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Barack Obama's religious background is more diverse than that of most prominent politicians, but it may prove to be representative of future generations of Americans who grow up in an increasingly diverse America. His mother was raised by non-practicing Christians; his father was raised a Muslim but was an atheist by the time he had married Obama's mother. Obama's step-father was also Muslim, but of an eclectic kind who could make room for animist and Hindu beliefs. Neither Obama nor his mother were ever atheists, but she raised him in a relatively secular household where he learned about religion.

 

Read Article: Barack Obama's Religious Beliefs & Background: What Does Barack Obama Believe?

Comments
May 10, 2008 at 8:49 am
(1) EvilPoet says:

Thank you for this article.

May 10, 2008 at 7:07 pm
(2) Ron says:

We understand that Obama is an atheist, don’t we? But, he is also a politician.

May 11, 2008 at 1:17 am
(3) Norm says:

Does anyone else ever wonder if Obama is just simply lying about what he believes? Reading about his background and knowing that he seems to be an intelligent guy makes me wonder if he is actually an atheist. Then, at some point in his early life, he might have decided that declaration of religious faith was simply a part of the price of admission to public office. He just committed to act, for the rest of his life, because it seems harmless, billions of people are doing it, it’s not going anywhere. And why not? Austin pointed out that atheism is no more a choice than is knowing it is 9:56 right now. I have to concede, as an atheist, that there probably are some of us out there who would gladly do that sort of lying, just to meet certain goals.

As another example, I’ve often wondered about certain members of religious families. I remember a friend of mine’s father, who worked as a scientist at a nearby university, on work that essentially would preclude (if it ever yielded fruit!) the existence of any sort of divine intervention in the creation of life on earth. And yet every night he returned to his family, and carried on with the daily, weekly rituals of religious life with them, as ever. There is no doubt that there are plenty of people out there who are patently nonreligious, but have nevertheless made the decision to simply lie for some reason, benign or otherwise.

May 12, 2008 at 11:51 am
(4) CrypticLife says:

Obama is pretty much the only candidate I’ve seen who’s mentioned “non-believers” in any of his speeches on religious freedom. I don’t think Norm’s characterization is necessarily off the mark. He may have just decided it was the price of admission.

If so, I don’t really blame him. In the end, I vote for who I think is the best candidate overall anyway.

July 17, 2008 at 8:45 am
(5) Tom says:

How do we know Barack Obama isn’t lying about his religion? If he is, I do believe it will come out during his presidential terms and we will all regret electing him. How do we know he’s not just sent from an Iraqi leader to come and destroy America? Do we really think that with as least of experiance as he as had we should elect him?

May God give you the insight to vote for the best.

July 17, 2008 at 9:07 am
(6) Austin Cline says:

How do we know Barack Obama isn’t lying about his religion?

How do we know Barack Obama isn’t lying and is really a space alien in disguise, sent by another planet to prepare the way for an alien invasion? If he is, it will surely come out during his presidential term when he drops the mask, reveals the invasion plans, and starts rounding us all up into the camps for processing into canned food for alien pet stores.

We can’t take the chance, can we? May Xenu have mercy on your Thetans.

July 22, 2008 at 2:04 pm
(7) Barbara K says:

“How do we know he’s not just sent from an Iraqi leader to come and destroy America? Do we really think that with as least of experiance as he as had we should elect him?”

Pretty much the same way we know that the current president isn’t – he has a verifiable background, we know where he was born, where he went to school, and as far as questioning his experience, we can check on his voting record in the Illinois state senate (elected in 1996, so that gives him over 10 years of political experience), etc.

“May God give you the insight to vote for the best.”

The great thing is, we can look at positions that both candidates have taken over their careers and use that information to assess who would make the better leader, rather than simply wait for divine inspiration to hopefully point the way.

July 22, 2008 at 3:42 pm
(8) John Hanks says:

Republicans are crooks. They always try to scare someone with something in order to run a protection racket. The only thing I worry about is that Obama is a conventional “liberal” Christian. That means he will tend to view real problems as just moral problems.

