Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels Knows Nothing About Atheism

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels is a Presbyterian who thinks “the purpose of life is ‘to glorify God and enjoy Him forever’.” Those are mistaken priorities and a scary thought when you consider he’s in charge of the entire state.

I was almost willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, though, when I read this quotation from him:

I don’t talk about [my personal faith] for two reasons.

One is [that] although faith is very central to me, I also take very seriously the responsibility to treat my public duties in a way that keeps separate church and state and respects alternative views…

Well, that’s good, right? You want a politician who keeps his/her personal faith separate from politics.

Unfortunately for him, there were more questions in the interview and more opportunities for him to dig the hole of his ignorance even deeper:

Mark Mellinger: Is there part of you that is bothered by the aggressive atheism of a [Sam] Harris, a [Christopher] Hitchens, a [Richard] Dawkins? And what I mean is… this atheism is a little different than atheism has been in the past because it does seek to convert people.

Daniels: I’m not sure it’s all that new. People who reject the idea of a God — who think that we’re just accidental protoplasm — have always been with us. What bothers me is the implications — which not all such folks have thought through — because really, if we are just accidental, if this life is all there is, if there is no eternal standard of right and wrong, then all that matters is power.

And atheism leads to brutality. All the horrific crimes of the last century were committed by atheists — Stalin and Hitler and Mao and so forth — because it flows very naturally from an idea that there is no judgment and there is nothing other than the brief time we spend on this Earth.

Everyone’s certainly entitled in our country to equal treatment regardless of their opinion. But yes, I think that folks who believe they’ve come to that opinion ought to think very carefully, first of all, about how different it is from the American tradition; how it leads to a very different set of outcomes in the real world.

Before getting to Daniels, Mellinger deserves some blame, too.

Calling it “aggressive” atheism when all the writers are doing is pointing out the inherent problems of religion which have always been there. There’s nothing “aggressive” about pointing out the obvious. It’s more like “acceptable” atheism, atheism that has finally found its way into public discourse.

Are we trying to convert people? Not like evangelical Christians do. We don’t become fake friends with you just so we can later put another tally mark on the brainwashing board. We don’t have classes that teach you how to de-convert people. We don’t do volunteer work in poverty-stricken areas with the caveat that everyone we help has to become an atheist.

We use logic and reason to persuade people that we have a better argument. We point out the contradictions and lies that religious people perpetuate. We want you to think for yourself. We don’t want you to believe us just because we’re atheists; we encourage you to question your own beliefs.

So, Mellinger asked an ignorant question to begin with. (Hell, what does he think the “atheism of the past” was like, anyway?)

And then Daniels impressively condenses several illogical arguments into a couple soundbytes.

Like suggesting that 9/11 was either not religiously-motivated or not a horrific crime…

Blag Hag counts 11 problems in Daniels’ statement. Joé McKen found 13.

How many can you spot?

  • T

    Hitler was an atheist? Oh, so that’s why his motto for women was “Kinder, Kirche, Kuche,” (children, denial-of-the-existence-of-God, kitchen).

  • http://www.bornagainyesterday.com Justin

    “the purpose of life is ‘to glorify God and enjoy Him forever’.”

    I used to think that, too. Then I asked myself what that actually meant. I think it means three things: eliminating poverty, Reese’s Whips for everyone, and giving the Arrested Development creators free rein with a new TV show. Not necessarily in that order.

  • http://twitter.com/achura Rooker

    Well most obviously, Hitler was a Catholic, not an Atheist. He wrote in Mein Kampf that the Aryan race was created by God. He tried to justify his actions by pointing to the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire.

    “I regard Christianity as the foundation of our national morality and the family as the basis of our national life” – Adolph Hitler

    It doesn’t matter anyway. The problem with Hitler, Stalin and Mao was not that they were atheists; the problem was that the governments they led resembled religion too closely.

    Their governments all had official, approved dogma and they all led to cults of personality. Just like the governments of Iran and North Korea today, those governments led by Hitler, Stalin and Mao are an example of what would happen if governments are ruled by dangerous, irrational ideas, such as religion.

  • Trace

    “…ought to think very carefully, first of all, about how different it is from the American tradition;”

    uh oh.

  • Jasen777

    Well technically he said “last century” so we could give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he might the 20th century and not the last 100 years, getting him off the hook about 9/11.

    He’s still wrong about a lot though obviously.

  • http://claire-chan.livejournal.com Claire Binkley

    I counted 9 errors in Daniels’ statement. Although one or two were on-the-edge sorts of things. Perhaps I don’t think properly. Went through it again and counted 8. Don’t think I want to try counting a third time. Why try to think an erroneous statement through too much? Better things to think through, actually worth our time.

