      Any anti-semitic comments or arguments below my original post are unrelated to the funny I made, which in fact has nothing to do with the actual word that is obscured or any possible word it could be.

  1. I bet the atheists really just slipped him notes saying “Atheism is not a religion!”.

  2. That’s really disappointing. I would have assumed atheists would be the least credulous.

    Though perhaps loading the atheist pot is part of the scam.

    1. “Though perhaps loading the atheist pot is part of the scam.”

      Hah, little does he know, saying “CHRISTIANS GIVE THE MOST TO CHARITY” is the extent of the born-agains’ interest in charity. Still the best angle.

    2. Religions motivate their adherents through a combination of reward and punishment (often implied more than actualized). Even if you’re a really good person who wants to just do the right thing for the right reasons, there’s a part of every Christian who’s also doing it to get to heaven. There’s a part of every Christian who’s afraid of hell. Even the best Christian who is sincerely a nice person has got a little bit of that self-serving “I want to go to heaven” in him.

      Atheists are the only people who you know do what they do solely because it’s what they want to do. Atheists are the only people who never think twice about their eternal reward before deciding to the right thing anyway. Atheists are the only ones have no self-serving reason to not go on a killing spree. Well okay, there are plenty of good self-serving reasons here on Earth to prevent someone from doing that. But the point remains, Atheists aren’t worried about how some omniscient grandfather in the sky is going to judge them later on. If they’re good people, it’s because they want to be, not because someone forces them to be.

      No matter how good a Christian somebody is, there’s still that self-serving element of doing the right thing to go to heaven and not just doing the right thing because it’s right. It’s always in the back of their minds somewhere, “God is watching.” An essential element of Christian philosophy is this appeal to a person’s self-interest. “You don’t want to do the right thing because it’s hard? You’ll go to hell if you’re not careful.” Are they really good people when they only do the right thing because they think they have to? Is their motivation pure if there’s even a hint of self-interest in there somewhere? (And yes, asking about pure motivations is meaningful in this context because Christians believe in that sort of thing even if I don’t.) If their motivations are ultimately selfish, how easy is it for them to rationalize some form of selfishness into their faith if that’s what they really want? (Think John Calvin and his nonsense about righteous earthly rewards which makes absolutely no sense in any charitable interpretation of scripture)

      The only thing surprising about the amount of money in his “atheist” dish is how many atheists must be walking by that particular stretch of sidewalk.

      1. “there’s a part of every Christian who’s also doing it to get to heaven. There’s a part of every Christian who’s afraid of hell”

        Apart from the many Christians who don’t believe in Hell (and the minority of Christians who don’t even believe in Heaven), and for whom the idea of eternal punishment/reward has absolutely zero relation to their day-to-day ethical choices.

        1. I’m starting to think “Christian” is a useless term. I think mostly people mean Evangelical sects when they use it, as they tend to make the most noise.

        1. Altruism is a bit strong of a word.  These are nickels and dimes we’re talking about, not kidneys.

          1. Even atheists are subject to the reward centers of their brains.  They’re still human, and not a superior kind of human for their absence of organized religion.  They aren’t immune to the predisposition to see patterns, and assign meaning, including patterns they don’t understand.  Atheists too are superstitious.  Let’s not pretend here that a Christian tossing a coin into a bowl to support his team, is superior to the atheist who also threw a coin in, but for less socially validated and identifiable reasons. To do so is to engage in the ‘us vs. them’ mentality of all groups (religious or other) who seek to carve out a superior spot for themselves on this Mortal Coil. 

            Wait… you may have a bit of a point there.  Narcissism and self-interest are the new religion.


          2. The nicest, sweetest, most genuine and generous person I know is a lapsed adventist. Hardly an atheist, but hardly devout. I think the things that cause people to do good things are all very complicated, but in the end [lack of] faith isn’t destiny.

          3. Even atheists are subject to the reward centers of their brains. 
            They’re still human, and not a superior kind of human for their absence
            of organized religion.

            I and many others (including the late great Hitch) would contend that an absence of organised religion does indeed count as a superior feature.

            A large part of the point of organised religions is to explain the unexplainable, something sensible folks don’t attempt. They also generally involve an awful lot of denial of established fact.

