In a Tizzy About Tithing


Written by bloggers for the Utne Reader.

Toby Ord, an Australian philosophy researcher at the University of Oxford, is causing quite a stir — by giving away his money. Ord earns $52,000 a year and has promised to donate all of his post-tax earnings above $28,000 to fight global poverty. He has calculated that his personal giving could save as many as 2,100 lives. His wife, Bernadette Young, a physician, donates everything she earns above $40,000.

Ord and Young are members of Giving What We Can, a philanthropic collective Ord founded about a year and a half ago, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education (Feb. 13, 2011). Made up primarily of academics — including bioethicist Peter Singer and political philosopher Thomas Pogge—the group has two primary rules, writes Don Troop: “Give generously, and give effectively.”

But a story about their efforts didn’t sit right with readers of Britain’s Daily Mail. “What a pair of freaks,” wrote Penelope about Ord and Young in a letter to the editor. A reader who goes by the name Shoe Addict wrote, “It is much easier to adopt these kinds of ideals if you are a childless couple and only have yourselves to worry about.”

Reactions like these don’t surprise Singer. “People like to be cynical about others who are doing something good,” he told the Chronicle, “because it challenges them to do something themselves.”

Regardless of whether or not Ord and Young strike readers as self-righteous, there’s no doubt that Giving What We Can is starting to make a difference. Together, by promising to donate at least 10 percent of their annual pretax income to charities that fight global poverty, the collective’s 80 members have pledged more than $25 million.

This post was originally published by the Utne Reader and is reprinted with permission.

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Photo from David Kuperman via flickr creative commons


SeattleAnn S.
Ann S6 years ago

Shocking how nasty jealous, selfish people can be. Why do these weirdos go out of their way insult people who are doing charitable work for humanity? The "Shoe Addict" is especially easy to make fun of since (s)he implies that a couple who doesn't have children should be somehow looked down upon. Mind you, that sexual reproduction is something any animal can and has always been able to do, including the cavemen. What does that tell you about her intelligence and logic level?

Norma V.
Norma Villarreal6 years ago

We humans have the need to contribute, to give something back to the world, to provide some service to one another. Are our motives pure and self sacrificing? Not necessarily. But what are the results of our tithing? Judge that....

Brigid C.
Brigid C6 years ago

Good for these people for giving money

Connie T.
Connie Tyler6 years ago

Grace A., I think that's taking both sides to extremes. I doubt that those who don't "tithe" believe in survival of the fitness and those who are suffering should just die (social darwinism). And I think that most of the people who do "tithe" aren't anywhere near being aristocrats as "Noblesse Oblige" would imply. Not so easy.

Grace Adams
Grace Adams6 years ago

Social Darwinism vs Noblesse Oblige. Two entirely different value systems.

Maarja L.
Maarja L6 years ago

This sounds really great.

Bridget M.
Past Member 6 years ago

It would be a shame if Shoe Addict required the gift of charity at some point. Such a person might have to refuse such gifts on principle.
For the giver, the gift is in the giving. And for those of any faith, that which one receives in abundance is meant to be shared.

Bev E.
Bev E6 years ago

The U.S. needs to grow up and realize that there is more to life than taking. In order to have balance there has to be giving back. It should work like the tax system should work (but doesn't either) - those who make more pay more. The problem with our country is many of the wealthy think they should keep everything they receive and not give anything back to the community, country, world, (except for political purposes). That is not really giving back. Instead it is being able to control, get more and keep what you already have.

Europeans maybe because they were the sufferers of WWI and WWII and saw their countries bombed out have learned some lessons we haven't.

Brian P.
.6 years ago

The world needs more selfless people - so many live in bubbles that they have no idea what life is like for millions of others in the world and therefore don't really appreciate what they have right now.

Gratitude is something a lot of people seem to have difficulty with these days because they are too preoccupied with their sense of entitlement.

Brigit Sunflame

To JW: As per your comment that Europeans are used to their governments giving for them--the responses in regard to this comment of thine are completely correct. Europe is on the right track in the more socialistic method of taking care of their peoples through higher taxation etc to pay for the universal health care etc. People aren't dying on the streets in Europe like they often are here because they can't afford their prescriptions. There was a man in Texas, I think, a number of years back who had a stroke and died because he couldn't afford his stroke meds. And a woman in my state a number of years back in the nineties I think killed herself because she had mental health problems and couldn't afford her meds. That would be inconceivable in Europe. I wish the U.S. would fund health care etc. for everyone like they do in Europe. Love and peace, mememe