Thursday, August 12, 2010

A non-reply reply

Mail Remember not too long ago when I wrote a letter to my Governor, Mitch Daniels, concerning remarks he'd made about atheism? I was pleasantly surprised to get a reply yesterday! I can't say for sure that he definitely wrote it, but based on the tone, I kind of think that he did. (It was sent via email.)

Dear Ms. R.,

Thank you for your recent letter expressing concerns about my responses to a reporter's questions about atheism, and for this opportunity to respond. I have endeavored to be completely scrupulous about separating my faith from my public duties, and about serving all citizens of Indiana equally. I try to respect the views of all, in matters of public policy, or, in this case, personal religious views.

Enclosed is the complete text of my interview with this reporter on the subject. I think in reading the entirety of the comments you will find these values reflected. You certainly will find no disparagement of any individual nor any implied guilt by association with the historical facts and personages mentioned.

As my answers to the reporter reflected, I rarely, if ever, mention religious matters in public and that will continue to be my practice. Thanks again for this opportunity to respond.

Sincerely, Mitch Daniels

He enclosed the attachment of the full text of the interview, and there really wasn't much that was new compared to the excerpts I posted on my entry and included in the letter I wrote to him.

A few thoughts.

I give him credit for responding, or at least getting someone on his staff to respond. Since I sent it snail mail, I really do hope that he read it and that it made him think a little bit.

I also give him credit for rarely bringing his faith up in the public forum; he wasn't lying about that. He definitely keeps his faith private, and I've rarely heard him speak of it. As far as public policy, I can't think of any overtly religious legislation that I've seen happen under his watch. I could be wrong, but I can't recall any big controversies that have happened here recently, so I don't think he's used his governorship to promote any sort of religious agenda.

So I've given him two credits, and I really do appreciate that he wrote back to me. However, I have one huge problem with something he wrote:

"You certainly will find no disparagement of any individual nor any implied guilt by association with the historical facts and personages mentioned."

Let's take a look at something he said in the original interview:

"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 no—nothing other than the brief time we spend on this earth."

First of all, he's saying that Hitler was an atheist, which I pointed out in my original letter is historically inaccurate. Hitler was raised as a Catholic, and in a speech before the Reichstag in 1936, Hitler said, "I believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty Creator. By warding off the Jews I am fighting for the Lord's work." Does that sound like an atheist to you? You can find numerous references to God and religion in his speeches and writings, and a belief that he was doing what God intended him to do. The Nazis themselves came from the German people—it’s not like they were imported from elsewhere—who were by and large a religious bunch at the time. As for Stalin, he was also raised as a Catholic, and apparently intended to become a priest. His clampdown on religion was not a matter of his own disbelief; it was a way to seize power in the country.

I think that Governor Daniels' association of atheists with some of the most brutal dictators in history is definitely disparaging towards atheists. That most certainly IS guilt by association.

He stated that atheism leads to brutality. Also completely untrue. Are there atheists that commit brutal crimes? Undoubtedly. However, since atheists make up perhaps 16% of the population, I'm guessing that proportionately more crimes are committed by those with some sort of religious affiliation. There is no causality here, and saying that "atheism leads to brutality" is also a very disparaging remark against atheists. His notion that not believing in an eternity of salvation or damnation leads to such brutality, or results in increased crimes because of the lack of divine retribution, is also completely false. Some people can be good merely because it is the right thing to do, and it is the best thing for the betterment of society and fellow human beings. This is an old argument from theists, and it is one that simply does not hold water. I guarantee that if you polled most atheists, the vast majority would say that when they decided they didn't believe, they didn't suddenly go on a crime spree, murderin' and pillagin' and rapin' like a bunch of lunatic Visigoths. Seriously...a very stupid argument and one that needs to be retired.