          1. I don’t believe in God and don’t consider myself better than those who do… most days. I objected to his tone. 

            Agree with your definition of altruism.  As far as I know complete selflessness does not exist, although the idea that it did was a cherished belief about the human race up until college, then wham-o!  Oh, those liberal arts profs.

            At some time I’d like to see the BB community mull over who shall inherit the earth culture-wise.  I tend to think it will be those who persist in holding their family and community as their highest values, apart from their ideas about a higher power. But that ‘s another conversation for another day.

            Best I can do this early and before my first whole cup of coffee. 

      2. “Atheists are the only people who you know do what they do solely because it’s what they want to do.”

        Atheists are human and thus susceptible to MLMs, political propaganda, anti-vax scammers, and Michael Bay films.

        To claim that they’re somehow “better than” theists by being above all forms of mind control is ridiculous.

        1. At least they’re above the most patently obvious forms, that often demand complete and abject intellectual slavery.

          1. You mean like the blind adherence to the market, violent racism, institutionalized racism leading to inhuman experiments on people, and the enthusiastic cheer-leading of violent imperialism in the name of a war on a concept that in the end provides you no security and less rights?

            Yeah, okay, Free Human.

      3. TL;DR the only real people who do actual Real Good Deeds are atheists, religious people are automatons motivated by imaginary head-goblins.

  3. He’d have to be keeping track of the average amount given rather than the total amount given.  How many pagans pass by him on the average day?

    Also, despite being an atheist I have a feeling atheists feel like they have something to prove when they walk by this guy.

    It’s a great gimmick to do some stemming though.  Even more clever than leaving your cup out in the way so that people knock it over, feel guilty, and drop a little extra in.

    1. I find that people with something to prove will often be better than people with no need to prove anything outside of the spiritual realm.

      Whether this actually makes better people or not though is debatable.

  4. Not really any controls here, I would worry that an atheist (of which I am one) would see the option and say “I’LL SHOW THEM!”

    Of course you could argue that the religions could have the same reaction. Dunno. Interesting at least.

    1. Agnostics seem high up too… Lots of different denominations there. I think it’s probably legit (though obviously uncontrolled).

      Makes for a good demo, though!

      Anyone noticed the Buddhists’ little gift there?

      1. I’ll admit it’s potentially skewed by the fact that Christians would largely be passing by at 35 mph in their SUVs with the windows rolled up and the doors locked, and therefore be unable to read the categories.

      2.  A caribiner! From the reddit thread, The buddhist was clearly freeing himself from attachments.

    2. Wouldn’t you also have to have an equal sampling of all, in order to get accurate data; or do you extrude percentages based on total numbers?  I’d really like to see his central thesis and data extrapolation at some point…


      I would worry that an atheist (of which I am one) would see the option and say “I’LL SHOW THEM!”

      I’m amused that two atheists came to this same conclusion within a minute of each other.

      1. I only clicked on the comments to see how long it took someone to say that. 

        (It was this Atheist’s first thought, too)

      2. I think extracting that response from everyone is the point. ;p

        This is probably just more representative of the demographics of everyone walking by who had cash on them. 

        1. What’s amusing me isn’t the “I’LL SHOW THEM!” sentiment but the fact that so many atheists are skeptical of the motives of other atheists. I’m not so sure the point of the exercise was to make atheists skeptical of the motives of other atheists.

          1. “the fact that so many atheists are skeptical of the motives of other atheists”

            So atheists should ape theists’ implicit trust in the “goodness of humanity”?

    4. I suspect many folks of many denominations, especially Christians and Atheists of certain stripes, would definitely get that “I’ll show him!” mentality and donate more than they otherwise would. While this isn’t a super scientific study, it is an undeniably ingenious strategy to make your panhandling more profitable.

  5. Apparently, one of the primary tenets of the “Spirital” religion is wearing a rainbow-colored hemp yarmulke.

    1. And based on the single banknote thrown in, “Buddist” people are rare but generous.

  6. What’s funny is that he doesn’t give a $#!t…he just got paid.  This guy has taken panhandling to a new level of awesome. What a hero.

    1. exploit  hotbutton topic
    3. profit

  7. While clever, there’s an error in his experiment.  I, for one, care about the homeless, but refuse to give individually; choosing only to give to establishments (I go with a local shelter/community outreach group).  Where do I fit in?  Can I show him a receipt from last years taxes instead?

