Barton: People Are Poor Due to Lack of Christianity

Barton: People Are Poor Due to Lack of Christianity June 10, 2012

David Barton’s near perfect record of being absolutely irrational continues. On a recent radio show, not only did he declare that the Liberty University law school was one of the best law schools in the country (reality: it’s one of the lowest ranked by every measure), he also said that people are poor because they don’t read the Bible enough:

Wouldn’t it be interesting to do a study between those that are on welfare and see how much and how often they read the Bible. You know, if Booker T. Washington is right that Christianity and reading the Bible increases your desires and therefore your ability for hard work; if we take that as an axiom, does that mean that the people who are getting government assistance spend nearly no time in the Bible, therefore have no desire, and therefore no ability for hard work? I could go a lot of places with this. I would love to see this proven out in some kind of sociological study, but it makes perfect sense.

In fact, there is a clear correlation between poverty and religious belief, not only in the United States but around the world. The poor are more likely to believe in God than the non-poor, for fairly obvious reasons.

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  • Of course Barton has no idea what’s in his own Bible. Jesus says on numerous occasions that the poor are blessed and that the rich are going to hell. And the book of Job specifically says that you HAVE to be poor (or at least be suffering) in order to be good (not that he could know this, as no Christians have ever read past the second chapter of Job). This has actually been something that the upper class has used to manipulate the lower classes of Christian societies for centuries. It was also a major part of mother Theresa’s work.

  • Alverant

    I wonder what he has to say about the Dark Ages when christianity was at its height. Lots of poor people then. They were hard workers, but they were still poor and repressed.

  • Michael Heath

    David Barton:

    does that mean that the people who are getting government assistance spend nearly no time in the Bible, therefore have no desire, and therefore no ability for hard work? I could go a lot of places with this. I would love to see this proven out in some kind of sociological study, but it makes perfect sense.

    We can be confident on where Mr. Barton wants to take this. He works hard to supplant our secularist form of liberal government by supplanting it with a tyrannical fascist theocratic regime which forcibly indoctrinates people into his brand of conservative Christianity. “Conservative” from both a political and theological perspective.

    Mr. Barton’s easily one of the most repugnant moral creatures alive today, and the fact he’s celebrated within American evangelical and fundamentalist denominations illustrates their own opposition to humanity, American values, and even the second of only two prevailing commandments Christians are ordered to obey. That being authentic love towards others, including one’s enemies (which I concede is arguably incoherent). So while Mr. Barton’s earned our disdain, it’s far worse that millions of American evangelicals, fundamentalists and an increasing number of [conservative] Catholics slavishly accept his falsehoods and delusionally promote his prescriptions.

  • Shawn Smith

    I hate to defend one of Barton’s statements, but it sounds to me like he was saying that reading the Bible is correlated with wealth, not just being religious. I guess he figures that everyone on welfare is stupid and therefore deserves to get their handouts from the government taken away. Just another hateful greedy Christian to add to the list.

  • raven

    I would love to see this proven out in some kind of sociological study, but it makes perfect sense.

    Those studies have been done many times.

    The most religious states are the Red states of the South. They are also the poorest and rate highest in social problems.

    Texas is a leader in the number of children growing up in poverty.

  • DaveL

    You know, if Booker T. Washington is right that Christianity and reading the Bible increases your desires and therefore your ability for hard work; if we take that as an axiom, does that mean that the people who are getting government assistance spend nearly no time in the Bible, therefore have no desire, and therefore no ability for hard work?

    Hell, we can draw any crazy conclusion we want if we start by accepting some highly dubious proposition as axiomatic. For instance, let’s accept as axiomatic that David Icke is right and the Queen of England and the Pope are reptilian aliens…

  • Michael Heath

    Johnryder:

    Of course Barton has no idea what’s in his own Bible. Jesus says on numerous occasions that the poor are blessed and that the rich are going to hell.

    I’m confident Mr. Barton is aware of these passages. Instead I think Mr. Barton is a victim of the same type of delusional thinking I’ve encountered from every single evangelical and fundamentalist Christian I’ve encountered.

