Followers of this blog will know that I came out as an atheist about 2 years ago. Here’s that post, and here’s another about why I don’t do that quietly.
Over the past several years, I have continued to be involved in atheism activism on the local and national level. I have loved this journey; I love being open to learning something new every day, whether that’s in the arena of science, or politics, or morality, or community, to be challenged with an old belief I hold dear that needs to be examined and either discarded or updated.
This blog is about a new thing I’m learning. For the 45 years I was a believer and a church attender, I never questioned my charitable giving. The instruction in the Bible is pretty clear about the relationship between believer and church and money. The word itself, tithe, historically means giving 1/10th of one’s earnings to the church. I took this admonition seriously, and along with my spouse, regularly and consistently contributed 10% of our earnings to our local church. Having served on said church’s budget committee, I knew exactly where that money was going: staff salaries, utility bills, literature for classes. It was a mindless, relatively painless automatic task, and I never questioned whether or not we would comply with that mandate.
Now that I’m secular, I’m free to give or not to give. And if I give, I’m free to choose to whom I give, and I’m free to make that choice based on whatever qualifications I wish. And not only am I free to give, I’m finding the process of searching and deciding to whom and how much to give both exciting and challenging.
I met with my accountant today (it’s been almost 12 hours – I think I’m finally starting to relax my shoulders). I have a modest budget, and a modest lifestyle. I have no debt, and The Squeeze tells me that the only time he sees me splurge is on the kids. With the OCD, color-coded, to-the-penny budget I have created for myself, even with tuition, I am now in a place where I can add a line item for charitable giving.
I could not be more thrilled.
I have a file on my desk with requests for donations. Those requests are from some favorite organizations: The Human Rights Campaign, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and the Adventure Cycling Association. I also want to support my local Freethinkers Group, whether through sponsoring the website, or helping with other expenses. I want to be free to respond to any emergency, on the national, local, or interwebs level. I want to do the fun stuff too – buy supplies for Aden’s classroom, give a grocery store gift card to a friend in need, send a little extra cash to a peace corps friend.
Rereading this post, it seems a little simplistic and almost…remedial. Maybe it’s not something everyone else gets excited about. But I’m not embarrassed about that. I think it’s okay to learn a new skill, and be tickled to be doing it, at 52.
I love hearing from you. Tell me your “giving stories”, how you choose, how it helped.
Thanks for reading.
January 29, 2013 at 10:15 pm
January 29, 2013 at 10:15 pm
I gave a pretty big gift to a fairly new friend who has a child with an as-yet-undiagnosed issue that causes seizures and assorted other unfortunate problems. Hopefully my meager contribution will make it easier for them to go to the Mayo Clinic to find out what’s really wrong. I tend to be drawn to a more personal contribution.
January 29, 2013 at 10:45 pm
Being a fellow skeptic, you might appreciate the website I ran across when researching charities about a year ago. They claim to research which charities have the most direct effect on others’ lives: http://www.givewell.org
I still give to a couple that aren’t on their “Top Charities” list, but after our experience with Red Cross during the flood, I’m hesitant to just give money to the loudest charity.
January 30, 2013 at 6:49 pm
I love giving to St. Jude Children’s Hospital and local NPR affiliates. I also try to donate to the local library because I LOVE libraries!