    1. Interesting point. I don’t always give financially, but I have contributed my time by volunteering at homeless shelters and with organizations that help the homeless. Where’s the cup for that?

      1. “I have contributed my time by volunteering at homeless shelters and with organizations that help the homeless. Where’s the cup for that?”

        You sure you’re doing it for the right reasons?

    2. Well, you could, you know, give someone some money anyway, and not worry about how they’re gonna spend it (which is what you’re getting at, right?).

  8. Atheists also have no church-like vector to support him with another version of charity.

    1. We may not have a church to give money to, but we can give directly to the shelters, job training organizations, soup kitchens, etc. Not having a middleman doesn’t mean you don’t have avenues for giving. 

      1.  I believe they’re referring to the vanishing, or perhaps vanished, concept of a faith “community,” that supports its members through times of trouble.

        1.  Athiests are then free to see almost anybody as part of their “community” which has the potential to be quite positive…

    2. Can only speak for myself, but in my town many and some of the biggest homeless/poverty organizations are not religious ones. One of them (the food bank) is a favorite charity for the presumably not very religious arts community, lots of benefit concerts etc.




      Then there are lots of much smaller outfits like:


    3. Assuming this is in America, there are a boatload of private non-profit charitable orgs that charitable nonreligious people support.

  9. As an innovation in panhandling, it’s brilliant. But it’s not an A/B test. At best, it’s a poll of how many people are willing self-identify as belonging to each category *and* do so by giving money. It tells you nothing about relative generosity. It might hint at the relative number of each group who pass that spot on a given day, but even then there are too many confounding variables for such any conclusion to be drawn.

  10. Wait wait wait wait.

    Are you people trying to tell me that this homeless dude’s off-hand clever way of pandhandling is NOT a scientifically legitimate, properly controlled, well vetted, statistically accurate scientific experiment!?!?!  Oh man, that was a CLOSE one.  Thank you BoingBoing commentors for your diligence, once again protecting us all from a horrible mistake! Who knows what havoc would have been unleashed upon the world had you not all stepped in an explained that.

    1. Perhaps if it wasn’t described as a “clever exercise in behavioral economics” people wouldn’t be so defensive.  

      It is a clever exercise in begging, nothing more.

      1. Yes, because BoingBoing headlines and captions are always meant to be taken literally, without the slightest sense of humor, exaggeration, or sarcasm.

        Or maybe, just maybe, they expect their readers to recognize hyperbole when they see it and don’t feel the need to explain their jokes and explain the blindingly obvious fact that a dude begging is not actually a scientific experiment.

        1.  exchange “BoingBoing headlines” for “BoingBoing comments” and you’ve got your answer, cowboy.

      2.  Maybe you’re not quite understanding what was the phrase “clever exercise in behavioural economics” means here?

        (Hint: It means convincing people to give you money)

          1. Then what, praytell, do you think Corey meant? Because that’s the meaning I and (it seems) most other people took from it. I’m struggling to find another meaning that would work here.

          2. Behavioral economics is an exploitative field that deals with using an often irrational emotional response to stimuli to one’s advantage in the achievement of a given end.  

            I don’t see how this convinced anyone of anything.  You are inherently already convinced (or not) — this just simply brings it to the surface and exploits it (or doesn’t).  

            It’s as much as of a scam as the crooked carny from a few articles back.

            You see, that’s the trouble with sarcasm and hyperbole — it’s tough to identify when mixed in with ostensibly serious topics.  With sources like The Onion, there is no question.  Here, it’s not so obvious.

            At this point, who really gives a shit.  You’re smarter than I.  Good for you.

  11. Test assumes that people actually carry cash.  I know I do not.  Ever.  A cashless flock of Muslims on their way to the Mosque could have passed by and not been represented in this test.  Factor in that being Muslim in this country is an occupational hazard… I can completely understand why one might not want to identify as such to a vagrant with a shaved head and a ominous looking goatee.  

    This also fails in so many other ways.  Hardly clever, or even remarkable. 

    But it is quite an innovative method of panhandling, as was pointed out. 

  12. As a spiritual Jewish atheist Buddhist, I find this offensive. Or reductionist. Or maybe it was implausible? Ineffable. Let’s go with ineffable.

  13. Pagans seem to be doing alright considering they must represent a small percentage of population. 

    Is there any reason for the caribiner in the Buddhist pot? Is it like a physical zoan? 

