Evangelical Christian Radio Host Says ‘Tax Atheists Who Don’t Go To Church!’

Radio host Bryan Fischer received a very interesting email yesterday from an anonymous listener who had, in Fischer’s own words, “a brilliant, brilliant idea.”

Observe:

We talk frequently on this program about how people who have an active, vibrant spiritual life are healthier.  They live longer, they are healthier, and they are happier.  Their physical health is better.  We have read numerous stories where even medical professionals attest to the power of prayer in quickening healing for people.*

*Citation needed

So this listener says “Hey!  What we ought to do is we oughtta have an individual mandate from the government that everybody has to go to church.” Because after all Obamacare is all about improving the health of the American people.  We know that going to church is good for you, it’s good for your health so we are going to mandate that you go to church for your own health and we are going to tax the atheists who don’t go to church. Now, we can’t make you go to church, but we are going to penalize you if you don’t, we’re going to asses a tax on every atheist that doesn’t go to church because those atheists are endangering their physical health. That is actually a brilliant, brilliant suggestion.

Wow.  So much to wade through here.

To start, yes there have been studies that found that people who attended church regularly seemed to live longer than those who don’t — though the article conceded that it could be chalked up to “the group interaction, the world view or just the exercise to get out of the house.”

However, there is a huge leap from saying “Maybe this tip might improve your health” to “You all have to do this!”  

Let’s explore why, shall we?

First, obviously the government cannot tell us we have to go to church.  That was pretty important to the founding fathers, seeing as they put it right there in the First Amendment.

Second, that little poke at Obamacare?  That’s not going to fly.  Because if someone gets hit by a bus, do you think the ambulance is bringing them to the hospital or the church?

Third — my personal favorite — “We are going to tax the atheists who don’t go to church.”  Well, what about the atheists who do go to church?  For example, would Hemant have been exempt for the year he went to church?  Or how about the atheists who aren’t out yet?  What about the kids who still live with their parents and go to church with them but don’t believe? Or the adults who go on Christmas and Easter to appease their families?

What about the religious folks who call themselves “spiritual” but don’t attend church or who haven’t found a church that works for them?

And, most importantly, is that really what you want, Fischer?  Do you want a bunch of non-believers to be herded into your pews every Sunday to stare at the pastor with a glazed-over expression, constantly looking at their phones to figure out how much longer they have to be there?  And that’s if you’re lucky!  Imagine a bunch of skeptics showing up at your church on Sunday calling B.S. on every sermon or passage that is quoted:

I think it’s extremely evident that Fischer didn’t think this through. Which isn’t surprising, given all of his other statements.

Oh, also — does anyone else think that maybe that initial letter was a Poe?

About Jessica Bluemke

Jessica Bluemke grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and graduated from Ball State University in 2008 with a BA in Literature. She currently works as a writer and resides on the North side of Chicago.

  • CanadianNihilist

    Does America currently have a tax exempt status for citizens that don’t attend church?
    If not this is a really stupid point he’s trying to make.

    • Declevidence

      I think we are in fact taxed, via Faith Based Initiatives– the government takes tax dollars and gives them to religious groups. 

      • 3lemenope

        Only in the same sense that we’re taxed to pay for all sorts of other programs (some of which are public/private partnerships, which means money going from tax coffers into private hands in most circumstances). I’m about as irritated that lots of my tax money goes to buying bombs from Raytheon and bombers from Lockheed-Martin as it does from (a significantly smaller amount of) my tax money going to fund some church-connected soup kitchen. There’s nothing implicit in the paying of a tax that guarantees the money will only be spent on things we personally agree with or approve of; that problem is only addressed–and messily at that–by the political process itself. Some might say that’s the entire point of politics, in fact.

  • http://twitter.com/PaulSpoerry Paul Spoerry

    “We have read numerous stories where even medical professionals attest to the power of prayer in quickening healing for people.”

    I think Sam Harris summarized the effect of prayer best with the following, “Get a billion Christians to pray for a single amputee. Get them to pray that God regrow that missing limb. This happens to salamandersevery day, presumably without prayer; this is within the capacity of God. I find it interesting that people of faith only tend to pray for conditions that are self-limiting.”

  • Springloaded

    Bryan Fischer is probably one of the most vicious people out there right now. His open racism and homophobia is well documented and nothing has ever happened to him. This is hardly the most shocking thing this man has said. Just over a year ago, he said, “Black women rut like rabbits.” He claimed Hitler brought homosexuals into the S.S. because they were willing to commit violent acts without remorse. The AFA continues to protect him, and he remains the face of American Family Radio. 

