Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tithing... stupid.

When I was a little kid, I dutifully saved my pennies each week to drop in the basket that was passed around church. I had visions of poor orphan children, shivering without coats, or starving kids with swollen bellies in African villages, and I imagined that my few coins went towards feeding and clothing the poor of the world. I was proud to drop in all that I owned.

I imagined myself to be like the cute little mouse from Robin Hood, giving up her last farthing to help with the poor. Fast forward to 3:14.

Then one day, our priest gave a homily on tithing. Tithing is the practice of giving some portion of your income, usually 10% to the church. I remember the priest emphasizing that this should be 10% of your income BEFORE taxes, BEFORE any other spending. I was flabbergasted. I asked my mom where my money went that I faithfully put into the baskets each week. When she told me it went to our church, I felt lied to. My mom actually said that she chose to give some portion of her income to our church, but most of her 10% actually went to various charities she believed in. That makes sense to me.

Tithing has existed for ages, dating waaaaaay back to Jesus time. Churches have always needed a way to guilt parishioners into giving them enough money to operate. I believe that donating to valuable non-profit organizations is important, but contributing to an organized religion doesn't seem like a charitable cause to me.

Writing about tithing seems like it should be a non-issue to me. After all, I don't belong to a religion. Why should I care? Well, I care about poor people being guilted into giving away their hard earned money to an organization that doesn't actually do any good for people. Why not take that 10% and give it to your local school or homeless shelter or Doctors Without Borders?

Plus, I thought I should write about tithing because it represents the very first crack in my faith as a small child. What was the first crack in your faith/belief in god or religion?

1 comment:

  1. Peter Singer argues very persuasively that a moral person should give a minimum of 10% to charity - he arrives at that number through a cynical estimation of human nature (that is, we should all give more, but asking for much more would discourage too many people) and the fact that the amount resonates with many religious people.

    As for the first cracks in my faith, I think that the concept of the Sabbath day was the most glaring double standard. I understood the concept of not working on Sunday, but I felt guilty that in the process of avoiding work ourselves, we instead went to restaurants and caused the employees there to work instead. I figured that god would see through this and not be pleased. And, quite honestly, although I no longer think that there's any god to offend, the transference of labor - and, by extension, sin - is a very cruel (if victimless) and thoughtless act.


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