  14. Less of an A/B test and more of a push poll. I wouldn’t be surprised if he salts the atheist boll heavily, not to get atheists to donate but to get Christians to try to surpass the evil atheists.

    Clever marketing. I’d have given him something for the effort.

    1.  In my experience, atheists tend to try harder to surpass the Christians than the other way around. Christians generally don’t have anything to prove, or anything to gain by proving it, and no heretic is likely to make them question their pride…

        1. Clearly Glyph missed out on history class at school. And that whole reality thing, too.

          And why oh why oh why did this demented comment system manage to insert two ‘likes’ as a side effect of making this comment?

  15. I’d say this is a money making scheme discuised a clever exercise in behavioral economics disguised as an inquiry into the levels of spontaneous generosity as determined by religious creed or lack thereof. And it looks like it’s working!

  16. The  Atheists group on Kiva (of which I’m a member) has long been the group with the highest amount donated, close to twice the amount of the next highest group, Kiva Christians.

    I do think that it’s much more along the lines of “something to prove,” as well as demographics of who donates in what ways, than any innate differences in generosity, though.

    1.  I think it’s because the number one recipient of charitable donations from Christians is churches.  That’s where the vast majority of their philanthropy goes.  Some of that goes into service programs sponsored by individual churches or denominations, of course, but as a result less goes into stand-alone programs.  Meanwhile, atheists don’t have to deal with building funds appeals or ministers’ salaries to pay….donations go to specific individuals and organizations directly.

  17. for a second there i misread his cardboard sign as saying “which religion cares the most about the HO MELEES”, which i think would be a different line of inquiry.

  18. A clever street side gimmick, but obviously we all know that measuring this way doesn’t really determine anything. Some folks care a great deal about the homeless and are, for example, involved in major organizations or political movements that are pushing for change in a big way that dropping a couple dollars in a bowl on the street isn’t going to be able to stand up to.

  19. Yes! I was also thinking he was moving around the money to achieve the desired effect.

    If I were him I’d purposefully keep the Christian and Jewish bowls near empty and also “proudly announce ‘the atheists are winning!'”

    Also, this “homeless” guy seems to not be homeless. He has been eating a subway sandwich that he got with an iced tea. The two bags of his which I can see are a nice, reusable cooler-bag and a bag filled with a half-dozen other clever HOMEmade signs. His white t-shirt seems both clean and in good condition, possibly hip. His hair and beard are recently groomed; his jeans and shoes are worn, but still respectable. <– Or maybe my vision is skewed by living in Portland.

    1. Or maybe my vision is skewed by living in Portland.

      My wife went to a conference in Portland a while back and reported that Portland, while nice, has either a tremendous homeless problem, or that a seemingly large percentage of the population could use a good bath and some laundry detergent.

    2. Also, this “homeless” guy seems to not be homeless. He has been eating a subway sandwich that he got with an iced tea.

      People frequently buy homeless folks food and beverages rather than directly giving them money.  It’s just as likely that he’s sitting near a subway and someone was feeling generous.  Also, what do you expect homeless folks to eat?  It’s not like they can heat something up on their stoves. 

      The two bags of his which I can see are a nice, reusable cooler-bag and a bag filled with a
      half-dozen other clever HOMEmade signs.

      Most homeless people have started out with a home and a bunch of stuff.  When they become homeless they take some of their more useful stuff with them.  They often have relatively nice bags and coats because those things are survival equipment for homeless people.  The reusable cooler bag would be especially valuable to a homeless person in TX given the heat and the frequency with which people give homeless folks perishable food items. 

      His white t-shirt seems both
      clean and in good condition, possibly hip.

      Many homeless people prefer to be relatively clean however difficult it is to remain that way when they’re homeless.  They often use laundromats.  Besides staying clean this is also useful for staying warm in the winter.

      His hair and beard are recently groomed; his jeans and shoes are worn, but still respectable.

      Many homeless people prefer to do what they can to remain relatively groomed for any number of reasons, not least that panhandling is easier when you don’t have a big bushy beard with birds nesting in it. Also, they’re already treated as creepy and weird by a lot of people so they often do what they can to minimize that including putting a little bit of effort into hygiene and grooming.

      You’re making a lot of unwarranted and kind of shitty assumptions about homeless folks.

