James Dobson Needs My Money (and an Education)

Big wad of US currencyJames Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, was good enough to send me a letter a few days ago.  Not a personal letter—he basically just wants me to give him some of my money—but a letter nonetheless.  He outlined some of his views about the Christian foundation our country was built on, reported how our country is going to hell in a jet-propelled handbasket, and made the irresistible swipe at homosexuality.

In case he forgot to send you one, I’ve highlighted a few interesting bits of his letter to reply to.

Our Founding Fathers clearly understood the relationship between Christian Truth and the stability of our (then) new nation. Here are just a few quotes that express that essential connection.

And he goes on to quote mine the founding fathers’ writings to find their most pro-Christian statements.

When pundits bring up quotes from the founders, you know that they’re out of arguments.  The U.S. Constitution is the law of the land, regardless of what the founders thought, wrote, or wanted.  They had their chance to define how the country should be run, and they seized it.  That document was revolutionary at the time and now, with a few amendments, effectively governs us more than two centuries later.  It supersedes any other writings of the founders.

Thomas Jefferson, … revisionists tell us, wanted a “wall of separation” to protect the government from people of faith.

No need for revisionists—Thomas Jefferson himself talked about “a wall of separation between church and state.”  And, to be precise, the First Amendment protects the people (whether or not of faith) from the government, not the other way around.

Dobson then goes on to give a long quote by Abraham Lincoln.  Well, not really by Lincoln.  This was a Senate resolution for a National Fast Day signed by Lincoln.  And this was the same Lincoln who said, “When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad.  That’s my religion.”

This was the same Lincoln who said, “The Bible is not my book, and Christianity is not my religion.”

This was the same Lincoln who said, “My earlier views of the unsoundness of the Christian scheme of salvation and the human origin of the scriptures have become clearer and stronger with advancing years, and I see no reason for thinking I shall ever change them.”

The private Lincoln wasn’t the strong Christian that Dobson imagines.  (And it wouldn’t change the Constitution if he were.)

We are witnessing an unprecedented campaign to secularize our society and “de-moralize” our institutions from the top down. …  Most forms of prayer have been declared unconstitutional in the nation’s schools. The Ten Commandments have been prohibited on school bulletin boards. …  In this wonderful Land of the Free, we have gagged and bound all of our public officials, our teachers, our elected representatives, and our judges.

Again: read the Constitution, our 100% secular Constitution.  Prayer should never have been allowed in schools.  Ten Commandments in courthouses or in schools?  Clearly out of step with the Constitution.

I don’t want to see Christian citizens gagged; I want them to have the same public speech rights that I do.  But when you’re acting as a public official, teacher, or elected representative, the rules are different.  The First Amendment demands that you create an unbiased environment.  Evangelism with prayer or religious documents is forbidden.  Dobson somehow finds this a shocking new realization, but the First Amendment was adopted in 1791.

As a secularist, I know when to stop.  I’m only asking that the First Amendment be followed.  I want no Christian preferences—such as “In God We Trust” as the motto, prayers before government meetings, Creationism in schools, crosses on public land, and so on—but when we have reached that secular situation, I will stop.  I’m not striving for a society where Christianity is illegal.  (See what a good friend a secular Constitution is for the Christian?)

But I see no stopping point on the other side, no unambiguous standard that all Christians are striving for.  If they got prayer back in schools, what would be next?

Since we have effectively censored their expressions of faith in public life, the predictable is happening: a generation of young people is growing up with very little understanding of the spiritual principles on which our country was founded. And we wonder why so many of them can kill, steal, take drugs, and engage in promiscuous sex with no pangs of conscience.

I wonder what happens when Christianity fades away?  Does that society devolve into the post-apocalyptic Mad Max world that Dobson imagines?

Let’s compare other Western societies to find out.  Looking at quantifiable social metrics (homicides, incarceration, juvenile mortality, STDs, abortions, adolescent pregnancies, marriage duration, income disparity, and so on) in 17 Western countries, a 2009 study concluded: “Of the 25 socioeconomic and environmental indicators, the most theistic and procreationist western nation, the U.S., scores the worst in 14 and by a very large margin in 8, very poorly in 2, average in 4, well or very in 4, and the best in 1.”1

Ouch—religiosity is inversely correlated with social health.  Sorry, Dr. Dobson.

It is breathtaking to see how hostile our government has become to traditional marriage, and how both Democrats and Republicans are increasingly antagonistic to parental rights, Christian training, and the financial underpinnings of family life.

I assume that “hostile … to traditional marriage” refers to same-sex marriage.

Help me understand this.  At a time when Christian traditionalists like Dobson lament the high divorce rate and the acceptability of couples living together and even having children without the benefit of marriage, they dismiss a group that is actually embracing marriage.

Same-sex marriage is a celebration of marriage, not an attack.

The hope of the future is prayer and a spiritual renewal that will sweep the nation. It has happened before, and with concerted prayer, could occur again. …  If we continue down the road we are now traveling, I fear for us all.

Yeah, an even stronger Christian fundamentalism does sound like a worrisome future since we’ve seen that secular, gay-loving Europe eclipses the U.S. in social metrics.