July 22, 2008 at 7:06 pm
(9) TomEdgar says:

I have yet to see a a more bigoted response than “Tom’s” In Australia our leaders have been ATHEIST, Catholic, Protestant, Catholic, Agnostic. Their individual affiliations appears not to have affected there performance. They were all, in the final analysis, Politicians.
The minute they allow their religious feelings to dictate their actions would see their immediate loss of office. They are there for service to the nation, their service to their particular God is for another area of activity. You, in America, have seen the folly of allowing this religious hatred to be the motivator in your President’s actions in the Middle East.

tomedgar@halenet.com.au

October 16, 2008 at 9:38 am
(10) Kristin says:

Remember back in May when Barack said he was a Christian but then went on to say that Jesus is not the only way to heaven? Most Christians take what the Bible says as Truth, and if that’s the case, Jesus said, “I am the Way, Truth and Life, no one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)
If Barack really were a Christ-follower, he would not suggest that those who do not believe Jesus was God’s Son will all go to heaven simply for being “moral” as he put it–I personally think he’s trying to appeal to EVERYONE on the faith issue, and if you ask me, that’s just not going to work. I would much rather he pick what he truly believes and know WHY he does–I would admire that much more regardless of my own personal beliefs.

Generally, politicians annoy me, and it’s hard to know who to trust much less who to vote for.

On another note, it makes a whole lot more sense to me to know why you believe, understand the evidence and also look at the evidence of the other side of the spectrum.

October 16, 2008 at 9:45 am
(11) Austin Cline says:

If Barack really were a Christ-follower, he would not suggest that those who do not believe Jesus was God’s Son will all go to heaven simply for being “moral” as he put it

This is incorrect. Not all Christians believe that only Christians go to heaven. Some are Univeralists and believe that everyone goes to heaven. The Roman Catholic Church’s official position is that God’s grace may allow some non-Christians to go to heaven.

The rejection of anyone entering heaven was the norm at one point and remains a standard, orthodox doctrine with many if not most denominations, but it’s not required to be a Christian. It would, then, be legitimate for Obama to be asked about that and why he has decided to reject that bit of traditional orthodoxy in favor of a position that is a lot more recent. Whatever his reasoning, it could be applied to far more doctrines which he may still hold to.

October 25, 2008 at 12:22 am
(12) AJ says:

A TRUE MUSLIM WONT LIE. LEAVE HIM ALONE THIS NOT ABOUT RELIGION

November 5, 2008 at 3:46 pm
(13) Kristin says:

Austin, I agree on some level with this–meaning that some Christians believe that those who have never heard about Jesus (tribes in Congo for instance and babies that die) could still be “saved” from hell.
When it comes to the Roman Catholic church, however, they tend to make their own rules, and most of the time these rules and traditions (i.e. prayer to saints, purgatory..)are not mirrored in the Bible. I guess my big question (if one believes in God) is why look to the “authority” of the Catholic church/Pope who is just as human as you or me than look to a literary source that has been around since the first century? This I will probably never understand. If they are going to pick and choose things to believe that seem to have no authority, then that is fine. I guess that means I can just go build my own statue and worship that, give it a name and make up some rules. There isn’t much of a difference.

I think it’s safe to say that Christians–the definition of this word being “follower of Christ” in Greek–are meant to be just that. Anyone who says they are a Christian but does not believe Jesus is the “way” (based on how Jesus refers to himself in the Bible), should refer to themselves as something else entirely.

I realize I am discussing two separate subjects, and I also realize this is an atheist website and here I am discussing to the total opposite.

November 5, 2008 at 4:08 pm
(14) Austin Cline says:

When it comes to the Roman Catholic church, however, they tend to make their own rules, and most of the time these rules and traditions (i.e. prayer to saints, purgatory..)are not mirrored in the Bible.

True. So?

Only those who adopt the rule that every rule has to come from the Bible believe that there’s something wrong with having rules which don’t come from the Bible, and that’s ultimately a circular argument waiting to happen.

I guess my big question (if one believes in God) is why look to the “authority” of the Catholic church/Pope who is just as human as you or me than look to a literary source that has been around since the first century?  

Because that literary source was created by people who were just as human as you and I. It’s the Catholic position that while the text was divinely inspired, it was nevertheless created by and for the Christian community and this means that the community (the church) comes first while the text comes second. The text is not God, God is God.

