President Obama: Living Proof that Family Values Without Religion Build Character January 19, 2009

President Obama: Living Proof that Family Values Without Religion Build Character

In tomorrow’s special Inauguration editions of The Washington Post, the American Humanist Association will be running the following full-page ad:


The ad uses Barack Obama’s own words about his Humanist mother to show that you can indeed raise excellent, moral, hard-working children without resorting to religion.

“We hear so much these days about how traditional religious family values are necessary for raising moral children who can grow into accomplished adults,” said American Humanist Association Executive Director Roy Speckhardt, father of two. “But we humanists have known for a long, long time that ethical humanist values build character. The number of moral and accomplished humanists is legion. We’ve been honoring the greatest of them every year since 1953 at our annual conferences. Now Barack Obama has given us the opportunity to share this truth with those from around the country who come to our nation’s capital to share in the inauguration experience.”

While not asking for donations, the ad may end up paying for itself.

Here’s hoping that people who need to see the ad do see it.

Even better, read the Post tomorrow while sitting on an Atheist Bus. Double whammy!

Don’t forget the Freedom From Religion Foundation will also have a quarter-page ad in the same newspaper.

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  • I wouldn’t make too much of this, it already seems pretty clear that he’s going to keep pandering to the religious masses. Any even vaguely significant change on that front would take bigger guts than I reckon he has but I’m willing to wait and see what happens.

  • Reparate me for everyone thinking that god gives everything! If people would read more books and read the bible less than we could all get along.

  • Oh come on.

    First, Obama has many times claimed to be religious, so your “without religion” is deceptive.

    Second, your words set up a formula: IF you have family values without religion THEN you will have character. This is obviously illogical.

    Third, almost no one claims you need religion to have character, so you’re attacking a straw man.

  • This was the speech in which he won my vote hands down!

    This is also the strongest Atheist/Agnostic/Humanist campaign that I have seen to date!

    Very well done.

  • Noah

    @ Reparate Me: the same has been said about non-believers for centuries (hence the invention of the printing press) so i think your argument is lame. Zealotry in both directions is dangerous.

  • dandan

    and yet Obama openly identifies himself as Christian, regularly attended a Christian church in Chicago, and even scouted out Christian churches in DC. this is a really sad, dishonest attempt to further your cause. there are better ways than misinformation and out-of-context quotes to promote your ideals. but i guess Atheism doesn’t teach integrity.

  • An excellent ad. Way better than that crappy “Your god sucks” holiday display. Very positive, an articulate and beautiful expression of our values… and I love the retro design. Well done.

  • @Eric too bad that is the strongest it will ever be…

  • Great, clever advert. Whatever you think about Obama, it’s a clever ad.

  • Rat Bastard

    Straight up, politicians are…politicians. They’ll work with anybody, usually. The soon-to-be last administration didn’t get the memo, and got all xtian on us. Hopefully Obama won’t have to sell out to the “moral majority”, which happens to be neither.

  • dave m

    One case is not a trend. It is an anomoly.
    What about the ghettos? What about the financial crisis?
    Is that proof automatically of ….. (you make it up based on your own agenda)
    Obama is not black, yet there has never been such a heartfelt outpouring of racism since the sixties. Is that because he came from a non-religious home?

  • dave m

    What about communism? Is your memory so shallow that you don’t know about the 25 million killed in the USSR or the 60 million killed in China? They were humanists as well!!
    They believed they could solve the worlds problems without religion, and were an utter failure.
    What do you say about that?????

  • katemckurrick

    Obama is quoted in a NY Times article…

    “As a Christian — he is a member of the United Church of Christ — Mr. Obama believes that marriage is a sacred union, a blessing from God, and one that is intended for a man and a woman exclusively.”

    Doesn’t sound very sectarian to me.

  • Mal

    Welcome to the new evangelists on the block, the humanist movement. They have high jacked Obama’s words for their own political and personal beliefs – just like most church businesses do.