      1. Or I was pointing out that Portland has a higher than average population of homed people who walk around in an unclean and disheveled state; a condition that appears far closer to the stereotypical appearance of homelessness than this guy (a gentleman whose racket closer resembles the carnies and their rigged games which we were discussing yesterday).

        Boy, am I glad I didn’t use an imperial measurement in my comment! I can’t imagine the earful I would have gotten for doing that…

        1. I don’t consider US vs. imperial to be a moral issue.  I do consider stereotypes about the homeless to be a moral issue.  I guess you consider them to be morally equivalent?

          Many of your “observations” such as the subway sandwich don’t seem to have anything in particular to do with Portland or being disheveled. Thus I was under the impression you were sincerely arguing that this guy is not homeless and then tacked on a Portland joke at the end of it.

          1. I’m arguing that he is running a con for money; as a result, I find suspicious information within each aspect of the photo.

            What is the term you would be comfortable using to describe a sterotypical homless person? A person with a huge beard, wearing rags, stinking of piss and shit, open sores, carrying a collection of garbage, and drunk/hungover as fuck.

            Portlander? (ha ha, I couldn’t resist.)

          2. “Human being” might work.  I’d recommend trying to live on the street for a few months before talking shit.

            Homeless people run “cons” for money. Because they need to. There isn’t anything particularly suspicious about it.

          3. @wysinwyg:disqus  – I hear the catholic church has some opportunities for advancement, since it’s preaching you’re into. However, when you apply, they may ask for more than a 2-word “HUMAN BEING” resume. Also, you could stand to lighten up.

          4. @boingboing-d0ccc0e27be1b245e8dee43267ffefb8:disqus Yeah, I know.  Caring about homeless people is not funny and therefore super lame.  Consider me appropriately chastised.

            I hear the Cato institute has opportunities for advancement since you’re into callously bashing poor folks.

      2. I don’t think Ian has never stumbled upon a homeless encampment before.  I can’t enter any reasonably unattended patch of woods in this town without finding an encampment.

      3. Thank you. You responded exactly as I would have wanted to respond to Ian.

        Making assumptions to convince yourself that a person can’t possibly be a “real” homeless person, or a “real” poor person, or a person with “real” difficulties, is just a way to justify the fact that you’d prefer to believe they don’t exist.

        1. Or prefer to believe that the person is homeless because he’s a terrible person and deserves it.  You can tell by the way he’s trying to manipulate people into giving him money.

          1. The homeless exist, in droves, just like humorless moralizing online commentators.

            In my experience, many homeless were abused (often sexually) and/or neglected as children which has resulted in severe substance abuse. Others are suffering from the abuse of corporate machinations that fucked over the 99%.  These generally seem to be two different classes of people, ones with a reasonable amount of hope for change and others whose will was crushed long ago. Helping either group is honourable, but there really does seem to be a distinct difference and I imagine the help they need is equally different.

            I never “made fun” of him, except, I guess, to call his t-shirt possibly”hip.” I do accuse him of rigging his rigorously scientific religion-baiting poll.

            Gee, I’m glad we’ve all made a difference in the world today, spending our time making a difference in real people’s lives and not just making jokes about hipsters in the northwest.

          2. The homeless exist, in droves, just like humorless moralizing online commentators.

            Maybe I’m humorless…or maybe your jokes just aren’t actually funny.

            In my experience, many homeless were abused (often sexually) and/or
            neglected as children which has resulted in severe substance abuse.

            I suspect you could write down most of your experience with the homeless on a book of matches.

            Gee, I’m glad we’ve all made a difference in the world today, spending
            our time making a difference in real people’s lives and not just making
            jokes about hipsters in the northwest.

            Sounds like you’re making a lot of assumptions about what I’ve done with my day besides arguing with idiots on BB.

          3. A) Your suspicions are wrong B) I find the incidence of self-proclaimed sexual abuse in the homeless to be staggering. To the point where I personally cannot deny some correlation. C) Arguing with this idiot is clearly something you’re spending time on, congrats, on both that and your stark inability to take a joke about the Portland fauxmless.

          4.  In Chicago, the homeless rate skyrocketed — literally instantly — when Reagan cut mental health funding in half.  There are many ways to be victimized…it shouldn’t result in being out on the streets.

          5.  No, you likened him to a Carny defrauding people with a rigged game. That is exactly what you said. That’s not ‘making fun of’, it’s insulting someone based on your snap judgement about their appearance.

