This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

← Obama the Secularist

Obama the Secularist - Comments

The Soilworker's Avatar Comment 1 by The Soilworker

This is great. A president who will stand up to religious ineptitude. Or at least he'll try. That's why I liked Biden since the beginning. He knows that his Catholicism belongs on the back back back burner.

Thu, 06 Nov 2008 10:05:00 UTC | #266014

c_mullark's Avatar Comment 2 by c_mullark

Very impressive, there would be much less discord in the religion debate and on social issues in general if people were this sensible.

Thu, 06 Nov 2008 10:08:00 UTC | #266015

AdamMil's Avatar Comment 3 by AdamMil

I've seen this video before. It sounds nice, but he's clearly speaking to an audience that shares the viewpoint he's espousing.

Given that politicians almost always try to please the audience by telling them what they want to hear, I think it's premature to get your hopes up.

He probably won't say that God told him to go to war, but it seems very unlikely that he's going to do anything to challenge the religious status quo. He wants to get reelected, after all.

Thu, 06 Nov 2008 10:19:00 UTC | #266018

GarrickW's Avatar Comment 4 by GarrickW

Reassuring to know the future President has said such things; this is precisely the attitude towards religion that, in my opinion, a politician in this day and age should maintain. Particularly in the United States, where the alternative was frankly frightening.

Thu, 06 Nov 2008 10:20:00 UTC | #266020

Geysser's Avatar Comment 5 by Geysser

At last!!!!

Thu, 06 Nov 2008 10:28:00 UTC | #266024

Sifl's Avatar Comment 6 by Sifl

In Comment #279723, AdamMil wrote:


I've seen this video before. It sounds nice, but he's clearly speaking to an audience that shares the viewpoint he's espousing.

Given that politicians almost always try to please the audience by telling them what they want to hear, I think it's premature to get your hopes up.

But these videos have been available on Obama's campaign website for a *very long time*. Therefore his audience is---and has been and will be---the *entire world*.

Besides, these days it's totally unreasonable for any politician to expect to get away with being two-faced in the way that you suggest: one has to assume, when speaking to any crowd, that there are people there recording video and/or audio---if not with dedicated recording devices then with cell phones; further one must assume that said people have YouTube accounts.

And that's a beautiful thing.

Thu, 06 Nov 2008 10:34:00 UTC | #266029

Elli's Avatar Comment 7 by Elli

Whilst there is no doubt that Obama (like most other politicians) will pander to some extent to whatever interest group is in front of them, the mere fact that he has thought lucidly on this topic and come to these conclusions - at the very least for purposes of pandering, although I privately hold the conviction these are much closer to his real thoughts on the subject then his pandering to the religious - and more importantly, the mere fact that he is willing to publicly state these thoughts and conclusions, suggests that his mind is rational and his governance will be one from a position of reason, not faith. The content of this speech would simply never be uttered by a politician who didn't at some level hold these conclusions as valid - no matter what the incentive may be for pandering. Bush could never have uttered such words (even if, by some sublime irony, he privately held such views). McCain likewise. In fact, it is hard to imagine any contemporary American politicians ever making such statements in public. He may (as will be pointed out manifold times in this thread, no doubt) say disturbingly pro-faith comments to faith-head audiences - but these views he expresses here are nonetheless encouraging to the extreme - and I honestly do contend that they could only have been uttered publicly by someone who has thought very critically on the subject matter and actually come to these conclusions as a matter of intellect. Furthermore, I am not sure of the audience at this speech, but the venue was a church... which means it was less likely to just be empty words that he spoke - adding some evidence to the conclusion that these are in fact ideas in which he believes strongly.

just my not so humble opinion. :-)

Thu, 06 Nov 2008 10:41:00 UTC | #266033

NormanDoering's Avatar Comment 8 by NormanDoering

c_mullark wrote:

... there would be much less discord in the religion debate and on social issues in general if people were this sensible.


Alas, many of our opponents seem to be too stupid to argue with:
http://normdoering.blogspot.com/2008/11/can-you-hear-me-now.html

Thu, 06 Nov 2008 10:59:00 UTC | #266047

IanRobinson's Avatar Comment 9 by IanRobinson

In Comment #279723, AdamMil wrote:

Given that politicians almost always try to please the audience by telling them what they want to hear, I think it's premature to get your hopes up.


Obama outlines the same position in his book "The Audacity of Hope". That book was for a general audience. Well worth reading BTW.

Thu, 06 Nov 2008 11:15:00 UTC | #266057

Border Collie's Avatar Comment 10 by Border Collie

It could be much worse ... Wolf-Shootin' Barbie could have been elected.

Thu, 06 Nov 2008 11:17:00 UTC | #266058

Jay Cee's Avatar Comment 11 by Jay Cee

Comment #279738 by Elli

"conviction these are much closer to his real thoughts on the subject then his pandering to the religious"

I have heard many times that Obama doesn't even believe in God. Is there any evidence for this' It is also my gut reaction that he is an atheist in disguise for two, maybe unconvincing, reasons:

1)He is educated.
2)He is a secularist and in most cases atheism is a pre-requisite for secularism.

