Obama's Small Concession to Atheists Sets off a Firestorm of Debate
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In an inaugural filled with historic firsts, Barack Obama also broke with tradition and polite political conversation by acknowledging that atheists are people, too.
Obama's nod to non-believers, tacked to the end of a more standard salute to multiculturalism and religious diversity, came as somewhat of a surprise: after all, his predecessor basically tried to relaunch the Crusades, and atheists remain one of the most reviled groups in America.
At the same time, Obama's unprecedented recognition of non-believers came in the midst of a ceremony overflowing with God stuff: from pastor Rick Warren intoning, "Almighty God, our father, everything we see and everything we can't see exists because of you alone," to the Rev. Joseph Lowery's closing benediction, which thanked God for the "empowering of thy servant, our 44th president ... "
And USA Today points out that Obama made more references to God in his speech than Ronald Reagan did at his inauguration(!).
In an article recently published on AlterNet, Greta Christina decries the use of religious language and imagery in state ceremonies like the Inauguration, pointing out:
" … when presidents and other official representatives of our country and our government insist that this is God's country, the implicit -- if unintentional -- message is that, if you don't believe in God, this is not your country.
AlterNet readers had a lot to say about Christina's article, so we asked her to respond to your thoughts on politics, religion and atheism. Take a look at Christina's response to your comments at the bottom of this piece.
Many commenters agree with Christina's article, pointing out that religion has no place in government ceremonies in a nation founded on the separation of church and state.
Chance garden writes:
Why do the prayers of a church belong in the single most important ceremony of our state? The simple answer is, prayers do not belong. Period. End of story.
Seppoyank argues that religious belief is personal and should not be imposed on others:
Watching the inauguration was like watching GodTV. I don't care what other people believe. Can't they just shut up about it for a little while?
I'm a second-generation atheist, and I don't run around telling everyone how they need to develop a personal understanding that there is no higher power that is going to save them from anything. I don't do it. Why? Because it is rude. And it is my belief, not anyone else's.
Deepseas also writes that faith should not be forced on non-believers:
I have a problem when we think we have to prove to others we are religious and have faith. In other words, the need to prove that we are good animals.
I agree that religion and prayer has no place in government. It implies that those without a religion, faith or who do not wear it on their sleeves are not acceptable.
Having grown up in the church and graduated from a Christian university, I do not find it necessary to attend church or preach to others what my beliefs and faith are. It's personal.
It is our actions that tell others where our faith is, and they can see that. Everything else is just words to convince others.
jreinhart1 points out that our politicians' need to trumpet their religious beliefs goes against the vision of the Founding Fathers:
The writers of our Constitution and government were not the outward hypocrites of today and fought against empire in their thoughts, words and deeds. This is the best reason to leave specific faiths out of government and why the Constitution was written as it was. Today's "leadership" and population are nothing but hypocrites to the faiths they profess and the reason why the founders wanted religion out of government. It is a personal decision by each person, not a national decision to be blanketed over everyone as casually and hypocritically as is done today.