David Barton: I’ll Only Debate Atheists If I Get to Speak 92% of the Time

BartonDavidDebateMathSometimes you come across folks who feel they are truly entitled to a special privilege. Take for example Mr David Barton. The Friendly Atheist recounts this latest saga of absurdity on steroids …

Christian pseudo-historian David Barton gave a sermon last month at Calvary Chapel Salt Lake (Utah) in which he explained the bizarre conditions under which he’d debate an atheist.

Rule #1) He won’t do it unless he gets to speak 92% of the time. Because Christians make up 92% of the country.

I remember I got challenged to debate one time by the American Atheists Association [sic]. They called me — not they, but a news guy called — and said, hey, American Atheists Association wants to debate you. Will you debate ’em? And I said, “Well, here’s the ground rules. If I debate them, I get 92% of the time.”
He said, “That’s not fair!”
I said, “Well, wait a minute.” I said, “92% of the nation believes in God. 6% doesn’t. 2%’s undecided. Now, if I debate them and they get 50% of the time, they now get eight times more than what they’ve earned. They’ve earned 6% of the time. My side has 92%–I’m not gonna give away my 92% to go down to their 50%. And so that’s the way policy works in America, is the majority gets to rule.

This is utterly absurd and is clearly not the way debates work … ever … anywhere.


His claim that he was invited to debate by American Atheists is not true, they have confirmed that they have never invited him to debate. It is of course distinctly possible that some other group might have.

His claim that 92% of the US population believe in God is also not factual. If you check Pew Research it is closer to 70.6%. Take a closer look at that poll and you find that Mr Barton’s variation of belief, Evangelical, is only 25.4% so if he really did try to negotiate such absurd rules then he should only speak for 25.4% of the time.

Who Is Mr Barton?

You can read all about him here on Wikipedia. There we discover that concepts such as honesty and integrity are terms that he is not familiar with.

Here are a few nuggets I mined from there to illustrate that point …

  • The thing that he is perhaps best known for is the stance he takes regarding the founding of the US. He asserts that the United States was founded as an explicitly Christian nation. This is dismissed by almost every credible historian as nonsense (see here, and here, and here and here).
  • He also claims that the US Constitution does not call for separation of church and state … once again, this is not factual.
  • His official biography describes him as “an expert in historical and constitutional issues” … but the real truth is that he is not, and holds no formal credentials in either history or law.
  • He has a book, or at least he had a book, published that was entitled “The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson”. 
    • A group of 10 conservative Christian professors reviewed the work and reported negatively on its claims, saying that Barton has misstated facts about Jefferson
    • His Christian Publisher withdrew his book from publication and stopped production because they found it to be basically fiction.
  • To support his position this guy just makes stuff up. He has quotes that are supposed to be from various founding fathers such as James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and even the U.S. Supreme Court. Historian Robert Alley challenged him about these and asked for the actual sources to verify them. Barton replied by admitting that he had none … in other words it was all fiction, there were not real quotes at all.

Why oh why is truth discarded and replaced with fiction?

Basically to emotionally manipulate people into supporting absurd political ideas that have no basis in fact. The end-game, the vision, is a very far-right one. If permitted to do so, he would like to see a Christian theocratic dictatorship established, and even put that bold claim in his book. He has argued that only Christians should hold political office and nobody else should.


Mr Barton might indeed argue against concepts such as the separation of church and state, but he is in reality a very good example of why maintaining it is vital. If that wall should crumble and people like Mr Bardon grasp the reigns of power (I’m looking at you Ted Cruz), then we will indeed enter a new dark age of intolerance and ignorance.

2 thoughts on “David Barton: I’ll Only Debate Atheists If I Get to Speak 92% of the Time”

  1. While his premise is severly flawed, to be charitable to Mr. Barton, it is conceivable that he may of been talking about a different atheist organization besides American Atheists.

    For example, there is a group called Atheist Alliance of America. I’m checking with the leadership of that group if they recall Barton ever approaching them.

  2. Mathematically speaking, if you’re going to define fairness in relation to a percentage like population, then the percentage of time needs to be flipped. If you gave the 92% (over-represented) group 8% (under-representation) of the time, then both groups would have equal representation (according to these wacky rules). Assuming you’ve normalized to only consider the two groups involved.


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