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One of the downsides of giving money to charity is that some of the groups I give to resell their donors’ names and addresses. As a result, I get an amazing quantity of mail, most from groups I’ve never heard of, begging for money. It comes from an incredible range of organizations – symphonies, museums, political campaigns, environmental groups, humanitarian groups, animal rights groups, and more. Since I plan my giving in advance and don’t respond to random solicitations, I throw these all out. I feel bad about it, especially since most of them are groups I’d like to support, and I deplore the waste of money that goes into sending all this junk mail – but I can’t possibly respond to so many.

That said, I’m not upset about having cost the sender of this letter the price of postage:

Obviously, they had no way to know who they were reaching. Equally obviously, the assumption that the recipient is Christian is just a marketing tactic, designed to make the strongest possible impression on people who do fit that description. I’m not offended by that. (Although I think the “angel medallion” – a cheap plastic trinket – suggests that they’re targeting the less educated and more superstitious among their potential donors who’d be more likely to believe it has magic powers, similar to the classic Jesus prayer rug scam.)

What offends me more isn’t the message, but the organization behind it. Whatever humanitarian work CRS performs, it’s more than counterbalanced by the real and serious harm that Catholic teachings do: teaching medieval, misogynist notions of female inferiority; exacerbating poverty, overpopulation and AIDS by opposing contraception; opposing abortion even for raped children, or when the alternative is the near-certain death of the mother; battling tenaciously against civil rights for gay and lesbian couples; trying to dictate to parishioners how they should vote; trying to stifle life-saving stem-cell research; and last but certainly not least, the conspiracy of silence among the hierarchy to protect and shelter child rapists and abusers worldwide. There are plenty of secular groups that do just as much good for the needy without spreading these poisonous memes.

It goes without saying that the Catholic church won’t get any money from me. But since they took the time to contact me, I think I owe them the courtesy of a reply. Although the envelope is postage-paid, I’m not going to do anything immature like mailing it back attached to a heavy object. But since the letter specifically invites a response, I am going to send it back with a message explaining why I’m not enclosing a donation. My only dilemma is what to write in the limited space provided. Ideally, it should be irreverent, memorable, and to the point. Any suggestions?

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DAYLIGHT ATHEISM Adam Lee is an atheist author and speaker from New York City. His previously published books include "Daylight Atheism," "Meta: On God, the Big Questions, and the Just City," and most...