NPR Factchecks Christian Pseudo-Historian David Barton

… and guess what they found?

I hope you’re sitting down for this.

It turns out David Barton just pulls a lot of stuff out of his ass.

(But they said it more NPR-ly.)

Here’s one example where Barton says the Constitution was taken “verbatim” from Scripture:

NPR’s Elise Hu and Barbara Bradley Hagerty beg to differ:

Barton says here that it’s “absolutely no surprise that so many clauses in the Constitution are literal, direct quotations out of the Bible” and that “A Republican form of government’ … came directly out of Exodus 18:21, Deuteronomy 1:16, Deuteronomy 16:18.” But we could not find a single instance of the Constitution directly quoting the Bible. In Exodus 18:21, Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, tells Moses to find judges to help him hear disputes brought by people. Elsewhere, Moses appoints judges, not lawmakers.

And there’s plenty more where that came from. The full NPR article on him is here.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • LesterBallard

    Yeah, Barton is either a moron, in the exact sense of the word, or he is just a scumbag liar for Jesus.

    http://www.worldmag.com/webextra/19820 

    • http://twitter.com/ftsor ftsor

      My bet is rather firmly on the latter.

    • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

      The two possibilities are not mutually exclusive. In fact, his actions strongly argue for both: that his statements are lies is unquestionable; were he anything other than a moron, it would be more difficult to discern that they are lies than by simply picking up a Bible and reading the referenced passages!

      It is a sad testament to the times we live in that where we once faced dangers from subtle and clever liars, even the obvious and slow-witted ones now find plenty of ears.

    • http://www.facebook.com/johnnyrelentless Darren Cohen

      Unfortunately he is not a moron. He is an immoral man making a lot of money by telling people lies that they want desperately to hear.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Do read the link Lester posted.  

      [Jay W. Richards, senior fellow at the Discovery Institute] says in recent months he has grown increasingly troubled about Barton’s writings, so he asked 10 conservative Christian professors to assess Barton’s work.Their response was negative.

      • Neil Terry

        I seem to be noticing an encouraging trend in these Glenn Beck/David Barton/Fred Phelps/Rick Santorum crazy times….that (as I have been hoping for years) the constant reactionary pressure from increasingly shrill and dishonest voices is slowly starting to push some conservatives, who have been in the background riding and even encouraging these cultural trends for years, back away from the extremes.  Some people I know or am familiar with are starting to realize the limits of demonization and authoritarianism, and some are becoming more libertarian instead of warmongering corporatists and religious zealots.
        Between activists and liberals who just aren’t taking their crap anymore, and the spoiled-child crap the zealots are pushing, it’s almost like a few of them are growing up and taking responsibilty for their actions or something!
         
        Maybe someday soon, Eisenhower and Goldwater can stop spinning in their graves for a little while.  I can hope….    

  • Kevin S.

    I never got why the right is so keen to push all of the Founding Fathers as deeply religious men. If that was the case – if they were all devout, Bible -thumping Christians – doesn’t that just make the fact that the Constitution makes no mention of God and only speaks of religion to say that we won’t have an official one all the more powerful? I mean, they very easily could have written it so that you had to be Christian, Judeo-Christian, or Abrhamic to have any rights or recognition in this country, consistent with the supposed beliefs that Barton and his ilk ascribe to them, and they didn’t.

    • http://www.facebook.com/johnnyrelentless Darren Cohen

      Yes, I say that all the time. Separation of Church and State exists to protect Christianity as well as all other religions. If the founding fathers were devout Christians, that would only underscore the fact that S of C & S is good for Christianity. Yet Barton and his ilk claim that S of C & S hurts Christianity and at the same time they claim that the creators of it were devout Christians!

      • 3lemenope

        The two-step usually involves the additional assertion that since Jefferson was such a devout evangelical Christian (LOL snicker), that he must obviously be being misinterpreted about what the separation of church and state means, and that damn dirty liberal and heathen atheists today have clearly hijacked it from him for their own dastardly ends.

    • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

      They’re pushing it because they want to usurp the Constitution. They want the U.S. to be an Evangelical Christian Nation, a theocracy, and they’re doing their best to rewrite history in the minds of the electorate to support this agenda.

      It all comes down to control and privilege. The Old White Guys all want things to remain the same, to keep the Other down, and to keep those uppity women and Negroes where they belong. And they feel they can do that with texts that are granted authority simply because they’re old and also because you don’t need logic or evidence to support your position.

  • MargueriteF

    Fascinating read, thank you. My favorite part from the NPR article has to be Barton exulting:

    “And you get Thomas Paine, who’s the least religious Founding Father saying, ‘You’ve GOT to teach creation science in the classroom. Scientific method demands that.’”

    “Of course,” the NPR article dryly adds, “that was years before Charles Darwin was born.”