    That’s the dependence on consciously and unconsciously compartmentalizing to make arguments in the moment which don’t sufficiently consider contradictory biblical passages. I’ve concluded this defective type of thinking is a requirement of being a biblically inerrantist Christian since there are few claims defending the faith which enjoy a consistent set of biblical passages while enjoying the lack of passages which contradict the point being made. So from this perspective, in the moment he was in, he’s probably conveniently unconscious of these passages given the approach to thinking and argumentation we see from Barton and all his type.

    Johnryder:

    And the book of Job specifically says that you HAVE to be poor (or at least be suffering) in order to be good (not that he could know this, as no Christians have ever read past the second chapter of Job).

    This is not true. The entire book of Job is a popular topic within liberal Christianity. One of the most popular professors at Michigan State U. back in the 1980s was Robert T. Anderson, who taught in the religious studies department. He led off one of his 101 classes with the book of Job. I subsequently learned the topic is popular within liberal theology. Not just when studying the Abrahamic religions but also in comparative religious studies when it comes to how religion confronts the reality of suffering.

    And being raised to be fundie (which never really took), the book of Job was a part of the set of references regularly preached upon by the three pastors who presided over the church of my youth along with a Sunday School topic that reached down to even teenagers. I first read it in its entirety as a young teen. Job is a notable book since it effectively contradicts much of what inerrantist Christians believe regarding the nature of suffering. That’s given both conflicting passages in other parts of the Bible along with the evolution of their religious faith into a right wing authoritarian political ideology with a god created to succor such politics.

  • harold

    I’m confident Mr. Barton is aware of these passages. Instead I think Mr. Barton is a victim of the same type of delusional thinking I’ve encountered from every single evangelical and fundamentalist Christian I’ve encountered.

    That’s the dependence on consciously and unconsciously compartmentalizing to make arguments in the moment which don’t sufficiently consider contradictory biblical passages. I’ve concluded this defective type of thinking is a requirement of being a biblically inerrantist Christian since there are few claims defending the faith which enjoy a consistent set of biblical passages while enjoying the lack of passages which contradict the point being made. So from this perspective, in the moment he was in, he’s probably conveniently unconscious of these passages given the approach to thinking and argumentation we see from Barton and all his type.

    While I completely agree with the content of what you are saying here, I can’t help noticing that the “hypocrite”, is lacking.

    Consciously or unconsciously, they start with a self-serving agenda, and then claim that the Bible supports it, when that claim is at best tenuous, and often somewhat ridiculous.

    (There seems to be an idea that recognizing hypocrisy is “saying something good about religion”. It isn’t, it’s merely recognizing hypocrisy. There were probably hypocritical members of the Pol Pot regime.)

    Barton does what you say, and by definition, that makes him a hypocrite.

  • Barton is not disciplined enough to do real research and earn his way honestly. So he scams fundamentalists by spewing whatever they want to hear. They are so mired in hate and fear that they don’t care about his blatant lies and contradictions, only that he justifies that hate and fear. For doing that he is well paid, I presume.

  • Childermass

    So if wealth depends on believing in Christianity, then the very richest should all be fundamentalist evangelical Christians. Right?

    And Christianity should be no where to be seen in poor regions. Right?

  • tassilo

    “In fact, there is a clear correlation between poverty and religious belief, not only in the United States but around the world.”

    That’s a correlation based on conventional statistics. Barton is relying on Christian Statistics, another field of study entirely.

  • I wonder if the correlation is education/ignorance and wealth, and that it’s simply the case that the faithful tend to be less well-educated.

  • Michael Heath

    This is not true. The entire book of Job is a popular topic within liberal Christianity. One of the most popular professors at Michigan State U. back in the 1980s was Robert T. Anderson, who taught in the religious studies department. He led off one of his 101 classes with the book of Job. I subsequently learned the topic is popular within liberal theology. Not just when studying the Abrahamic religions but also in comparative religious studies when it comes to how religion confronts the reality of suffering.

