David Barton’s New Thesis: People Who Are on Welfare Don’t Read the Bible

David Barton seems to have discovered the scientific principle of testing your theories. He has actually developed a thesis and he says he could go a lot of places with it, of which I have no doubt since he regularly goes places he has no business going.

Here, see what you think about Barton’s new thesis:

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.

This is a startling thesis. For one thing, it is startling that Barton made it at all rather than simply announcing it is true like he usually does when a stray thought strikes him.

But let’s look at that last comment: “it makes perfect sense.”

He says something that has not been proven – what they call a false premise – and that gets him in immediate trouble: “if Booker T. Washington is right that Christianity and reading the Bible increases your desires and therefore your ability for hard work…”

He hasn’t established that this is true but he is already running ahead of himself and using the assumption that it is true as the basis for a further study, that people who read their Bibles and practice Christianity are less likely to be on welfare. Proving that people on welfare don’t read their Bibles isn’t going to prove Booker T. Washington’s thesis that Christianity and the Bible make you work harder. Those are two entirely different theses.

As it happens, Oxford University published a study in 2010 that examines “beliefs about God's influence in everyday life across levels of socioeconomic status (SES) and whether that association is contingent upon religious involvement (i.e., frequency of praying, attendance, reading religious texts, and subjective religiosity).”

That study concluded that “The findings challenge the view that SES is uniformly associated with lower levels of beliefs about God's engagement and causal relevance. “ In fact, the author of the study looks at “the hypothesis that SES is associated negatively with beliefs about divine involvement and control. That is, individuals with lower levels of SES should tend to report the highest levels of belief in divine involvement and control.”

The problem for Barton is that this study at least shows “individuals with high SES tend to report the lowest levels of belief in divine control.” In other words, in simplistic Bartonian terms it’s the people who are well off who don’t read their Bible.

And not to suggest Barton is being racist or misogynist in his assertion but this study concludes that “women and African-Americans tend to report significantly higher levels of divine control compared with men and Whites.” A disproportionate number of Blacks are on welfare but they tend to be more religious than Whites – isn’t that a problem for Barton as well? Or is he suggesting that God is punishing them because they’re black? Or is it all somehow liberalism’s fault, that liberals are somehow undermining God’s plan?

The study’s author also writes that though his study calls “into question the core tenets of the deprivation–compensation view”, that “In some respects, my findings are inconsistent with central tenets of deprivation theory, which holds that the socioeconomically disadvantaged tend to use religion to cope with the adversities of their lives. There is little doubt that, overall, low SES individuals are more likely to belief in divine involvement and control.”

He also observes that,

Compared with high SES groups, low SES individuals tend to profess higher levels of divine involvement and control even when both groups share similarly low levels of religious involvement. These patterns concur with the claim that low SES groups tend to hold more orthodox beliefs than high SES individuals—regardless of their actual participation in religious activities (Van Roy et al. 1973). That is, high SES individuals are said to “practice” their religion via engagement in religious activities, while low SES practitioners are more likely to “believe” in their religion (Demerath 1961; Fukuyama 1961, Gaede 1977; Stark 1972). These ideas imply that even when low SES individuals exhibit lower levels of religious involvement they will often retain a higher level of “cognitive religiosity.” By extension, it is plausible that low SES individuals will maintain high levels of belief in divine control and involvement apart from other aspects of the religious role.

In other words, some sociological work in this area has already been done and it doesn’t agree with Barton’s thesis that

lack of Christianity + lack of Bible reading = welfare recipient

It is good to come up with theses and to test them – this is the scientific process after all and we don’t want to discourage Barton from actually thinking, but he tends to come up with them and fall in love with them and to sell them without ever really examining them.

He is as poor a student as he is a scholar: he doesn’t do his homework. You can’t just go to the bathroom and have a thought when you sit down on the toilet and rush it to print. It’s just a whole lot more complicated than Barton wants it to be (a frequent problem of his where history is concerned).  

For example, the study also concludes,

Irrespective of social standing, religious activities help to develop, sustain, and reinforce religious-based explanations that all participants—well-educated or not, rich or poor—use to comprehend the world and their place in it.

What Barton needs to do is first prove that Christians work harder than non-Christians, and having done so, then prove that welfare recipients are less likely to be Christians and/or read their Bibles (and we’ve already seen the evidence is against him here). There is plenty of evidence in the way of polls and studies that Barton could already look at without launching yet another study, but he hasn’t even bothered to do this.

It’s pretty clear Barton hasn’t examined all the angles, not that he ever does. It’s more fun to come up with theories that prove the Bible and Christianity are good for you and then sell them neatly packaged in provocative terms like he does here. I have to give Mr. Barton an “F”.

If you’re ready to read more from the unbossed and unbought Politicus team, sign up for our newsletter here!

32 Replies to “David Barton’s New Thesis: People Who Are on Welfare Don’t Read the Bible”

  1. WOW!.  Now the christian leaders are saying those on welfare are NOT real christians.  These christian leaders really are tools of the Republican corporate interests

  2. The truth is that the less control you have over your own life and the less power you have to make things go your way, the more likely you are to see God or Fate or some outside supernatural entity directing your destiny. That is why these Dominionist creeps are going around with Wesson oil and brick chips trying to get “Gahd” to “humble” people with sickness and destitution, so that they will turn to “Him”, and that is why, I submit, they want to do as much to the whole country.