          6. humorless moralizing online commentators

            Looks to me like most people found your comment offensive and unfunny.  Is there some reason that you’re working so hard to consolidate your failure?

        2. Which comment, exactly?

          Not all homeless people are beggars; not all beggars are homeless.

          There are many ways to help the down and out, homed or not, but giving them trivial amounts of money isn’t one of them.

          In fact, giving pocket change or even a $5 to random beggars worsens the situation for all parties. Social welfare programs are generally great; thinking that giving trivial amounts of linty money to beggars is not so awesome.

          If you want to give directly to a homeless person (i.e. not the best way to help), my suggestions, after a frigging house, are:
          1) Food
          2) Blankets
          3) Earbuds (seriously, this is a frequent request)
          4) Batteries

          1. Having been homeless, and had to beg for money, I put it to you that any amount someone gives you is not ‘trivial’. The earbuds thing is probably for filtering drugs as you pull them into a syringe, BTW.

          2. My accusation, the carny comparison, was a pretty lighthearted point that he was rigging the amount of money in each cup to optimize profit. Would you disagree? In fact, he is a goddamned idiot if he’s taking this approach for the money and not playing into people’s psychology.

            So, with your experience, you think that giving out trivial (for the giver) amounts of money is the way that people should address the problem? It seems to me like that just helps make people feel better about themselves without actually helping shit. Begged money, doesn’t seem like a solution to the problem. I doubt you’re online today as an end result of the random handouts from unorganized strangers.

            And I figured the earbuds were for listening to some of the battery operated devices, in part because earbuds fall apart and degrade so quickly even when homed.

            Of course, I don’t have anything against drugs, in general, but I’m also not clear on how headphones can be altered to help filter a liquid drug. You mean the sheer metal piece off of the old style of Apple earbuds? Like buying sink faucet aerator screens for smoking weed? That seems a little roundabout…

          3. Ian, I don’t really think there’s anything “lighthearted” about questioning a person’s homelessness because they have food, a clean shirt, and have shaven within the last few days.  These stereotypes are what I was objecting to in the first place (you seem unable to acknowledge this).  They’re worth arguing against from my point of view.  I’m sorry that you have such a problem with being called out on that but hey, you’re the one who made those claims.  You could have even made your stupid Portland joke without doing so.  There’s really no need to get so defensive about it — you could just say “You know, you’re right — those aren’t very good indicators of whether or not someone is homeless.  My bad.”  And it would have ended there.

            FWIW you’re right about the ear buds.  Not necessarily so right about the small amounts of money.  Although a lot (maybe most — maybe almost all) of homeless folks use a lot of that money for booze and cigarettes they also use it for laundry, food, clothing, and various other gear — toothbrushes and toothpaste are pretty important but they didn’t make your list (which is maybe an indication that you shouldn’t presume to know what it is that homeless folks most need).  Small money won’t get them off the street but a job might…if they can get clothes for an interview and clean themselves up for that interview.

    3. I’m pretty sure he’s just better at it than your average Portlander (homeless or not).

    4.  Seriously? He’s got a nice carrier bag and he’s eating a sandwich that didn’t come out of a bin? Well, with a metric like that, it’s easy to work out he can’t be homeless. Glad we’ve got that sorted.

    5. “Also, this “homeless” guy seems to not be homeless. He has been eating a subway sandwich that he got with an iced tea.”

      Brilliant insight.

    1. My guess is he put a bowl of noodles and sauce out, and then when he realized nobody was going to donate enough money for him to get a Big Mac, he then ate the bowl of noodles and sauce.

  20. … and at the end of the day all the money goes into one big hat labeled “SUCKERS”.

  21. This is a contentious point between different sects of Christianity, actually.  You shouldn’t say this as though all Christians believe it.  You’ve never heard the phrase “faith versus works”?

  22. Prejudice is not subjecting people outside of your group to negative actions, it is the failure to extend the privileges granted to one’s own tribe to non-members. Atheists are less likely to see themselves as belonging to a separate group, and are therefore less likely to treat people as outsiders.

  23. He needs to account for sampling bias! Those pagan dollars dollars are probably > 10x as meaningful! I’ve had it with these biased surveys with inaccurate demographic weighting – I bet his raking marginals aren’t even up-to-date with the latest census data!

