Is Bill Gates Insane?

March 17, 2014 | 18 comments

Bill and Melinda Gates

Over the last few days Catholic radar screens have picked up an interview Bill Gates had with Rolling Stone magazine. Here are the questions and answers that have some Catholics talking:

RS: You’re a technologist, but a lot of your work now with the foundation has a moral dimension. Has your thinking about the value of religion changed over the years?

BG: 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. 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.

RS: Do you believe in God?

BG: I agree 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]. 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.

. . . . .

So what do we have here?

The Gates's children go the Catholic parish that Melinda Gates attends. Bill sometimes attends too, but apparently not out of conviction. He subscribes to the myth (that's what it is) that ancient man took up religion because he was afraid of things he saw around him in nature and that science largely has supplanted religion because science can explain just about everything (though Gates admits that science can't explain "the mystery and beauty of the world").

I think there is less substance here than some Catholic bloggers are finding. If you think about it, the wealthiest man in the world doesn't have any more insight into that world than does the random man on the street—perhaps even less, if, like so many people wrapped up in technology, his mind is occupied with gadgets rather than with The Meaning of Things.

We do know that, while Melinda Gates is a Catholic, she hardly can be termed a solid Catholic. The foundation that she and Bill run is a major underwriter of abortion and abortion propaganda. So long as Bill and Melinda Gates send their money in that direction, we can be sure that their hearts and minds are not yet close to the heart and mind of the Church, even if they pass through a church door every Sunday.

The problem, at least with Bill Gates—perhaps also with Melinda, but she wasn't interviewed so it's harder to tell—is that he isn't quite sane. Before you mistake what I'm saying, let me say that I'm making use of something Frank Sheed said in what I think was his best book, Theology and Sanity.

His very first sentence reads, "My concern in this book is not with the will but with the intellect, not with sanctity but with sanity." A few pages later he says, "To overlook God's presence is not simply to be irreligious; it is a kind of insanity, like overlooking anything else that is actually there. . . . God is not only a fact of religion: he is a fact. Not to see him is to be wrong about everything, which includes being wrong about one's self."

Sheed goes on to note that modern man, who thinks himself supremely sane, is ignorant of or actually rejects half of reality: the supernatural half. In this sense modern man can be said to be insane, and Bill Gates is a supremely modern man.

While he may tag along with his family to church, Gates seems to have no real appreciation of the supernatural. For him, the natural seems super enough. In this he is like many people, so this is not to lay special blame on him.

In the way Sheed was using the term, and in the way that I'm using the term, we can say that many people we run across are insane: They see and accept the natural or the visible; they don't see and so reject the supernatural or the invisible. Because they reject half of reality, they end up having to live myths of their own making.


Karl Keating is founder and president of Catholic Answers, the country’s largest apologetics and evangelization organization. He is the author of five books, including Catholicism and Fundamentalism and What Catholics Really Believe.

Comments by Catholic.com Members

#1  Sensei Mitch - Willington, Connecticut

Great article, it is nice to have some validation. Over the last few years I have taken to labeling people insane. Christians that support liberal agendas, atheists, etc, in my book they have always been insane. I have often wondered if the rise in the number of insane people walking around has more to do with the closing of mental institutions and the subsequent procreation of their inhabitants; then it does with the success of liberal agenda.

Regardless, thanks for the reference to back up my stance! ;-)

March 17, 2014 at 7:58 am PST
#2  Joe Washum - Conway, Arkansas

Excellent article Karl! Very Kierkegarrd(ish).

I would caution the use of the term "liberal agendas" though in the first comment. All of our recent Pope's have stated that Health Care should be a right and some in the US paint that as a "liberal agenda." It's not, but the far right wants people to believe that. Thus by using that as a catch phrase one might assume you are questioning the sanity of the Holy Father. I'm quite sure that is not what you intended to do.

Furthermore the closing of the mental institutions you refer to was primarily because that is how the Congress of the 90s reduced the cost of health care to avoid Hilary's push for socialized medicine. They took things out, especially mental health coverage. Unlike when they added them back in and charged more money under ACA, no one's plan got dropped though. I know because at the time I was working with at-risk and terminally ill youth and children, those programs were done away with by Newt's congress.