    Duh. It’s utterly absurd to cheer that the Founding Fathers might have been in favor of “creation science.” The concept of evolution hadn’t yet been thought of. That one sentence pretty much lays bare Barton’s lack of any true understanding of history.

    • http://www.facebook.com/elisaulr Elisaúl Rodríguez Cordero

      I don’t know where I read that before Darwin, there were a couple of guys that had talked lightly about a concept similar to Darwinian evolution; but it was with Darwin that it took a concrete presentable form. Geez. Can someone help me?

  • rhodent

    It seems to me that if the people who listen to this guy would actually pick up a Bible and read the verses he cites, they’d quickly see that he’s full of it.  The fact that so many people pay attention to him says something about the dedication many Christians have to reading the book they claim to hold up as their scripture.

    • k’Sheyna

      Sheep don’t read.

    • Annie

       I thought that too.  That his audience wouldn’t even bother to check when he supplies the verses is baffling, and that he knows this is downright frightening.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        I’ve mentioned this on here before, but the most amazing example I ever saw was someone who was spouting Bartonisms, but conflating them.

        I got so tired of face palming, that I finally gave up and in snark said “yes, you’re right, I found the Bill of Rights in the Bible.  Lev 19:19 to be exact.”

        And she then became convinced that the Bill of Rights was taken directly from Leviticus 19:19.  And anyone else who quoted the actual passage was met with “well you’re looking at a different translation”.  She even claimed to have seen it.

        Never underestimate the awesome power of Dunning-Kruger.

  • http://twitter.com/ftsor ftsor

    ‘Barton later said on the cable talk show Chapter and Verse that it would take another 16 or 18 years before kids go through the entire curriculum, “then another 10 years after that before those kids get elected to office and start doing things. So we’re talking 30 years from now. But, it’s in the pipe coming down.”‘

    That section on the revised textbooks gave me the straight-up heebie-jeebies.

    • TnkAgn

      True, we dismiss frauds like Barton at our country’s peril.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Since I need to test italics again on Patheos/Disqus I’ll take this opportunity to point out that Chris Rodda made her excellent “Liars for Jesus” available as a free download after Barton went on The Daily Show and lied a bunch.

    http://www.epubbud.com/book.php?g=LQREBLZM 

    If you can, buy it.  If you the money is your objection, then read the free copy.

  • http://nwrickert.wordpress.com/ Neil Rickert

    Thanks.

    I heard that NPR report, and thought it was excellent.  I expect we will soon hear more calls for defunding public broadcasting.

  • http://twitter.com/DragonCalf Pieter B

    Moses’s father-in-law tells him:
    “Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear
    God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be
    rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and
    rulers of tens

    Let’s remember that for the next time we hear bleating about unelected judges making law.

    • http://twitter.com/DragonCalf Pieter B

       Ick. Sorry about the formatting. Not sure why that happened.

      • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

        It looks like Disqus is broken (well… broken more than usual. I sure wish this forum would dump it for a better commenting system).

      • Stev84

         “i” tags are broken since a couple of days and treated as linebreaks for some reason. “em” still works for italics

  • http://www.theaunicornist.com Mike D

    It was utterly frustrating when Jon Stewart totally softballed this guy.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/CKQEXWUDO4UDPBRXPYVVIUOLFI Matt P

      It was a tough interview to watch. I think Stewart did a good job, it’s just that every time Jon read a quote verbatim from Barton he kept saying it was out of context or there was something else to it. Barton seemed like a slick used car salesman in his answers and responses.

      • Vision_From_Afar

         This.
        Stewart couldn’t come out swinging, because for people like Barton, that’s all they want, is to cry “Persecution! Bias!” Stewart had to come at him sideways, but Barton’s a slick one and managed to dodge Stewart relatively effectively. I can’t stand the man, but I’m willing to a admit a grudging respect for his verbal dexterity.

        • Houndentenor

          It’s because no one in the media dares call someone a liar.  Well if you are lying, then you are a liar.  If you don’t like being called a liar, STOP LYING!  But the stenographers passing themselves off as reporters these days aren’t going to do it.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_SXD6UHKK4UDFTE4P5ZBJG2VPKM Michael Smith

             The only people they attack are those that aren’t helpful to the regime. When they “attack” anyone, it’s just to keep up appearances to diffuse serious anger and moral outrage. It’s all a charade.

  • TnkAgn

    Like Cleon Skousen, the old Mormo-Christian, John Bircher and wack -job that wrote “5000-year Leap, David Barton comes at American History like a creationist approaches the Earth’s present geological and biological status. He already has a thesis, “America is a Christian Nation, founded in biblical principles.” He then collects snippets from history, cherry-picking, distorting, torturing and downright fabricating, in order to come to the conclusion he wishes to be true. And Glenn Beck is a fan of both Barton and Skousen, so what does that tell us?