Thu, 06 Nov 2008 11:24:00 UTC | #266060

javb222's Avatar Comment 12 by javb222

JAMCAM87:

I have heard many times that Obama doesn't even believe in God.

Obama:
Nothing is more transparent than inauthentic expressions of faith. As Jim has mentioned, some politicians come and clap -- off rhythm -- to the choir. We don't need that.

Is this a clever and well told lie then?

Thu, 06 Nov 2008 11:33:00 UTC | #266062

javb222's Avatar Comment 13 by javb222

It's a bit of wish thinking that Obama is an atheist. Maybe he's more of a deist or pantheist but not an atheist.

Thu, 06 Nov 2008 11:35:00 UTC | #266063

Galactor's Avatar Comment 14 by Galactor

If you read the preamble on the Obama campaign website, you come across

In June of 2006, Senator Obama delivered what was called the most important speech on religion and politics in 40 years. Speaking before an evangelical audience, Senator Obama candidly discussed his own religious conversion and doubts, and the need for a deeper, more substantive discussion about the role of faith in American life


I think Obama is possibly a closet atheist. He clearly understands how the religious right and its antipathy does so much harm to the nation and I am optimistic about his intentions to uphold the first amendment and even go further.

Thu, 06 Nov 2008 11:51:00 UTC | #266070

reductionist's Avatar Comment 15 by reductionist

wow, I daresay this made me feel a little patriotic ;)

Thu, 06 Nov 2008 11:55:00 UTC | #266071

dochmbi's Avatar Comment 16 by dochmbi

@ javb222: Anything but theism is great, but in addition to that he needs to be anti-bigotry and pro-freedom of thought, which he seems to be so far.

Thu, 06 Nov 2008 12:08:00 UTC | #266078

Bonzai's Avatar Comment 17 by Bonzai

It's a bit of wish thinking that Obama is an atheis


I don't know why we should care. As long as his politics is secular, it is none of our business to inquire into his private beliefs. From what he said about the role of religion in politics (which is nil) I am completely happy.

The political justification for the atheist "movement" is that religion rudely intrudes into secular life. Now the U.S. President elected says in uncertain terms that political and moral positions must be justified in secular terms, accessible to citizens of all faiths and no faith, what more can we ask for?

Thu, 06 Nov 2008 12:12:00 UTC | #266081

dochmbi's Avatar Comment 18 by dochmbi

@ Bonzai: Exactly.
Our beef is not with peoples personal beliefs. People can privately believe whatever they want, as long as they don't try to force other people to conform to their beliefs or use their belief in a supernatural power as a justification for political acts.

Thu, 06 Nov 2008 12:20:00 UTC | #266084

mdowe's Avatar Comment 19 by mdowe

Re: 13 Comment #279769 by javb222

I couldn't care less about his religious beliefs -- the important thing is that he is a secularist. It is nice that he seems thoughtful and intelligent as well.

Just imagine -- Sarah Palin really could have ended up president of the USA instead of Obama (McCain is old man ... he could have died in office). How scary is that? Even the most ardent left-winger would be out screaming for '4 more years' of Bush to prevent such a disaster.

Thu, 06 Nov 2008 12:32:00 UTC | #266096

Jeff (HandyGeek) Handy's Avatar Comment 20 by Jeff (HandyGeek) Handy

This speech was one of the reasons I say he's going to be every bit as capable as Kennedy was to lead the US.

Thu, 06 Nov 2008 12:35:00 UTC | #266098

Frankus1122's Avatar Comment 21 by Frankus1122

Bonzai,

I was just thinking on this matter after re-viewing the video. I went away, did some other work and was about to make a post as to what I thought.
Then I read your post.
It looks like you beat me to it.

I don't know if he is a closet atheist or not. In some ways it does not matter as long as what he said in this video is true.

Pierre Trudeau said the State has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.

Similarly, Religion should have no sway in the business of the State. There may be principles that you personally derive from religion but if you cannot justify them on rational grounds then you really have no business foisting them on others -especially a whole nation or part thereof.

I may double thread post this because it relates to Porp.8 in California.

Thu, 06 Nov 2008 12:44:00 UTC | #266105

Bonzai's Avatar Comment 22 by Bonzai

Frankus

Pierre Trudeau said the State has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.


Believe it or not, Lenin said that almost 60 years before Trudeau.

Gay sex was a crime under the Tsar. Lenin abolished the law after the revolution for exactly the reason that "the revolutionary government has no role in the bedrooms of the citizens". It was recriminalized only after Stalin came to power.

But don't broadcast this, or the rightwingers would say, told you so, all you liberals are commies. :)

Thu, 06 Nov 2008 12:49:00 UTC | #266114

AdamMil's Avatar Comment 23 by AdamMil

I too think the video is closer to Obama's true beliefs, and doubt he'll act with any overtly religious agenda. But I also doubt that he'll take any kind of active stance against or "stand up to" religion and its influence in politics.