  3. "…we don’t want to discourage Barton from actually thinking, but he tends to come up with them and fall in love with them and to sell them without ever really examining them…"
    Barton is in an "emo" developmental stage of  what is called "Romantic Love" which is the next step up from "Puppy Love". He is in love with the passion that he "feels" in his gut everytime his brain triggers an idea, in so much, that he looks and sounds like Pep-Pee La' Pew running around on a spring day looking for his one and only love (which is what people looking for that ultimate-romance-novel-passion seek as a "high", an escape from examing reality for authentic "love"…or the facts in Barton's case).
    He's comical to say the least, but, the problem is the old charlatan has follower who live through him vicariously.  They haven't had a "Romantic Love" but want one just like Bartons as that would help them love their savior more…which is what Barton is really saying…if you read the bible more, you'd have "Romantic Love" and everything would fall in place.
    But, if you follow his false logic beyond that point, you could also translate that "Love" is like porno, only with out all the cool stuff (which is the next stage after "Romanatic Love"),

  4. At this point I would have to ask, how many people read their Bibles to start with? but how many people depend on their minister on Sunday to have done it for them?  How many people would David Fartin force to read the Bible if he had that capability?

    I think David Farton would be in severe trouble if he were to get an honest questionnaire back from 310 million Americans on whether or not they read their Bible daily.In fact I would bet that the richer you are the less you read it.

    I really like how right wing nut jobs try to beat up on people who would be the most easily influenced to their cause.

  5. Most people don't read the bible because it's a piece of fantasy or fiction based on bullshit set up to control you.

  6. Barton is merely parroting the right wing meme that those who are not economic winners are not just losers, they are sinners. In their twisted theology, God blesses those who build worldly wealth and those who aren't wealthy are then obviously not "blessed." It's their own fault for not being wealthy, and we have no need to help them because they obviously committed some terrible sin, or they wouldn't be poor. Too bad Jesus never said anything like that, but these people are actually "Paulists" and not Christians.

  7. I don't really know who this David Barton jerk is but he doesn't sound like a Christian to me.It's a shame that these so called Christians don't act more like Christ.Oh well I'll just put him in my circular Limbaugh/Beck/Coulter file.Remember all these idiots are nothing but a distraction.

  8. If social welfare is bad for poor people, what about CORPORATE WELFARE?????
    Here in Ohio, the Governor and the State House gave tax credits and outright subsidies to corporations in Ohio threating to leave the state. The results have been the companies took the money, turn around and either fired , lay people off, or transport jobs from Ohio to low wage states.
    Uh…these are suppose to be the JOB CREATORS.

  9. Certainly seem relevant:
     I suspect that we’re seeing the old Schumpeter “work of depressions” mentality, the notion that all the suffering going on somehow serves a necessary purpose and that it would be wrong to mitigate that suffering even slightly.
    This doctrine has an undeniable emotional appeal to people who are themselves comfortable. It’s also completely crazy given everything we’ve learned about economics these past 80 years. But these are times of madness, dressed in good suits.

  10. is he a christian leader?  I thought he was just a nasty, selfish, narrow-minded little bastard with a bible.

  11. kind of ironic considering how much of the gospel critique is directed at the carelessness, selfishness and hypocrisy of the wealthy and powerful

  12. They read their Bibles, but they've been programmed "When you read this… it means that!".  They take everything at face value unless "translated" into dominionismese by their preachers.  Thus, every time they read the Bible (and based upon experience, they tend to ignore Jesus' own words and fly to the OT or the Epistles of Paul), the control over their thinking gets reinforced.  Anything contrary to the programming is dismissed as "the Devil messing with me!".  So, no independent thinking or thoughts allowed.

  13. This sentence from the article reminds me of reading Martin Luther, who in his writings claimed the same source and place of revelations: " You can’t just go to the bathroom and have a thought when you sit down on the toilet and rush it to print."
    According to Martin Luther, yes you can! Maybe in runs in such revelation seeking intellects.

  14. Worse than that, much (most) of the Bible denounces the rich for their treatment of the poor and gives strict instructions on doing economic justice, and the Book of Job is properly understood as a diatribe against the idea that God blesses the "good people" with wealth and happiness and punishes the "sinners" with misery and poverty.
    Jesus himself said "Blessed are the Poor, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven".   He didn't say "Blessed are the rich", and anyone who reads his words knows that he wasn't friendly to the rich and powerful.
    They're of the religion of the inverse of Christ.

  15. Absolutely: the religion of Jesus taught that the rich and powerful were only rich and powerful because they had sold out to the evil powers that controlled this world. The exactly opposite of what is being taught by Barton and his ilk.

