Obama Mentions Non-Believers in Easter Address April 7, 2010

Obama Mentions Non-Believers in Easter Address

Yeah, he’s pandering the the religious base by saying a lot of this, but it’s worth taking note President Obama mentioned non-believers in his recent weekly address:

This is a week of faithful celebration. On Monday and Tuesday nights, Jewish families and friends in the United States and around the world gathered for a Seder to commemorate the Exodus from Egypt and the triumph of hope and perseverance over injustice and oppression. On Sunday, my family will join other Christians all over the world in marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

And while we worship in different ways, we also remember the shared spirit of humanity that inhabits us all — Jews and Christians, Muslims and Hindus, believers and nonbelievers alike.

What do you think when you hear him say things like this? It’s not the first time he’s done it.

Is is just lip-service? Do you appreciate his inclusivity despite his personal religious beliefs? Something else?

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  • Meyli

    I’m glad he included ‘nonbelievers’ – its true that we do all share the spirit of humanity. Lip service or not, he said something honest, and it doesn’t offend me.

  • Bowser The Cat

    I’ve always harbored a hope that he’s really still a non-believer himself in spite of all his utterances (and book) to the contrary. In this country it’s not possible to get elected to most offices without being “Christian”…

  • Sarah

    To me, it seems like a necessary inclusion and nothing more. It seems to me like religion is not a factor in his decisions except so much as is necessary to remain moderately diplomatic.

  • Michael

    I think that it is respectful, promotes respect for non-believers, and I appreciate it.
    Obama tries to be the “Uniter,” after all.

  • gruntled atheist

    I am glad when he includes nonbelievers in his statements. It does not mean much but at least I know he has not forgotten we are out here.

    I am not so happy that he has continued to fund faith based initiatives, abstinence only sex education, and a few other items.

  • Just acknowledging the existence of non believers is both trivial but monolithic at the same time. It’s kinda sad that I should feel so great about it. But I’m going to take it and run with it in the hope that future presidents, which ever side of the fence they may be on, wouldn’t dare to exclude us. It’ll be like saying “People of America… except for the women, blacks, Jews, left handers, one legged midget Asian lesbians whose favorite color is purple, or ATHEISTS….. (delete as appropriate)…. I ask you to come together…..”

  • Fry

    I do appreciate the inclusioni of non-believers, because, well, we’re people too.

    I also think that Obama is smart enough to actually realize that there are a great deal of non-believers, as well as sympathetic non-practicers, who do go out and do good for our society (as well as vote).

    We all deserve equal lip-service, no?

  • Revyloution

    It might have been lip service if it was just once. It might have been lip service if it were mentioned again on a secular day.

    But to mention non-believers on the Easter Address? It’s not even a state holiday, it’s an entirely religious day (that the chocolate makers and the egg dye industry has co-opted)! To mention Hindus, Muslims and us is unbelievable.

    I doubt I will ever suffer the injustices of those who fought for the Civil Rights movement, but today I feel like I understand a tiny sliver of Rosa Park’s joys.

  • Morrigan

    I doubt it’s just lip service, based on his repeated inclusiveness. But, even if it were just lip-service, it’s a welcome change from being left out entirely or, worse, demonized.

  • I think his inclusion of non-believers is a step in the right direction, be it lip service or otherwise. We are included along with believers in a positive statement, and THAT is a good thing!

  • Sarah

    This made me happy. I have a feeling he isn’t a religious man. If he ever admitted it he would have never been our president. Kind of sad. It is nice to be recognized and not demonized.

  • HP

    I’m not sure I buy that Obama’s professed Christianity isn’t genuine. But it’s important to remember that his mother was an unapologetic atheist, and he loved his Mom. I don’t think he could exclude non-believers in good conscience without feeling like he was disowning his own mother.

  • Shawn

    It’s a lot nicer than how any other politicians talk about us. I’m happy, it’s at least a step in the right direction. Yeah it’s not much, but I’m so used to Christians making me out to me the enemy of all that is good in the world that it’s nice to get talked about like I’m a human being who love his country as much as anyone else.

  • SteveC

    I suspect he’s a secret non-believer himself. His mom was a non-believer. Imagine that, your mom a non-believer, and you grow up and are somehow convinced to become a Christian. By what argument? What is this non-idiotic argument for Christianity? I’ve never seen such an argument. I think it was a pragmatic “conversion.” As a black politician, being an atheist, well that’d be political suicide.

