Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels Bashes Atheists

December 30, 2009

In an interview with a Fort Wayne, IN television station posted on December 24, 2009, Mitch Daniels, Governor of Indiana, stated:

Our country was founded--this is just an historic fact; some people today may resist this notion but it is absolutely true--it was founded by people of faith. It was founded on principles of faith. The whole idea of equality of men and women [and] of the races all springs from the notion that we're all children of a just God. It is very important to at least my notion of what America's about and should be about and I hope it's reflected most of the time in the choices that we make personally.

. . . 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.

These remarks came from the person who received the Man of Achievement Award from the Anti Defamation League on November 23, 2009.    So are atheists the only group left the governor can bash and still get such an award?

I heard Governor Daniels make similar remarks at a luncheon I attended on November 10, 2005.  This was a luncheon held at Primo Banquet Hall where 1000 "faith leaders" were fed at the expense of Indiana taxpayers to the tune of at least $15,000.

So how did I happen to be there?  (I felt like a spy.)  Well, because of going with the group from Indy CARD (Coalition Against Religious Discrimination) to talk with Ms Parker-Sawyers one day, I was on the email list for the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives .  So, I got an email invitation to this event.  When I accepted the invitation, I got another email which said that the invitation was not suppose to go to their whole mailing list but just to those who lived in the state.  I replied that I did live in the state. 

The next email said that it was only for “faith leaders” in the state of Indiana.  So I emailed back “so am I to understand that we secular people are not included.”  The next email came from a person further up the chain, David Liebel, which said, “Rhonda Dalton shared your email correspondence with me, and asked if I would respond to your question.  The 2005 Governor’s Luncheon for Faith Leaders is geared towards the clergy, staff, and lay leaders of faith-based organizations in Indiana.  For the luncheon, the definitions of leader and faith-based organization are up the individual.  My view is that if someone is interested enough to attend, they are more than welcome.”  So I responded that I would be there. 

There was no question from the beginning that this was a religious affair from the personal testimony of Paula Parker-Sawyers , the director and emcee for the affair, to the prayer, to the songs by the choir, to Governor Daniel’s speech, to the introduction of the board members.

The choir from an Indianapolis Charter school (chartered by the Mayor--one teacher told me) sang religious songs.  The governor extolled his personal faith, praised the leaders of faith, etc.  He said that every president had been a person of faith and that faith was built into all of our founding documents, and that all governments that had not been based on faith in a higher power have been very bad, that faith was necessary for democracy, etc.  He made no allowances for people without “faith.” He made some kind of remark to the effect that people who did not have faith were ????.  (I didn’t get the exact word and don’t want to misquote him.) Then, he listed Separation of Church and State as one of our basic liberties. ???? 

Then came the introduction of board members (quite a crowd)--all were “faith leaders.”  The community part of this seemed to have gotten lost somewhere in the translation of the name of the office.  I heard one Jewish leader and one Muslim but all the rest appeared to be Christian of some kind.  It appeared to me to be skewed toward Catholic and Conservative Christian.  I heard at least one Methodist and one Presbyterian. 

I wrote about my experience and sent it to our CFI Community of Indiana mailing list.  However, I finally just chalked it up to political pandering to an audience he assumed were all religious and agreed with him.  If they have held such an affair since 2005, I have not been invited.

PZ Myers, in his blog titled, " I'm So Sorry for you, Indiana," says, "But then, you elected this profoundly stupid man to be your governor, so it's all you own fault."   and, "I hope you do better in your next election, Indiana. Try to find someone who doesn't confuse faith with justice next time, OK?"

Well, I will have to admit that I voted for him for reelection in 2008 and have defended him to other people.  Why?   I certainly did not like what I saw and heard at the luncheon in 2005 but marked that off (as I said above) to pandering to the audience he thought he was speaking to.  Not an admirable thing to do--but what politician has not done this?  Aside from that, he has not seemed so right-wing to me. 

When the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in Indiana [We already have a law forbidding it.] was debated in the legislature, he did not speak out in favor of it nor openly encourage its passage.  It was even rumored that he worked behind the scenes against it because he thought it would hamper his efforts to attract high tech businesses to Indiana. 

