Was Obama referencing atheists at National Prayer Breakfast?

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Earlier today, President Obama spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast, an event that I suspect is ignored by most Americans because the intertwining of Christianity and politics is so commonplace these days. As he has done in the past, Obama mentioned secular Americans. Kind of.

He said:


… I know that all Americans, men and women of different faith, and yes, those of no faith that they can name, are nevertheless joined together in common purpose, believing in something that is bigger than ourselves and the ideals that lie at the heart of our nation’s families. That, as a people, we are bound together…

He also said that all Americans, including secular Americans, have a “deep abiding faith in this nation.”

Written By: Hemant Mehta
continue to source article at washingtonpost.com

30 COMMENTS

  1. Given the right odds, I might entertain a wager Obama pins on Richard’s scarlet A when his term is through.

    There was a youtube video, long since removed before I knew how to download it, of him criticizing parts of the bible as irrational. I know what he just did sounds like lip-service but I don’t believe any other president in the modern era has ever so much as tipped his hat to atheists.

    It could have been mere pandering to gain every possible point of public approval ratings but I’m just not sure with this one.

  2. In reply to #1 by rjohn19:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hi-V_ilJu0w

    This one?

    Given the right odds, I might entertain a wager Obama pins on Richard’s scarlet A when his term is through.

    There was a youtube video, long since removed before I knew how to download it, of him criticizing parts of the bible as irrational. I know what he just did sounds like lip-service but I don’t believe any other president in the modern era has ever so much as tipped his hat to atheists.

    It could have been mere pandering to gain every possible point of public approval ratings but I’m just not sure with this one.

  3. Don’t be so harsh on Obama. If he were an Atheist, and were to declare it, it would be political suicide not only for him but also for the Democratic Party – unthinkable on grounds much more important than an individual’s beliefs or public image. We must give people, like Cameron, the benefit of the doubt where their individual faiths are concerned. At the moment Obama, with his nod to non-believers, is the best you are going to get.

    On a personal level, I don’t think he is simply pandering to the atheist/agnostic vote. He actually could be trying to be more inclusive in his public statements. In reply to #4 by kbala:

    So, the supposed leader of the free world doesn’t have the guts to say the truth? People like him,, Blair, Clegg & Clinton are the reason why the anglo-Saxon left couldn’t achieve what the German or the French or the Scandinavian left could achieve. A bunch of spin less, two-faced accomodationists, and multiculturalist incompetent that’s. And these guys are the architects of 21st century left wing politics in US & UK. Atheists who support these democrats & the English Labour/LibDem should be ashamed of themselves. And before you comeback with, “ummm, it’s tough for us, you know it is like rock & hard places. The alternative is worse”. Nope, there are alternatives.

    There are Green parties in both countries that have humanist traditions. And yes, it is okay to lose an election, but win the hearts & minds of the people..
    Things that are common sense in mainland Europe, like abolition of slavery, universal human rights, unilateral nuclear non-proliferation, you have to drag the British & the Americans kicking & screaming.

  4. Here is Obama explaining the Problem of Evil.

    To all the families, first responders, to the community of Newtown, clergy, guests, scripture tells us, “Do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly, we are being renewed day by day.

    “For light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all, so we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

    “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven not built by human hands.”

    Yep the solution is that the invisible non-existent world is more important than the real world. A dangerous religious deceit that has caused so much suffering down the centuries.

    I wouldn’t bet too much on that A pin.

    Michael

  5. In reply to #4 by kbala:

    There are Green parties in both countries that have humanist traditions. And yes, it is okay to lose an election, but win the hearts and minds of the people..

    Voting green would accomplish neither. The hearts and minds need to be won first. The dysfunction of the left in the US (and the UK) is in large part, I think, deliberately constructed, encouraged and managed (and stage managed) by the right. That needs to be overcome, but it cannot be done by some kind of essentialist purification. Excuse me if I’m sceptical about creative destruction. Further, if the Greens became powerful, they would become corrupt in the same way as Labour, The Democrats and the Libs. Possibly in an even worse way, given some of the cuckoo beliefs within the party and the green movement. The structures of power and the people’s relationship to them need to change (and are, actually, changing) before there can be a positive change in the operation of government.

    Leninist-style vanguards (of all political persuasions) simply concentrate power if they are successful, thus making manipulation by the already powerful easier, or alienate people from the movement and the movement from the people if they are not. Consent must be earned.