    Of course this is only my suspicion. Who knows what’s going on inside the man’s mind.

  • Dave B.

    People aren’t brought into Christianity by logic. They’re brought in by emotion and peer pressure. He probably, like most people, doesn’t put much thought into the veracity of religious claims. This is evidenced by his treatment of the exodus from Egypt as a historical event.

  • ChrisZ

    I think he cares about and respects his parents, and so does not exclude them from these speeches.

  • Frankly, I think lip-service is an achievement in itself. The fact that the non-believer is being recognized as important enough to warrant pandering is a huge deal!

  • Neon Genesis

    “I think it was a pragmatic “conversion.” As a black politician, being an atheist, well that’d be political suicide.”

    Here’s the quote from Wikipedia on his conversion: “In The Audacity of Hope, Obama writes that he “was not raised in a religious household”. He describes his mother, raised by non-religious parents (whom Obama has specified elsewhere as “non-practicing Methodists and Baptists”) to be detached from religion, yet “in many ways the most spiritually awakened person that I have ever known”. He describes his father as “raised a Muslim”, but a “confirmed atheist” by the time his parents met, and his stepfather as “a man who saw religion as not particularly useful”. Obama explained how, through working with black churches as a community organizer while in his twenties, he came to understand “the power of the African-American religious tradition to spur social change.”

  • Richard Wade

    It doesn’t matter to me about Obama’s private beliefs. What is important is that he has the courage and the principles to include nonbelievers in such remarks. We live in a time of important change in our status. It takes courage to make those risky first stands, so that others who follow will not even have to think about such inclusion. They will take it for granted. Though I won’t live to see it, I look forward to that day. But we need to take advantage of our position in history, lest it slip through our fingers.

    There is a tide in the affairs of men.
    Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
    Omitted, all the voyage of their life
    Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
    On such a full sea are we now afloat,
    And we must take the current when it serves,
    Or lose our ventures.

  • muggle

    I just think it’s nice to be included. Whatever his reasons may be and I’m damned if I’m gonna try and read his mind on that. It’s a good break from the recent decades of venom towards nonbelievers. Especially George Sr.’s statement that we shouldn’t even be considered citizens.

    So, I’d like to just say a sincere, “Thank you, Mr. President.”

  • I think Obama is actually an agnostic. In one of his books, he recounts the following:

    “I wondered whether I should have told [my daughter] the truth, that I wasn’t sure what happens when we die, any more than I was sure of where the soul resides or what existed before the Big Bang.”

    That’s not the devout Christian he claims to be.

  • Neon Genesis

    Not exactly. Even Blaise Pascal admitted there is no proof of the existence of God but he was willing to bet his life on it. But Obama has always been open about how he’s a moderate Christian, not a fundamentalist.

  • Vene

    Pretty words don’t mean as much to me as his support of faith based initiatives.

  • Yeonghoon Joung

    @Vene – well this is before the election so it could be seen as a campaigning scheme, either way I hope that “if” he is a nonbeliever, that he can “come out” when it may not be so much of a political suicide for him (although the mere fact that he has to take this in consideration is saddening and in a way irksome) – and if he is religious and not a heathen then it is still a great leap forward for him to raise everyone’s consciousness to where, to not recognize non-believers would be akin to not recognizing other ethnicities and/or women, I would also want for him to publish his own arguments for his “faith” and will delightfully examine them and “rip them” apart in all loving sense of the term.

  • Richard

    Backing up Vene here. One single word in the address is not going to make me jump around crazy. I wonder: What is so damn wonderful about somebody briefly admitting that nonbelievers are also human?

  • I’m sure that there are elements of pragmatism in the statements. How many votes does including non-believers garner? How many does it lose? Whatever his motivation he is doing something to make non-belief more mainstream and acceptable as people will hear these words and take them for granted as normal.

    Sure he sees faith as a positive force for social cohesion. That is why he supports faith based initiatives. He is smart enough to understand that something that works for him and for others doesn’t necessarily work for everyone.

  • Rufus

    Lip service is better than no service, either of which are better than the sort of active disservice that has been a hallmark of some past presidents (thinking Bush snr’s fine remarks).