While he has not been vocal in his faith or tried to push some sort of religious agenda upon my state, his statements show a profound lack of understanding when it comes to dealing with people who profess no faith, as well as a disrespect for their sense of morality. I find that sort of attitude typical of those who would attempt to vilify nonbelievers, I find it rather arrogant, and have to ask: are you that horrible of a person that you can't bring yourself to do good without the threat of eternal damnation? I would also point out that those priests who continue to rape children, and their superiors who continue to cover it up (that includes you, Ratzi), don't seem to be taking the whole eternal damnation thing to heart, because it's sure not stopping them, is it? I don't rape children, and do you know why? Because it's horrible and wrong and morally reprehensible. What is the priests' excuse for continuing to do so, in spite of the threat of the Fiery Pits of Hell™?

I'll leave you with another quote: "Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith . . . we need believing people."

Does anyone know who said that? No cheating by googling! Let’s see some guesses. And what do you think? Do you agree with that statement? I will write more about it soon, after you give me your best guesses on the speaker. I'm sure that some of you already know the answer, and if you do, shoot me an email at rather than leaving it in a comment. See if others can make a good guess at it first.

Note: Upon publishing this, I saw that it was my 666th post! I just found that amusing.


  1. I really like your counterpoints!

  2. 666??? I stand before you humbled.

    Great post! I'm impressed the governor wrote you too, but still I do not trust him. He is, a Republicanm after all.

  3. ack!!!

    that was supposed to say 'Republican,'...

  4. I could only cheat to find out who made the quote, so I am not playing. If I had an idea then I would guess.

    As to the Govenor, a lot of the religious fervor these politicians speak with is out of expediancy. I do not want to say that the country is leaning towards being more religous, but it has become purposely stupid and prone to look for the easy way out instead of engaging their minds. How else do you explain the inanity from the right side of the aisle in Congress and the duplicity on the left?

    Religion ushered in the dark age. There is too much access to information for things to come to be that bad again, but this is certainly a 'dim age'. People are more inclined to let someone else do the goat thinkin' for them because of all the pressure they have in striving for whatever it is they strive for, entails in effort.

    Consumed in believing the non-essential is essential (Paris Hilton... Lindsay Lohan... Justin freakin' Bieber!) it really is a Bizzaro world and those who are benefiting from the upside down values are using the social marketplace to take advantage of the resistance that has been built up to intellectualism.

    Ayn Rand was on to something ... but that is for another day!

  5. I cheated and googled it, so I won't spoil it for everyone else. At least your response somewhat addressed the comments you wrote to him. Every time I wrote to our senator, Jerk Gregg. Oh, sorry, I mean Judd Gregg, all I got back was a standard form letter that never addressed any of my points, but told me in no uncertain terms what his position on the issue was. Which, of course, were always opposite of mine. So at least he read it, or someone did, and responded to your points. It's something.

    Good post by the way. Keep pushing back.

  6. Hey Beth,

    It's great you get a response from your governor. I got a return telephone call from from the office manager of my Senator, Saxby Chambliss about conditions in the VA hospitals. The kicker was that I contacted his office about a VA hospital way out of his district in another state. When I got the call, I explained my concerns. About a day or two later, I got another call from his office manager stating that Sen. Chambliss was on the Senate Armed Service Committee and agreed to investigate it.

    Never underestimate the power of one. One person can still start a forest fire.

  7. Hi Beth,
    It's nice that you got a response from Governor Daniels but I'm afraid atheists haven't cornered the market on brutality. Zealots all over the world have waged wars over their religious beliefs for centuries.

  8. Atheism leads to brutality? As George Carlin had stated in one of his dvds(and it may merely be his opinion or just part of his act), more people have been killed in the name of god than any other reason... "my god has a bigger dick than your god..pow..dead.."..kudos to those who are religious but do good things for their neighbors because its right, not because it makes them look better than someone else...I think atheists would actually be LESS inclined to brutality knowing that once life is gone. it's gone, that's it, hope it was fun..stop and smell the roses while you can.

  9. Well said. :)

    Beth, because you like to tie things together in your writing and you are good at it, I'll venture the author of the statement is one of the three, Stalin, Hitler and Mao, that you mentioned earlier in the post.


I'm funny how, I mean funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you?