  • Jay

    another quote taken out of context…the quote says he wasn’t raised in a religious household and not that he doesn’t believe in a god…understand what religion is before you hate on it…secondly, try to explain to a person who has nothing the reasons why they shouldn’t believe in something…

  • You certainly make a good point, Hemant. On the other hand, it certainly should be noted that Obama is not raising his kids the same way that he was raised – he is raising his kids in a Christian household. I know that you aren’t ignorant of that, of course, but it does raise the question: why is he raising his children in a Christian manner when his mom raised him in a humanist manner?

  • Chas

    The ad speaks to how Obama was raised by his mother, not his current religious leaning (which may or may not be politically inspired) or his presidential agenda. If the point of the ad is to normalize non-religious lifestyles, then I say it is pretty effective.

  • Ingersoll’s Revenge

    Why do I get the feeling that the first quotation is taken horribly out of context?

  • Greg

    Third, almost no one claims you need religion to have character, so you’re attacking a straw man.

    I disagree. The concept that without God there is no basis for morality is probably the most single common misconception about atheist. I have found that this is pretty much the first argument that Christians use to “disprove” my atheism. That, of course, is a true logical fallacy because even if it was true that you need the fear of hell and promise of heaven to be moral it still doesn’t prove the existence of God. It only proves that there are people who are incapable of using empathy for other human beings as a basis for morality and that those people need an ultimate reward/punishment system to modify their behavior.

  • Great ad. It’s important that people realize that Obama’s mother was a godless woman, a scientist, who raised a moral child capable of deciding his own religious position, and these two context-appropriate, accurate quotes, illustrate the importance of recognizing the positive roles of non-believers.

  • What about communism?
    What do you say about that?????


    Well Dave, I say you should first get your numbers right. There is no documentation to support your 25 million/65 million values. Probably the real numbers are closer to 15 and 30. The vast majority of these people died as a result of poor planning that led to famine. Atheism was not the issue: communism as an economic theory was.

    Further, I would point out that humanisn is distinct from communism. Humanism is not an artificial economic system based on poor theory about historical dialectics, it is the philosophical position that human beings are intrinsically equal. America is a country founded on humanist principles, by humanists. The soviet union was not.

    Hope that clears things up for you.

  • Stephen P

    there are better ways than misinformation and out-of-context quotes to promote your ideals. but i guess Atheism doesn’t teach integrity.

    So are you going to provide us with the relevant context from the book that demonstrates that these quotes are in fact out of context? Or are you just blowing hot air?

  • Stephen P

    @Dave M: Communism was all about rigid adherence to dogma, mindless adulation of the leadership and ruthless suppression of individuality and dissent. In other words, it was closely similar to many religions and as far from humanism as it is possible to get.

  • Jonas Green

    Religious Pandering is likely mandatory. Like Tevya comments on Tradition in Fiddler on the Roof, and leaving the last button of a jacket open, we’re stuck with placing the hand on the Bible, and having ‘So Help Me God’ as part of the swearing in ceremony.

    BUT!! Here’s a thought — An Idea for a topic — Mr. Mehta –
    — Given a choice of Books, what would you place your hand on, to be sworn in?

  • The ad makes a great point, though I’m not sure that people will quite get it. The ad does not say that Obama is non-religious (something I consider to be baseless speculation). What the ad does claim, is that he was brought up in a non-religious household. AFAIK, this is factually correct. And he turned out fine. Better than fine!

    The obvious counterpoint is that, currently, he is apparently religious. Which is funny, because when anyone else goes through an atheist-to-Christian conversion, the dominant atheist reaction is “He wasn’t ever a real atheist” or “He wasn’t the rational, secular humanistic kind of atheist.”

  • No way would Obama come right out and declare his atheism if he was indeed an atheist. He would not be where he is today if he had done so. He’s a politician, and needs to spin, to compromise, to get what he wants by less than straightforward means. Politics is a devious business.

    My take on this.

  • tom

    I don’t think you need to show proof that atheists can form great families and values without religion.

    Religion, for me, has setup a structure so I can’t say how it could be if it was different when I was growing up.

