375 karmaJoined Nov 2019


Topic contributions

Thanks for this. My view is the same as yours. The first two strike me as "net positive." I'm also unsure about what pigs and dairy cows need. I wouldn't be hugely surprised if they have either "net positive" or "net negative" lives, but I think it's most likely (80%+ chance) they are "net positive."

(Qualifying discussion of net value of existence with " " because I find such valuations always so fraught with uncertainty and I feel I owe other beings tremendous humility in this!) 

I love that John Wesley was a motivation! "Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can" is surprisingly rarely quoted among Methodists I know... FWIW this article on it at EA for Christians is actually the highest-performing one on the site!

Not sure if this is the place to post but I'll share. 

I took the pledge about 6 years ago but I hesitated for years. I think my reasons then were:

(1) Legalism
Pledges risk falling into "legalism" i.e. a habit of relying on specific commitments and stated duties at the expense of a broader, all-encompassing spirit of generosity. 

(2) Low Anchor
Related to (1), 10% sounded great but not so radical. Why set a lower bar for myself than I could handle? Speaking for myself, I thought then (and still do now) that I ought to be giving more than 10%. Plus, devout evangelical Christians in the US (one social group I encounter very frequently) already have a weak expectation that people give 10%. All that considered, I think the pledge was communicated that made it sound less radical and less exciting for 19-year-old me (I hadn't heard of the giving further pledge). 

(3) Religious Reasons Against Sharing
I was worried about "sounding the trumpet" and the possible social and spiritual negative effects of that. Quoting here a section of the Sermon on the Mount, one of Jesus' most famous sermons: Matt 6:1-4 "Be careful not to do your `acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Although this contrasts with Matt 5:16 ("Let your light shine before others"). On the whole, I think contemporary American Christian protestants are less disposed to speak openly about their giving or make public pledges.

(4) Little Social Reinforcement/Encouragement/Support
I wasn't sure what the benefit was of pledging on paper to an online community (unfair, but that's how GWWC seemed to me 8 years ago. Fortunately, I've since met tons of GWWC people by way of 1-on-1 calls and EA conferences.)  

Why I took the pledge:

For reference, I mostly give to GiveWell-recommended global health and poverty charities. I think my pledge saves (in expectation) several lives a year, or accomplishes some roughly equivalent amount of a good thing. Basically, I started to feel guilty that if I didn't take the pledge or talk about giving, fewer people would give to GiveWell and fewer lives would be saved. That cost seemed far greater than my moral scruples about protecting my motivations. 

I also just met a bunch more pledgetakers who were giving over 10%. It became more socially normal and the low anchor point started to matter to me less. 

I find this really interesting for personal reasons. I grew up in a Calvinist church (and also, for a brief period of time, considered myself a calvinist).  

Now, looking back, I find it fascinating that the church was successful in motivating itself to take evangelism still very seriously. 

It did so not on consequentialist grounds. No one ever said "evangelize because your effort actually might affect where someone spends eternity." 

Instead, people said things like "evangelize because you can share Good News of the hope that is within you" (1 Peter 3:15) or "God wants to work through you to bring nonbelievers to knowledge of salvation - that's how God works: through people like you and me" (Romans 10:14-15). And people seemed to find that quite inspiring and motivating. 

They would have probably balked at language of "tractability" of evangelism.

Eric Sampson published a paper on this in Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion. See here

Abstract: Longtermist Effective Altruists (EAs) aim to mitigate the risk of existential catastrophes. In this paper, I have three goals. First, I identify a catastrophic risk that has been completely ignored by EAs. I call it religious catastrophe: the threat that (as Christians and Muslims have warned for centuries) billions of people stand in danger of going to hell for all eternity. Second, I argue that, even by secular EA lights, religious catastrophe is at least as bad and at least as probable, and therefore at least as important as many of the standard EA catastrophic risks (e.g., catastrophic climate change, nuclear winter). Third, I present the following dilemma for secular EAs: either adopt religious catastrophe as an EA cause or ignore religious catastrophe but also ignore catastrophic risks whose mitigation has a similar, or lower, expected value (i.e., most, or all, of them). Business as usual—ignoring religious catastrophe while championing the usual EA causes—is not an option consistent with longtermist EA principles.

Not a popular topic among secular EAs, in my experience.

Thank you all very much for sharing!

Answer by JDBaumanNov 07, 202328

Isn't it in one sense trivially true that that most of everything in the west was founded by Christians? (most people in the west were Christian for a very long time)

But FWIW many EA charity founders are active Christians.

Bruce Friedrich, founder of GFI (an ACE top-rated animal charity) is firmly Catholic. See --> https://www.christiansforimpact.org/episodes/bruce-friedrich

Paul Niehaus, cofounder of Give directly is Christian. See --> https://youtu.be/J98CRcahYIc?si=IGAe5w86ceQly9wr

The founder of ID Insights and many Charity Entrepreneurship charities are religious, too. The EA Christian directory has a list of many.

What makes EA development charities special isn't being Christian/non Christian. It's being evidence -based, willing to update on new information, willing to share info, and being highly positively impactful on the margin, etc.

Most charities (Christian or non Christian) are not this.

Plenty of Christians would love more neartermist career content (and would be unlikely to engage with 80k as it's currently branded). So over the past year a group of Christian EAs created an advisory for this, under the direction of EA for Christians

See www.christiansforimpact.org

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