Revisionist pseudo-historian David Barton says that one day, science will prove the Bible is true, and science will, apparently, explain all God’s bizarre foibles, like guys being clean-shaven:
If God tells you to do it, I guarantee you at some point they will find scientific evidence on why that is the right thing to do. It may be against the culture, it may not make any sense, who knows what, it doesn’t matter.
And we have learned, after years of doing this and seeing literally thousands of stories like this that, you know what, if it’s in the bible, science is eventually going to show that that’s the right stuff and the right thing to do.”
This is apparently predicated on the “fact” that science has so often proved the Bible right, when, of course, the opposite is true. But in Barton’s world, if something is proven untrue, it can only mean that more stuff will be proven true because, eventually, even the worst gambler is going to catch a break?
But more ominously, Barton may have a way of ensuring scientists discover what he wants them to discover. Because in Proverbs it says, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” Barton wants aspiring scientists and mathematicians to have a proper “fear of the Lord.”
Through most of history, this passage has been translated as scientists living in fear of Church authorities. But Barton doesn’t care about facts:
When we had a God-fearing approach to education, our educational knowledge was so much higher than what it is now. Just something as simple as having prayer in school and having a daily Bible reading. Did you know, back when we did that in schools, America was number one in the world in literacy? We had the highest literacy rate in the world. The last forty years we said ‘ah, we don’t want any religion in schools.’ We’re now 68th in the world in literacy. Our knowledge of even how to read has fallen through the floor; correlates exactly to the time we said ‘oh, fear of the Lord can’t be part of our knowledge.
When Barton complains about the U.S. being ranked 68th he is being about as frank and honest as ever, which is to say, not at all.
The U.S. literacy rate is 99 percent, reveals the CIA World Factbook. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) the United States ranks third in adult literacy rate given as a “Percentage of the population ages 15 and older who can, with understanding, both read and write a short simple statement on their everyday life.”
According to the Literacy Project Foundation, “In a study of literacy among 20 ‘high income’ countries; US ranked 12th.”
Certainly this is no grounds for bragging. But 12th is not 68th.
That is not to say that we do not have declining rates of literacy in this country. But these cannot be shown to correlate with declining levels of fear of God. There are many problems with America’s educational system, but illiteracy has more to do with funding for our educational system, something God’s Own Party steadfastly refuses to do, preferring instead to put the money into the hands of Republican entrepreneurs who put it in off-shore accounts.
As always, facts undermine Barton’s position that the Bible is literally true and that God is right that we can’t be smart without fear of him. In Barton’s universe, all the evidence suggests the opposite of what it suggests and we need more God-fearing in our society.
In fact, however, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), back in the good old days when people still prayed in school and feared God, far fewer people knew how to read than today:
In 1870, 20 percent of the entire adult population was illiterate, and 80 percent of the black population was illiterate. By 1900 the situation had improved somewhat, but still 44 percent of blacks remained illiterate. The statistical data show significant improvements for black and other races in the early portion of the 20th century as the former slaves who had no educational opportunities in their youth were replaced by younger individuals who grew up in the post Civil War period and often had some chance to obtain a basic education. The gap in illiteracy between white and black adults continued to narrow through the 20th century, and in 1979 the rates were about the same.
In fact, when the Constitution was signed, back when, according to Barton, everybody was a God-fearing Christian, 60 percent of Americans (excluding slaves) did not know how to read.
Yet, obtuse to his dishonest core, David Barton insists that “If God says it and it’s in the Scriptures, I don’t care if its homosexuality or marriage, I don’t care whether it’s economics or debt, I don’t care whether it’s education and studies; if God says to do it, it’s going to be the right thing to do and it will help me and benefit me.”
God the economist. God the scientist. God the educator.
God help us.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.