Candidly, this ministry continues to struggle financially, and our very survival will depend on the generosity of our constituents in the next two months.

Translated: “Give me some money.”

Please pray with us about the future of this ministry.

Translated: “Give me some money.”  (I’ve written before about how prayer requests of this sort admit that prayer is useless.)

I suppose that this kind of lashing out at other people brings in the money.  But it’d be nice to see more credible arguments.

1Gregory Paul, “The Chronic Dependence of Popular Religiosity upon Dysfunctional Psychosociological Conditions,” Evolutionary Psychology, www.epjournal.net (2009).  7(3): 416.

Photo credit: 401K

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10 thoughts on “James Dobson Needs My Money (and an Education)

  1. Hi Bob,

    Very good reply. We can’t let the fanatics take over America and turn the country into a theocracy. It would mean falling as low as Afghanistan under Taliban rule.

    And I cannot agree more when you stress that gay marriage actually strenghtens the institution of marriage. Even those who frown upon homosexuality should agree that gay marriage is more ethical than random sex with multiple partners. Another argument is that allowing gay marriage would reduce the amount of STDs in the population.

  2. “……..Again: read the Constitution, our 100% secular Constitution. Prayer should never have been allowed in schools. Ten Commandments in courthouses or in schools? Clearly out of step with the Constitution..”

    I have pointed out to Bob in e-mails that the Constitution is not 100% secular, as is the French Constitution. The constitution puts Sunday ( the Christian Sabbath) aside for the President. If it was truly secular the Christian Sabbath would not be put aside. And if the early fathers of the constitution were Jewish Saturday would have been put aside. Also the Day of our Lord is in the signing of the constitution..Which directly refers to Jesus Christ. Bob admitted to me so the Constitution is 99% secular big deal..I am just showing all the readers again the dishonesty of Bob. ( Which is at least consistent with his worldview as there are no universal absolute truths and not universals absolute morality, Bob is just acting as he should with his moral relativism) This argument of the Constituion being 100% secular was brought up to other Atheist ( who Bob copies, nothing new under the sun that Bob has not copied) who were refuted by Gary Demar of American visiion.

    RF2 said:

    “…..Even those who frown upon homosexuality should agree that gay marriage is more ethical than random sex with multiple partners.

    The main problem with homosexual marriage is they are trying to redefine the meaning of marriage, because of sexual preference. Also they are depriving children of having a Mother in there life to raise them. If homosexuals want to live together so be it! But they do not need to redefine the meaning of marriage so they can have perverted sex. And starve a child of having a mommy and a daddy. Bob is a parent and I think can appreciate the role his wife has on the children and the balance there is between a Mom and Dad in the raising of a child.

    And if Marriage changes it’s definition on the basis of sexual preference than We should be able to marry our Sisters and brothers, or multiple women , or men, or marry young boys and girls, or marry our pets. If marriage is based on sexual preference all those I listed have the same rights as homosexuals.

    • Bob C:

      I have pointed out to Bob in e-mails that the Constitution is not 100% secular, as is the French Constitution.

      Your arguments that the Constitution contains religious elements are that (1) it says “in the Day of our Lord” and (2) it acknowledges Sunday as a holiday. I don’t see why (1) translating “anno domini” (AD) or (2) acknowledging the customs of the culture are particularly religious. If it made reference instead to Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, would that mean acknowledgement or respect for the gods Thor, Frigg, and Saturn respectively?

      Just so we’re on the same page, religious elements would be something like, “Acknowledging that all morality and law is based in Yahweh …” or similar. That is religious.

      My interpretation of your two examples is that these are simply reflections of the culture. They indeed add zero Christian elements to the Constitution.

      I am just showing all the readers again the dishonesty of Bob.

      It’s a marvel that I can write a single truthful sentence, given that my liege is the Dark Lord! Or something.

      Which is at least consistent with his worldview as there are no universal absolute truths and not universals absolute morality, Bob is just acting as he should with his moral relativism

      And I’ve asked for evidence of absolute moral truths. I think the ball’s in your court in that discussion.

      who Bob copies, nothing new under the sun that Bob has not copied

      I’ve read widely, and I’ve picked up many good ideas from others. If you want to call that copying, go for it. Of course, it’s odd that you’re talking about copying. (Don’t I remember several of your arguments being unattributed copy ‘n pastings from other web sites … ?)

      who were refuted by Gary Demar of American visiion.

      Does he have more than what you’ve presented here? If so, I’m interested in hearing it.

      The main problem with homosexual marriage is they are trying to redefine the meaning of marriage, because of sexual preference.

      Just to get to the same page, can we at least agree that “marriage” in the US has been redefined at least twice, the most recent being Loving v. Virginia in 1967?

      Also they are depriving children of having a Mother in there life to raise them.

      All same-sex couples have children? I hadn’t heard that. I’m not sure how children got into the conversation.

      If homosexuals want to live together so be it! But they do not need to redefine the meaning of marriage so they can have perverted sex.

      I think “perverted sex” is in the eye of the beholder. Indeed, I would think that, by your definition, there’s a lot more “perverted” sex (that is: sex that Bob C disapproves of) going on within heterosexual couples than within homosexual couples.

