How much to tithe?

Ethicist Peter Singer calculates how much the nation’s wealthiest people should tithe, based on their income. He figures that the top 0.01% should give away 33%, while the bulk of the top 10% should give away 10%. (Via Get Rich Slowly)

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

6 replies on “How much to tithe?”

  1. Your description threw me off a bit. I was reading this article trying to find the religious angle implied by the use of the Old Testament word tithe, but the article seems to be dealing more with secular philanthropy.

  2. Jon, tithe isn’t necessarily religious. I prefer the word because I like the sense of obligation that it’s freighted with, because of the very religious roots with which it’s best known.

    Lloyd, “tithing” is like “decimating” — inflation hasn’t been kind to either terms. ;)

  3. Thanks, I enjoyed this article. There is certainly not enough public emphasis on the importance of philanthropy either religious or secular. Churches and other religious institutions have historically done a good job of exhorting their members to give, but in our diverse world this isn’t sufficient. The article’s reference to Buffet and Gates apparent agnosticism is a good illustration of this point.

  4. I had the same thought as the other Jon. A tithe, by definition, is a tenth of one’s income given to the church-state (meaning, the church authority or the theocracy in biblical times). Charitable giving is something other than a tithe, I’ve always thought.

    And I have a hard time taking Singer seriously about anything. He has long argued that abortion should be legal up until a child is about two years old – when a human being is generally believed to become fully sentient. Before a child is fully aware of its existence and that he or she has a future, Singer says it’s A-OK to just off-em at will.

    And that just isn’t very charitable.

  5. It’s hard to find any philosopher who, in the name of consistency, doesn’t at some point argue something that’s facially ludicrous.

    On tithing, I see another difference as regularity and obligation. Charitable giving is a thing that one does when one’s interest is piqued. Tithing is something that one is simply obligated to do with each paycheck, or each month, or perhaps one big contribution each year. I guess it’s the difference between a dilettante and a lifelong giver. :)

    (Disclosure: My great-great-great-great-great uncle, George Peabody, invented philanthropy.)

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