    And being raised to be fundie (which never really took), the book of Job was a part of the set of references regularly preached upon by the three pastors who presided over the church of my youth along with a Sunday School topic that reached down to even teenagers. I first read it in its entirety as a young teen. Job is a notable book since it effectively contradicts much of what inerrantist Christians believe regarding the nature of suffering. That’s given both conflicting passages in other parts of the Bible along with the evolution of their religious faith into a right wing authoritarian political ideology with a god created to succor such politics.

    My wording was probably terrible, but I think I was right. The book of Job requires that someone has to suffer to be considered “good” because you can’t tell if someone is good unless they are still good while they are suffering. This is the entire premise of the bet between God and the adversary. The adversary says that Job is only good because God rewards his goodness with prosperity. God disagrees, but they both agree that the only way to prove it is to take away everything Job has.

    The main point is that Job completely contradicts what idiots like Barton believe. The amount that someone suffers in life has absolutely nothing to do with how good or “Christian” a person is according to Job. Unless I’m misinterpreting you I think you basically said that in your post.

  • garnetstar

    Since the majority of Christians, rich or poor, don’t read the bible (especially the nasty bits), it hardly seems that would affect economic status.

    Except, of course, by causing more Christians to abandon their harmful delusions and become atheists.

    That might do it.

  • abb3w

    @0, Ed Brayton:

    In fact, there is a clear correlation between poverty and religious belief, not only in the United States but around the world.

    @4, Shawn Smith:

    I hate to defend one of Barton’s statements, but it sounds to me like he was saying that reading the Bible is correlated with wealth, not just being religious.

    I’d have to agree with that quibble. Although Barton is specifically referring not to religiosity in general, but the specific practice of reading the Bible — which is correlated to religiosity, but imperfectly.

    Of course, it happens that in the years 1988 and 1998, the GSS asked people how often they read the bible (variable READWORD) — so, the sociological study David Barton asks for already exists, and the conjecture can be checked. The correlation does appear rather weak against SEI, but indeed looks to go the exact opposite direction from Barton’s claim.

    Except, that’s against how well the results turn out, not whether people value hard work. Trying GETAHEAD, which asks people whether it’s hard work and/or luck that get you ahead… and Barton’s kind of right, in that people who read the Bible more tend to think that hard work is what let’s you get ahead. Their belief, however, is apparently inaccurate, as the SEI data indicates. It’s not just hard work, but also ability and luck that let you get ahead. So astonishingly, it appears David Barton might be slightly correct on the proximate correlation, but fundamentally wrong on the ultimate effect — because he over-estimates the actual impact of hard work on getting ahead.

    This, incidentally, looks to be an form of “inferred justification” by Barton; the paper (doi:10.1111=j.1475-682X.2009.00280.x) makes an interesting read.

  • abb3w

    Damn. Forgot about the three-link moderation standard. Oh, well; Ed will probably uncage the previous post within a day or two.

    @14, garnetstar:

    Since the majority of Christians, rich or poor, don’t read the bible

    Assuming the numbers haven’t changed much since 1988 and 1998, that’s a bit inaccurate. A majority don’t read it at least weekly, but only a third don’t read the Bible at least annually.

    Contrariwise, that’s probably just “read from”, rather than “read the whole thing”. Nohow, the former appears likely the standard Barton was referring to.

  • dan4

    “…increases your desires and therefore your ability for hard work…”

    Is Barton quoting Washington here correctly, because “desires” and “abilities” are two separate things (i.e. the quote doesn’t make much sense)?

  • left0ver1under

    When the poor strenuously believe a religion, they’re more docile and complacent, willing to put up with abuse from the aristocracy and less likely to revolt. They believe the lie that “the meek shall inherit the earth”.

    The last thing the 1% want is a thinking populace, never mind free thinking.

  • caseloweraz

    I too wonder if Booker t. Washington ever said such a thing. I looked at seven or eight repositories of quotes from him, but nothing remotely like that turned up.