Working to attract bio tech industry to Indiana has been one of his strengths which seems to be proscience.  From a fiscal standpoint, Indiana was in better shape than most states when the recession hit.  The same could not be said about job losses, however. 

Another indication to me that he was not at the right-wing extreme, was that he did not campaign for the 2008 GOP Presidential ticket and when Sarah Palin visited Indiana on more than one occasion, he did not even go to the rally.  Another deciding factor for me was that, in my opinion, the Democrats did not run a candidate against him who had strong leadership skills. 

So, why now this public discussion of religion and atheist bashing?  A person who posted on my facebook page said, "Now that Daniels has his eyes on a presidential run, we should expect his quick decent into conservative party lunacy. I'm sure he'll be lashing out at gay marriage, the homosexual agenda, womens right's, and yes--why don't we teach the "controversy."

A post on The Atlantic Politics Channel, June 5, 2009 titled "2012: Is Mitch Daniels The Future Of the GOP?" states:

In today's Washington Examiner, Byron York prods into Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels' potential future as GOP savior and flag-bearer in 2012. As York notes, Daniels is immensely popular in his home state--in fact, his 69 percent approval rating is 16 points higher than Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's, and his 68 percent favorable rating is six points higher than President Obama's. On top of that, he won reelection by a hefty margin of 18 points in 2008 even as Obama carried the state.

Mitch says he won't run but where have we heard that before?   A run for the presidency would be hard for any ambitious politician to turn  down and it is rare that anyone has. 

Matt Tully, columnist for the Indianapolis Star , on December 27, 2009, posed the "Top Ten List of Political Questions, Races, Moves, and More to Watch in 2010:"

1. The Battle Royale in Indiana will be the race to win control of the Indiana House. Gov. Mitch Daniels would love to have Republicans back in control in the legislature during the final two years of his term and his GOP has been working hard to recruit candidates.

6.  Daniels is not on the ballot next year, but 2010 looks to be a big year for him.  The Statehouse races will help determine the fate of his agenda in 2011 and 2012.  Moreover, political observers will watch obsessively for any hints at a national run.  

Here is a partial summary of an interview on Point of Inquiry , November 6, 2009 with Frank Shaeffer , author of, Crazy for God and  son of Francis Schaeffer , a leading founder of the Religious Right:

He details how his relationships were affected by his leaving the movement. He explains exactly how fundamentalist Christianity took over the Republican Party. He describes the anti-democratic and anti-American elements within Evangelical Christianity. He draws a direct line from the worldview promoted by the Religious Right to the Tea Party movement, the rise of Glen Beck and Sarah Palin, the recent murder or Dr. George Tiller, and the use of biblical passages calling for the assassination of President Obama.

He shows how the Religious Right actively wants America to fail, in order to prove that it has taken the wrong path in adopting secular, democratic and humanist values. He explores how evangelical "foot soldiers" are often used by secular neoconservatives to advance political aims seemingly unrelated to Christianity, such as energy deregulation and public policies in support of the insurance lobby.

So, has Mitch Daniels been a not-so-closeted right-winger all along?  Or is it the reality that if he wants to be a candidate for higher office on the GOP ticket that has pulled him more to the right?  Way to go, Mitch! Start bashing those terrible atheists! That should endear you to those RRRs (Religious Right Republicans).  And, after all, we may be the only group you can bash and still get an award from the Anti Defamation League.

Other blogs on this topic include:

Freethought Fort Wayne

Blog Hag Blog


#1 J. (Guest) on Thursday December 31, 2009 at 8:40am

Can humanists, naturalists, atheists, rationalists, even religious believers who support the separation of church and state hope for no better than hypocritical politicians who support secular society only in the privacy of their sentiments?

#2 Vicki Fulkerson (Guest) on Sunday January 03, 2010 at 3:25pm

You all fight for rights…  How about Christian rights?  If you are right and there is no God, what have I lost?  If I am right and there is a God, what have YOU lost?

#3 abruzzo on Thursday January 07, 2010 at 7:47am

Governor Danels said “Our country was founded—this is just an historic fact; some people today may resist this notion but it is absolutely true—it was founded by people of faith. It was founded on principles of faith. The whole idea of equality of men and women [and] of the races all springs from the notion that we’re all children of a just God.”

