Carly Fiorina says people of faith make better leaders, rattles off list of secular values

Now that Carly Fiorina’s gotten her bump in the polls after managing to out-debate Jim Gilmore and Rick Perry in the first Republican primary debate, more people are tuning in to what she has to say. And they are quickly being reminded that this is a person who is best known for being fired and for pouring a ton of her own money into a losing Senate campaign in a favorable year for Republicans.

One need look no further than her attempt to wax theocratic yesterday, telling an audience in Iowa that people of faith make better leaders. Said Fiorina, from the Des Moines Register:

Carly Fiorina, screenshot via Des Moines Register

Carly Fiorina, screenshot via Des Moines Register

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 I think 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 of others,” perhaps, for example, the citizens of this great nation…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 do the right things.

The whole answer was a hot mess with a smiling face. Let’s review:

I do not believe for a second that Fiorina’s serious about that “whatever their faith is” kumbaya-ing. At least, the people listening definitely didn’t take it to really mean whatever faith a person happens to hold. To Iowan evangelicals, “faith” means Christian and mayyyybe Jewish faith, but only if Israel has already been brought up. However, as a followup, I’d be curious to hear Fiorina specify — to a room full of Iowa Republicans — who she thinks is more unfit for leadership: non-believers, or Muslims?

And spare me that “I don’t say that with disrespect to anyone,” hand waving. If you have to preface a statement with any variant of “I don’t think less of anyone, but…” you’re about to articulate why you think less of someone. Own it.

Now, as for the values that Fiorina says faith gives you, she’s not wrong! Plenty of faithful people are empathetic, humble, optimistic and so forth. But since when are non-believers less likely than believers to be any of those things?

This is an especially important question given how remarkably secular the checks Fiorina’s supposedly humble believer put on themselves. Fiorina’s ideal leader is willing to say to themselves, “Sometimes there is something I do not know,” to which the non-believer would say, “Yes! That’s the whole point! No one knows everything! Evidence matters!” Fiorina’s Godly ramble then became even more secular when she suggested that good leaders sometimes “seek wisdom and counsel from others,” with those “others” being people, not God.

Again, that’s great! I’d rather have a President Fiorina conferring with public opinion and perhaps a decent Cabinet than with an invisible wizard who lives inside her head. But again, how, exactly, is faith necessary in order to make that happen? What if the wizard tells you to do something that the public, and your Cabinet, all agree will be awful? WHAT DO YOU DO? HOW WILL YOU LEAD?

In the end, Fiorina’s answer shows, again, how religious moral appeals are cherry-picked from the secular set of moral values the speaker already holds. And in the 21st Century, it’s positively insane that secular morals have to be wrapped in religious bacon in order for a mass public to digest them.

For all of the racial, sexual and other forms of social injustice in this country, lack of a belief in God remains one of the only things that truly disqualifies one from seeking elected office. You may suffer at the polls if you’re African-American, female, LGBT or even Muslim, but there is at least one person who fits each of those descriptions in Congress. There are no atheists in Congress. At least, none who will say so publicly. The American Humanist Association claims to have been told by 24 members of Congress that they don’t believe in God, but every single one of them remains closeted. The Secular Coalition puts the number at 28. There are likely more who haven’t expressed their non-belief even in private.

And every time a major presidential candidate repeats the philosophically and morally incoherent meme that people who don’t believe in God are inherently immoral and unfit for leadership, it makes it harder for those twenty-something members of Congress to express their beliefs without disqualifying themselves from office.

Even though faith is by no means a prerequisite for leadership.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • Craig S. Shoemake

    Excuse me? Not believing in a Bronze Age sky god is an act of pessimism? How about not believing in Zeus, or Odin, or Shiva? Do any of these acts of non-belief make me a pessimist?

  • Avatar Roku

    You asked since when are non-believers less likely to be optimistic? Seriously? Not believing is about as pessimistic as you can get regarding the human condition.

  • pete14789

    wow she seems very humble saying faith people make better leader

  • thekidde

    P.S. If there is a god, he/she/it is a total fuckup.

  • thekidde

    Well, now we know which orifice your “wind” emits from.