  6. In reply to #4 by kbala:

    Things that are common sense in mainland Europe, like abolition of slavery, universal human rights, unilateral nuclear non-proliferation, you have to drag the British and the Americans kicking and screaming.

    I’m a bit confused by your list here. When have the British and Americans recently indicated an interest in slavery ? Which mainland European nation has ever given up it’s nuclear weapons ?

    Michael

  7. Obama, sadly is no better or worse than any other (western) politician, I fear. His so-called beliefs are 100% elastic, bent and stretched to whatever suits the occasion. Which is unavoidable, given the sheer lunacy of the American system where a majority of Republicans believe in the literal “Word of Gahhhd”

    Sorry for America bashing but is it not true?
    (Cameron in UK is infected with a less virulent but equally sickening version of the Faith virus)

    If not then how is it Australia can have a Prime Minister who is both female and atheist, whereas USA cannot?

  8. True. But I wouldn’t put Julia Gillard as the poster child for atheism either. For one, she didn’t lead her party to victory, so it is difficult to suggest whether the Australian public would have voted for her parliamentary party.

    I think a better example would be Angela Merkel, a true intellectual (and most probably an atheist???). She did use the optional phrase “so help me dog” but that is okay, I suppose. She is the leader of the Christian Democratic Party of Germany. As a marxist, I would rather have people like Merkel than Obama. I can’t tolerate people, who on one hand call themselves progressives and on the other, support the most ridiculous notions and superstitions.

    In reply to #9 by Nodhimmi:

    Obama, sadly is no better or worse than any other (western) politician, I fear. His so-called beliefs are 100% elastic, bent and stretched to whatever suits the occasion. Which is unavoidable, given the sheer lunacy of the American system where a majority of Republicans believe in the literal “Word of Gahhhd”

    Sorry for America bashing but is it not true?
    (Cameron in UK is infected with a less virulent but equally sickening version of the Faith virus)

    If not then how is it Australia can have a Prime Minister who is both female and atheist, whereas USA cannot?

  9. Obama is a believer. The recent inauguration should prove this to you. There were overtures to God and religion that weren’t neccessary. But he still went ahead with it. Considering it was his last term , if he wanted to make a statement on this issue, he could have.

    In reply to #3 by RDfan:

    As with his views on gay marriage, I hope Obama’s religious beliefs keep on “evolving” until he “comes out” as a non-believer.

  10. he has a point. it’s important to recognise all US citizens believe in America, and more important to understand why they believe in America.

    my guess is because there’s emperical evidence to back up its existance

  11. In reply to #13 by Pauly01:

    Obama is a believer. The recent inauguration should prove this to you.

    “… all the education and good intentions in the world couldn’t help plug up the holes
    in the universe or give you the power to change its blind, mindless course.” p. 57

    The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins? No. Dreams from My Father, by Barack Obama.

    Given the book was written decades ago when Obama was nowhere near thinking about being president, but it does go to show that his conversion to Christianity was just that, a conversion. Which means that a reversion to his default position, non-belief, cannot be discounted. He has shown a willingness to change his views; the gay marriage issue being just one of many examples.

  12. Like it or not, the president is the leader of a diverse country and has to exercise diplomacy. I really don’t think it’s the job of a country’s leader to poo-poo any one group – including the delusional religious types. If he wants to sway opinions, he has to first show that he’s approachable and willing to listen. That means showing up at dumb events like this one. That’s what politicians do.

    If we atheists have such a problem with the president’s participation in such religious events, we should be organizing like events ourselves – such as, our own secular pancake breakfast, backed and branded by atheist groups. And we should fully expect the president’s attendance. This would give him a forum to validate us, without forcing him to snub half the country. Then when Fox News complains, the president can say he reaches out to ALL Americans, not just the religiously affiliated. It seems to me it would be more powerful to be an organized force EXPECTING equality, rather than a scattered, complaining bunch of malcontents who want high profile people to stick it to mainstream religiosity at every opportunity. Let’s get our sh*t together and play ball with the politicians if we want their support, and if we want to become a power to be reckoned with.

  13. In reply to #11 by kbala:

    True. But I wouldn’t put Julia Gillard as the poster child for atheism either. For one, she didn’t lead her party to victory, so it is difficult to suggest whether the Australian public would have voted for her parliamentary party.

    I think a better example would be Angela Merkel, a true intellectual (and most probably an atheist???). She did use the optional phrase “so help me dog” but that is okay, I suppose. She is the leader of the Christian Democratic Party of Germany. As a marxist, I would rather have people like Merkel than Obama. I can’t tolerate people, who on one hand call themselves progressives and on the other, support the most ridiculous notions and superstitions.