    Religion to me at least, causes problems in families sometimes because of the questionable and dumb beliefs that are set upon us especially by our parents.

  • PattyJack

    I’d just like to say that Obama is totally right! You don’t NEED religion to have good character. Some of the most “GOOD” people I know are non-religious, or at least they are not part of an organized religion (religious just means you practice something regularly; it has nothing to do with God. You can be very religious without God). No one ever said you need God to be considered a good and/or nice person, but if you look at the character values that are found in people who are considered to be “good”, I bet they’re the same as the values in the Bible.
    To all those who are against a religious foundation, too bad. The foundation has already been laid way back when America was founded. Plus the idea that this country was founded on Biblical principles doesn’t mean that Christianity is being forced on everybody in America. There is no national religion. That’s what freedom of religion is for, which I’m pretty sure is also a biblical principle. All I’m saying is America was founded on Biblical principles. You and I can’t change that. So stop worrying about it. If you don’t want to believe in God or the Bible, then you don’t have to, but principles like the 10 commandments (which I’m pretty sure almost every society and religion tries to uphold) and “all men are created equal” are both biblical, and who knows where we would be today without those principles.

  • GullWatcher


    That’s what freedom of religion is for, which I’m pretty sure is also a biblical principle.

    Ok, if anything on earth ISN’T a biblical principle, it’s that one. If memory serves, the bible is page after page of “this is the one, true, only right way and the one, true, and only god”, which is pretty much the opposite of freedom of religion.

    Also, the country was not founded on biblical principles. Check the original documents – no mention of Jesus or the bible, few mentions of god, and one specific denial of the idea from the Treaty of Tripoli (thanks, Eliza!), Section 11 of which starts out with “As the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion…”.

  • The Eternal Law gives all beings the inclination to those actions and aims that are proper to them. Rational creatures, by directing their own actions and guiding the actions of others, share in divine reason itself. “This participation in the Eternal Law by rational creatures is called the Natural Law.” Its dictates correspond to the basic inclinations of human nature. Thus, according to Aquinas, it is possible to distinguish good from evil by the natural light of reason.

  • If memory serves, the bible is page after page of “this is the one, true, only right way and the one, true, and only god”

    Memory doesn’t serve, it seems.

  • Lee

    God is spirit, your life is from spirit, the best proof of God is your own mind life awareness, consciousness, and memory. God does not require any man-made religion. Man-made religions are a curse of mankind. God life is a reality without any man-made religion. If you don’t like calling your life source God then God doesn’t care because what is, is you and you know it.

  • Colin

    I happen to think that Obama is going to be the best president yet, but I also find it of real concern that anyone wishing to be president has to claim to believe in God in order not to commit political suicide. Sadly religious voters still seem to have the ability to limit the political aspirations of even the best candidate brave or foolish enough to voice what every rational person has to conclude. Having been brought up without religion, is it really likely that an intelligent person such as Obama would acquire a true belief in God? I can understand however that he may feel he has to regrettably adopt this relatively harmless stance. In fact it would be more worrying in terms of his fitness to lead if he actually did change his beliefs based on faith alone, without actual proof. I am quite sure that if indisputable proof existed of the non-existence of a God, it would still not be good enough for the many sincere believers, and any person wishing to be president would still have to claim to be a believer. Otherwise all successful candidates would actually believe in the supernatural against all reason, which would really be something to worry about. As long as this is the only thing they are forced to disguise about their views, I see no harm in them humouring those who’s blind faith makes them only too willing to overlook the lack of evidence to accept the truth. In order to move towards a change in this unsatisfactory situation, I hope that some day it will be possible for things like swearing on the bible to be abolished, since it assumes a belief, but in reality has meaning only to a believer. An atheist swearing on the bible, as I am sure any leader of a predominantly Christian country who only adopted the trappings of religion for political expediency will have had to do, does nothing to ensure that they are honest.

  • Chris

    Get em Dave M 
    Religion is very important for a man to have it makes them strong instead of the weak minded Atheist who think they have to see something to believe it; we need a strong leader who has the mind that knows there’s a God.

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