  • thekidde

    Gods have been part of human ideology forever. However, belief is not reality. When you die, you no longer exist is tough to swallow, but there it is. Get over it and be a kind, helpful, productive human while you exist. No rewards, no punishment after the fact – get over it.

  • Amen brother.

  • DoverBill
  • DoverBill

    Agreed, but do ya think the average American voter has a fuckin’ clue… as to anything?

  • DoverBill

    Was it her belief in faith and God that she use to drive HP into the ground when she headed it or simply her own human incompetence?

    Inquiring minds wonder.

  • Bruce

    Sorry that was meant for Gustuv

  • Bruce

    What!!!!, do you really think what you said, makes any kind of sense?

  • Bruce

    They just say what they think the audience wants to hear, one thing today and another thing tomorrow.
    Jon you are 100% right none of what she said holds water. Just incoherent words strung together for the benefit of the ultra conservative right.

  • woodroad34

    *scratching my head*…are you telling me that since Sarah Palin isn’t getting any traction, she’s developed a whole new persona with the name “Carly Fiorina”?

  • woodroad34

    Hah! Oh, just…..the tears running down my face….I can’t….Here Carly, let me get you Josh Duggar’s phone number….you two…*snort*…can talk.

  • Rev. Ron Hunter Jr.

    Yes. It is from a religious context that the healthcare and education systems that are the foundations of our society came to be. Historically it is in any society. Atheism has more atrocities than does religious matters however the religious stuff is typically anathema to core tenants whereas the atheistic evils answer to no one so they may as well have been amplified.
    Religion has produced more well being and consideration to humanity and the environment than any other contributor, that is if one is honest to history.

  • Moderator3

    You could have disagreed with any idea on this blog, but personal attacks are not okay. Goodbye.

  • Gustav Wind

    Jon, you are a whiny pseudo-intellect doing pseudo-analysis based on your own prejudices. But I’m sure the myrmidons in the libralagarchy eat up this tripe with a grin and a wipe.

  • The_Fixer

    Good Grief, I think we all know the obvious here: this is nothing more than pandering to get the religious vote. It’s a time-honored political tradition.

    I don’t see much empathy in Fiorina’s actions – destroying value in a company due to her incompetence. People had invested in HP, thinking of it as one of the “Blue Chip” companies, and relying on an increase in share value for their retirement income. She certainly did not display empathy when she laid off tons of the HP workforce. Or when she destroyed the corporate culture that had people happy in their jobs, thinking that they would be supported while trying to do productive work.

    This is just shit-based pablum designed to satiate those believers without an ability to see through bullshit.

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  • Butch1

    Yep. When they’re out of power they make sure no Federal Judges are selected or any liberal leaning ones for the Supreme Court, but when they get the White House just look out, it’s a green light for both.

  • Indeed. I’d love to fail spectacularly, wiping out hundreds of millions of dollars in stock capitalization, only to be granted a multimillion dollar golden parachute and apparently little or no damage at all to my professional reputation.

  • It is a very short step from “my lawyers say it’s legal” to “these crooked judges we just lifetime-appointed to the bench say it’s legal.”

  • Butch1

    Sometimes I think they use the wrong preposition.

  • Butch1

    Isn’t that the truth!

  • Butch1

    They looked the other way when he wasn’t.

    They raised Ratzinger to be a “good” Pope. ;-) All that “brown shirt” experience evidently paid off.

  • Butch1

    Exactly so.

  • Butch1

    Is there one republican candidate running for the office who is not either a racist, homophobic, crazy or trying to destroy the Constitution? They all seem to be in favor in destroying our Social programs starting with Social Security; the Affordable Care Act is a given and then there is Medicare/Medicaid. There is nothing these cretins will stop at destroying this time around for some reason.

    That reason happens to be the fact that they have majorities in the House and the Senate. They wouldn’t be talking this crazy if they didn’t have this much power or have Oligarchs paying for their campaigns. When you pay for the fiddler, you get to call out the tunes and each one of these candidates will dance to it and say what they are told to say, save Trump. He’s paying for his own ride and is out of the Clown Car and in his own Helicopter.

  • NetWorker

    Correct! The GOP pilloried Justice Sotomayor after the President mentioned empathy in regards to supreme court nominees.

  • Tim

    The pope at the time was ok with him.

  • 2karmanot

    Transubstantiation by any other name is cannibalism.