    In reply to #9 by Nodhimmi:

    Obama, sadly is no better or worse than any other (western) politician, I fear. His so-called beliefs are 100% elastic, bent and stretched to whatever suits the occasion. Which is unavoidable, given the sheer lunacy of the American system where a majority of Republicans believe in the literal “Word of Gahhhd”

    Sorry for America bashing but is it not true?
    (Cameron in UK is infected with a less virulent but equally sickening version of the Faith virus)

    If not then how is it Australia can have a Prime Minister who is both female and atheist, whereas USA cannot?

    Fair point about Gillard- I suppose the greater part of the electorate was unaware of her atheism but the party was confident enough to accept her as leader, knowing it. I think Australia is a more ‘mentally healthy’ nation than most mainly due to their love of irreverence and scorn for the notions of authority.

  14. Whatever makes anyone think that Obama isn’t an atheist? From what I have read about the Land of the Free, there would be no chance of an unbeliever getting elected. A man brought up without religion, so intelligent and superbly educated, would not fall easily into Faith. I have his book, and I can find no evidence of religious conviction there, only a guarded ambiguity, and perhaps mild, tolerant amusement.

    In the speech quoted he mentions “belief” in the Nation being bigger than ourselves, and he mentions “faith” in the Nation, both core concepts in theism, but both attached by him, not to God, but to civil society, or what passes for it in the USofA. He says the things he has to say in the most intolerant of western nations.

  15. Could someone table a list of things that would shine some light on why he is better or worse off than Bush? During the presidential election, an American friend told me, if Obama gets elected US is going to be screwed, if Romney get elected the rest of the world gets screwed. Compared to Obama, Cameron looks like Che Guevara. I get most of my news from “Democracy Now” and Noam Chomsky. And from those sources alone, he looks an incompetent affirmative action puppet of the wallstreet.

    Chomsky on Obama, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oan8te8Q_Bs

  16. I accept that elephants among other things are bigger than me and I have no faith in any nation. I have no faith at all. Silly thing, faith. I hate it when people speak for other people in such vapid ways.

  17. Thank you Peanutsplatters- that link was partly it. The one I recall was longer and not edited or overdubbed by a Jebusfreak. My old link to the original was killed long ago.

    I guess my contention was that a logical, intelligent man like Obama could not help but be swayed to the secular if he read the book- and apparently he has and saw some of the flaws that make it wholly unreliable. And that book is 100% of the information available to support the irrational faith he (hopefully) pretends to profess.

    I think his faith is a political necessity.

  18. In reply to #24 by aquilacane:

    I accept that elephants among other things are bigger than me and I have no faith in any nation. I have no faith at all. Silly thing, faith. I hate it when people speak for other people in such vapid ways.

    Good to hear! add to Faith- Tribalism, Nationalism, Racism and all the other in-group bollox beloved of bigots

  19. In reply to #21 by kbala:

    Could someone table a list of things that would shine some light on why he is better or worse off than Bush? During the presidential election, an American friend told me, if Obama gets elected US is going to be screwed, if Romney get elected the rest of the world gets screwed. Compared to Obama, Cameron looks like Che Guevara. I get most of my news from “Democracy Now” and Noam Chomsky. And from those sources alone, he looks an incompetent affirmative action puppet of the wallstreet.

    Chomsky on Obama, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oan8te8Q_Bs

    At risk of boring the volk with my love of Islam, Obama has added a number of very dangerous individuals to his inner circle. He really does seem infatuated with the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates; any number of websites are tracking this unpleasant trend-

    http://globalmbreport.com/?p=1017
    https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=muslim+brotherhood+advisors+obama&aq=0&oq=Obama+muslim+advisors&aqs=chrome.1.57j0&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

    Not all of these sites are radical Republican ones, either. Also we have the execrable, unelected Baroness Warsi advising Cameron… How the hell are western democracies going to remove the existential threat?

  20. In reply to #17 by ShesTheBeth:

    Like it or not, the president is the leader of a diverse country and has to exercise diplomacy. I really don’t think it’s the job of a country’s leader to poo-poo any one group – including the delusional religious types. If he wants to sway opinions, he has to first show that he’s approachable and willing to listen. That means showing up at dumb events like this one. That’s what politicians do.

