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When an atheist is charitable out of the kindness of his heart, is his behaviour more or less commendable than a religious man who does it because God instructed him to?
Thank you for this very interesting question.
Giving, as a follower of God, flows from the understanding that God has already blessed a person with all they need to be satisfied. People who follow God are then truly free to give without needing or wanting anything in return. God's people are called to give because they have been given to.
From my personal perspective, as God loves me fully I am free to give to those in need. I do not get anything from giving but give because God has given to me.
God does not tell me to give, he wants me to give from a place of joy. Consider these Bible verses:
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written,
"He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever" (2 Corinthians 9:6-9).
The key to this passage is 'not reluctantly or under compulsion'.
We give because we love God and man. Jesus said "If you love me you will keep my commands" (John 14:15), therefore by following his commands we are able to a) be charitable and b) demonstrate our love and satisfaction with Him as our God.
I have never given as an atheist and therefore cannot comment on this matter. I also do not know any atheists who give as I have not sought to discuss this matter with them. I do not think there is much value in comparing why people give. I would encourage all people to give to charity where they are able. I will leave you with this Bible passage:
"When you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you" (Matthew 6:2-4)
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*All Scripture references are taken From The English Standard Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise
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