  24. I see  a similar concept around here from time to time with counter-top tip jars.  They label one side one thing and another an opposing thing( or put out two jars side by side) and people put in money to cast their vote and the staff keeps the money and posts the results.  It’s not usually something that’s such a heavy issue like religion or politics,though.  It’s a more pop culture feud kind of thing.  It’s kind of fun, tends to spark some conversation amongst the patrons, and helps the tip jars fill up no matter who’s winning. 

  25. I’d not presume a beggar was being honest about anything in the display or spiel.  The “Atheists are winning” would likely be to motivate the “religious” (generally the far larger and more touchy about this audience) into parting with more coin lest they be seen to be falling behind the never-to-be-sufficiently-damned atheists.

    There’s an art and science to begging going all the way back to Babylonia if not further.  Check Heinlein’s “Citizen of the Galaxy” or Doyle’s “The Man With the Twisted Lip” for good background on successful begging methods.

  26. He should have had an empty cap to round out the lower left bearing the sign: “Objectivists”.

  27. It really irritates me when people equate ‘astheist’ with ‘nonreligious.’ Even the capital a bothers me. Are there really churches where people get together to ritualize the lack of a deity? 

    1. I got Gallup Polled a couple of days ago and said my religion was “none” rather than “other.”  I am not an atheist.  I wouldn’t even say I’m “nonreligious” so much as “no particular religion” though that’s splitting hairs.

      Among these bowls I’d probably identify as pagan.

      Also I tend to do my charitable giving to organizations (Heifer International, Water.org, etc.) rather than random people on the street, as a matter of course.

    2. “It really irritates me when people equate ‘astheist’ with ‘nonreligious.’ ”

      It’s the lack of belief, not a belief in itself.

  28. It isn’t really a contentious issue,

    Then why do Christians of different denominations argue about it all the time?  That’s pretty much the definition of “contentious.”

    It isn’t really a contentious issue, nowhere in the Bible does is say
    that good works earn you any favor with God, it says the opposite in
    many places quite explicitly.

    You’ve made your interpretation of the Bible pretty clear.  However, many Christians disagree with that interpretation.  Since I’m not a Christian it’s probably a waste of your time to argue this point with me.  You should argue with the Christians who disagree with you.

    Oh, and you should probably stop trying to speak for them.

  29. It is hilarious that this whole thread has been about religion when the guy is just creating a false competition to get more handouts.

    It even says so in the title of the post.

  30. No bowl for Pastafarians…
    This man needs to be touched by his noodly appendage and gifted with ramen.

  31. You’re comfortable speaking for ~2 billion people, despite having never known even a tiny fraction of 1% of them, and despite the reams of information right before you—historical & contemporary—which contravenes your opinion?

    I find it irritating when people assume truths about history and about complete strangers’ beliefs and motivations in the pursuit of shoring up trite generalities. But that’s faith for you, I guess.

  32. A couple things:

    1) I doubt the Atheists winning is a scam to guilt others. Likely it is the other way around in that Atheists likely more than the rest feel like they have something to prove. I would put myself in that category, and I think I would feel compelled to donate more just to make a point.

    2) Additionally, many people that belong to organized religion donate to charity through their church and may feel less obligated to make individual donations, on the idea that they have already given money that will be used by the church to help people in the local community.

    3) Then again if “Cthulhu” was an option I might feel compelled to vote for that, simply to try to promote the fact that I think all religion is pretty ridiculous.

  33. OR maybe more Atheists just happened to pass by. OR maybe the area had more atheists than Muslims etc. 

  34. I’m thinkin of following this dude and buying some bowls at family dollar, maybe keeping track of the stats, because I love stats (multiple 4 and 5 level stats classes) and donating the money to this great soup kitchen on Allen. I’d love to spend some Saturdays doing this in the Elmwood village (in front of my friend’s bike store) although I’d rather be sailing. – STUDENT OF COMPARATIVE RELIGIONS

  35. While it’s a clever and interesting test, there is no scientific basis in this test for proving generosity based on religion (or lack thereof) unless it was a controlled test of sorts and for a longer duration; because of the random factor of an uncontrolled test and random acts in humans in general as well as the specific location this homeless man was sitting. This could just mean that there happened to be a greater majority of atheists out and about during this time of day, at this specific location, that had spare change in their pocket.

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