    If we atheists have such a problem with the president’s participation in such religious events, we should be organizing like events ourselves – such as, our own secular pancake breakfast, backed and branded by atheist groups. And we should fully expect the president’s attendance. This would give him a forum to validate us, without forcing him to snub half the country. Then when Fox News complains, the president can say he reaches out to ALL Americans, not just the religiously affiliated. It seems to me it would be more powerful to be an organized force EXPECTING equality, rather than a scattered, complaining bunch of malcontents who want high profile people to stick it to mainstream religiosity at every opportunity. Let’s get our sh*t together and play ball with the politicians if we want their support, and if we want to become a power to be reckoned with.

    Can you really imagine ANY US leader consorting with a bunch of evil atheists??

  21. :) Not at all. My pet peeve is ridiculing Hinduism.

    Yep, Warsi is unbearable. She is the token minority in the Tori posh boys clusterfuck that is the British cabinet.

    In the Question Time appearance alongside Nik Griffin, everyone ganged up on his parties racist & homophobic views. WTF! how ever vile and repugnant his party ideologies are, that would be nothing compared to Warsis faith. He should have turned and asked her what her views are, and what her religion has to say about this.

    In reply to #27 by Nodhimmi:

    In reply to #21 by kbala:

    Could someone table a list of things that would shine some light on why he is better or worse off than Bush? During the presidential election, an American friend told me, if Obama gets elected US is going to be screwed, if Romney get elected the rest of the world gets screwed. Compared to Obama, Cameron looks like Che Guevara. I get most of my news from “Democracy Now” and Noam Chomsky. And from those sources alone, he looks an incompetent affirmative action puppet of the wallstreet.

    Chomsky on Obama, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oan8te8Q_Bs

    At risk of boring the volk with my love of Islam, Obama has added a number of very dangerous individuals to his inner circle. He really does seem infatuated with the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates; any number of websites are tracking this unpleasant trend-

    http://globalmbreport.com/?p=1017
    https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=muslim+brotherhood+advisors+obama&aq=0&oq=Obama+muslim+advisors&aqs=chrome.1.57j0&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

    Not all of these sites are radical Republican ones, either. Also we have the execrable, unelected Baroness Warsi advising Cameron… How the hell are western democracies going to remove the existential threat?

  22. Okay then. I’ll just get down off my cross here and … ‘ang on a minute… did you say at the National Prayer Breakfast?! Never mind. Alll wayyys look on the briiiii-ight side of life!

  23. I agree. I have seen such a video before myself (I’ll see if I can find it) where the President, before he was the president, I believe, really ripped into the orc-minded right wing Christians, and criticized their understanding of the Bible and generally criticizing Christianity. A lot of the things he said were very similar to criticisms one would hear from a non-believer or skeptic. I’m not at all convinced that President Obama’s faith is wholly genuine. Naturally he has to play lip service to the religious mob, but as was already pointer out in the comments here, it would be political suicide for him to say publicly “I don’t believe in God” or “I’m not a Christian.”

    Here is the video in question. It’s hard for me to believe he is not an atheist/freethinker. He’s obviously a smart and humane man, though he has many faults, for sure. He also looks like 30 years younger here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RWHdQBMgb4

    • In reply to #32 by Leo Major:

      Here is the video in question. It’s hard for me to believe he is not an atheist/freethinker. He’s obviously a smart and humane man, though he has many faults, for sure. He also looks like 30 years younger here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RWHdQBMgb4

      At the risk of seeming naive yet again, I don’t think this vid shows Obama is without faith, but rather strongly the opposite.

      However, on the plus side, the vid shows he understands and (pardon the pun) wholly embraces the separation of church and state in public affairs as according to the constitution, which seems rather appropriate for the office he attained.

      But if faith is about maintaining cognitive dissonance in the face of rationality, then when he acknowledges the impracticality of bible quotes and teachings in public affairs – yet declares himself a person of faith – he is merely demonstrating the strength of his faith (which must be rather strong since he is clearly a very intelligent person well able to appreciate the contradictions in religion, and indeed he himself highlighted these in his speech).

      In short he appreciates and can present the skeptic’s point of view, but he clearly isn’t a skeptic since he exercises his constitutional right to ignore that point of view in his private life.

      Being able to appreciate every side of the argument including non-believers’, willing to argue in secular terms (even when inspired otherwise) and be pragmatic towards societal harmony makes him ideally suited to be a president per a secular constitution of a plural society. But unfortunately for him this does not endear him to at least some of his fellow believers who quite inflexibly consider those qualities or vision of society to be un-American.

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