Effect Measure

Maybe it says “In God We Trust” on our currency, but it’s a financially risky strategy, as the “Christian-centered” Georgia-based Integrity Bank discovered as it came apart at the seams last week:

The Alpharetta-based bank, which opened its doors in 2000 with a Christian-centered philosophy, is the 10th U.S. bank to fail this year and the second Georgia institution to fail in the past 12 months.

As ranked by its total assets of $1.1 billion, Integrity becomes the third-largest bank failure in Georgia history.


Integrity is the second financial services firm with a Christian-centered theme to soar at one point only to crash and burn. HomeBanc Mortgage Corp. last year sought bankruptcy protection after it ran out of money.

Integrity’s employees regularly prayed before meetings or in branch lobbies with customers, while the bank gave 10 percent of its net income to charities.

“We felt if we prayed and obeyed God’s word and did what He asked, that He would help us be successful,” the bank’s founder, Steve Skow, told the Journal-Constitution in 2005. (Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Don’t get me wrong. I am not mocking this bank for having a conscience or their commitment to their community. My pension money is invested in companies screened for products and business practices I find objectionable. That’s not the problem here. The problem is that these folks thought some God was going to help them make money if they sucked up enough. Since empirical evidence doesn’t seem to be very high on their list of things they find cogent, it is likely the failure to answer their prayers for Big Bucks won’t dampen their faith.

So of these True Believers who aren’t swayed by evidence, I have only one question:

Want to buy a 1995 Volvo? Under 100,000 miles. Disregard appearances. It runs great. Because I say so.


  1. #1 Bill the Cat
    August 31, 2008

    They’re showing all the brains of the Underpants Gnomes.

  2. #2 caia
    August 31, 2008

    I think the key here is that “leave it to God” is only an acceptable response in situations where you either can’t do anything about it yourself, or can make the case that you shouldn’t. In matters of fulfilling fiduciary duties, giving it over to God is no good. You have to give it over to competent personnel; God is not your accountant.

    On the other hand, it’s hard to judge them more harshly than anyone else; plenty of secular banks are going under, too. In the recent banking crisis, there seems to have been plenty of magical thinking: “housing prices can keep going up without fail, there’s no danger in giving mortgages to people who can’t afford their terms and then selling those mortgages off… no comeuppance!” If not invisible sky deity magical thinking, it’s been equally illogical belief in rosy financial predictions in the face of contradictory evidence.

  3. #3 revere
    August 31, 2008

    caia: On the other hand, it’s hard to judge them more harshly than anyone else; plenty of secular banks are going under, too.

    Yes, but I would judge any bank harshly that said it thought by praying or using a ouija board or consulting an oracle it would succeed. I know that I do irrational things, like wear a certain hat when my team is playing, but I don’t bet other people’s money because I’m wearing it. Banks have failed because of bad management but there are all kinds of bad management. And praying for guidance and success is one of them, right?

  4. #4 caia
    August 31, 2008

    Oh, absolutely. I don’t know the ins and outs of this bank’s failure; maybe they acted differently than other failing banks, or failed to act as other banks have to avert failure. I was just noting that financial service professionals seemed to have placed their faith in all sorts of daffy ideas; these are just among the easiest to spot from a distance.

  5. #5 Ren
    August 31, 2008

    I feel like I stumbled into the Atheism Blog instead of “a forum for progressive public health discussion… a source of public health information.” You guys are 0 for 2 for me today.

  6. #6 revere
    August 31, 2008

    Ren: We have been blogging for almost 4 years. Tthe sidebar category Freethinker Sermonette and you will see that we have done this every Sunday for years (the sidebar doesn’t include all the Sermonettes on the old site). Many people come here specifically for the Sermonette. What’s the relationship with public health? It’s our blog, so there doesn’t have to be any, but in actuality there is and we discussed it in a series of posts on the old site here, here, here, here, here. So you are 0 for 2 in our book, too. But you are still most welcome here, as long as you are interested.

  7. #7 Ren
    September 1, 2008

    I am very interested. Other people’s thoughts and beliefs are worthy of analysis and discussion (moreso than attack, but that’s for another time). I just really get turned off to publications (in print, radio, and on the internet) that go forth as something and then sneak in something else. Your blog is great in terms of public health, but you’re really lacking in theology, which is the realm where trusting God should be discussed. That’s just me, of course. That’s all.

  8. #8 revere
    September 1, 2008

    Ren: Theology is the scholarly study of religious doctrine. It is not about belief. One of our main points is that religion is private. It isn’t one of our interests and we want religious people to get out of our face and out of our private lives and out of our government. They are not entitled to be in any of those places. They are entitled to have religion in their own lives, not in ours. As far as we are concerned, religion is like being a football fan or a chess fanatic or a member of a social club. If you don’t bother me with it I won’t bother you about it. I have no interest in arcane arguments about religious doctrine, as interesting as they may be to some, just as I have no interest in many topics that are intensely interesting to some people. If you think there is a God, fine. If Muslims think there is Allah, fine. If the Pope thinks Jesus died for his Sins, fine. It has nothing to do with me until it has something to do with me, and then it isn’t “fine.” And I get to say so here.

  9. #9 Ren
    September 1, 2008

    Let me just tell you what a Jesuit Priest once told me, and leave it at that, agreeing to disagree. At any rate, the priest asked me if I would withhold the cure to a disease from people who refused it if in my heart of hearts I knew the cure would work. Of course not. The same is true of religious people on all ends of the spectrum. They are convinced that God, Jesus, and all the prophets and their teachings are the way to eternal life (and maybe even a number of virgins). As such, it would say something about them if they didn’t try to share this knowledge, or if they backed away from trying to share it from “those who have ears but do not listen”, as Jeez would say.
    This has so many parallels to Public Health that it’s not even funny. So here we are, knowing what we know and wanting to share it, confronting those who hear but do not listen, and getting up in the morning to make one more person a believer in something they really can’t see, hear, taste, smell, or feel.
    Let’s move on.

  10. #10 revere
    September 1, 2008

    Ren: I’m more than happy to move on. I understand you wish to share what you feel are deep insights and feelings. Unfortunately there are so many people who want to share knowledge like that with me and with you and I don’t have time or interest or inclination to try to decide between kinds of knowledge I don’t credit as knowledge. So whether you wish to share orthodox Judaism, or Mel Gibson Catholicism or Evangelical Protestantism or some kind of Islam or Scientology or any of a thousand other religious beliefs I’m just not up for it. But I wish you peace and comfort in whatever it is that gives you find peace and comfort. For me it’s science and mathematics and my family. I am now an old man and set in my ways and content about the path I have chosen, if unhappy about the world and the path it has taken and the immense amount of suffering in it. Your mileage may differ.

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