June 16, 2016

The way in which Bill Gates does and does not believe in God.

The Christian Post presents some quotes from Gates's Rolling Stone interview that I find pretty amusing. This is just classic:
"The moral systems of religion, I think, are super important. We've raised our kids in a religious way; they've gone to the Catholic church that Melinda goes to and I participate in."
So his wife goes to church, and he participates in it. I'm picturing her taking the children to the actual place and him sending money. He thinks religion is important, but mainly because it gives people a moral system, not because of anything beyond the visible world. You want children to have that, morality in system form. System is a particularly good word for Gates to use.
"I've been very lucky, and therefore I owe it to try and reduce the inequity in the world. And that's kind of a religious belief. I mean, it's at least a moral belief."
He likes morality, and he participates with money. "Owe" is a key word.
When asked if he believed in God, he responded, "I think it makes sense to believe in God, but exactly what decision in your life you make differently because of it, I don't know."
He carefully extracted himself from the question and made it about what other people do, and he's respectful about the religious choices they make. Believing in God is not senseless. It might work for you.
At the same time, he said he agrees with "people like Richard Dawkins that mankind felt the need for creation myths. Before we really began to understand disease and the weather and things like that, we sought false explanations for them. Now science has filled in some of the realm – not all – that religion used to fill.... But the mystery and the beauty of the world is overwhelmingly amazing, and there's no scientific explanation of how it came about. To say that it was generated by random numbers, that does seem, you know, sort of an uncharitable view [laughs]."
What a perfectly nice agnostic! He's deeply engaged with morality, modest, and respectful. This is a man with $76 billion.

62 comments:

Michael K said...

I agree with him. If he would like my bank routing numbers, I would be will to share that $70 billion, more or less.

tim maguire said...

I'm picturing her taking the children to the actual place and him sending money.

I paused over that take. You may well be right, but it caught me because of the descriptors used--she goes, he participates. It's phrased to sound like his involvement is greater than hers. Which makes funny the reality you notice--that his involvement is likely much less than hers.

Money is all to Bill Gates. He's lucky? Sure, but he's also ruthless and selfish. It's not surprising she's more religious than him. She's always been a better person and, in this marriage, she makes him a better person.

Gahrie said...

I am a deist, which means I don't believe in any religion.

However, I do believe in a creator, and I do believe that not only is Christianity a positive good, I also believe that civilization requires the extrinsic motivators that religion provides.

tim in vermont said...

Dawkins is a used asswipe stuck to the shoe of atheists.

EDH said...

I can't wait for God to force Gates to "upgrade" to Catholicism 10.

Curious George said...

"EDH said...
I can't wait for God to force Gates to "upgrade" to Catholicism 10."

Gold

Luke Lea said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AReasonableMan said...

The most striking thing about Gates is that his company has failed to make a bug-free product after 25 years of trying. Amateurs working part time can produce a superior product.

Luke Lea said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Curious George said...

"AReasonableMan said...
The most striking thing about Gates is that his company has failed to make a bug-free product after 25 years of trying. Amateurs working part time can produce a superior product."

Dude, God Himself can't write bug free code.

Rick said...

I'm picturing her taking the children to the actual place and him sending money.

Pretty much. My niece was in her first communion group . Bill was almost never with them for regular services, but he did make the FC.

tim maguire said...

AReasonableMan said...
The most striking thing about Gates is that his company has failed to make a bug-free product after 25 years of trying.


Agreed. Home computers have been around for generations and they still don't work right. But then, Microsoft always was a crap company that used market dominance to stifle innovation and force its crappy products down people's throats.

Luke Lea said...

"He thinks religion is important, but mainly because it gives people a moral system ..."

Well, yes. The original Hebraic conception of God that we find in Genesis was unique in that it commanded justice in human relationships and punished those who did not observe those principles (which were essentially the principles of what we call equity or fairness).

For the historical background see here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B48WcEDU3CN9azhzOWctX0NzTmNSTG9TTnNIU2RkMkNxOHpZ/view?usp=sharing

Elite non-believers -- George Washington and Benjamin Franklin for instance -- commonly recommended religion, which they presumed to be worship of this Hebraic God, on precisely these grounds. Gates is not an outlier in this respect.