The people of faith that he refers do DID NOT believe in equality of the sexes or the races.  Gov. Daniels must be unaware that slavery existed in this country during the first 98 years of it’s existence and over 150 years prior to the creation of the country.

Presumably Gov. Daniels is also unaware of segragation instituted by people of faith in the South.  I suppose he feels that denying a person the right to vote, serve on a jury, and recieving equal justice under the law is a Christian value. 

Also, Gov. Daniels shows his amazing ignorance by failing to grasp that women were prohibited from voting, holding public office, or serving on juries.  He seems completely unaware that women’s suffrage was protected by the 19th Amendment in only 1920.  Belive it or not there may still be people alive who remember when women were not allowed to vote.

Now, Jesus Christ advocated slavery and physical abuse of slaves when he said:

42And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time?
43″Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.
44″Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions.
45″But if that slave says in his heart, ‘My master will be a long time in coming,’ and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk;
46the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers.
47″And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes,
48but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.

Luke 12:42-48  

God too advocated slavery:

44 “However, you may purchase male and female slaves from among the nations around you.
45 You may also purchase the children of temporary residents who live among you, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property,
46 passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat them as slaves, but you must never treat your fellow Israelites this way.

Leviticus 25-44-46

Gov. Daniels needs an education.

#4 Chris Aable (Guest) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 at 12:20pm

Long before “Christ”, Aristotle proposed the notions of equality and ethics that were later adopted by the leaders of the French Revolution and American Revolution, including Thomas Jefferson, who was a strong advocate of the separation of church and state. An alleged “all-knowing, all-loving and all-powerful” god who creates a genocidal world-wide flood and commands the “first born of every household” be killed, is not a “god” but a monster.  Thanks goodness it’s a fairy-tale monster written up by iron-age man.  Jesus LIED that “what so ever be asked in my name, shall be granted.” - Yet millions pray every week for the homicidal war in Iraq to end with success - to absolutely no avail.  A “god” who is so insecure as to “cast into a lake of fire” those who are rational enough to ask for proof and evidence beyond an ancient book of fairy tales about an invisible “all-creator” that somehow created itself and monstrous dinosaurs, is not moral nor ethical.  Decent people would want nothing to do with such a god, and myself or any 7 year old child could have done a better job with both nature and human nature.
To love and peace without superstition - for the most honest way to do good and be good is with no expectations of heaven nor paranoia about a make-believed hell.

#5 Richard Boyle (Guest) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 at 1:11pm

I am stunned and shocked to understand that Daniels is just as ignorant and arrogant as so many of his Republican cohorts currently in Washington who are associated with “The Family”.  I am reluctant to admit that while voting enthusiastically for Obama last Fall I also split my ticket and voted for Daniels.  Since he had remained in the background in terms of support for Palin and the Republican ticket in general, I mistakenly assumed that he was somewhat embarassed, as Lugar has seemed to be in the past few years, by the level of social and political discourse generated by the right wing of the Republican party and its many media cheerleaders, especially on Fox.  Apparently I was wrong.  I understand the political principle of giving your partisan audience red meat but I did not think Daniels would stoop to the level of providing rotting carrion as an entree.

#6 alice bennett (Guest) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 at 1:48pm

I am not surprise at the comments and attitudes displayed by Daniels.  I can proudly say that I did not vote for Daniels either time.  His agenda was obvious.  He cares for money, power and does not support the majority of persons in Indiana.  I first heard Mitch Roob and his arrogant discussion of persons on welfare at the ICHS in the first year of Daniels’ first term and went to the meetings of needy persons in Muncie. I came away with a better understanding of the attitudes of our governor and his appointees.  Privatizing without regard for the consequences except to make it look like it is saving lots of money but ignoring the effects on the people of Indiana is not the action of a person with high moral character.  Atheist and nonbelevers rank on the list of persons who volunteer and help other persons, a characteristic that appears to be absent in Daniels. I campaigned vigorously against his reelection, but unfortunately, he even conned the persons who voted for Obama.

