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These philanthropists wanted to provide the Americans with education, religion and all the institutions of "civilization." They also viewed the conversion of the Native Americans to Christianity as an opportunity for religious philanthropy (ibid.).Until the middle of the 19th century, philanthropy in the United States was focused on religion and morality.
Church-based philanthropy continued to grow, but people also began to practice philanthropy outside of the authority of the church.
This secular perspective in philanthropy led to "..fostering of humane attitudes and the popularization of philanthropy at all levels of society..." (Bremner 1988, 20).
For this reason, it is important to consider the impact of religion on philanthropy in the past and present (Bremner 1988).
The first American philanthropists were the Native Americans.
Concern for the common good is an important part of many Native American cultures.
When the first Europeans arrived in the Americas, the Native Americans showed concern and practiced philanthropy by providing the Europeans with the materials and knowledge needed for survival (ibid.).In the Jewish tradition, there are eight levels of charity.The highest level is helping someone to become self-sufficient, which is the definition of true philanthropy (Friedman).The 17th century European colonization of America was a very important time for philanthropy in Europe.There was a renewed interest in charity, religion, the poor and philanthropy in general among Europeans; they saw America as a source of new philanthropic opportunities.Philanthropy is a critical part of a democratic society.It is different than charity, which focuses on eliminating the suffering caused by social problems, while philanthropy focuses on the elimination of social problems.This practice, called tithing, continues in many religions today.Ancient Egyptian rulers and nobles gave to the poor in an effort to please the gods and to help ensure a happy afterlife (Weaver 1967).Some reasons were kindness and concern for the common good.Some people used philanthropy as a way to gain recognition, prestige, and power and others saw philanthropy as a way to gain the favor of the gods.