A non-believer’s guide to biblical economics

I’ve studied economics and taught mathematics to students who became economists, but I’m not an economist. Still, I know enough to recognize that economists sometimes selectively focus on data that fit their liberal or conservative ideologies. At least both sides work with data and try to make convincing arguments for their models. Economists of all stripes recognize that their own models are by no means perfect.

I should have known it would be only a matter of time before biblical economics turned the “dismal science” into something even more dismal. Some conservative Christians are now educating themselves and others with quotes about economics that come from that same infallible “science” book describing a flat earth with four corners resting on pillars at the center of a ten thousand year old universe. It’s also the same book of biblical morals that once justified slavery, anti-Semitism, treating women as property, executing blasphemers and homosexuals, and burning witches and heretics.

Of course our government’s huge national debt is a looming threat to long-term prosperity. Good secular and moral arguments can be made on how best to solve the problem. We should analyze arguments over tax policy and deficit spending. We can have reasoned disagreements about what type of tax is fairest, and whether we should spend more on guns or butter.

The one thing we should not do is make economic policy based on “God’s plan.” Nobody knows God’s plan. I don’t believe God has an economic plan, because I don’t think God exists. Conservative Christians are citing passages from Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy, in which God tells Israel not to borrow money from any nation. The implications are that we (even though we are not Israel) should not sell bonds to other countries and use the money to help poor people in this country. Whenever I hear something about “God’s plan” I compare it with the “Tooth Fairy plan.” Usually the Tooth Fairy comes out better, but in this case they are similar. Empirical evidence suggests that the Tooth Fairy gives more money per tooth to children of rich people than to children of poor people. I guess she must be an economic conservative.

You can quote from selected biblical passages to make whatever case you want, and then claim the moral high ground. Here’s something for conservative Christians to contemplate. Jesus tells us to pay our fair share of taxes without grumbling, and that he favors class warfare. He is probably a socialist, and maybe even a communist. How do I know? The Bible tells me so.

Matthew 22:21: Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.

Mark 10:25: It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

Matt. 19: 21: If you want to be perfect, sell your possessions and give to the poor.

Acts 2:44: All the believers were united and shared everything with one another.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-faith/post/a-non-believers-guide-

to-biblical-economics/2011/09/28/gIQAarGk5K_blog.html

About Herb Silverman

Herb Silverman is Founder and President of the Secular Coalition for America, and founder of the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry in Charleston, South Carolina. He was founder and faculty advisor to the College of Charleston student Atheist/Humanist Alliance. He is a board member of the American Humanist Association as well as a Humanist Celebrant, advisory board member of the Secular Student Alliance, and member of the Advisory Council of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. He has served on the boards of the Atheist Alliance and the Humanist Institute. He has written for "On Faith" at the Washington Post and for the Huffington Post. He has spoken at a number of conferences and written articles for many freethought publications. He has appeared in a number of debates on topics like: Can we be moral without God? Does God exist? Is America a Christian nation? He has also debated at the Oxford Union in Oxford, England on the topic: Does American Religion Undermine American Values? Here is information on his recent book, Candidate Without a Prayer: An Autobiography of a Jewish Atheist in the Bible Belt
http://pitchstonepublishing.com/site/candidate_without_a_prayer.html

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01495983897864604830 Andy

    Great post. This the first time I've heard of this biblical economics movement.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16641266062186767500 Keith Parsons

    Herb,

    Yeah. Great post. As a moral teacher, I rate Jesus somewhat lower than Socrates or the Buddha. He said quite a few things that I regard as silly or wrong. However, Jesus is very consistent in siding with the poor against the rich. Time and again he warns against greed and the excesses and evildoing of the rich. Trying to turn Jesus into a Tea Party Republican will take some pretty fancy footwork.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X