Rick said...

tim maguire said...
Microsoft always was a crap company that used market dominance to stifle innovation and force its crappy products down people's throats.


I think people forget their contemporary competitors were mostly just as crappy. How long did it take Lotus to come out with WYSIWYG? Microsoft sucks compared to what we wish it was but so does everything else.

rehajm said...

"I've been very lucky, and therefore I owe it to try and reduce the inequity in the world. And that's kind of a religious belief. I mean, it's at least a moral belief."

Brilliant sentiment backed by idiotic solutions.

Phil 3:14 said...

We are the "bug" in the code.

Hagar said...

Bill Gates' stock in Microsoft is estimated to be worth $76 million at the present time - not Bill Gates himself.

Bill Gates and John D. the 1st both played rough with the competition, but delivered a superior product at a lower price to the consumers.

And both retired at an early age. It was John D.'s successors at "The Standard" that made him "the world's richest man."

Darcy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AReasonableMan said...

Hagar said...
delivered a superior product at a lower price to the consumers.


It is not clear that Microsoft ever produced a superior product. What they had was a monopoly, thanks to piggy backing onto IBM's former monopoly.

There was a good article in the WSJ some months (years?) ago about how the only way to make real money is to establish a monopoly. MS was exhibit A.


Darcy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Darcy said...

To me, "Religious" means someone claiming moral superiority. Atheist progressives are religious in my opinion. Old covenant. Rule followers. A "Believer" knows he is a sinner (liar/rapist/murderer), knows he cannot live without sinning and therefore needs a Savior. Cannot judge. New covenant.

Bill Gates is a religious man. It's interesting that he allows for the existence of God as long as it somehow validates his beliefs and actions. Bill Gates believe he is good! Believers know that we are not good. It's amazingly freeing to know that! One might suppose that knowledge could encourage us to keep sinning - after all, we are forgiven! It does exactly the opposite.

Paul Snively said...

His overall view—that an ordered universe suggests a Creator—was a commonplace before followers of Darwin overread him in ways Darwin himself was rather quick to disavow. When Newton formalized physics, he was absolutely convinced that all he was doing was recapitulating those of God's laws that govern the physical universe. Leibniz's "best of all possible worlds" comment specifically goes on to explain that he means in the sense that the smallest number of causes have the greatest range of effects, out of the plurality of universes God could have created. All Darwin's followers did was replace the word "God" with "random."

Interestingly, even in the 20th century, this strategy sometimes didn't take. Albert Einstein, contrary to what modern atheists try to claim, was not an atheist. He is properly understood as a Spinozan pantheist, and often couched his non-scientific criticisms of, e.g. the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics in such terms ("Der Herrgott würfelt nicht," usually translated as "God does not play dice with the universe"). His good friend at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Studies and the most brilliant logician in human history, Kurt Gödel, famously said: "Religions are, for the most part, bad, but religion is not." Gödel explicitly claimed to be a theist in contradistinction to Einstein's pantheism, and believed in the Christian afterlife, albeit claiming to be able to deduce it from the known laws of physics and logic rather than simply by faith. Gödel even went so far as to produce a new variant of the ontological proof of God's existence, which has recently been automated and verified as being sound.

All of this is really just to say two things:

1. Bill Gates is in good company.
2. Religion is not the exclusive province of the stupid, naïve, or deluded.

PB said...

All I say is, thank God this guy has not decided to run for President!

I've had some direct exposure to Bill in years past and I don't think he's changed much. I hope he sticks with his charitable foundation and spends all his money before he dies so he doesn't leave much in the hands of others where they can do real damage with it.

Paul Snively said...

Darcy: Believers know that we are not good. It's amazingly freeing to know that! One might suppose that knowledge could encourage us to keep sinning - after all, we are forgiven!

This was precisely the accusation that was thrown at the early Lutherans. To be fair, Brother Martin gave his critics sufficient ammunition, running around literally saying things like "Sin boldly!" There are whole exegeses devoted just to that phrase!

Rocketeer said...