    On the other hand, Booker T. Washington did say this:

    “Egotism is the anesthetic that dulls the pain of stupidity.”

    http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/84278.Booker_T_Washington

  • Stacy

    Barton doesn’t actually say anything about wealth or poverty in that quote. He sets up “hard work” against “being on welfare”, not “wealth” against “poverty”:

    reading the Bible increases your desires and therefore your ability for hard work

    Alverant #2:

    I wonder what he has to say about the Dark Ages when christianity was at its height. Lots of poor people then. They were hard workers, but they were still poor and repressed

    The Dark Ages are his ideal. He’d say those were the good ol’ days.

  • marymallone

    It’s been a while since I’ve posted here! Anyway, what I find frustrating about statements such as these – and they do not only come from David Barton – is that they assume that there is always a positive correlation between working hard and being financially successful. This argument would be more convincing if the minimum wage were sufficient to cover the cost of living (think of people who have to work more than one job to make ends meet) or if those who are economically successful (think CEOs) earned at a rate proportional to the hard work they put in (not to claim that high-paying executives do not work hard, as surely many hours and much effort are put in; however, it seems that that effort is rewarded with a far higher pay than labour in other vocations).

    What I am trying to say is that aside from Barton’s religious demagoguery, I am sick of hearing the argument that people are poor because they don’t work. No, they are poor because the economy is structured in such a way that they are kept poor regardless of the work they put in.

  • marymallone

    And sorry to post twice in a row, but yes, Dave L.! That is the funniest part of Barton’s speal. “If we arbitrarily accept this claim as true, it supports my argument, funny enough.”

  • dan4

    @19: “Barton doesn’t say anything about wealth…in that quote.”

    Uh, Ed didn’t say that BARTON said “anything about wealth in that quote.”

  • I wonder if the correlation is education/ignorance and wealth, and that it’s simply the case that the faithful tend to be less well-educated.

    I think it’s more that the false certainty of religion is more attractive to those without a sense of security in their lives.

  • The poor are more likely to believe in God than the non-poor, for fairly obvious reasons.

    Actually, it’s not so obvious. I can think of several different hypotheses for why that’s true.

    1. Religious people are inclined toward behaviors (e.g. praying, superstition, affinity fraud) that negatively affect their ability to earn and retain income.

    2. Poor people are more inclined toward religion as a crutch to feel better about their disappointing station in life.

    3. Both religious belief and poverty are caused by a third factor, namely one or more cognitive deficiencies.

    4. Countries, regions, or towns that are poor also have lower rates of education and technological advancement that would lead to secularization.

    These aren’t mutually exclusive hypotheses, but it’s not immediately obvious which if any are correct.

  • Scott Hanley

    Here’s an interesting study published last year that claims religiosity correlates, not so much with poverty, as with income inequality. The theory is that it’s not so much the poor adopting religion as a source of comfort, but the elites adopting religion to justify their position and using their superior social status to set cultural standards that the poor tend to follow.

    From the conclusion:

    Although religiosity has long been linked to economic inequality, little empirical research has directly examined the relationship. The analyses presented in this article demonstrate that inequality has a powerful positive effect on the religiosity of all members of society regardless of income and so lend support to the understanding provided by the theory of relative power: religion may serve as a comfort to the poor as deprivation theory suggests, but it is also and more importantly a means of social control for the rich.

    These findings illuminate an empirical puzzle that has been central to many debates in the sociology of religion in recent years: Why have religious attitudes and beliefs retained their relatively large importance in the United States while declining dramatically in other advanced societies? The differences in religiosity across the Atlantic have been taken as decisive evidence against theories of secularization and in favor of theories based on the religious market (e.g., Stark and Iannaccone, 1994). Neither conclusion appears warranted. The results of our comparative analyses indicate that religiosity is much higher in the United States than in western Europe primarily because inequality is much greater there, making wealthy individuals more likely to adopt religion to justify their privilege and giving them more power to spread religious belief throughout their society. That the ebb and flow of religiosity in the United States appears to have been strongly influenced by falling and rising inequality over the past half-century further underscores this point.

    Solt, F., Habel, P. and Grant, J. T. (2011), Economic Inequality, Relative Power, and Religiosity. Social Science Quarterly, 92: 447–465. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-6237.2011.00777.x

  • slc1

    Re caseloweraz @ #18

    It would not be at all surprising if Barton was making up the quote from whole cloth. That’s what he does.

