'Giving What We Can' on BBC Radio 4's Today programme at the tail-end of last year Signing up to be a member of this organisation means making a pledge to give 10% of income to the most effective charities that the donor can find. To date the organisation has 46 international members who have pledged in excess of $15 million.
But although I feel that a decision to aim for a conventional tithe is a personally acceptable thing to do, I've got grave reservations about this being a compulsion. Russ Kelly, an American theologican, seems to be in agreement and outlines his arguments against why he believes that the practice should not be enforced within Christian churches. And for me, the idea of tithing as akin to a religious tax seems highly inequitable. When all income of a poor person is needed for necessities, a requirement for them to give any amount seems extremely unfair . However if I donate the same proportion of my own income I'm still left me with a comfortable sum that leaves capacity for spending on non essential items. Perhaps that's why the membership of 'Giving What We Can' is not awash with those in minimum wage jobs but is largely made up of professionals or students whose income is likely to exceed national averages.
Although I do not have an active faith I acknowledge the wisdom and guidance that is contained in the literature of many religions. Tithing is a teaching that I aspire to follow but confess that I haven't got round to giving away one tenth of income yet. I admit that I am greedy and want to keep my hard earned cash for myself and my family. But I do set aside a proportion of my monthly income, which increases with pay rises, into a Charities Aid Foundation account which I spend according to which causes take my fancy. And I'm hoping that fairly soon I'll be able to place greater emphasis on the real need of the others rather than my own less essentials 'wants' and achieve that magical ten per cent.