    Active service would be nicer, but I’d rather be moving slowly in the right direction than not moving at all.

  • inmyhead9

    I think that it was great that he included non believers in his speech. That bush fellow would have never even thought of it. I am glad that we have Obama has a president. I may be an optimistic fool, but I have a little hope with him in the office.

  • The first time he said it, it gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling. Now it is starting to feel more like he has found the bare minimum needed to placate a pretty large minority depending on the poll you use. Four syllables. non-be-liev-ers. There, now they’ll be quiet for awhile. Maybe if he actually put a non-be-liev-er on his faith panel, I’d get that warm, fuzzy feeling again.

  • Jasel

    I know that words have power, but to me actions will always speak louder than words. His mentioning non-believers IMO is a start. A start to what? Not sure myself. But I don’t see anything wrong with it:)

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Is is just lip-service? Do you appreciate his inclusivity despite his personal religious beliefs?

    I couldn’t care less about his personal religious beliefs. I am concerned about what makes it into public policy. Obama has continued the “faith-based” initiatives begun by his predecessor, and that is a bad thing.

  • Nathaniel

    I don’t know what to think about Obama and his religion. He was agnostic for years, and his conversion came a very… convenient time for him in his political career. On the other hand, can one really say for sure that Obama is engaging in dishonesty on this issue? Maybe his Christianity was once political and is now genuine, who knows.

    As for the statements of inclusion for secular people, its a step. But I want more. I want in god we trust taken off our coins. I want the exclusionary god taken out of the pledge. I want the federally funded faith based slush fund and prayer breakfast’s to cease. I’m greedy that way.

  • Shannon

    I don’t think it’s just lip service (I also suspsect he’s either a closet atheist or agnostic or at least a “non-religious Christian”) but I also agree with those who commented that there’s something to be said for lip service. Isn’t this the first president ever to talk about non-believers in a good way? To include us? If he does nothing else than that, at least it’s out there finally. (ok, more would be nice, but still . . . )

  • gharkness

    Wow, let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth, Hemant! I’ll take this “lip service” ANY day over George H.W. Bush’s pronouncement that “No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.”

  • Obama’s “lip service” is quite a big step forward from the “lip service” that allegedly occurred in a private conversation in 1987 between the VP who would later become president (George H.W. Bush) and Robert I. Sherman (a reporter for the American Atheist news journal):

    Sherman: What will you do to win the votes of the Americans who are atheists?

    Bush: I guess I’m pretty weak in the atheist community. Faith in God is important to me.

    Sherman: Surely you recognize the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are atheists?

    Bush: No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.

    Sherman (somewhat taken aback): Do you support as a sound constitutional principle the separation of state and church?

    Bush: Yes, I support the separation of church and state. I’m just not very high on atheists.

    This conversation was not electronically captured and we only have Sherman’s word for it but Bush has never denied it.

  • elabryth

    As much as I appreciate President Obama acknowledging those of us that don’t believe in the supernatural. I have to state that he will go down in history as one of the worst Presidents to ever take on the job. He is just AWFUL. I have rarely experienced watching someone so inept at their job. It is just sad. I know in the current climate that to be a non-believer is also to be liberal. I don’t know why that is. You’re smart enough not believe in superstition, but ignorant enough to drink whatever kool-aid the Democratic party has to offer… good or (and mostly) bad. Why is that? REALLY… Why is that? Republicans are bad enough, but the Democrats are as much against what the United States stands for (Independence, Liberty, Freedom, Self-Reliance) as Islamic Facisist.

  • Frank

    I’m glad Obama mentions us, it’s something at least. I just wish he would do something a little more substantive, like not letting religious groups recieving government funding discriminate in hiring.

  • gsw

    “Jews and Christians, Muslims and Hindus, believers and nonbelievers alike … ”
    Retorical brilliance!

    No are the nonbelievers the non-muslims or the non-christians?

    “Jews and Christians, Muslims and Hindus, and nonbelievers” would have been less ambiguous. Although I think he is really an atheist pretending to be a christian.

  • Steven Mading

    I think it’s just lip service, and I think Obama is being genuine when he says he’s a believer. But, that being said, the fact that he feels it’s a politically good idea to make that gesture of lip service is a sign that something is slowly changing for the better.