Darcy, that's great! As a constantly failing Christian I always struggle to articulate this, but you've put it very clearly and succinctly.

Darcy said...

@Paul Snively
I adore Luther's "Sin boldy!". Of course. It is a brilliant instruction on faith.

@Rocketeer
Thank you. I struggle too. :)

Mark Caplan said...

The U.N. estimates there will be 1 billion more sub-Saharan Africans by 2050, and 3 billion more by 2100. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works round the clock to make sure the sub-Saharan African population far surpasses those catastrophically mammoth estimates.

Gusty Winds said...

I'm worth $76 billion quadrillion dollars, and I am committed to reducing inequity in the world.

But we do manufacture any hardware overseas for the cheap labor; we're not stupid about the whole inequity think you know.

And as a business man I like to hedge my bets. That's why I 'participate' in the Catholic Church. If I find myself at the Pearly Gates (my grandmother's name was Pearl by the way) I've know I've at least put enough money in the basket.

Got it.



Hagar said...

IBM sold DOS to cheap these kids, Gates and Allen, because they thought it was more of a nuisance than anything of value to IBM. And it was not a monopoly - there were other operating systems then as now. Gates and Allen just took DOS and ran with it faster and with better business acumen than the competitors.

M Jordan said...

I like Darcy's comment above. I would add that Jesus came to abolish religion. He concluded the old covenant of law and behavior when, dying, he said, "It is finished." After resurrection he brought his followers into an entirely new experience, breathing on them and saying, "Receive the Holy Spirit." The rest of the New Testament articulates what just happened. As Paul put it, "It is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me ..."

Very mystical, very non-religious.

coupe said...

Moral's are OK, but every week I like to put an 'e' on it and dance around in my underwear.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Ann Althouse said..."We've raised our kids in a religious way; they've gone to the Catholic church that Melinda goes to and I participate in."" // What a perfectly nice agnostic!

Excuse me? He's allowing his children to go to CATHOLIC church, Professor. Catholic! You know, those people who don't "support the gay community?" And you think he's perfectly nice? Give me a break, he's just another hater--or, if you want to be charitable, he's a hate-enabler for allowing his defenseless children to be indoctrinated by that hateful anti-gay Catholic church. He's allowing hate, in his own home! Perfectly nice? Obviously not.

madAsHell said...

I think the recent purchase of LinkedIn has put a little tarnish on that $76 billion valued stock.

M Jordan said...

Speaking of Luther's "Sin Boldly," there's a great book on how to write in the academic realm that goes by that title. It's by Dr. Dave Williams. Excellent guide which helped me clarify my own teaching of writing to university students.

Original Mike said...

"Dawkins is a used asswipe stuck to the shoe of atheists."

Amen.

Original Mike said...

"The most striking thing about Gates is that his company has failed to make a bug-free product after 25 years of trying."

What makes you think he's trying?

M Jordan said...

Gates talks like Trump in a way: simple, declarative sentences, small words, little nuance.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

The claim that religion teaches a person what's right and what's wrong makes a lot of sense to me and now might be a good time to mention that I've been clicker-training our new puppy and it's all been going very well.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

I've been very lucky, and therefore I owe it to try and reduce the inequity in the world. And that's kind of a religious belief. I mean, it's at least a moral belief.

That is indeed a religious belief. Absent a transcendent reality who would he owe the debt to?

Fernandinande said...

Awww, how cute.

AReasonableMan said...
The most striking thing about Gates is that his company has failed to make a bug-free product after 25 years of trying.


Just about any non-trivial software will have bugs; Microsoft's problem was bad design. On the other hand, they were in the right place at the right time, but mostly took advantage of poor negotiators at IBM to get a big foot in the door.

Fernandinande said...

Eric the Fruit Bat said...
..I've been clicker-training our new puppy and it's all been going very well.


Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with clickers?

wildswan said...

The Gates Foundation supported Planned Parenthood, despite its abortion clinics located in black areas for many years. American blacks are reproducing at below replacement levels.
The Gates Foundation has supported China's family planning, despite its coercive one-child policy and its abortion of girl babies. Twenty million girls are "missing."
The Gates Foundation supports spreading contraception among sub-Saharan Africans despite the evidence from other areas that wide-spread contraception leads to family disruption and a birth crash which in turn leads to social and economic disaster. See Germany and the migrants.