Thus perhaps you may want to re-think who is responsible for the insanity. Is it a single "group" or a culture that is fed from both?

Given the culture of death must stop but along with abortion I would include, from a Catholic standpoint, the death penalty, un-needed / unjust wars, immoral budgets that further the plight of the poor (as noted by the USCCB), high infant mortality rates, lack of health care (especially prenatal care) for the disadvantages in our nation etc...

I guess my point would be that I believe, as a Catholic, we do not fit into either US political party. Some of the things we must champion will be championed by those we oppose on other issues. This is the political reality of our two party system. When we use terms like "liberal agenda" we are promoting that there is one group with the truth, that is simply not true. I believe this is also why many members of each party can't seem to understand Pope Francis.

Thus as Children of God and Catholics we owe it to ourselves, each other, and our Faith to diligently evaluate every vote we make and in my opinion, every statement that might mislead a fellow Christian. I believe that is what Roman's Chapter 14 is getting at.

March 17, 2014 at 9:13 am PST
#3  Sensei Mitch - Willington, Connecticut

I completely agree that as Catholics we do not belong to either political party. I evaluate the individual by their actions not their words. I suppose I could have clarified my meaning of "liberal agenda" however I believe most know what I am referring to and both parties are guilty of supporting it, of course so to are large sections of the American Catholic Church. I do not hesitate to shy from speaking against Priest, Pope or Nun when they support evil or anti-Catholic views; nor when their words or actions can be used to justify sinful nature.

I support the idea of health care for everyone, though we seem to disagree who should provide that care. As Catholics we should understand that government run health care will rarely respect life, especially in a country (America) that has never been a Catholic nation. If you look at pre-depression (pre-FDR) America there is a model for the way things should be done. People had ~60% more expendable income and as a result were far more caritable and socially aware. Look at the Schools and Hospitals from that era, privately funded and built. As Catholics we should not look for others to provide what we can. To do otherwise leads to complacency and the welfare state we find ourselves in.

While I agree with your assessment on the culture of Death, though who is to judge unjust/unneeded wars? Ultimately the people decide through their voting and the actions of the people bring GODs blessing and/or judgement. Ours is not to blindly follow but to think, even Jesus did not demand blind faith, thus his miracles and actions with doubting Thomas.

While we agree that Catholics do not fit the agenda of either political party, there is no other nation (that I know of) where as Catholics we can have a voice. If we as Catholics stood together our voices would be very loud indeed (last census I beleieve puts 65 Million Catholic in America). The results of past elections show that few Catholics vote guided by their faith.

To your point about "When we use terms like "liberal agenda" we are promoting that there is one group with the truth". I disagree, there is one group with the truth, the Catholic Faith. While I understand your desire to see every person provided for, that is not what we are called to do. Jesus never said make sure everyone has health care; he called us to try to improve the spiritual health of all. He called us all we can to do for those less fortunate than ourselves. Jesus did not call for us to force others to provide what we can not. We live with our choices, we die with those choices and are judged by those choices. If they are not our choices to make; how can they affect our hearts?

As it says in Roman 14:3 "Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him."

To provide for every person (healthcare/food/shelter/etc) is an impossible task for any human institution. As Catholics we must embrase the power of Prayer and God. Through our faith, prayer and sacrifice we can change the world. Trying to force the change is using our will not God's and therefore flawed.

March 17, 2014 at 11:09 am PST
#4  Ron Arnold - Lexington, South Carolina

there is only one party that voted three times to remove God from the planks of there party.
there is only one party that has same sex marriage in the planks of there party.
there is only one party that has abortion in the party planks.
there is only one president that voted to refuse medical care to a child born alive after a failed abortion.