    Some of the comments on the linked NPR site deal with a side issue: Who has enough street-cred in history to denounce Barton as the fraud that he is. And it is vexing when an actual historian like the ultra-venal Newt Gingrich support this guy. But this is silly. Anyone who passed my 12th grade government class could tell that Barton’s assertions are laughable on their face. The article says that David Barton never debates. No wonder. Any one of my “B” students could mop the floor with him.

    • MargueriteF

      “Anyone who passed my 12th grade government class could tell that Barton’s assertions are laughable on their face. The article says that David Barton never debates. No wonder. Any one of my “B” students could mop the floor with him.”

      The problem is that the whole fiction behind Barton’s revisionism is the notion that Barton is carefully reconstructing REAL history, whereas your poor misled students aren’t learning the truth of history, but rather being indoctrinated with liberally biased, left-wing propaganda. Therefore, no matter how much they’ve learned and how intelligent their arguments are, Barton’s audience will never accept your students’ conclusions. Any reasonably educated student should be able to poke numerous holes in his assertions– but his audience will simply believe that the student has been an unfortunate victim of the liberal schools. This makes debating him fairly pointless, I suspect.

      • Neil Terry

        The really stupid part of that perspective is that the material that really is taught is pretty watered down to start with, and I’m speaking from a  Californian honors class perspective- supposedly as “liberal” as it gets!   
         
         I don’t remember ever being taught about the religious beliefs of the founders in grade school or even in high school, except the basic facts that they were mostly christians of one sort or another, often different denominations, and yet found a successful way to work together.  What’s so goddamned liberal about that?  That it didn’t require genocide or a Thirty Years’ War American Style?  That nobody got “purged” (except a whole lot of Natives, who weren’t mentioned much either)?  Isn’t that success one of the main reasons we have the government and country we do in the first place? 
         
        I didn’t find out about any of the controversial religious views of the founders, or any of the great deist/skeptic quotes, or the Jefferson Bible until I started doing my own reading as a late teen/young adult!   They sure don’t mention the Jefferson Bible in grade school.  Even if some of it was in the books in high school, it certainly wasn’t stressed, or on any of the tests I took.  Apparently, “liberal bias” in education means that tiptoeing around conservatives’ religious sensibilities isn’t enough…everyone has to actively lie on their behalf! 
         
        I don’t think I will ever understand the minds of hyper-religious and hyper-reactionary people.  They must be deeply under the influence of horrible, crushing fear and anxiety, or motivated by an insatiable thirst for power, or both.  Based on what they SAY they want, but also on what it is that they attack, I can only conclude that they are even more power-hungry and more inclined to fascism than they already admit.  They really do want to destroy our country and replace it with one in that is purely in their own image, and I think they relish thoughts of righteous bloodshed, domination, and brutal punishment for those who aren’t willing to play good “sheep” to their “shepherd” act.
         
        The only unanswered questions I ask myself are:
         “Do they really, truly believe that they will be saving the country from their god’s wrath and justly gaining incredible authority in the process, or is it all just a power-grabbing put-on?  Can they really believe the ridiculous horseshit the claim to believe?  How?  Could they really be that shitty WITHOUT sincerely insane beliefs?  How?   
        Not that it matters much in the end- if it ever comes to spilling blood to preserve my freedom, their inner motivations are the least of my concerns. 

  • Corey

    i havent read the comments yet, so forgive me if this was already brought up but, didnt NPR fire a few folks just recently. because they wouldnt run a fundies christian ideology of evolution?

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Not that I recall.  
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NPR_controversies  Do you have anything more specific?

      • Corey

        im searching….i couldnt have dreanmt that, could i? lol

      • Corey

        Alabama Outrage, Joel Kaplan, July 26, 2012 The firings of two long-time public broadcasting executives at Alabama Public Television has led to outrage, consternation, mass resignations and questions about whether the political appointees of the Alabama Educational Television Commission were seeking to force the station to broadcast programs based on creationism. http://cpb.org/ombudsman/display.php?id=103

    • Ryan

      The case you are thinking of was Alabama public television

  • http://www.facebook.com/mlysle1 Mark Lysle

    I thought Barton was a crackpot the instant he tried to claim that the Founding Fathers were adherents to a sect of Christianity that didn’t exist until after the Civil War.

  • Carroll Price

    For religious people, it’s not what the bible says that important, it’s what they interpret it to say.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BB2F6VMATUEHIE67ZNWSB2TJC4 D

    It has been argued, but Jefferson, Franklin, and others were certainly of a deist and secular mind, and deism does not have the trinity, or ‘supernatural’ miracles…it is simply a thinking that all this great stuff got here somehow, it might or might not be from one creator. For Christians to argue different is just trying to get it not to mean what it says – but to say what they mean.  Period.


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