F&SF and the Roots of Charity

According to “The Philanthropy Hormone,” an article published in the April issue of Discover, one third of all U.S. philanthropic giving in 2006 went to religious groups. The next largest category, at 14%, was education. Foundations and human service organizations each received somewhat more than 10%, while cultural/arts organizations and international affairs groups received about 4% each, with other categories receiving smaller percentages. All told, on average, Americans contributed 2.2% of their after-tax earnings to charity.

This distribution of charitable giving is intriguing, particularly because it suggests, as is also the case with morality, that charity is strongly linked to belief in a higher being of some sort. One could almost make the case that a great deal of this charity comes from religious-based fear — punishment in the afterlife — or this one — by a divine being. At the very least, one could suggest that at least some of the giving in other areas might also be inspired by “divine guidance.”

Of course, there might be another reason for the predominance of religious giving. It simply could be that religious establishments provide a critical social function in knitting communities together, and that the contributions they receive are a form of payment for that social cohesion and not “charity” at all.

All this raises another question. Why is there so little F&SF dealing with the issues in and around charity? Certainly, there are more than a few novels dealing with religion, some notable, like Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz, and I’ve certainly taken on belief and religion, but offhand out of the thousands of F&SF novels I’ve read, I can’t think of one notable title dealing with the issue of charity and its impact on humans and humanity in general [and as sure as I’ve written this, someone will comment and raise a title I should have remembered].

Either way… what exactly do the numbers above suggest about the human species? Are there any writers out there who want to take a crack at it?