    • Kaydenpat

      WOW!  I’ve read what he’s said about homosexuals on Joe My God, but never heard about his comments about Black women.

      Truly a very sick man.

    • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

       There’s a reason AFA is officially designated a Hate Group by the SPLC.  Fischer is a large part of it, but even without him they’re chock full of hate. 

  • Anthrosciguy

    Atheists are taxed for not going to church.  Via church’s tax exemptions everyone pays for churches through paying extra tax to make up what churches don’t pay (71 billion dollars worth each year), every church goer gets part of their church-going paid for, while atheists have to pay but don’t get any benefit from it.  On average, each atheist is paying about $230/yr or more for church.

    • Ryan

      This was my first thought exactly.  Although I’d argue that church goers aren’t getting any benefit either.

    • Good and Godless

      True the opposite must happen. Tax deductions for be Atheist. Just a checkbox, like dependents, and $500 off my taxes (married filing jointly).

      To offset the extra burden we pay in taxes for churches who still consume government resources.

  • http://www.facebook.com/scott.fecher Scott Fecher

    I’m sure he was kidding. Sure of it. Maybe.

  • jdm8

    Even if the original quoted text is true, “vibrant spiritual life” is not equal to “going to church”.   Also, the first is a nebulous concept at best, the second is just visiting a building.

  • http://www.facebook.com/don.gwinn Don Gwinn

     It looks like everyone here has missed the point both the letter writer and the host were trying to make.  This was an analogy to the mandated purchase of health insurance under the new health care reform laws (Obamacare.)  It’s actually not such a ridiculous analogy; the government has decided that people can be forced to purchase health insurance they don’t want because having everyone buy health insurance should make it possible to cover everyone.  Whether you agree with that or not, that’s the logic he’s talking about here–if we can mandate that people spend their time and money to purchase a product they don’t want or don’t think they can afford, then why can’t the religious mandate that you must go to church or pay a penalty (or tax, if you prefer?)

    That’s the argument they’re making, not a serious health argument.

    • EllieMurasaki

      Not going to church doesn’t put one at risk of bankruptcy if something goes badly wrong, though. Not having health insurance does. The analogy fails.

    • CultOfReason

      I agree. I took it as a somewhat flawed analogy with a tinge of sarcasm.

      • usclat

        … and a crap load of nonsense! 

    • Kaydenpat

      We pay for those who don’t buy health insurance when they go to the hospital and get emergency care.  How is going/not going to church analogous?

      • http://www.facebook.com/don.gwinn Don Gwinn

         I’m not telling anybody you have to agree with the analogy.  I’m saying that since neither the posts nor any of the comments had even mentioned the analogy up to that point, it looked to me like everyone had missed it.  No one was addressing what the man was actually trying to say (well or badly, right or wrong.)

        • Heidi

           Jessica did address that in the post:

          “Second, that little poke at Obamacare?  That’s not going to fly.
           Because if someone gets hit by a bus, do you think the ambulance is
          bringing them to the hospital or the church?”

          Nobody missed the analogy. The analogy is just absurd, and people have dismissed it.

          • 3lemenope


            Nobody missed the analogy.

            Apparently they didn’t understand it. It is not to say that going to church and going to a hospital are analogous. It is that mandating a person get health insurance through a tax penalty is an analogous action by the government to mandating a person go to church or incur a tax penalty for the purposes of illuminating the consequence of the government having that power. The point of the analogy has nothing to do with the efficacy of either activity, and everything to do with the effect that handing that power to the government might have.

            And it is a flawed analogy, but for *entirely other reasons* than, paraphrased, people going to a hospital instead of a church when injured. It’s like reading a metaphor literally instead of figuratively as intended and then wondering why it sounds ridiculous.

  • CoboWowbo

    My house would become a Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Pasta and beer/wine served.

    • Emb

       Church of the flying spaghetti monster is a false God!  Babarambaba is the only true church!

      • Bubba Tarandfeathered

        The is only one true god and that’s Gozer the Gozerian 

        • LutherW

           Oh no. I thought it was Geezer the Geezerian. I have wasted almost my whole life because I heard it wrong. Are you sure?

        • digitalatheist

          BAH! Gozer is a Pozer.

          Crom is the one true god.

        • Bill Haines

          There is no Dana, only ZUUL.

