BI and Faith Communities

Basic income is compatible with and complementary with the world's most common religions, whether it is because those religions espouse beliefs in equality before God, charity or compassion, there are many ways in which religious values and the values underpinning the push for basic income can be complimentary or the same.

Many religious people look to leader's in their faith community for moral guidance, so showing them cases where those leaders have endorsed a basic income can be powerful and persuasive.

On the Relationship Between Basic Income and Faith

Basic Income and Catholicism

Basic Income and Protestantism

Basic Income and Judaism

Basic Income and Islam

On the Relationship Between Basic Income and Faith

Many of the pieces featured on this site are a response to the prompt below introducing Berkeley's weekly forum on the question. As the prompt notes, there are numerous intertwinned ethical questions that relate to faith communities.

Economic Justice and Universal Basic Income: Ethical and Religious Perspectives

Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs - 1 September 2020

Interest in universal basic income (UBI) is surging in American popular and political discourse, as the United States continues to experience the social and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In general, UBI refers to periodic cash payments made to all, although the policy differs in theory and practice depending on national and political context. The policy, once considered as utopian in mainstream policy circles, is now the talk of high-profile politicians like Andrew Yang, who built his 2020 presidential campaign on UBI. Faith leaders are also part of the conversation to re-envision the role of government in providing for the common good. Take, for example, Pope Francis, who called for a salario universal (universal basic wage) at Easter. With ongoing debate in Congress on further government support following the March 2020 CARES Act, faith leaders and religious ethics can make important contributions to the ongoing conversation.

Historically, faith leaders and religious institutions have played key roles in on-the-ground activism on economic issues, contributing to broader debates on increasing inequality in the global economy. Not unrelated to the efforts of religious activists are the ethical principles informing advocacy in the field. Debates on UBI, for example, often intersect with a number of ethical issues, including the meaning and purpose of work; social justice and economic inequality; and the role of government, as exemplified by the principle of subsidiarity in Catholic social thought. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to exacerbate inequality worldwide, examining religious and ethical perspectives on policies like UBI can provide critical direction on efforts to rebuild global society. 

This week the Berkley Forum asks: "How might the normative teachings of various faith traditions contribute to debates on UBI and government welfare, more broadly? What are some of the ethical challenges and possibilities of a policy like UBI? How might religiously grounded understandings of the common good contribute to conversations on fiscal policy? What are some key ethical and religious principles policymakers should have in mind when addressing economic inequality in the wake of COVID-19? What role does religious activism play in broader debates on economic justice and universal basic income?"

Link to article is here.

One response to this prompt by Thomas Massaro titled 'Supporting UBI: The Power of Religious Contributions' makes the case for the importance of the religious community, writing:

"Religion is uniquely powerful in providing cosmology and narrative—a view of the universe and its purposes, which forms the character and fundamental moral orientations of people. If there is indeed divine purpose in the creation of a hospitable world with resources adequate to sustain all people, then there is an obligation to ensure that the common gifts of the earth support the flourishing of all.

Compassion for those unable to supply their own sustenance has throughout history spurred faith-based social action through private charitable institutions associated with all the world’s religions. UBI is of course a public measure, but support for generous social provision is generated by well-established patterns of religious ideation, such as regard for the common good, the recognition of universal human solidarity, and a preferential option for the poor. In short, religion generates both powerful emotions of fellow-feeling and ideas capable of creating consensus on social policies like UBI, even in thoroughly pluralistic contexts."

Read Massaro's full response here.


Many have argued that Catholicism and basic income share many important values, and Pope Francis wrote a letter to Popular Movements calling for the consideration of a possible “Universal Basic Wage”. Notable quotes from that letter include:

"This may be the time to consider a universal basic wage which would acknowledge and dignify the noble, essential tasks you carry out. It would ensure and concretely achieve the ideal, at once so human and so Christian, of no worker without rights.”

“Our civilization — so competitive, so individualistic, with its frenetic rhythms of production and consumption, its extravagant luxuries, its disproportionate profits for just a few — needs to downshift, take stock, and renew itself."

Basic income and Catholicism.


Catholicism is not the only branch of Christianity that is compatible with a basic income, and so people from the protestant community have lent support to the cause of basic income, such as The United Church of Canada.

Light a Flame for a Guaranteed Basic Income

The United Church of Canada - 18 September 2020

On Tuesday, September 22, at 12.30 p.m. on the eve of the Throne Speech, The United Church of Canada is asking Canadians across the country to light a candle in support of a guaranteed livable annual income, often referred to as the guaranteed basic income. Building on the positive experience of the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), this is a unique opportunity to make an important policy change to ensure greater income security for all Canadians.

