To buy, or not to buy?

On a secularist/athiest forum I belong to, the following thread started: “Voting with your wallet – avoiding giving your money to proselytizing businesses.”

It was in response to someone noticing the Bible verses printed on the paper products at “In-and-Out Burger” a wonderful fast food chain out in CA. The general consensus (with a few outliers) seemed to be that it’s an atheist/agnostic’s duty not to support a business with religious owners or one where some portion of profits would be “tithed”. The discussion then went on to talk about supporting nutjob artists and writers such as Orson Scott Card.

I thought I’d share my response:

I don’t care If they make me say 10 Hail Marys and recite the Nicene Creed before I walk through the door, nothing’s getting between my and my In-and-Out Burger.

More seriously, I think it’s important to make a distinction between the goods and services being offered by a company and what the employees or owners do with their personal time/money. If “Harvey’s Heathen Hotdogs” and “Carl’s Christlike Chilidogs” are competing for my food dollar, then I’m going to spend my money on the one who meets or exceeds the only true metric of chili dog quality: “Who’s dogs will give me the fastest, tastiest coronary embolism?”

I’m not going to withold my business because the owner and I disagree on a naturalist vs. supernaturalist view of the universe. What a narrow and bitter way of looking at the world! I lived long enough on the other side of the fence where TV/Movies/Music etc. were all banned not just because of offensive content, but because they weren’t explicitly Christian. If the A/A movement wants to have any claim of being more ethically advanced, we can at least be more open-minded than Dobby the Elf and his kind, who boycott all Disney products and parks simply because the Disney Corporation offers benefits to same-sex couples.

I will agree that there are some cases when judicious spending is important. I won’t knowingly donate money to causes that are using the proceeds for evangelism or abstinence-only sex ed, for instance. I won’t support businesses that are merely fronts for some greater “ministry” that I disagree with. But those are cases where the things I object to are the central purpose of the business, not a side interest of the employees.

The same goes for the art/artist distinction. I think one can and should separate the two. One can appreciate the art without agreeing with or even liking the creator of it. I’m a huge fan of Alan Moore’s work (Watchmen, From Hell, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) but I think the man himself is a self-important control freak. Every interview I’ve read with him simply reinforces my dislike for him. However, I adore his work, and will continue to read it as long as it’s good.

Yes, Orson Scott Card is a prick, but “Ender’s Game” is, without exaggeration, one of the best sci-fi works of the 20th century. I’ll never go out to dinner with him, but I will always enjoy and appreciate his masterpiece.

…and Christian chilidogs. 😉



Filed under Atheism, Christianity, Ethics

4 responses to “To buy, or not to buy?

  1. Tara

    I agree with this wholeheartedly.

    There’s nothing getting between me and my In-and-Out Burger either (except a continent).

  2. David (of LDP fame)

    I can respect that position, and the position you’re arguing against. There are so many Christians in the U.S. that it’s impractical to refuse to do business with anyone who might give some of their profits to a church. I can also understand not wanting to do business with, say, that car dealership that told atheists to shut up in an advertisement they ran, or buying from In-N-Out Burger if they have preachy propaganda-promoting packaging. I wonder though, why would you only donate to secular-minded organizations so your money doesn’t promote proselytism, when you’re willing to give money to for-profits that will use the money in the same way? FWIW, I follow a similar guideline in my charitable giving as well, I’m just not sure how you reconcile the two positions.

  3. David (of LDP fame)

    Oh, I wanted to add, I read Ender’s Game about a year ago, and it was amazing! I plan on continuing on in the series at some point, have you read them, and did you enjoy them?

  4. 1) The series continues pretty well until the last couple, it sort of loses steam in my opinion, but Xenocide is great.

    2) Well it’s a matter of the stated purpose. If I give my money to In-and-Out, it’s to pay for a burger. The is the scope and entirety of the transaction.

    What they do with my money once they have it is a)out of my control and b) not really my business. Employees and owners can use their profits and pay to fund everything from their religious beliefs to their drug habits, it’s not possible for me to vet the spending habits of everyone who could benefit from my patronage.

    On the other hand, if I give my money to World Vision, they tell me up front that they plan on using 100% towards their ministry. So I choose not to.

    This is, of course, a moot point since I’m so poor I can’t actually afford to donate to any charity, religious or no. However, I will gladly accept donations to fund a “fact-finding” trip to an In-and-Out and investigate just how far their religious efforts go. 😉

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