  • 2karmanot

    Where the tenets of Faith are consistent, the outcomes are not so arbitrary.”
    A = B and B=C then A = C. If God (A) = B (Jesus) and Jesus was gay (C), then God is gay. “Where the tenets of Faith are consistent, the outcomes are not so arbitrary.” Further, if the Bible says (Gay) or homosexuality is an abomination, then God is clearly an abomination, which is my take on the Platonic, circular reasoning of Church cracked-pots like Aquinas, who can prove without a doubt the fairy tales of Christian theology, #Church Snark

  • 2karmanot

    Love the snark!

  • marknc

    If I have my history right (pretty sure I do) you were shunned from the Catholic Church if you didn’t pledge allegiance to Hitler.

  • marknc

    Actually she has succeeded at two things – personal advancement and lining her own pocket.

  • nicho

    With or without religion, good people will do good things and bad people will do bad things. But to get good people to do bad things, you need religion.

  • Don Chandler

    Since Fiorina supports the “religious liberty” to discriminate against others, she would make a “bad faith” president.

  • I seem to remember that not all that long ago, mention of “empathy” would elicit snickers on the right. Take that as you will.

  • wmforr

    What? That’s like telling Ben Carson that one should go to medical school before attempting brain surgery.

  • genurise

    This woman has failed at nearly everything she has tried. She does not deserve attention.

  • wmforr

    We wouldn’t have schools, hospitals, charities if what?

    You mean people who don’t pray to a supernatural being would not build schools, hospitals, etc.?

  • wmforr

    Sometimes the number 3 is not a reference to convoluted Christian dogma.

  • wmforr

    Indeed, where is their “empathy” for long-term loving couples seeking the benefits of marriage for themselves and their children? Where is their admission that they don’t know everything? It’s all in the Bible. Or else “I’m not a scientist, but I can make absolute statements about complex scientific issues, because I made a snowball”. Humility? Ha! Perhaps she meant this as a swipe at der Donald.

  • The statement that we wouldn’t have schools, hospitals, charities, etc., without faith is nonsense.

    “Good” and “evil” are man-made concepts, stemming from (and perhaps forming the basis of) a world-view based on dichotomies: a vision of the universe as black and white when in actuality it seems to be composed of infinite shades of gray. I don’t know of any absolute that actually exists, and I very much doubt there is such a thing.

    Ask yourself one basic question: why do people form societies? Why do we come together in groups? Sociality gives every appearance of being hard-wired, and obviously confers some evolutionary advantage — we’re the most successful species ever. However, the benefits of society don’t seem to be dependent on faith.

  • “People of faith” is a rather broad term — in fact, it can be construed to include everyone, including atheists (who believe in the efficacy of reason and evidence), with the possible exception of out and out nihilists. So, to credit “people of faith” with the creation of this nation is really a meaningless statement.

  • “. . . But since when are non-believers less likely than believers to be any of those things?”

    Given the qualities displayed by so many of the most high-profile “believers,” I’d say non-believers are more like to be any of those things.

    What struck me about her little list of desirable qualities is that not one of them is displayed by any of the Republican contenders, all of whom profess to be “believers.”

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  • goulo

    In the spirit of Poe’s Law, I am not sure if Rev. Hunter’s comment is sincere religious fanaticism or a parody of religious fanaticism.

  • JohnnyD

    I used to offer myself up as an example to my right-wing co-workers whenever they were having trouble imagining how atheists could have any morals. I have always mantained (or tried to) good and cordial relationships, at work or play, with all of them, usually sucessfully. But most would rather believe I am possessed by clever demons than that an atheist could be moralistic without adopting God’s Law.

    What’s sad is that history tells us the Christian church adopted existing standards of acceptable public behaviors and built the Ten Commandments around them. It does not tell us that they INVENTED them, or have any exclusive claim to them whatsoever. Same thing with marriage, an institution which Christians seem to think they wholly own for some reason, even though you don’t have to be Christian, be in a church, nor be married by a Christian priest in order to be married.