Gates pays no attention to the consequences of his actions. In the past those consequences were not as evident. But now? Isn't it time to ask some questions? But when you have 76 billion I guess it's easy to think that no one will ever call you to account. Especially if there is no God, just your own ideas on morality.

Gabriel said...

The idea that religion is great for the commoners, who don't have much sense and might do who-knows-what if they didn't think supernatural forces were watching and waiting to punish them, but that the elite who are fully reasoning human beings don't need that sort of thing and should just refrain from publicly undermining it, is very old. Pre-Roman.

I'm not a Christian but I'm with Screwtape on this, that Christianity is not to be pursued for its social benefits.

Certainly we do not want men to allow their Christianity to flow over into their political life, for the establishment of anything like a really just society would be a major disaster.

On the other hand, we do want, and want very much, to make men treat Christianity as a means; preferably, of course, as a means to their own advancement, but, failing that, as a means to anything—even to social justice.

The thing to do is to get a man at first to value social justice as a thing which the Enemy demands, and then work him on to the stage at which he values Christianity because it may produce social justice. For the Enemy will not be used as a convenience. Men or nations who think they can revive the Faith in order to make a good society might just as well think they can use the stairs of Heaven as a short cut to the nearest chemist’s shop. Fortunately it is quite easy to coax humans round this little corner..

Darcy said...

Wait. I'm confused. Is Gates aiding a sub-Saharan population explosion or a birth crash?

Jupiter said...

tim in vermont said...
"Dawkins is a used asswipe stuck to the shoe of atheists."


I suppose you're right. On the other hand, he's a pretty good writer, and he hasn't massacred a roomful of innocents listening to music lately. You could have worse things stuck to your shoe, Tim.

Jupiter said...

The one, sure thing we know about religions is that at most one of them is right. At most.

wildswan said...

Is Gates aiding a sub-Saharan population explosion or a birth crash?

The Gates Foundation is reducing deaths from malaria - in that sense, for some, not me, causing a population explosion.

The Gates Foundation is promoting contraception. Look at the Germany - a declining population despite great public health due to contraception and abortion.

Which trend will prevail in sub-Saharan Africa? One thing we know is that population declines that took 100 years to manifest in Germany, took only fifty in former Communist countries and took only ten to fifteen years in East Asia. In other words, different social systems respond differently to the family disruption caused by contraceptives but whatever the consequences a speed-up in the time frame in which the change happens is grossly obvious by the end of the Twentieth century. So that is why I think people should be very cautious in how they interfere in other social systems. To me what Gates is doing is a form of neo-colonialism and it will cause sudden catastrophic population decline. But even if you don't think that it ought to be obvious that one should be cautious. One should not be so self-righteously certain as the Gates Foundation is that one knows the consequences of interference in someone else's social system.

Paul Snively said...

What wildswan said @ 11:03 AM, but to be fair, this is not at all specific to the Gates Foundation. Any such intervention will have a wide variety of unintended consequences, up to and including not knowing whether you might be contributing to a population explosion or population crash, because there are just too many exogenous variables, not least of which include the preferences, values, and decisions of other human beings.

But all I've done here is recapitulate why I'm a Libertarian.

Paul Snively said...

M Jordan: Very mystical, very non-religious.

I get a kick out of reminding people that Christianity is an eastern religion.

Teasing aside, when you look at just the gospels, you have the "synoptic" ones (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). Then you have John, which is as good a Jewish Kabbalistic (mystical) text as you could possibly want:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

I also get a kick out of reminding scientism-fan atheist friends that the word "word" in John, in Greek, is "Logos," the root of "logic."

wildswan said...

"Paul Snively
Any such intervention will have a wide variety of unintended consequences, up to and including not knowing whether you might be contributing to a population explosion or population crash"

Centralized planning is a dying dinosaur thrashing about in the La Brea tar pit and knocking down everything near it. That's where I agree with libertartians

The only thing is, Paul, that contraceptives were originally promoted because it was thought that the consequences WERE known. The theory of the demographic transition was what made interference by the US government in the form of promoting family planning (and even requiring it in order to get foreign aid) acceptable. It is now understood that that theory doesn't even work in Europe and certainly not elsewhere. But still the US government and Gates both go on promoting contraception in other societies as if they knew what they were doing.