    I think the fact that he’s making these occasional inclusive nods to the unbelievers during speeches, where his predecessor didn’t is not so much a difference between Obama and Bush, but rather a difference between the political climate of 2010 and the political climate of 2004. The refusal of the “new” atheists to be meek is making a difference in cultural awareness.

  • I agree with several other previous comments that it may be mere lip service but at this point even lip service from a sitting President is a small yet beneficial step in the right direction. Special thanks to Jeff P for mentioning the alleged statement by the first President Bush about atheists, it went through my mind as read this posting also. If it is true, its a dramatic comparison in attitudes toward those who don’t believe.

  • Hybrid

    Baby steps are still steps, these things don’t happen overnight. I’m glad Obama did this, hopefully it’s a trend that will continue to bigger things.

  • alex

    Until something concrete is done about it, it is lip-service. However, I do appreciate it, because a simple acknowledgment of our existence is already much better than pretending that there is no such thing as atheists. Seeing how it irritates some douchebaggers pardon, teabaggers, seems to confirm that it’s spot on.


    That reminds me of a joke about 90s’ Ireland. A fellow is asked a question at a checkpoint: “Are you a Protestant or a Catholic?” He responds, “I’m an atheist.” The guard thinks for a second and asks, “A Protestant atheist or a Catholic atheist?”

  • JSug

    Lip service or not, it’s something. Obama is the first US president in recent history to even make mention of non-believers as desirable citizens. And he takes plenty of flack for doing so from the religious right. To me, that shows that his lip service is having an effect.

  • Mike

    Considering that only 20 years ago President Bush I stated that he did not consider atheists to even be Americans, I guess this is a step in the right direction.

  • Matt

    I am very happy he mentioned nonbelievers. I think maybe President Obama is a closet atheist, not yet ready to come out to the world.

  • jose

    Maybe he’s just good at acknowledging reality. After all atheists are an increasingly important minority in America aren’t they? He won’t say the word “Atheist” though. I guess bald people aren’t bald, but “nonhaired” 🙂

    What I like most is that he never inserts things sneakily as premises in his talking. He speaks out with clarity. For example, look at this quote by Bob McDonnell:

    slavery … deprived people of their god-given inalienable rights”

    Why god-given? He’s not speaking out clearly, like “I believe our rights come from God”. No, he’s talking about something else and “naïvely” slippes God into the speech. Now it’s taken for granted that it was God who created human inalienable rights. But sir, I thought it was the United Nations in 1948! By the way, precisely because he’s talking about something else, it seems inappropiate to point that out because it’s like “come on, don’t change the subject now!” I think it’s a really good thing your current president always chooses to speak with honesty rather than resorting to these sleazy rhetorical tactics.

    I don’t care about one’s personal beliefs if, like your president and unlike the guy in the example, one keeps them for oneself.

  • muggle

    I think we should be realistic about this. We are the ones who claim to be grounded in reality, after all.

    Sadly, at the present time, this is as far as a politician dare go with that and even this tiny step contains some risk so it’s bold of him to do. Lip service or not, this is no small thing he’s doing in including us.

    It’s a huge thing. Very, very huge. And something we should appreciate.

    He is President. Not resident wizard. His name is Obama, not Dumbledore. He can not wave a magical wand and make all the bigotry go away. Gays work with straights, blacks worked with whites, to gain civil rights. The minority always has to work with the majority and the first important step is just this: members of the majority openly accepting members of the minority. So I cheer his saying this.

    And every time he does, I feel we are on our way forward. I’ve certainly had enough of that other feeling of being pushed out of the public square to the fringes of society.

    If he wins a second term, it should be interesting because he is showing courage and honor despite his flaws and missteps.

    Frankly, I’m not sure how many are missteps. I think it may more be careful treading and planning. I think he’s cautiously moving on his campaign promises and that he’s being cautious and prudent so as to not totally undermine all that he wants to accomplish.

  • Jen

    Here’s the way I think we should judge this: Did someone at Fox News get angry? Did Rush Limbaugh choke on his breakfast? Did a Graham grit his teeth? Did the WBC color their signs especially hard?

    If none of these things happened, it was a message that might not matter. After all, we are tuned into these things as awesome atheists (and the atheist-friendly who also post here). If the Christians didn’t notice, we need a louder and better message, O.

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