    But perhaps the marriage argument will now be dropped, since the SC’s ruling re: gay marriage eliminates the need for it. That WAS the only reason for that argument, wasn’t it? Because there was never anywhere near as much push-back when marriage was being similarly “destroyed” by laws allowing for divorce, or requiring that husbands not be free to beat their wives or to lock them in the house all day. Yet surprisingly, marriage is still with us today, despite having been dealt those seeming death-blows.

  • I keep wanting to ask him, “So which one is the Holy Ghost? Is it Justice Clarence Thomas?”

  • JohnnyD

    That’s a good idea. We should require Presidential aspirants to have a minimum of ten years of public service at the local, county, state or federal level, giving credit for military enlistments (provided they were honorably discharged) and overseas service in the Peace Corps and similar non-religious government-run organizations.

    But not for service in or for a specific political party, or any other partisan organizations involved in influencing governmental policy (think tanks). Service in any foreign government, any major corporation doing business with the US at the Federal level, or any major nationwide media organization would also be a red flag, requiring further qualifications, but not necessarily an outright disqualifier.

    The main goal being to eliminate totally partisan candidates, including those whose claims to non-partisanship hinge on the “both sides do it” argument being applied where it clearly is not the case. Such candidates have demonstrated repeatedly in recent years that they tend to place party politics or corporate gain above the good of the nation and its’ people, with decidedly negative results.

    The sad part, of course, is that this will never be allowed to happen by the current crop of partisan crooks busily destroying our government, because they are being paid far too well to destroy it.

  • No, faith is neither good nor evil. The Islamic radical terrorist who straps a suicide bomb on his chest and detonates it in a public square has faith he will be rewarded with eternal bliss and hot and cold running virgins forever. Eric Rudolph believed his faith was telling him to bomb the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 and attempt to kill hundreds, for America’s ‘sins’ of permitting homosexuality and abortions to occur anywhere, while Scott Roeder’s faith told him to murder Dr. George Tiller. The faithful in Israel see no problem seizing lands that belong to others because their faith tells them God gave them that land. There are people now in Africa whose faith is telling them to burn accused witches alive.

    It was no misrepresentation of the Christian faith that their own leaders ordered horrible things be done in the name of Jesus Christ. Crusaders went to Jerusalem believing fervently they would be rewarded for slaughtering Muslim men, women, and children.

    Altruism, morality, ethics and empathy do not require a belief in any particular god or religious framework. What they do require is a psychologically evolved and sentient being capable of deciding to do good not because there’s a threat of disproportionate eternal punishment if good is not chosen, but because it is simply the right thing to do. It is perfectly possible to be a moral and ethical person without believing in an invisible Sky Tyrant.

    Because you see, as soon as someone thinks they have to do good or be punished, like a child they will try to find ways around that punishment, to evade it, to claim that chest-beating and repentance alone can make up for any crime, with no amends paid to the actual victims of those crimes.

    And no, the “No True Scotsman” fallacy is not an answer to this situation. There is, however, a common thread in all of this: Fallible men are declaring they know with absolute 100% certainty what God wants…only in far too many cases, it’s not what an unprovable and supposedly omnipotent / omniscient deity wants, but what they want for themselves. Or as I’m fond of noting, it is remarkable how very much of the time a person’s chosen deity hates exactly the same people as they do.

  • DoverBill

    …she suggested that good leaders sometimes “seek wisdom and counsel from others,” with those “others” being people, not God.”

    Apostate… burn her at the fuckin’ stake like the fine, fine Christians of yore did to anyone with different opinions than they held!

    May she burn in fancied Hell for all eternity and may God bless all true Americans.

  • Rev. Ron Hunter Jr.

    I see that as an inconstant argument as the abuse and misrepresentation of a faith should not be used as an understanding of it. We wouldn’t have schools, hospitals, charities etc. Evil does not have a definition without an constant understanding of Good. Your logic would espouse its opposite because it is merely opinion.
    Where the tenets of Faith are consistent, the outcomes are not so arbitrary.

  • nofauxnews

    Does you flock really believe that? No wonder Trumpet is leading the GOP clown parade.

  • nicho

    Bullshit alert!! Bullshit alert!!

  • emjayay

    Besides being somewhat anti-charismatic and having a spectacularly highly paid and also disastrous business record, she is a businesswoman, as noted above. For public consumption, as a corporate spokesperson you analyse the market and advertise or do whatever kind of PR that might work to maximise profit. Translate into politics and you have what she is about.