  16. When I read this, I was nauseated while simultaneously finding his stupidity amusing and his ignorance irritating.  He's an old-school Calvinist through and through… sounds like the sort of person who would denounce the Lord's Prayer as satanic if it didn't bring him one iota of power or wealth (as actually happened in the early years of Calvinism… the Lord's Prayer was denounced as something that took people to hell).  I've heard this crap… studied it, and it's part of how the homeless and very poor are officially treated by HUD.
    Something I noted while doing my research and work on poverty and homelessness… most of the homeless were VERY religious, and were being taught or encouraged to blame themselves for their misery.  Many bought into the lies and couldn't see the truth in front of them… that it was the rich who were to blame.  Some of the people I interviewed insisted it was their sin (having a glass of wine or beer now and then, for instance) rather than their boss being abusive and demanding too much of them, for instance.  I was able to show a few people where they were being brainwashed and they left the shelter and program (I don't care who knows it now, but at one time needed to keep that secret because of the hostility it would raise against me).  They were full of rage that they were being pushed to blame themselves when their unemployment was really because the corporate owner decided he wanted to pay $5 a day, rather than $6 an hour – and shipped their job overseas.  Yep, in spite of the fact that their plant was closed and the jobs shipped overseas (and no new jobs available in their area), they were being pressured into blaming themselves. 
    The lower the SES, the more ubiquitous religion becomes.  That was my observation, although it wasn't part of my official research.  I did note in my thesis that the homeless people were being heavily proselytized and that they were also being taught to accept whatever abuse came their way in order to keep a job… even if it was physical.  (That was for the BEST of the religious-based programs… I won't even get started on those not as good.)
    I even had the people I talked with trying to proselytize me… I was in school and educated therefore I must be in opposition to Jesus.  It was strange and irritating to have people assume that because I was not working at grunt labor, and that I was in school as a mature adult, that I was somehow SINNING against God.  Those that took this tack… I didn't tell them that I was almost as poor as they were.
    Shoot, the "Good Christians" were trying to FORCE people into accepting blame for things that they couldn't control.  One person I interviewed had suffered two disasters in a month's time… his wife died from cancer and then the house he was renting-to-buy burned down (owner had put defective wiring in it).  They told him that he could get help IF he'd agree that he caused it all by using drugs (he said he's never used them and I believed him) and accepting the guilt.
    HUD has a program for helping the homeless and very poor, called "Continuum of Care", which is based on the idea that some sort of personal failing is the cause of extreme poverty and homelessness (it's almost the only program they fund).  The entire program is based on "Fixing" the people in need, rather than dealing with the social inequalities that cause it.   The "Christian" charities who fall under this program think that it is a RELIGIOUS personal failing, or something like that leading to failures in other areas of life, that cause poverty.  Never mind that the success rate for that program is dismal, while at the same time there is a program with demonstrated 90% PLUS success rates called "Housing First"… said program is based on the idea that it's not personal failings that cause poverty but structural inequalities or factors not controllable by the individual (such as genetic diseases and so on) and that the real issue was lack of affordable housing (which the Low Income Housing Coalition has clearly demonstrated).
    In every way possible, Barton is wrong.  Personally, I'd think he was an idiot, except it's obvious that he's making tons of money off of his lies and I suspect that (and gaining political power for his masters) is his motivation for saying such wrong things.

  17. Well, I have to admit that my experiences may be skewed, because of the nature of this area.  That would have been normal for the more fundamentalist/dominionist leaning churches, and regular (daily) "Bible study" was the norm in the Episcopal church we attended… at least, that was what people were taught and encouraged to do.  All of the people I knew (the "Good Christians") for 25 out of 33 years of living here read the Bible daily (sometimes two or three times a day) and prayed even more often.

  18. True!   You might also not notice that there is REAL manipulation going on that brings about the misery… like the elites manipulating the market so that they can reduce wages, for instance.  Or your boss firing you because you resist being abused.
    I've talked with – even interviewed – people in those situations who were being pushed towards thinking that they'd brought it on themselves and that their misery was "God punishing them".  In a couple of cases, all I had to do is remind them that it was the people who owned the businesses that caused them to become unemployed and then homeless… and the rage that erupted at the manipulation…!

  19. This was not unexpected. It's an outrageous proposition, but these religious fanatics have tied all conservative ideology to bible dogma and it does not bode well for America. Every new lunacy from Barton and his sycophants that is not laughed into oblivion just proves we are still living in the Bronze Age and that as a society, we're finished.

  20. Hm.  considering the way the gospels portray Jesus as having some pretty serious issues with the wealthy and powerful, I wonder why it is that those two groups never find their way into Barton's cross-hairs.

  21. Ah, you had those, too?  Born and raised in that den of shadows, and there was always something 'a little OFF' about what they were spouting.  Since my 2nd marriage, I've learned a bit more, and dropped that fakery.
    When will they realize that the premise of "high SES (more money) NATURALLY equals less practice of faith?  SCRIPTURE (the REAL one, not the christian bible) says "the LOVE of money is the root of all evil."  It also says you cannot serve TWO Masters (the Father and Mammon, look it up), for you will cleave to one and hate the other; with folks in the high SES category, I think we know where they fall….

  22. Where? He needed both hands to do what he did, and it sure doesn’t sound like he had anyplace else to put a Bible.

Comments are closed.