States with Highest Religiosity most Opposed to Obamacare

I once read an article in a sociology of religion journal. Sociologists placed a person who seemed to have fallen off his bike, and was bleeding a little (ketchup) and dazed, on the sidewalk outside a church a little before services were to begin. Members of the congregation passed the person, and not one stopped to help him. They were no good Samaritans.

The authors suggested that the members of the congregation were running a little late and felt a strong obligation to their group, and to the pastor, to try to be there on time, which outweighed any charitable impulse they might have had toward the fallen bicyclist.

Sociologists have found that religion isn’t about helping people or being more ethical than the non-religious. Most religious people just are cultivating a kind of social network or in-group. They also tend to be a bit more self-denying than the general population, i.e. personally puritanical. But they don’t help others at a higher rate than secular people do.

For real Christians, that a wealthy society could make sure every individual got health insurance, but did not, would be a scandal. There is a reason for which the Christian Right actively makes fun of the social gospel.

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12 Responses

  1. The thesis being advanced here rests on the presumption that Obamacare is likely to result in better healthcare for the less fortunate, and that is not a fact in evidence. Health insurance is not mentioned in the Bible. Stealing, however, is prohibited. So is murder. The government enforces all of its edicts with the threat of violence: that is what makes it the government (see Max Weber on this point). The Bible is clear that Christians ought not do evil so that good may come, and violent intervention in the healthcare marketplace is evil (not just Obamacare, of course, but also all the other government interventions, in this sector of the market and elsewhere).

    • According to Adam Smith, true markets have perfect information and perfect mobility and rational decision makers. People are not rational about getting sick and dying; they freak out and take whatever deal they can get. Furthermore, they have no way of knowing whether they’re getting a good product unless they are knowledgeable about medical matters, and modern technoloogy has vastly outstripped the common-sense knowledge of the modern worker in an advanced, highly specialized economy. Which means that all the leverage is on the side of the supplier.

      And what the Hell ever happened to “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s”?

      Everyplace else has already discovered that medical markets don’t really “clear”; too many people have to do without as they must in America; that’s why so many countries have done what they’ve done. So move to Somalia already.

    • As for your dogma on the immutability and perfection of private property and markets, here is a link to a mythbusting essay at The Exile on the pioneers of capitalist thought and their real agenda: to use new and artificial claims of property rights to sabotage the traditional communalism of British peasants so they could be exploited in factories and enrich the sainted entrepreneur:

      link to

      For example:
      “Arthur Young, a popular writer and economic thinker respected by John Stuart Mill, wrote in 1771: “everyone but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept poor, or they will never be industrious.” According to Perelmen, “John Locke, often seen as a philosopher of liberty, called for the commencement of work at the ripe age of three.” ”

      “Even David Hume, that great humanist, hailed poverty and hunger as positive experiences for the lower classes, and even blamed the “poverty” of France on its good weather and fertile soil:

      ‘Tis always observed, in years of scarcity, if it be not extreme, that the poor labour more, and really live better.”

      This is the context in which the Commons were privatized, and later the Irish deliberately left to starve during the Potato Famine to extinct their “lazy” culture while the aristocracy raised cash crops to export.

      All sounds pretty coercive to me.

    • “The government enforces all of its edicts with the threat of violence”. Yes, and the government could not exist without taxation, which is theft. But, if their were no government, other groups and individuals would steal and use violence. Many rich people use the state to transfer power and wealth to themselves. If there were no state, the rich would create one.
      Jesus gave sight to the blind and healed the sick. Today, many poor people get healed in county hospitals that are funded by tax money. Thank God societies are willing to steal and ENFORCE laws that save peoples lives
      And don’t forget what happened to Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5).

  2. In the various Christian communities to which I’ve belonged,
    there is usually a core of about 15% who live to serve others.
    Your generalizations seem to accurately describe the rest, to a degree.
    And the “research” using the ketchup ? It was conducted by adherents of the religion of Humanism, to show that theirs was the superior religion. Guess what ? That’s just what their “research” shows.