  3. Bob,

    You seem to like to trot out Gregory Paul. This is the second article in which you have cited his quote on socioeconomic conditions. Interestingly, Paul is a paleontologist with 30 years and numerous books on dinosaurs. He started investigating the link between religion and societal progress because of his irritation with Christians who claimed evolutionary thought was harmful. “Because creationists claim that popular acceptance of evolution harms societies, and because the sociology of religion’s cultural impact is under-researched, Paul began to investigate what he labels the ‘moral-creator socioeconomic hypothesis.’”

    He clearly has an axe to grind, and writes in Evolutionary Psychology, not exactly what sounds like a neutral journal without a position to advance. Can you comment on my previous question about how much of his statistical data may be correlated with better reporting and more accurate statistics from the USA versus a real difference in actual progress? Without knowing more about the data, his quote is taken well out of context.

    If Christianity is so harmful toward society, perhaps we should compare nations with Christian influence with those with little or none. Say, Iran, Sudan, Afghanistan, Burma, China, Turkmenistan and a host of others could be a much better comparison with the Western nations Paul cites. Comparing Western nations among themselves seems way off the mark from what you are trying to prove. Come back to us when you have those reliable statistics so we can determine how harmful Christianity really is.

    Rick

    • He … writes in Evolutionary Psychology, not exactly what sounds like a neutral journal without a position to advance.

      You’re pulling a lot more from that name than I’m able to.

      Can you comment on my previous question about how much of his statistical data may be correlated with better reporting and more accurate statistics from the USA versus a real difference in actual progress?

      Perhaps I missed that question if you posed it earlier.

      Keep in mind that this isn’t statistics in the US vs. those in India or the Congo in 1500. And we’re not talking about Third World countries. This is the US compared against 16 other Western countries. I can’t think of any reason to imagine why the stats of the US are much more reliable than those in Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, or Switzerland (the countries in the study).

      Without knowing more about the data, his quote is taken well out of context.

      I guess I’d point to the peer review process.

      Whenever I find statistics like these that support my position, I’m especially wary. It’s unpleasant to build up a big case with suspect data as your foundation and then have someone point out its weakness. As a result, I’ve been looking out for attacks on his stuff since his first article of this kind in 2005. I’ve seen nothing. But if you find reason to suspect his data or conclusions, I’d like to hear it.

      If Paul’s data is unreliable, I’ll stop using it. In the 6 years since his earliest work, I’ve seen no indication that it is. That his data is inflammatory is a good thing–you’d expect that naysayers would speak up if his methodology were flawed.

      If Christianity is so harmful toward society, perhaps we should compare nations with Christian influence with those with little or none. Say, Iran, Sudan, Afghanistan, Burma, China, Turkmenistan and a host of others could be a much better comparison with the Western nations Paul cites. Comparing Western nations among themselves seems way off the mark from what you are trying to prove.

      Huh? Commonality is the goal. The value of Paul’s country selection is that it reduces the variables so that only religiosity can be compared. You throw in lots of other differences with a US vs. Sudan comparison, and that’s going to help you how??

      Yeah, I appreciate that the US looks better than Sudan, but why? Is it religion? Is it agricultural productivity? Is it the particular history of that area? Is it water access? Education? And so on.

  4. Bob said, “Yeah, I appreciate that the US looks better than Sudan, but why? Is it religion? Is it agricultural productivity? Is it the particular history of that area? Is it water access? Education? And so on.”

    Why not use the only criteria Gregory Paul used, religion. Seems like he didn’t allow for any other factors. It was good enough for you when it made the US and Christianity look bad. Why not eliminate all the other variables in this case? Perhaps because it doesn’t advance your case?

    I stand by my challenge: “If Christianity is so harmful toward society, perhaps we should compare nations with Christian influence against those with little or none. Say, Iran, Sudan, Afghanistan, Burma, China, Turkmenistan and a host of others could be a much better comparison with the Western nations Paul cites. Comparing Western nations among themselves seems way off the mark from what you are trying to prove.”

    I am eager for you to apply your own standard and let us know what you think of the effect of Christianity on Western societies as opposed to Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and atheism on Eastern and Middle Eastern societies. Don’t move the goal posts. You defined that criteria in a previous article.

    • Why not use the only criteria Gregory Paul used, religion. Seems like he didn’t allow for any other factors.

      Because he’d leveled-out the other factors (to a large extent) by using similar countries! Is this argument serious?

      Let’s do it the other way around: let’s use the questions I asked when comparing the US with the other Western countries. Maybe Austria showed better social stats than the US because it has better access to water. Uh … no, that won’t work because the US and Austria are the same on that one.

      Oooh! How about this one: maybe the US and Switzerland differed because of different education. Hmm–no, those two countries are probably in the same ballpark there.

      Or maybe, the US and Denmark have different stats because Denmark has better agricultural productivity. Nope–another blind alley.

      Taking your question seriously is nonsensical.

      Perhaps because it doesn’t advance your case?

      Yeah, right. I cherry pick the data to support my position.

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