#7 Chris Aable (Guest) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 at 2:29pm

It appears that Vikie (comment #2 is among SOME of the “Chrsitians” (not all and perhaps not most) who too often state something along the lines of “If you believe, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain, if you don’t believe you run the risk of punishment.”  Rational, ethical people dismiss such immature and simplistic thinking for many reasons - One of which is that if we are being good or ethical because we fear an “all-seeing” being is watching over us, then we are merely pawns and operating under fear of punishment and reward.  Dogs are trained like that, not rational humans. 

Another reason is that if you’re going to believe “because you have nothing to lose” then you may as well believe in the other 3,000 gods invented in cultures all over the world, for most of them too offer various forms of reward and punishment for believing or not believing. 

Many Mormons believe that you will not enter into heaven unless you believe in Mormon and their doctrines - so why not become a Mormon as well?  Why not believe in Thor? The Rain God?  Allah? etc. etc.  - Belief is not fact or else it would not be called “faith” - blind faith - and when you use blind faith as your guide, you not only are in denial, but are being dishonest - so you have plenty to lose by believing in invisible god(s) floating in invisible heavens - beginning with the loss of your critical thinking skills, your honesty and your integrity. 

Above all, you lose credibility in being able to guide your own ethics and morals - Not based on “doing unto to other as you have them do unto you” (others may not want what you want) - but on the higher, self-evolution ethic of doing unto others as THEY would like to be unto to, as far as possible within your means.  This is a basic instinct of empathy and nurturing that drives the human species forward and towards progress through cooperation. 

Most children instinctively have this nurturing instinct and learn mutual cooperation long before being indoctrinated by religious sects and denominations that have historically divided family, friends and nations from each other.  Neither “god” nor nature drew artificial lines on maps and called them “nations” that fenced the human family from each other for centuries - Greedy, rich and powerful men did, and those rich and powerful men were often either connected with, or had the sanction of, “the church”.

#8 george_fish (Guest) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 at 4:32pm

Thank you, Reba.  Said with boldness and eloquence.

#9 Richard Boyle (Guest) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 at 7:00pm

In response to the comment of Vicki (# 2), your abbreviation of Pascal’s Wager (google it)is a simplistic way of saying “just in case I will take out this “insurance policy” in the event that there really is something to this God thing.  That is not faith…that is pure pragmatism.  What “god” with any integrity would be impressed by this kind of “faith”?  In any event it is not possible to simply “decide” to have faith.

#10 Chris Aable (Guest) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 at 10:48pm

To #9 - Richard Boyle
Thank you kindly for your comment.  I am aware of Pascal’s Wager - millions of freshmen students learn about it in basic Philosophy 101.  To make such a wager is not simply “pure pragmatism” as both human psychology and sociology is far more complicated than that.  In addition to it’s obvious pragmatism, the wager most assuredly has a degree of “faith” because those who propose obviously have faith in an afterlife in general and faith in “heaven” in specific.  My comments of course are about religious faith, and no one is born with religious faith - it is taught, learned and most assuredly “decided” upon. For evidence, we can observed that religious faith that is adopted by the majority in Indian is very much different from religious faith adopted by the majority in Topeka, Kansas.  Societies and cultures decide what religious faith and blind traditions to follow, and individuals decide if it makes sense to them or not.  For me, none of the religious faiths make any sense in general, although some of their tenets such as brotherly love and peace are worth building upon.  But brotherly love and peace (cooperation and the nurturing instinct) were here long before organized religion - If they were not, I don’t think humankind would have progressed and evolved, such as it is.

#11 Richard Boyle (Guest) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 at 12:26am

Chris (# 10), I agree completely with virtually everything in your intelligent post with the one exception of “deciding”.  When I go to the store, I decide whether to select fish or steak or hamburger or something else.  When I am a child I do not decide to have faith or not.  I am conditioned by my parents, friends, church, school and other social institutions to believe as my adult role models believe.  Decision making rarely if ever has a role in this result.  When I am older I may decide that what I have been taught as a child no longer makes sense to me and I may change but this turn of events is hardly the kind of exercise I go through when picking out a good looking piece of meat.  An adult person of faith will not “decide” to become a non-believer overnight anymore than I could, at my advanced age, “decide” to have faith.  It is something one learns early on and at some point and after a great many experiences and human interaction, one may be able to shed one’s early conditioning but I have difficulty in thinking of this process as “deciding”.  Perhaps we are talking about the same process and merely quibbling about semantics.  In any event, I thank you for your response and I believe that we share much more than we differ.  As an aside, I have met many people of strong belief but I have never met one who changed from a life of non-belief to one of belief because “it made more sense to them”.  The opposite direction?  Yes, frequently.