    Of course politics in general is also about almost the same thing today. But for Carly it seems particularly easy to see the nothing really there but all constructed for the job that needs to be done.

  • Indigo

    You’re thinking of Freemasonry, Reverend.

  • Indigo

    He was a good Catholic until he wasn’t.

  • We also wouldn’t have had the Dark Ages, the Inquisitions, the Crusades, witch burnings or people claiming they know with 100% certainty that their god hates exactly the same people they do and wants these others all to be killed.

    It’s not faith in the supernatural that makes one a good or evil person. It’s how you behave towards others, and far, far too many times ‘faith’ has been used an excuse for the most heinous of crimes.

  • DRoseDARs

    She makes a lot of good points and a well-reasoned thesis. (/snark) I’ll destroy it in one:

    You know who made a great Christian leader in the 20th Century? Hitler.

  • DRoseDARs

    Drafting the business plan the led to the laying-off of the people distributing the humility.

  • texcynical

    Great butter Jesus!!

  • emjayay

    Reeaaaaly.

  • Rev. Ron Hunter Jr.

    Without people of faith. This nation wouldn’t be and the presidential process with the trinity of a government system wouldn’t either.

  • Hi. I’m houndentenor and I’m a closeted atheist. Friends know, but I make a point not linking my name to a lack of belief. It would cost me jobs. It might even cost me tenure. Maybe if I lived in a large city on the either coast it might not matter, but people in those are more religious than people in the rest of the country seem to think. So, no, not out. It’s dangerous enough on the job market being gay. but atheist? Really?

  • As if Fiorina has any idea what leadership is. She’s one of the most notable failures as a CEO in recent memory. How is she taken seriously by anyone for anything? Oh, right. It’s okay to fail as a CEO. Everyone is is responsible for their actions, but not the 1%!

  • Carly Fiorina had faith that her decision to push for HP to acquire Compaq back in the early Aughts was a sound business decision. She was horribly, disastrously wrong then, too.

    Basically, right now she’s attempting to pander to the Christianists, but she doesn’t really speak their language. She’s a businesswoman. And a bad one who nearly bankrupted one of the world’s foremost technology companies, resulting in tens of thousands of people being laid off and the remaining corporate environment poisoned and expunged of all comity and positive morale. Once considered to be one of the best companies to work for, HP now consistently ranks near the bottom of corporate ratings.

    Anyway, if Fiorina wants to run for public office, she — like many others — should start by running for some office a little lower down the org chart than President of the United States of America. Especially those who have zero experience in politics or civil service.

  • Outspoken1

    Oh yes. I thought the worst “A” word was abortion; when I tell people I am atheist, they literally stop breathing for a few seconds. Kinda funny; kinda sad; kinda scary.

  • nicho

    If Carly can do for religion what she did for HP, we will all be better off.

  • LasloPratt

    I suppose it’s churlish to point out that people of faith took down the World Trade Center on 9/11. Other people of faith reacted to this by killing 100,000 Iraqis who had nothing to do with it. And I say that with disrespect.

  • Indigo

    Where was she when the humility was passed out?

  • JaneE

    If you want to stay on speaking terms, it helps to avoid mentioning that you don’t believe. And if you can quote Bible verses that support a liberal position vehemently enough, you can cut off the right wing “religious” justification at the knees.

  • goulo

    I’ve known various closeted atheists, yes. One atheist friend said it would be much more difficult to come out as atheist to his hyper-religious parents than as gay.

  • Doug105

    Just tell them the lies they want to hear, it cuts down on questions.

  • JaneE

    I suppose that empathy, humility, and optimism can be learned, or taught, but they seem to be more innate personality characteristics than learned behavior. I suppose one’s religious beliefs can help form those characteristics, but that depends a lot on what the religion teaches people they are supposed to be. What I see from the “religion is important” crowd, is teaching just the opposite – no empathy (especially if they look different, or are poor), no humility (“my god is better than your god”), and the world is going to hell in a hand basket, (with cheers from the rapture ready – the end is near contingent).

  • Glen Thompson

    Closeted atheists? Really?

  • 2karmanot

    No matter how hard one prays to Mr. Gawd, vinegar douche will never go down as sweet tea.

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