March 17, 2014 at 11:52 am PST
#5  Laurie Cooper - Universal City, Texas

Moving from sane/insane to liberal/conservative is reasonable enough. The Church is old yet new, liberating yet conserving. But certainly not sane yet insane, as her teachings are inspired by the Holy Spirit. Just wondering if the popes were speaking ex cathedra when they spoke on healthcare.
What we have with the unaffordable health care act is the destruction of current health insurance policies with a push toward a one payer system. This, Mr. Washum, is not healthcare for all. It is the redistribution of healthcare and the dictatorship of healthcare policies by political whim. It put on steroids exactly what was wrong with the system that needed repair.
The Church that began hospitals and care for those in need is becoming overburdened by regulation and being removed from those missions by liberal politics.

March 17, 2014 at 12:32 pm PST
#6  Chris Patterson - Platte City, Missouri

I believe that using the word "insane," while helpful for selling books or creating interest in blogs, is not particularly helpful in the dialogue with non-Christians.

So, for all of you out there who are not sure what you believe in God, I'm going to give room to figure it out without calling you insane.

At the same time, my prayer is that Mr. Gates and all others on his particular stage of the journey would open themselves up to the beauty and mystery of faith that stubbornly calls to their souls.

March 17, 2014 at 12:47 pm PST
#7  Clinton Ufford - Sweet Home, Oregon

It really is sad that Mrs Gates has took a stance against Church teaching on contraception. This is yet another case of of instinct - in this case the devil - overriding intellect - Christ and the Church. I read an article where she completely praises and adores her Catholic upbringing, but confesses she has "wrestled" with the Church teaching on contraception for some time.. so she decided to stand against the Church teaching.

She obviously cares for third world refugees and people whom the Gates can assist, but choses to give them sinful tools instead of tools to really help them. It seems as though her heart is there, but she needs to to open it up more to allow God to really help her help them. Pray for her.

March 17, 2014 at 12:59 pm PST
#8  DeBorah Simpson - Keene, Texas

Speaking of belonging to neither political party, you might be interested in this. That is, if you are ready to do something new! www.christianlibertyparty.org

March 17, 2014 at 4:17 pm PST
#9  mary martinez - west sacramento, California

He is not insane. He just believes that his wealth is sufficient for happiness on earth. God is not necessary in his view as long as he has material wealth. His wife and him participating in a catholic community must be or will be very confusing for their poor kids. On the one hand they see their parents attending church functions but on the other hand they see their parents acting against church teaching at every step. Instead of giving his wealth and knowledge in ways that better the lives of those impoverished people in the world he supports contracepting the poor and promotes the over population myth. I guess he feels that this beautiful world should only be inhabited by a select few who can pull their own weight and not hog up resources without the ability to pay for them. If either him or melinda are catholics with all the sacraments they are committing a grave violation against their salvation and will be liable to judgment for the lives they've ruined due to their narcissistic attitude. I'm sure they would live and act differently if they had never been able to accumulate so much personal wealth. I know that there are some holy christians out there who have enormous personal wealth but love Jesus entirely and do good for others with the money they have-but sadly they are few and far between. I pray often that the mega rich will repent, sow good fruit with their wealth, and have the courage to be a witness and model to convert the hearts and minds of people like the Gates, to the truth. God Bless You All, Mary

March 17, 2014 at 4:37 pm PST
#10  Karl Keating - El Cajon, California - Catholic Answers Blogger

My blog post wasn't intended as a commentary on wealth but on the too-narrow view of a man of wealth.

But the comments on Bill Gates's money brings to mind a story told about Hilaire Belloc (or was it G.K. Chesterton?).

It seems that one day he was to speak before a group of wealthy folks concerning heaven and what one had to do to get there. He brought two props with him: a giant wooden needle and a small India-rubber camel.

March 17, 2014 at 6:31 pm PST
#11  Andrew Malone - New Milford, Connecticut

Bill Gates has many problems but mostly he is a Corporate Leftist which abhors any moral code or universal construct that impedes his irrational world view and yes Mr. Keating he is insane.