#12 tyode10 (Guest) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 at 5:45am

Don’t blame me..I voted for Jill Long Thompson! I suppose a joke like Daniels will remain popular in a state that allows him to heave a budget axe at things like education while keeping constituents in the dark ages. Daniels remarks are unfounded and vague. Indiana lags behind and suffers with someone like him as governor. Daniels is not respectworthy or even noteworthy. He represents himself and that’s it.

#13 Greg H on Wednesday January 13, 2010 at 8:56am

@12 - Let’s not go crazy, Thompson was a horrible candidate.  She got destroyed in every debate with Daniels and Horning.  Ultimately I think he’s “just” being a smarmy politician and pandering to whomever is in front of him.  In my dreams, the Tea Party extracts all the crazy fundamentalists and leaves a secular, fiscally conservative party.

#14 Chris Aable (Guest) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 at 2:04pm

#11 - Richard Boyle

Thank you kindly for your reply.  I agree that some children will believe almost anything their parental objects might convey to them, because they have no reference points.  Children will “believe” that the world is flat because that’s the way it appears to them until they learn about gravity and astronomy.  But that belief is not blind faith, it’s simply a lack of knowledge.  Some children, when told about Santa Clause will use their natural sense of skepticism and analytical skills and ask questions.  Questions such as “How does Santa get to so many houses all in one night?”.  Likewise, some (not all and clearly not most) children will ask questions such as:  “How come god hides from us?”  “Why would god flood the world if he doesn’t make mistakes and loves us?” I know, because I asked such questions before I was in first grade.  So again, I think it’s a bit more complicated.  It’s not merely about “semantics” nor “ignorance” - it’s about whether we choose to think for ourselves or follow blindly those who have been following blindly.  Just because most children do not think for themselves, doesn’t mean we project this to all children in a sweeping generalization. Piaget and other psychologists, including myself, have observed that some children (not all) can observe at early ages that parental figures also will have “faith” in anything that is screamed the loudest and the longest by the other “faithful” who the parental objects exhibit blind faith in.  For example, several years ago while monitoring a foster family watching the news, I heard a four-year-old question the notion of “Thy Shall not Kill” verses the U.S. bombing of Bagdad when we invaded Iraq.  A U.S. Journalist had announced that all he could see “in a city the size of Los Angeles” was fire and bombing from one end of the horizon.  It’s not hard to surmise that hundreds or even thousands of innocent people were being fire-bombed in Bush’s attempt to get “rid of Saddam”.  I don’t think Mass murder in the name of mass murder is something most (not all) children want to have “faith” in, not matter who tells them it’s right. I certainly didn’t when I first learned, at age five, about Cowboys and Indians.

#15 tyode10 (Guest) on Friday January 15, 2010 at 2:26am

@13-Let’s get real! Jill Long is and was a very smart gal (unlike the rw Sarah Palin types out there) and came along with both experience and impressive resume. Jill Long (unlike Palin) obviously would and could both pick up a book and read. I watched the final Indiana gubernatorial debate and came away from it seeing Thompson as a better choice for Indiana. I’ll stand by my decision then and now. I’m not at all shocked that a guy like Daniels would resort to bashing atheists or anything else he sees as a political obstacle or challenge. Bashing, character assassination, hatchet jobs on legislation and political rivals, and stretching the truth out of proportion seems to be all too typical for Daniels and his gang throughout the country. I won’t make excuses for Daniels and company anymore than I wouldn’t for Cheney and Bushco. Anyone who blindly believes in someone who blindly believes these days can only be some day dreamer as far as I’m concerned.

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