The following declaration issues forth from the Baptist church in South Somerville, Maine:
George Washington never actually said these exact words in 1789 or at any other time. What Washington actually said, in his 1789 Inaugural Address, was this:
“I dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction which an ardent love for my Country can inspire: since there is no truth more thoroughly established, than that there exists in the economy and course of nature, an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness, between duty and advantage, between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy, and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity: Since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven, can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained.”
The South Somerville Baptist Church would like us to accept these words as true because George Washington said them. But are those words true? Do the “propitious smiles of Heaven” shine down in the form of “public prosperity and felicity” where “the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained,” are not disregarded?
Let’s look at the fifty states of the United States. Let’s look at religiosity, measured by the Gallup Poll as the % of residents who report “religion is important in their lives and say they attend church weekly or nearly weekly.” For felicity, let’s look at the violent crime rate of a state as measured by Uniform Crime Reports. For public prosperity, let’s look at GDP per capita in a state as reported by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. To judge the relationship between religious righteousness, felicity and prosperity, let’s create scatterplots for the 50 states and look for the relationship that results:
The more religious states are not more felicitous. The more religious states have higher rates of violent crime.
The more religious states are not more prosperous. The more religious states have lower gross domestic product per capita.
George Washington may have said something like what the Somerville Baptist Church claims he said, but when he said it George Washington was wrong.