plonkee money an english-er's thoughts on personal finance

August 27, 2007

who do you donate to and why?

Filed under: ethics,giving — plonkee @ 12:00 pm

I think that people should donate money or time, including atheists like me and theists, to good causes. I also think that you should carefully consider your choice of good causes.

I donate money to Oxfam, a large overseas aid and development charity, and to Scope, a charity that supports individuals with cerebral palsy. I am a member of Amnesty International and contribute a little bit of money there. I also donate time to a local organisation that promotes among other things inter-religious dialogue.

I explicitly chose to donate to Oxfam because overseas development is a cause that I believe is important, and it also presents are reasonable and realistic response to the HIV/Aids crisis in Africa and Asia, as well as campaigning on behalf of the disenfranchised.

I chose to become a member of Amnesty International and contribute money because I am aware that I have the privilege of living in a country with relative freedom of speech, press and conscience. Not everyone has this privilege.

I donate my time to the local organisation because I was asked to and because I believe that the organisation is important.

I donate to Scope because I was suckered into it at a train station once, and I haven’t got the heart to cancel a direct debit to a charity. I think that I would rather donate to Shelter, the homeless charity instead, as unwelcome things on your own doorstep tend to be forgotten.

Those of you that do donate money or time, who do you donate to and why?

May 29, 2007

the train is better than the plane

Filed under: environment,ethics — plonkee @ 7:32 pm

Trains are commonly cited as better for the environment than planes. Recently Eurostar published figures that show that it has a tenth of the CO2 emissions of planes on the same London-Paris and London-Brussels routes.

I enjoy travelling and like to do a little to reduce my environmental footprint, so this year I am aiming to take the train rather than the plane where possible. Unfortunately, this conflicts with my desires for wealth as the train is generally more expensive than the plane.

This is particularly true for me, in terms of time and money, as I don’t live in the metropolis of London, and so to travel to Europe by train I have to first get to the capital and then take a Eurostar. This adds a few hours to my travel time, meaning that I don’t benefit from the city centre to city centre time savings of the train. Overall my journey from my front door to Paris or Brussels is probably around 6-7 hours. Whereas if I flew it would be around 4 hours max.

 The rise of the budget airlines make it difficult for the train to compete on price. I mean, if I’m going to Paris or Brussels then the cheapest all inclusive train is £83, which is not too dissimilar from a reasonable return flight, once taxes and fees have been taken into account. Yet if I want to travel further afield (and I do), taking the train is going to be considerably more expensive. The cheapest train to Frankfurt (inclusive) is approximately £131 (thank seat 61) , whereas the cheap trips (inclusive) with flights are around £83. And thats without even looking for the optimum dates.

I think that there are more important things than money, so I’ll still endeavour to take the train (partly because its enjoyable in itself). But I wish it was cheaper.

April 3, 2007

atheists should tithe

Filed under: ethics,giving — plonkee @ 8:21 am

Actually I don’t mean that atheists should tithe at all, I mean that humanists should donate a reasonable proportion of their income to charities, but it wasn’t as catchy.

An atheist, is strictly speaking, a person who doesn’t have a belief in God. This statement implies that atheism says nothing about morality or how one should live one’s life. However, many atheists would also consider themselves humanists. Humanists basically believe that humans are on our own in the world and that we need to make the best of it. This means that humanists specifically rule out appeals to deities of any kind. This is why I really mean that humanists should be doing something.

Tithing is the practice of giving 10% of your income and/or wealth to the church – it is implicit that this is the church that you belong to. Its therefore unlikely that atheists or humanists are going to think that this is a good idea at all; because they’re not, as a group, big believers in churches (or other places of religion). However, the practice of tithing was partially used to support the good works of the church to the poor and 10% is a reasonably large quantity, one that should certainly make a difference. So that’s why I used the word tithe.

There is a general reason why everyone should give some of their wealth or income away, regardless of their position on God(s). That is that quite simply, it’s a nice thing to do.

For those people in the world who have consider themselves members of a religion with a scripture inspired by God (or Gods), there is a second reason. God said so. If you look in your scripture I’ll put money on you finding it there, although perhaps not in those exact words. The rest of this post isn’t aimed at you, – although you are more than welcome to read and comment on it – so if you don’t agree, please consider that first.

But what if you are an atheist (humanist), do you have any compelling reasons to give money away?

Well, if you are a humanist, this existence is all of the life and experience you are going to get. It also means that:

  • Nothing is going to improve the lives of the poor and suffering, if nobody, anywhere does anything about it.
  • Nobody is going to save the environment if some humans don’t do it.
  • People are going to die early from disease and accidents unless some people do something. And when they die, that’s it.

Christian Aid has the slogan “We believe in life before death”, humanists would add “and that’s all the life we get”. So it should be more important to humanists than to anyone else, to extend everyone’s life and quality of life.

There is a general rule in life that if nothing is going to get done unless somebody does something about it, you’d better start doing it yourself or nobody will. So, humanists should be donating serious amounts of money. Starting today (yesterday if you have a time machine). Just as the religious are exhorted to act on their beliefs, so should the humanists. And part of that means putting your money where your mouth is.

If you truly believe that there is no one but us to turn to, then act as if no one else can help us with our problems and start contributing to the solutions by giving money (and lots of it).

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