        • Edmond

          What’s it gonna take to get “Jedi” to catch on in this country?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Who would define ‘church’? Could a collection of atheists call themselves a church? And going to church wouldn’t improve my health anyway. I haven’t been going to Unitarian Universalist services for a few months because I’ve been working four to midnight for a few months and I don’t want to screw with my sleep schedule by waking early enough Sunday mornings to get to services. And it’s bad enough that to ensure family harmony I have to go through Christmas and Easter Mass. If I had to sit through Catholic bullshit once a week either I’d have a heart attack or I’d give my mother one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1658866059 Ken Detweiler

    Why even respond to an idiot like this? 

  • Seganku

    I agree, but (ack!  please stop throwing things and let me explain).  I’m approaching this as a tithing-as-a-tax perspective.  Churches often say their funds are going to help the poor.  I believe money going exclusively to charity should be tax-exempt, however money used for anything else should be taxed (property, administration, exorcism supplies, pre-blood and body parts).  This would require churches to have some financial disclosure.
    These tithing statistics could be posted online in a centralized repository where users could search for affordable salvation.  If someone decided they didn’t want to purchase any of the available salvation plans, they could opt out and pay a small penalty/tax.

  • Randomfactor

    The studies showing a health benefit of religion tend to be flawed or not what they’re purported to be.  One, IIRC, shows that people felt more secure from black-magic curses  against their health if they truly believed in the power of the village shaman.  And no, I’m not being poetic. 

    Some focused on religions with specific practices which can affect health (like SDA dietary restrictions) and generalized them into “religion is good for you.”

  • http://www.everydayintheparkwithgeorge.com/ Matt E

    Atheists are better educated, higher earners than average, (http://atheistscholar.org/AtheistPsychologies/AtheistDemographics.aspx) and most live in areas that pay more in taxes then they receive in federal spending; while, with the exception of Georgia, the most religious areas in the country receive more that they pay (http://taxfoundation.org/sites/taxfoundation.org/files/UserFiles/Image/Blog/ftsbs-large.jpg). So it seems an under-taxed preacher from a tax exempt church preaching to a community that pays less in taxes than they use want to give me an additional tax, even though I’m already subsidizing the lot of them. Oh the hypocrisy! 

  • http://slrman.wordpress.com James Smith

    How about taxing religions like any other business?  Why should all of us be forced to subsidize someone else’s religion?  WHy should jews pay taxes so Catholic Churches don’t?  Why should Catholics pay taxes so Muslim Mosques don’t?  

    Why shouldn’t everyone pay their fair share of property and income taxes?

  • Marguerite

    Like Don, I think this is a poorly designed analogy, not a serious suggestion. But if the government actually ever mandated people must go to church regularly, then the people who’d be most ticked off likely wouldn’t be atheists, but all the Christmas-and-Easter-Christians. Imagine if all those people had to actually live up to their beliefs and go to church every week. How many people would prefer to pay the atheist tax than be forced to sit in church, lose two or three hours out of their weekend, and listen to a boring sermon every week?  I definitely think we’d gain some atheists that way:-).

  • LesterBallard

    That’s their argument against the ACA. Kind of like “if people came from monkeys why are there still monkeys?”

  • Chogo-ri

    If the church is going to play politics then they should pay admission like everyone else-Frank Zappa. Evangelicals are wasted protoplasm. Im mostly angry because I just watched an evangelical pastor named Dennis Terry introduce Rick Santorum in a YouTube video and his “sinister piffle” makes this guy look quite rational.

  • http://skepticalimerick.blogspot.com/ Rich Stage

    It seems, at times, their thoughts are lax.
    They can’t seem to marshal the facts.
    Though his thoughts seem strewn
    Bryan Fischer’s a loon:
    He says “Go to church or be taxed.”

  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    I suppose the email Fischer received could be a “Poe,” but I’m leaning against it. The R.R. is in a towering rage over “Obamacare” (an intentional misnomer, since Obama is never “caring” for anyone). Their vitriolic fury is almost unbounded. They’re out of their f-ing minds with sanctimonious outrage. Hence, I don’t find anything they might say about it impossible to believe.

    The reason for their anger  over the SCOTUS isn’t hard to discern. The Right’s opposition to “Obamacare” in the first place arises from their irrational, reflexive fear that someone, somewhere might be undeservedly enriched. It explains their decades-old hatred of welfare, food stamps, etc. It explains why Reagan’s “welfare queen” legend worked well enough to help him get elected.

    Now, under “Obamacare,” folks on the Right think people will be magically granted free healthcare … and they can’t handle that. So, they go off the deep end, cooking up all manner of snide little observations as a way of venting their childish rage.

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    Second, that little poke at Obamacare?  That’s not going to fly.
     Because if someone gets hit by a bus, do you think the ambulance is
    bringing them to the hospital or the church?