  3. “For real Christians, that a wealthy society could make sure every individual got health insurance, but did not, would be a scandal.”

    The early Christian (Catholic) Church, in the 1st Century, was communist. I don’t think Jesus was a communist, but sharing with all in the community is how his earliest followers responded to the Good News. they were definitely not a wealthy community.

    Free Will is fundamental to Christianity, as I understand it.
    People are free to help others or not. Also, people are free to recklessly buy entertainment rather than prudently purchase insurance.
    The Progressive Illuminati would take away my freedom to choose whether to pay for someone else’s health insurance because they believe that they possess a superior understanding of my responsibilities and obligations. They view government as a mechanism through which to compel me to do the right thing, as they see it.
    I don’t agree.


    “There is a reason for which the Christian Right actively makes fun of the social gospel.”

    What is that reason, may I ask ?
    Is it because Christians are hypocrites ?
    “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

    Here in the epicenter of the Christian Right,
    I don’t see my neighbors making fun of the social gospel. They all try to strike some balance in their lives, between going to work and watching “DWTS;” saving for a new RV versus tossing paper money in the collection plate.
    I believe that individual members of the Christian Right give a lot more of their income to charitable causes* than other religions, including Humanists.

    * – by which I mean actual charitable causes that directly benefit people, as opposed to pseudo-charitable causes that benefit pets, political causes or The Nature Conservancy, and those which result in public recognition for the act of generosity.
    The word “charity” derives from the Latin “caritas.” link to

    • By the way, what are people supposed to do when they must choose between buying insurance and making their rent because your free-enterprise theology cheered on mass outsourcing and offshoring by billionaires?

      Oh right, that’s how Christian Right charities bail out the poor expecting to be repaid by increasing their flocks. No wonder they want the government out of the way of their march to theocracy.

      How much free will did we have in the Good Old Days that the Right continually insists it wants to bring back, when church-run censorship boards, religiously-inspired bans on alcohol and blasphemy, Biblically-justified white supremacy, bigotry against “Christ-killers”, and bigotry against Papists all operated in a “free” society with limited government? Seems that one institution just fills the power vacuum caused by the fall of another, and I’d rather have the one I can vote in.

  4. Thanks for posting this, Juan. “Religiosity” is a much-debated concept. Do you happen to know how it was defined by the scholars who created this map? David

  5. If I had relied on sociologists to define what being religious is, I never would’ve become religious. Religion is about helping people, but it’s not always those who are in an organized religion, or who call themselves Christians, who are truly religious. It is baffling to me as well that Christians, usually Protestant evangelicals, are not more supportive of the social gospel. But this is human nature, not religion at work. Jesus said it was almost impossible to have riches and enter the kingdom of heaven. He also said “distribute unto the poor.” As for secular people, like Mr. Juan Cole (I’m assuming he’s basically secular), it’s amusing to me when they try to explain what religion is or what it means, since they have no religious experience themselves. It’s like the deaf trying to tell others about music.

  6. For real Christians, that a wealthy society could make sure every individual got health insurance, but did not, would be a scandal.

    Nobody’s talking about every individual getting insurance, or even taking a step in that direction. Instead you’re talking about Obomneycare – a corporatist bill designed purely to increase companies’ profits, while doing nothing to extend coverage or increase quality of care for those who need it.

    It seems pretty clear what “real Christians” (and decent human beings of all beliefs) would feel about that.

  7. Whether or not the Healthcare law will reduce the cost of medical care, it does expand the ability of the populace to seek help when needed, and receive adequate treatment. That the US is moving toward a realistic, compassionate method of caring for the majority of its citizens, places them into the sphere of modern, First World nations. Many of those nations have a less-than-overwhelming percentage of religious citizens. It would seem dogma tends to limit the dogmatic’s regard of those who don’t share the same reverence for said dogma.

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