I agree that his expression of these opinions at all probably bodes well for his policy-making in general, but having watched plenty of politicians, I guess I've become cynical. :-) I'll believe that he'll make much change for the better when I see it.

I certainly don't expect the restricted "free speech zones", DHS security theater, domestic surveillance, excessive invocation of terrorists as bogeymen, extraordinary rendition, the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, or aggressive military campaigns -- essentially the biggest evils I associate with the Bush administration -- to disappear anytime soon...

Thu, 06 Nov 2008 12:50:00 UTC | #266116

Enlightenme..'s Avatar Comment 24 by Enlightenme..

6. Comment #279734 by Sifl

Besides, these days it's totally unreasonable for any politician to expect to get away with being two-faced in the way that you suggest: one has to assume, when speaking to any crowd, that there are people there recording video and/or audio---if not with dedicated recording devices then with cell phones; further one must assume that said people have YouTube accounts.

And that's a beautiful thing.


Hmm..

Or are we already in an era of retreat to monotonous sequences of vacuous platitudes and lip-service?
:(
Another ten years, and we'll all be subject to such constraints because everybody we interact with will have 24-7 sound & video recording to take to their lawyer.
:( :(
This happens now.
London traffic wardens.

I asked for call-recording 3 hours ago to try to get a legal instrument to enact surrender of a policy at the offer due to expire in 4 days (Refused - I have to drive 20 miles in the morning and sign stuff rather than rely on their post-room stamp and my ability to make a correct actionable letter (or make in-time apppointments for professional help))

Thu, 06 Nov 2008 12:55:00 UTC | #266122

Bonzai's Avatar Comment 25 by Bonzai

What's with the people who insist that there is something dishonest about his position? There is no "pandering" (either to the religious crowds or the atheists) Many Christians do accept that government should be secular. Atheism is not a prerequisite to secularism.

Obama cannot be clearer on where he stands: faith is private and should remain there.

This is no "platitude" in the U.S.A. Atheists or no, he is definitely a secularist and that is all that should matter.

Thu, 06 Nov 2008 13:33:00 UTC | #266151

crazyivan498's Avatar Comment 26 by crazyivan498

If Obama is truly a secularist then he should stick is money where is mouth is and get rid of faith based initiatives

Thu, 06 Nov 2008 13:53:00 UTC | #266159

8teist's Avatar Comment 27 by 8teist

"Folks have`nt been reading their bibles" Lol, no shit?

Thu, 06 Nov 2008 13:56:00 UTC | #266160

debaser71's Avatar Comment 29 by debaser71

If this is the same speech. Sorry but I am not impressed with Obama in regards to secularism. Not at all.

"Finally, any reconciliation between faith and democratic pluralism requires some sense of proportion.

This goes for both sides.

...

But a sense of proportion should also guide those who police the boundaries between church and state. Not every mention of God in public is a breach to the wall of separation - context matters. It is doubtful that children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance feel oppressed or brainwashed as a consequence of muttering the phrase "under God." I didn't. Having voluntary student prayer groups use school property to meet should not be a threat, any more than its use by the High School Republicans should threaten Democrats. And one can envision certain faith-based programs - targeting ex-offenders or substance abusers - that offer a uniquely powerful way of solving problems. "

It says more. Sorry but Obama is repeating right wing talking points here and demoniszing valid church state separation concerns. He also paints secularist wrongly in that he uses 'public' and 'student prayer' as if these are on anyone's agenda to stop. Ick.

Thu, 06 Nov 2008 14:14:00 UTC | #266168

javb222's Avatar Comment 28 by javb222

Bonzai

I don't know why we should care. As long as his politics is secular, it is none of our business to inquire into his private beliefs. From what he said about the role of religion in politics (which is nil) I am completely happy.

I agree with you in principle, but if someone really is religious I can't see how you could reconcile the numerous clashes of religion and reason. But I think Obama is very reasonable and was brave to say what he did. I liked:
substantially more people in America believe in angels than they do in evolution

My mother...grew up with a healthy skepticism of organized religion herself. As a consequence, so did I.

...I do not believe that religious people have a monopoly on morality, I would rather have someone who is grounded in morality and ethics, and who is also secular, affirm their morality and ethics and values without pretending that they're something they're not. They don't need to do that. None of us need to do that.

EDIT: I said he was brave to say what he did, but maybe I'm overestimating the religiosity of the US?

Thu, 06 Nov 2008 14:14:00 UTC | #266167

DrCogSci's Avatar Comment 30 by DrCogSci

In viewing the longer speech, it's clear that a lot of the comments *are* in fact over-reaching in describing Obama's personal religious beliefs (at least from the evidence presented here).

I didn't see anything which suggested that he's anything other than a left leaning centrist who supports a fundamental secularism in deciding on policy, I don't know about you, but that's more than good enough for me, for now!

Thu, 06 Nov 2008 14:55:00 UTC | #266189