    That’s an excellent idea! We could have a little notation on everybody’s driver’s license, similar to the organ donation mark, that says you’re a Christian or an atheist. The ambulance could take Christians to church and atheists to the hospital. One way or another, I figure that’s going to save some major health care dollars.

    And, most importantly, is that really what you want, Fischer?  Do you
    want a bunch of non-believers to be herded into your pews every Sunday
    to stare at the pastor with a glazed-over expression, constantly looking
    at their phones to figure out how much longer they have to be there?

    I’d go for eating a big bowl of beans before heading to church, and making my own contribution to all the hot air!

    • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

       No way man, it’s too early in the day for beans!  Just take your bowl of cereal with you and chomp loudly through the service.  Make sure to slurp the milk EXTRA loudly when you’re done.

      Bonus points if you add a “DEAR GOD THAT WAS TASTY!” and rub your belly.

      OR (and this would be my own personal plan if I were ever forced to attend church or pay a tax)

      Whenever the preacher/priest starts up about some awful punishment, cheer loudly.  “WOOOO! STONE THEM! STONE THEM! WOOO!” etc.  If that doesn’t get me kicked out, I’ll see if I can get the parishioners closest to me to start “The Wave” after every “amen”.

      If I’d end up having to pay some tax *anyway* why wouldn’t I give church a chance first?  Nobody said I’d have to *behave* myself!

  • Bill Haines

    Uh, yeah, if you’re going to parody the ACA, might want to actually know what’s in it.  

    RELIGIOUS CONSCIENCE EXEMPTION — Such term shall not include any individual for any month if such individual has in effect an exemption under section 1311(d)(4)(H) of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which certifies that such individual a member of a recognized religious sect or division thereof described in section 1402(g)(1) and an adherent of established tenets or teachings of such sect or division as described in such section.

    Basically, if you can prove you’re a member of a religious community that takes care of its own people and thus doesn’t need government welfare benefits, you don’t necessarily have to pay for those benefits, though you also do not qualify to receive them.  And obviously, even if we didn’t have Amendment I, atheism would be an exception to any such rule about church attendance, or payments in lieu thereof.  So, even taking this asshole’s attempt to argue a point seriously, it fails utterly.  Of course.

    • Coyotenose

       Actually knowing what’s in the ACA is nowhere to be found on the to-do list of religionists and neocons, though.

  • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

    We already subsidize their churches to the tune of 71 billion per year. Now we’re to be taxed individually for not attending them?  He really is cracked. 

  • Keulan

    Rather than tax those of us who don’t go to church, how about we tax the churches? Their tax exemptions are costing the country $71 billion, after all.

  • Blogd Dotcom

    What this guy is advocating is not too much unlike the Acts of Uniformity mandated by the church in England from the mid 1500′s onward. While intended to herd everyone into the mainstream sect rather than to punish atheists, one can safely bet that if this Fischer individual had his way, Muslims would be next, and then Mormons, and then Catholics, and then… you get the idea. The Uniformity Acts in England half a millennium ago were among the primary reasons for some minority sects to leave the country, including, wait for it, The Pilgrims. In order to prevent the same kind of abridgment of freedom of belief, the founders, quite aware of the reason why so many had left their home country and settled in America, made freedom of belief a central tenet in the foundation of the new nation. 

    A freedom that this yahoo apparently believes was only created for specific kinds of Christians.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ORRVVC5R2QWLTXEM6SX5L6BORE Jay Arrrr

    LOVE that background in the video… Careful, Brian, that’s *MY* Constitution, too, you know, the one that guarantees that people like YOU can’t drag me out of bed on Sunday morning and have me stoned at the soccer stadium?

    Oh, wait, I’m mixing up the Taliban with the Tali-BORN-Again…

  • The Jewess

    I blogged about this. I do think there’s health value in belonging to something, although I haven’t yet found the citations. If you’re interested, read here: http://jewessonthemove.blogspot.com/2012/07/are-religious-people-healthier.html

  • blub blubber

    and now? where are the godbots when you need them for a nice “discussion”?

  • Stamati Anagnostou

    I went to church, which eventually led to a series of severe panic attacks, which put me in the hospital twice and Baker Acted once.  I’m pretty sure that cost tax-payers some kind of money.

  • WILLOBIE C.

    The preacher was just indulging in some heavy handed satire on the AHA and the requirement that all have insurance or pay a penalty (tax?).  Don’t get your knickers in a twist; even televangelists may occasionally be guilty of attempting humor.


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