“COVID-19 has revealed for all of us the cracks in our economic situation in Canada. Many people cannot pay their rent and can scarcely afford food. Now is the time to make a systemic change in the system that will remove the stigma of being poor and encourage a more equitable society,” says the Very Rev. Lois Wilson, former Moderator and senator.

Light a candle, take a picture and post it to social media (#UCCanlivableincome, #guaranteedlivableincome) Send it to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland, your local MP, and news outlets.

A guaranteed livable income program would address the inequities that exist within the present wage and social benefit structures in our country. Such a program should be universally accessible, preserve human dignity rather than creating stigma, remove discriminatory barriers, not penalize people for the work they do, be available with a minimum of bureaucracy, and exist alongside other social supports, including health care, pharmacare, pension, and education supports. Particular attention should address the barriers experienced by Indigenous peoples in accessing relief programs related to COVID-19, recognizing that these are manifestations of a system that leaves Indigenous people out of decision-making and denies their rightful place in Canada’s economy.

We also know that low-income racialized communities have been hit hardest by COVID-19 and its economic impact. A livable guaranteed income would assist all, but especially those in our society who are economically disadvantaged by manifestations of systemic racism.

Support is growing for this fundamental social policy. In addition to the United Church Moderator the Right Rev. Richard Bott's public statement, leaders of The Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada as well as 50 senators have written letters to the federal government to support implementing such a program. Many local, regional, and national organizations and networks are also expressing firm support for this fundamental social policy. An Angus-Reid poll in June 2020 showed that 59 percent of Canadians support the idea, a significant change from a similar poll four years ago, due to the impact of the pandemic.

Basic Income and Protestantism


Jewish thought surrounding notions of work and its importance can usefully inform and guide people on questions surrounding basic income.

UBI and Jewish Traditions

By Samuel Hayim Brody in response to Economic Justice and Universal Basic Income: Ethical and Religious Perspectives

Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs - 1 September 2020

"The normative question at the forefront of discourse about UBI, the answer to which does not depend on resolving implementation questions (e.g. inflation, etc.), has to do with the nature and value of work and the connection between work and the means of subsistence. Jewish tradition begins by offering two distinct terms for work, as seen in the commandment to observe the Sabbath: “Six days shall you labor [ta’avod] and do all your work [melakhetekha], but the seventh day is a Sabbath unto YHVH your God” (Exodus 20:8). 

Both roots, ayin-bet-dalet (עבד) and lamed-alef-kaf (לאך), describe the activity of the six days of creation, in contrast to Sabbath rest. Rabbinic tradition nonetheless distinguishes between them. The former gives us avodah, which comes to mean “worship” in the sense of “service,” and eved, variously translated as “servant” and “slave.” The latter gives us melakha, which the rabbis designate as the term for all categories of task prohibited on the Sabbath (as well as malakh, a task-doer, translated both as “messenger” and “angel”).

This distinction is not merely motivated by the rabbinic notion that scripture is omni-significant and therefore that any two apparent synonyms must have distinct connotations. It is overlain by Jewish theological understandings of the nature of the human being, as a creature who cannot be reduced to the status of worker. The inclusion of the eved within the Sabbath commandment, whether we render eved as “slave” or as “servant,” combined with the increasing tendency to treat avodah as denoting primarily divine service, arguably forms a trajectory that leads to the fundamental denial that one human should be eved to another, rather than to God."

Read Brody's entire article here.


Islam, as a religion, touches on issues of poverty, work, wealth, and other socioeconomic issues, which means it can play an important part of the conversation around basic income.

Basic Income and Islamic Almsgiving: Analogous Poverty Alleviation Tools

By Katherine Bullock in response to Economic Justice and Universal Basic Income: Ethical and Religious Perspectives

Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs - 1 September 2020

"The Islamic tradition is especially germane today, since it has developed a balanced socioeconomic policy that respects private property and the pursuit of wealth, while calling for compassion; recognizing that poverty ravages human dignity; and rejecting excessive consumption, materialism, and money-worship.

Once a man heard the Prophet Muhammad say, “O God, I seek refuge with You from disbelief and poverty.” The man asked him, “Are they equal?” To which the Prophet replied, “Yes.”

This concern that poverty could lead to resentment and lack of faith in God is one reason why the Quran elevates poverty alleviation to a form of worship, often paired with the importance of regular prayers. God instructs, “And perform the prayer, and give alms. Whatever good you forward for yourselves, you will find it with God” (2: 110).

The “alms” referred to here, known in Arabic as zakat, one of the five pillars of Islam, involves giving once a year 2.5% of one’s income and assets. Obligatory almsgiving, traditionally collected and distributed by the state but also an example of private philanthropy, is similar to one version of basic income that Ontario experimented with in 2017: the negative income tax."

Basic Income and Islam