The Republican strategy to win elections is apparently to alienate some Americans to win votes from other Americans who would have voted for them anyway. I’m all for it.
Today’s (more accurately: yesterday’s) example is from Carly Fiorina:
I think people of genuine faith, whatever their faith is–I’m a Christian–but people of genuine faith, I believe, make better leaders. And I don’t say that with disrespect to anyone, but I’ll tell you specifically what faith gives a leader.
I believe faith gives us empathy. A person of faith knows that no one of us is any better than any other one of us. Each of us are created by God. And that empathy permits us to see, in someone’s circumstance, possibilities.
Faith gives us humility. Humility is really important in a leader because it is humility that causes a leader to say, “Sometimes I must be restrained. Sometimes this is not something I should do. Sometimes this is something I don’t know. Sometimes I need to seek wisdom and counsel from others–perhaps, for example, the citizens of this great nation.” Humility is important in leadership, in a leader.
And finally, I think faith gives us optimism. And you cannot lead effectively–which, in the end, leadership is about unlocking potential in others–you cannot lead unless you know that people will rise to the occasion, that there is a brighter future in front of us if we will do the right things.
Let’s dissect it!
1.) “people of genuine faith”
I am not sure what she means by genuine faith. I suspect that she is pulling a No True Scotsman here to separate religious beliefs like hers from religious beliefs like those of Muslim extremists, otherwise she would have to concede that faith doesn’t give us the qualities that she lists. Of course, there are conservative Christians who would dispute the authenticity of liberal Christian faith and liberal Christians who would dispute the authenticity of conservative Christian faith, so I’m not sure that the distinction is very useful.
2.) “I don’t say that with disrespect to anyone,”
Fiorina said, disrespectfully. And it is disrespectful because there is a very easy way to make all of the points that she did without needlessly alienating atheists: she could have just told us how her faith has given her the qualities that she lists.
3.) Faith gives us empathy, humility and optimism
Since she started out by distinguishing leaders with faith from leaders without it, the implication here is that people without faith lack empathy, humility, and optimism. Apparently, all atheists (and inauthentic believers) are cynical, arrogant psychopaths and all of the “genuinely faithful” are empathetic, humble, and optimistic. An insulting humblebrag!
4.) “A person of faith knows that no one of us is any better than any other one of us.”
This must come as a shock to a party that routinely belittles the poor, non-Christians, illegal immigrants, intellectuals, and so on, all while touting its piety and moral superiority. Perhaps she means that her god loves us all equally, but that doesn’t seem to translate into any specific human behavior or public policy, which are what actually matter.
5.) Humility leads to restraint and acknowledgment that one needs help from others
I agree, but I’m curious to hear how a belief that one has a direct line to the One True God and knowledge of the One True Moral Code constitutes humility. To be fair, she didn’t exactly say that she does; it’s her more evangelical rivals who are likely to say something like this. Still, the implication is that those without faith do not have humility and thus do not restrain themselves, acknowledge their own ignorance, or ask for help. Her claim seems to be a gentler way of conveying the common conservative Christian belief that atheists must believe themselves to be the ultimate authority in life since they do not submit to a “higher power.” For this reason, atheists are worse than non-Christian theists, even though the non-Christian theists’ gods don’t exist according to Christians and therefore cannot actually constitute higher powers, which in turn means that any moral systems based on them are false. It all makes sense as long as you don’t think about it.
6.) Empathy, humility, and optimism are good traits because…
A moral argument that appeals to a religious text is only convincing to people who already accept that text (and thus most likely accept the argument already). A moral argument that appeals to practicality is (potentially) convincing to everyone.
Despite her opening statement about the best leaders having faith, Fiorina explains the value of these qualities by appealing to practicality, as she should. The irony is that this shows that there are reasons for everyone, including atheists, to have these qualities. Faith doesn’t need to enter the discussion at all unless it is the only way to promote or instill these qualities in people–and it clearly isn’t.
In short: Fiorina undermined her own position by making a sensible argument.
Stay tuned for more religious nonsense from the weedy field of GOP candidates for President. Huckabee, Cruz, and Carson are sure to have plenty more nuggets of foolishness to share.