  • d cwilson

    This is not true. The entire book of Job is a popular topic within liberal Christianity. One of the most popular professors at Michigan State U. back in the 1980s was Robert T. Anderson, who taught in the religious studies department.

    I think you’re confusing theology scholars (whom I think should be in the same university departments as the professors who teach the works of J. R. R. Tolkien) with your run of the mill Christians. Sure, professors of religious studies spend a lot of time reviewing and discussing those passages. But your average Christian has probably not cracked open that book in decades. Instead, they just nod along when the preacher reads selective passages out loud, say “Amen” when they are expected, and then pretend they have a clue as to what the passage says.

    The Book of Job, in fact, is a prime example of the Bible saying the exact opposite of what people think it does or at least, contradicts what their religion tells them. It starts with Satan waltzing into heaven. No effort is made to bar the gates and no indication that he’s some kind of rebellious outcast. God just says, “Where’ve you been?” That leads to them making a bar bet over how much suffering they can inflict on Job before he breaks.

    And Job does break! People always ignore the ending. The whole story proves Gawd was wrong and Satan was right! And when Job does finally demand to know why so much hardship has been inflicted on him, Gawd’s response is essentially, “Bite me, I’m Gawd! You have had no business asking me why I do what I do.”

    The whole point of the story is that we’re ants, Gawd is a dick with a magnifying glass, and we have no right to even ask why he’s frying us.

  • Michael Heath

    d cwilson writes:

    I think you’re confusing theology scholars (whom I think should be in the same university departments as the professors who teach the works of J. R. R. Tolkien) with your run of the mill Christians.

    Read further, you’ll note I also reported Job was a regularly occurring theme in my fundie upbringing, an upbringing I find remains equivalent to what we observe now when it comes to fundies in the public square. I didn’t exclusively rely on my college course to support what you rebut, but instead added my college experience precisely because I was responding to the false claim no Christians considered Job when in fact my observation was the exact opposite, it was considered by even the casual laity within evangelical and fundamentalists along with liberal theologians – the intelligentsia of Christianity.

    So I reject the claim “run of the mill Christians” haven’t dealt with Job. If they merely go to the Sunday worship service, skipping even Sunday School, they’re going to get a periodic dose of Job. Of course how the ‘run of the mill’ biblical inerrantists deal with Job is illustrative on how they deal with all other biblical passages which have corresponding contradictions, by avoiding and denying such contradictions exist.

  • d cwilson

    So I reject the claim “run of the mill Christians” haven’t dealt with Job.

    I’m sure they’ve “dealt with Job”, but only in the most superficial manner. Most Christians I’ve met, especially when I was being raised one, thought Job is the story about a guy who held his faith under tremendous adversity, when in actuality, it’s a story about how Gawd fucking with a guy until he does break.

  • Michael Heath

    d cwilson writes:

    I’m sure they’ve “dealt with Job”, but only in the most superficial manner. Most Christians I’ve met, especially when I was being raised one, thought Job is the story about a guy who held his faith under tremendous adversity, when in actuality, it’s a story about how Gawd fucking with a guy until he does break.

    My experience has been the opposite. The end of Job is a frequently used example of why morality coming from God is his arbitrary, incoherently inconsistent demands of us as expressed in the Bible rather than some consistent principle which meets an objective (e.g., minimizing the suffering of current and future sentinent life). That we aren’t to question him, he’s God, we can’t even imagine his holiness and knowledge, and we’re essentially pawns.

  • timothyyoung

    Wow! This is truly awesome stupidity, with bells hanging off of it!

    But, seriously, if ever you needed a finer example of the consequences of letting certain diseased personality types into positions of power and influecne, then this is it. This really does show how horrific the impact of having conservatives running things is. To blame the poor for being poor, is just incredible malevolence. Persons with this disposition should never be allowed anywhere near position of power in our society.

  • Gregory in Seattle

    Barton is a follower of Supply Side Jesus, so what do you expect?