    I like what T said!
    And Justin.
    On a fifth thought, I approve all comments thus far.

    I think the Terrible Trio [Hitler, Stalin, Mao] get accused of Atheism childishly: these three fellows did terrible things, and which belief do the majority despise? It’s easier than 2 + 2. But some of us are mathematicians who won’t tolerate such simplistic thinking. We can do 4 factorial.

  • Greg

    I certainly got at least 13. I think maybe 14 though. I would go through the statement and bold it, but the problem is that there wouldn’t be anything left to be in normal type.

  • Danny

    This just makes me so proud to be from Indiana. Just kidding, I can’t stand this jackass and it blows my mind that so many people support him.

  • littlejohn

    As a Hoosier with connections to a major Indiana newspaper (to remain unnamed) I can also tell you on excellent authority that Mitch is a big fan of “The Bell Curve.” He believes remedial programs for children with learning problems are, therefore, a waste of time and money.
    The guy is just a little over five feet tall, and is obviously self-conscious about it. He has delusions of someday living in the White House.
    He also has delusions of mental superiority. In my humble opinion, he’s simply a vainglorious dolt.
    And short. (I hope he’s reading this.)

  • Amanda

    He’s a fan of the bell curve for performance evaluations for state employees as well, though he doesn’t understand how it operates. He thinks you force people into the curve–he has no clue that’s not how statistics work.

  • Derek

    While Daniels’ display of ignorance is without a doubt impressive. As a Christian, I do rather feel the need to point out that we’re not all evangelical Christians. I for one have never tried to convert anybody. The concept of being a fake friend is quite foreign to me. I’ve never attended a class on how to convert people. And while I actually do a fair bit of volunteer work in run down areas, the only time I talk beliefs is when someone else brings it up. And even then I don’t see it as my job to convert anybody.

    Anyhow, just wanted to make sure we all weren’t being lumped in to something we’re not.

    Cheers!

  • littlejohn

    Sorry Derek, but now you know where we live. We have no choice but to kill you. Atheists, you know.
    But your Christian blood won’t go to waste, if you get my drift. Let the orgy begin!
    Bwahahaha!

  • Chakolate

    Look, does it really matter whether he made 11 mistakes or 13? He said right at the outset that he believes in the separation of church and state. Nothing he said after negated that.

    An appalling proportion of lawmakers and governors are Christian, which means by definition that they are sometimes irrational. As long as they’re willing to keep that irrationality out of the government, well, that’s as good as we’re going to get.

    Now the Supremes, on the other hand… they’re just scary.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    Chakolate, his saying that he supports separation of church and state is clearly nothing more than a “cover-your-ass” formality. If he says that “atheism leads to brutality”, he has absolutely no interest in allowing the nonreligious into the discussion.

  • Derek

    littlejohn: Sorry Derek, but now you know where we live. We have no choice but to kill you. Atheists, you know.
    But your Christian blood won’t go to waste, if you get my drift. Let the orgy begin!
    Bwahahaha!

    I understand. Just so long as my blood doesn’t go to waste.

    >.>

    <.<

    Does the orgy take place before or after the sacrifice? =D

  • http://www.BlueNine.info Blue Nine

    But yes, I think that folks who believe they’ve come to that opinion ought to think very carefully…

    Could someone please explain to me why Christians always seem to think we have not thought about this? Or that we have not read the Bible? Or that we have never been to church?

  • Fritzy

    I agree with Mike–Daniels claim that he subscribes to the notion of seperation of church and state is made irrelevant by the (factually destitute) statement that follows. He is stating that atheist have no moral grounding. He states, in not so many words, that atheists are anethma to a functioning society. He invokes mass murderers as icons of atheism. He is doing about the worst thing you can do to a group of people short of imprisoning or killing them: he is dehumanizing them.

    He may not be taking anyone’s rights away, but he is making the kind of statements that sometimes eventually lead to such actions.

    As for his “argument;” all of the factual errors are overshadowed by the logical fallacy of the entire statement. He argues that society would crumble without people believing in god (presumably, his specific god,) but this goes nowhere towards proving there is a god. My life would be much easier if I had a million dollars, but I have yet to convince anyone that, because of that fact, I must therefore have a million dollars in the bank.

    Mr. Daniels, it would appear to be you who needs to think very carefully about your “opinion” and it’s implications.

  • muggle

    Just what we need, yet another dillweed in office.

    Derek, thank you for this:

    As a Christian, I do rather feel the need to point out that we’re not all evangelical Christians. I for one have never tried to convert anybody. The concept of being a fake friend is quite foreign to me.

    For the record, I’ve known a lot of Christians like you. Some have even told me when I asked about testifying for Jesus (sorry, I had that drilled into my head from my previous church), that they believed in doing so by example, not preaching tediously. These are the ones I’ve called friend.