The Cracker Emcee said...

"So his wife goes to church, and he participates in it."

Pretty standard for a Catholic family since, oh, St. Paul.

M Jordan said...

Paul Snively said: "I also get a kick out of reminding scientism-fan atheist friends that the word "word" in John, in Greek, is "Logos," the root of "logic."

Oh, baby, that's one of my favorite little "Let's look at the Greek" passages. Logos is translated "Word" in almost every English version, but it could just as easily be translated "logic" or even "ratio." The implications of such views are immense. Christ was the essence of the very laws that made the universe.

And what's really interesting is ... the "logos became flesh and dwelled among us."

n.n said...

He doesn't understand the Judaic-Christian line at all. There is a firm separation of logical domains. The conflation of logical domains which is evident in "secular" liberal societies, past and present, and tribal Christian sects, is a corruption of science and the Christian philosophy, respectively.

LakeLevel said...

n.n. "is a corruption of science and the Christian philosophy, respectively"

You don't really know anything at all about Catholicism do you?

Lydia said...

Good old Martin Luther, the Jew hater who wanted to set fire to their homes, schools, and synagogues, and expel them from Christian lands.

Paul Snively said...

Lydia: Good old Martin Luther, the Jew hater who wanted to set fire to their homes, schools, and synagogues, and expel them from Christian lands.

Yes, that one, for which the modern Lutheran church has apologized. In any case, if you were to walk up to Martin Luther and inform him that he was a terrible sinner, you'd have gotten nothing but earnest agreement, probably in terms invoking human waste (Luther's commentary was quite often colorful in that way).

Lydia said...

Mighty big of them. Too bad that apology came rather late in the day. From a review of the book Demonizing the Jews: Luther and the Protestant Church in Nazi Germany:

"The acquiescence of the German Protestant churches in Nazi oppression and murder of Jews is well documented. In this book, Christopher J. Probst demonstrates that a significant number of German theologians and clergy made use of the sixteenth-century writings by Martin Luther on Jews and Judaism to reinforce the racial antisemitism and religious anti-Judaism already present among Protestants."

Nancy Reyes said...

His opinion reminds me of the lecture by Brother Astronomer (Vatican Astronomer) on religious belief in science: who said geeks tend to see religion as a pragmatic thing, not as an emotional one.

In Catholicism, this attitude is consistent with faith, which is an intellectual choice.

But most of your readers see religion a la Dawkins or as a warm fuzzy ("spiritual" not religious, or many of the Pentecostal/born again churches). Maybe they need to be educated. Start with William James' Variety of Religious experience and then go on to read some of John Paul II's stuff.

mikee said...

Why on earth does Althouse believe that anything said publicly by a person with $76 billion in assets is not a scripted response developed by well-paid PR employees of the estimable Mr. Gates?

Warren Buffet's Omaho home is indeed a humble abode, and he stays there when in town, but you don't hear much about where he stays in New York, London, San Fran, Hong Kong or anywhere else, do you?

tim in vermont said...

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin told an MSNBC panel on Thursday that the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is “killing us” in terms of preventing gun violence. Mr. Manchin, a Democrat, referred to due process as an inconvenient “firewall” when it comes to denying Americans firearms. “The problem we have — and really, the firewall we have right now, is due process. It’s all due process. So we can all say, ‘Yeah, we want the same thing,’ but how do we get there? If a person is on a terrorist watch list like the gentleman — the shoote

So there's a seat that looks like it should be getable.

I will always defend the 2nd amendment!

LOL Another lying Democrat.

Paul Snively said...

Lydia: Mighty big of them. Too bad that apology came rather late in the day.

Apart from Martin Niemöller, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Karl Barth... what, other than not liking Luther, is your point?

Lydia said...

That Martin Luther had a highly pernicious influence on German history because of his rank hatred of Jews.