However he is no more insane than people who are overtly and obviously on the Left who insist that Catholics eschew political parties but accept the Leftist presentiment of the comprehensive welfare state and use terms like the "Far Right" to denigrate their opponents. As a young man, I examined both world view of the Left and the Right and found that the Left had on its credit side of the ledger: Gulags, Genocide, Racism, Poverty, Eugenics, Abortion, Moral Degradation, Sterilization of the mentally "unfit", hostility to the Church and a host of other depravities but they claimed to provide care for the weak via the Welfare which employed millions of government workers but never appeared to reduce poverty or the incipient depravity of the kept poor while it attempted to eradicate them by Abortion and Birth Control.

The Right or Conservatives have opposition to tyranny and two or three unpopular but necessary wars against the perennial enemy of Christendom: Islam coupled with a belief that individuals with a moral code helping the poor to escape poverty is the only true solution not a government buying votes from the permanent underclass with looted money from the productive.

As a Catholic, I reject and unalterable oppose the Left as antithetical to Christ and will never be a Democrat and I believe anyone who hold otherwise to be insane in the manner of which Frank Sheed wrote of.

March 18, 2014 at 7:02 am PST
#12  Blake Ladwig - Elkhorn, Nebraska

I am an atheist and I don't know that much about Catholics, I wished to learn more about you guys through this website, but unfortunately this article was not a great first impression for this site. I was a protestant until a couple years ago, and when I was a protestant I wouldn't not of thought Bill was crazy for saying god was a myth.

March 18, 2014 at 10:57 pm PST
#13  Blake Ladwig - Elkhorn, Nebraska

didn't know it entered posts when I pushed tab.

I also have beef with the statement "God is not only a fact of religion: he is a fact" said by Frank Sheed because that is a massive claim that is not obvious to be. massive claims need massive proof and I love how no proof is given with the statement.
Next, it is implied that god is a supernatural entity when there is a bad attempt at a joke against Bill Gates. If an entity is supernatural, simply by definition it is not possible to create proof of it's existence in a natural world.

If you have questions for me send them to my
e-mail:[email protected]
I will gladly answer questions at any time

March 18, 2014 at 11:05 pm PST
#14  David Martinez - Madera, California

I hope Gates doesn't take this as an offense but more as an invitation to come and get to know the wonderful mysteries of the Catholic Church. I think all Catholics including myself become insane when we partake into sin. To think that we are our own God or that we will be ok is insane thinking. Thank God for the sacrament of reconciliation. Where we become sane again.

March 19, 2014 at 9:16 am PST
#15  David Martinez - Madera, California

I hope Gates doesn't take this as an offense but more as an invitation to come and get to know the wonderful mysteries of the Catholic Church. I think all Catholics including myself become insane when we partake into sin. To think that we are our own God or that we will be ok is insane thinking. Thank God for the sacrament of reconciliation. Where we become sane again.

March 19, 2014 at 9:16 am PST
#16  Ronald Stabile - Warminster, Pennsylvania

According to what Mr. Keating has related here, Bill Gates does not believe in God but he says it is alright to believe in God. Gates seems to be saying that he wants other people to believe in God because he knows that he would not want to live in a world where 95 percent of the people did not believe in God. Gates knows that Dawkins said that it is possible that a God exists. Also, Gates may not understand that God has defined absolute right and wrong concerning behavior and man’s relation to God. Without reference to God, humanity has no basis to define what is right and what is wrong concerning moral laws.

June 23, 2014 at 3:23 am PST
#17  Robert Quillin - Lufkin, Texas

Joe Washum of Conway, Arkansas is absolutely correct in comment #2. Thanks, Joe! Now I don't feel alone in my understanding of faith, morals and the current political realities.

August 31, 2014 at 12:16 pm PST
#18  SG Cassiere - Shreveport, Louisiana

Believe Matthew 16:26 speaks of wealth and what it profits someone.
I thought the Roman Catholic Church made excessive wealth a sin.
Believe Cardinal Francis George has one of the truly thought provoking comments about the rich and the poor.
"The poor need the rich to survive, while the rich need the poor to get to heaven."
Speaking of prominent Catholics who don't espouse Catholic teachings, look no further than most Catholic Democratic politicians. One cannot separate private beliefs from public actions.

September 28, 2014 at 6:11 pm PST

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