  • Benjamin V (Hazor)

    I think that folks who believe they’ve come to that opinion ought to think very carefully, first of all, about how different it is from the American tradition; how it leads to a very different set of outcomes in the real world.

    Why do people get so orgasmic over things solely because they are traditions? Seriously. It’s like, “People did it before, so we should do it too.” People had slaves before, maybe we should go back to that. Or not. Ugh. -.-

    And he really ought to consider the implications of his own ideas as well. Oh, why hello there, crusaders, inquisition, wars, airplanes flying into buildings, suicide bombers, bigotry, willful ignorance. I’m an atheist, and I have no desire for power, no desire to commit mass murder, no desire to do anything but do as much as I possibly can to benefit people.

  • http://charliesitzes.blogspot.com Charlie

    Daniels: “I’m not sure it’s all that new. People who reject the idea of a God — who think that we’re just accidental protoplasm — have always been with us. What bothers me is the implications — which not all such folks have thought through — because really, if we are just accidental, if this life is all there is, if there is no eternal standard of right and wrong, then all that matters is power.”

    “And atheism leads to brutality”

    Phil Zuckerman blew all that nonsense out of the water with his book, “Society Without God”. Zuckerman spent 15 months in Denmark and Sweden, both “godless” countries. There he found societies that are “gentle, calm and inspiring”.

    By any measure the godless countries put the USA to shame. They far outrank us in healthcare, equality of women, gross domestic product, social order, the absence of crime(it’s sometimes difficult to find a policeman because there is so little crime they don’t need many) leading to a wide and deep sense of security. Even their public bathrooms are clean.

    Wonder how Daniels would respond to that?

    It’s a shame that in order to get elected to public office in this county, one must profess to a delusion of some sort. Doesn’t matter much what kind of delusion. Eating and drinking Jesus or dead men walking and animals talking; doesn’t matter, but buddy you better have one or you won’t be fit for office.

  • D.C.

    @ Charlie

    “By any measure the godless countries put the USA to shame. They far outrank us in healthcare, equality of women, GDP, social order, the absence of crime…. Wonder how Daniels would respond to that?”

    First, the US has the highest GDP (nominal or real per capita) in the world, even exceeding those two countries combined. Second, how is social order quantified? If going on World Affairs’ most recent ranking of social stability, then we outrank both. Third, I am sure you’re oversimplifying healthcare. Most popularly quoted rankings are based on life expectancies and infant mortality rates – neither which eliminate bias. (For instance, we have a higher homicide rate. For every citizen that is shot dead from murder the national average life expectancy goes down, assuming the victim was under the national average. But was healthcare at fault? Likewise, we have more auto fatalities, heart diseases due to poor diet and lack of exercise, etc. As for infant mortality, we have a higher number of teenage pregnancies, which is strongly correlated with infant mortality.) In other, more pure, measures of healthcare – ones that measure treatment, recurrence of diseases, etc. – the US consistently ranks in the highest.

    (Sorry, don’t mean to troll, but as a health actuary those misconceptions really bother me.)

    With that aside, even as an atheist I do like Gov. Daniels in office. He’s done a good job balancing the state’s budget and keeping unemployment low.

    I prefer him (relative to the other options) in office. Unfortunately, all the reasonable options are also religious.

  • http://atheistcamel.blogspot.com/ Dromedary Hump

    Blue Nine asks:

    Could someone please explain to me why Christians always seem to think we have not thought about this? Or that we have not read the Bible?

    Because most of THEM don’t.

    As for the “atheism of the past.” I have to guess it means when atheists stayed in the closet and pretended to be theists.

    Naturally, that was entiely a result of theists killing atheists, torturing them as heretics, and shunning them in business. Yeah, Christians preferred those “atheists of the past”. They hate it when any minority gets “uppity,” vocal, and claim their rights.

  • Derek

    Dromedary Hump:

    Blue Nine asks:
    Could someone please explain to me why Christians always seem to think we have not thought about this? Or that we have not read the Bible?

    Because most of THEM don’t.

    As for the “atheism of the past.” I have to guess it means when atheists stayed in the closet and pretended to be theists.

    Naturally, that was entiely a result of theists killing atheists, torturing them as heretics, and shunning them in business. Yeah, Christians preferred those “atheists of the past”. They hate it when any minority gets “uppity,” vocal, and claim their rights.

    I’m not sure that this generalization is true. I’m a part of “them” and I do. And quite frankly I much prefer atheists like the ones I have generally found here. I also agree that any person or persons should stand up for their rights (provided that they actually are rights)…I wouldn’t limit that to minorities.

    Believe it or not, there are a bunch of us out there that are pretty much like you guys and gals. We’re just not as high profile as the annoying ones.


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