Why You Should Tithe As an Atheist

One of my controversial statements that people get riled up about is that you should tithe even if you’re an atheist. Giving 10% of your income away is the first step in my financial management strategy called the cash flow continuum. I believe you should give 10% of your income away regardless of your beliefs, religion, or faith. But I didn’t come up with this. God commanded tithing over 3,000 years ago in the book of Leviticus.

I’m sure you’re asking, “Why should you tithe if you’re an atheist?” Because it works. Study after study on generosity highlights the positive benefits of giving on your mental, emotional, and physical health.[1] It’s just secular research proving that the Bible has been right all along.

Here are three reasons I recommend tithing to an atheist or agnostic.

1. Generosity Improves Mental Health

Despite the first-world prosperity most of us have been born into, an unparalleled number of people today suffer from anxiety and depression. The United States spends approximately $113 billion dollars per year on mental health care, including the cost of prescription drugs.[2] But who knew to prescribe generosity?

Studies show that those who give have less anxiety and depression than those who don’t. A 2006 study by the National Institutes of Health found that when people give to charities, it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust. Altruistic behavior releases endorphins in the brain which produces the positive feeling known as the “helper’s high.”[3] In fact, people suffering from symptoms of depression or anxiety may help heal themselves by doing good deeds for others.[4]

The average American spends 92% of their money on themselves, saves 6%, and gives around 2%. No wonder anxiety and depression are so common! The Bible and the latest research agree on this: You are not a big enough reason to live for. Another study showed that giving money away was linked with increased levels of happiness, while spending on yourself had no effect on happiness levels. You’d think it would be the opposite, that self-gratification would bring pleasure and joy. But no, it’s when we give out of what we have to others that we find the most joy.

2. Generosity Gives a Sense of Purpose

Giving also is a simple matter of legacy. If you’re an atheist, then you believe that when you die, your life is over. You’ll exist no more. People will forget you ever died and eventually that you ever lived. But your legacy doesn’t have to end. The difference that your resources, time, and talents make when invested for good purposes can create ripple effects that can last for generations to come.

What injustices prick your heart? What causes light a fire in you? What change are you passionate about seeing in the world? Give toward that end. Generosity doesn’t just reduce stress and anxiety, but it can even extend your life and give you a newfound sense of purpose.[5] This is because you feel like you’re contributing to society and improving life for others.

Building a legacy through charitable giving gives you a reason to live for beyond yourself. Maybe that’s one of the reasons generosity produces so much happiness—because it’s gratifying to give instead of take. Instead of keeping your money or spending it on what the latest advertisement says will make you happy, use it to invest in meaningful ways that make a difference.

Think of how you’re spending your money. What kind of legacy are you leaving? Where is there margin to give more? Contribute to a cause that will outlive you.

3. Generosity Channels Your Ambition

I’m someone who can personally relate to those with workaholism and the addiction of ambition. I need an outlet for my ambitious fervor. Another bit of wisdom from Proverbs says, “Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist” (Prov. 23:4). This principle is so upside down from our culture giving itself health palpitations chasing after the next shiny item. If you can’t sit still and need to stay busy like me, there’s nothing wrong with you. Just channel it toward a good purpose—toward generosity.

But in your ambition, you may think you need to hoard as much as possible because it takes money to make money, right? You probably think I’m crazy telling you to take 10% off the top of and give it away when you could invest it. But giving has been the antidote to greed in my life. Tithing recalibrated my perspective and showed me that how much you give means more in the long run than how much you make. That doesn’t mean tithing doesn’t hurt! It’s supposed to! But it prioritizes your life by putting your finances in perspective.

Research supports this too. Studies on happiness have found that giving money away to others may matter more than how much you make. According to research, donating money to charity increased people’s levels of well-being no matter how much they made.[6] Meanwhile, the 2019 World Happiness Report, which collected charitable giving and well-being data from around the world, found that donating money is one of the six strongest predictors of life satisfaction. (Surprisingly, not one of those six predictors is directly linked to income.)[7]

What all this means is that giving can provide a sense of satisfaction and meaning that ambition alone cannot achieve. This doesn’t mean throw your ambition out the window! No, God’s given you that drive for a reason. But channel your ambition into generous living, and you have the recipe for a meaningful life.


If you’re an atheist, I encourage you not just to tithe 10%—but to give it to a local church. You may be asking, “Why should I donate to an institution I don’t believe in?” For the simple reason that you can treat someone’s physical and mental needs, but if you neglect their soul, their spiritual malnourishment could lead them to despair and self-destruction.

My belief—after fervent study into other religions—is that Christianity offers the best solution for that spiritual void.

According to secular historians, Jesus Christ was a real man who lived 2,000 years ago who dedicated his life to serving and teaching others how to live selflessly. He wasn’t just a good teacher; he claimed to be God. He offers us freedom from the pain of our own sin through faith in him. You don’t have to leave your brain behind to believe in God. If you want to learn more, I encourage you to check out resources like the books Cold Case Christianity, The Case for Christ, or More Than a Carpenter.

Even if you still refuse to believe and don’t want to give to a church, don’t neglect to give. For you, maybe it’s your college, a cause that pricks your heart, or a mission that makes you want to put war paint on to save the whales. The feeling of being part of something greater than yourself is one of the most human things you can know.

[1] https://www.psychalive.org/benefits-of-generosity/#:~:text=Not%20only%20does%20generosity%20reduce,shown%20to%20increase%20one’s%20lifespan

[2] https://discoverymood.com/blog/cost-of-mental-health-increase/

[3] https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/5_ways_giving_is_good_for_you


[5] https://www.psychalive.org/benefits-of-generosity/#:~:text=Not%20only%20does%20generosity%20reduce,shown%20to%20increase%20one’s%20lifespan



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