This I will probably never understand.  If they are going to pick and choose things to believe that seem to have no authority, then that is fine.

This is precisely what people do when they pick and choose what to read literally in the Bible and what to read metaphorically. Everyone picks and chooses; most aren’t honest enough with themselves to recognize it.

I think it’s safe to say that Christians–the definition of this word being “follower of Christ” in Greek–are meant to be just that.  

Yet nothing in the Bible was actually written by any “Christ.” The first four books talk about Jesus, but they weren’t even written very close to the time he lived. The rest of the New Testament was written by people completely removed from Jesus – and that would be the “community/church” again.

Anyone who says they are a Christian but does not believe Jesus is the “way” (based on how Jesus refers to himself in the Bible), should refer to themselves as something else entirely.

And Christians differ in how they interpret how Jesus referred to himself as the “way.” For Catholics, if I understand their position correctly, believe that some non-Christians still go to heaven because Jesus has mercy on them after they die. They still go “through Jesus,” but not in quite the same manner as everyone else. God, being God, can show mercy and grace to anyone at any time. Humans are in no position to insist that God can’t be merciful to someone after they die.

November 6, 2008 at 11:24 am
(15) SquarePeg says:

Hi,

I’m a bit sad that this link has been usurped to have a theological argument instead of talking about Obama. I agree with him. The way to heaven, if it exists, must be through the application of high morals and doing good. This is what Jesus meant. By ‘me’ he did not mean that we must believe in him as Son of God. He meant that we should live by his example. It was his teachings and actions that were his essence, which he knew could bring mankind to salvation from itself. It is through being like him as best we can in word and deed to others, not necessarily worshipping him as a personality, that we find our way to heaven. We can earn our place by actions and deeds to others, not through saying the most prayers and arguing the best theology. Hence, a moral life is the route to God and heaven or at least eternal life in the memories of those that live on…

November 7, 2008 at 3:32 pm
(16) Kristin says:

Hi Austin,

You said:

“Yet nothing in the Bible was actually written by any “Christ.” The first four books talk about Jesus, but they weren’t even written very close to the time he lived. The rest of the New Testament was written by people completely removed from Jesus – and that would be the “community/church” again.”

It is true that none of the books were written by Jesus; since the first four books were written to witness his ministry that’s probably a good thing (from a reliability standpoint). Most of the NT was written by Paul who encountered Jesus’ disciples in his life–he was still within the first generation of Jesus’ life. All four of the gospel books were actually written within Jesus’ generation–the latest being John which was written about 50 A.D (Jesus died about 30 A.D. The dating of all four books has been accepted by almost all(Christian and non-Christian) scholars. Even ancient texts about Alexander the Great were written 200 years after his lifetime, but they are accepted as reliable sources.

I have been studying the reliability of the Bible closely as well as the other “gospels” that have come to light over the past 50+ years (Gospel of Peter, Secret Gospel of Mark, Jesus Papers, etc.), and I have tried to remain unbiased throughout my studies wavering between unbelief/doubt and belief. More recently, I have been reading Lee Strobel’s “The Case for…” books which have been interesting to say the least.

I am simply driven by the fact that I like to know the truth about things. I am not one of those people that thinks that everything is objective–there has to be some sort of truth. It’s not that I always need to be right, I just want to know what is true. I really don’t want to get to the end of my life and realize that I was wrong.

Thank you for your insight and conversation, Austin. I apologize to you and others for taking this subject off track.

November 7, 2008 at 5:31 pm
(17) Austin Cline says:

It is true that none of the books were written by Jesus; since the first four books were written to witness his ministry

I think you by “by witnesses,” and they weren’t.

Most of the NT was written by Paul

Only if you believe that all the letters attributed to Paul really were written by Paul. They weren’t.

All four of the gospel books were actually written within Jesus’ generation–the latest being John which was written about 50 A.D

No, it was written around the year 100; the earliest was probably written after 70.

The dating of all four books has been accepted by almost all(Christian and non-Christian) scholars.

No, your dating is only used by fringe fundamentalists.

November 10, 2008 at 9:28 am
(18) billy bob joseph says:

this makes no sence……. i feel stupid.

January 25, 2009 at 5:33 pm
(19) Ariel says:

The bible says that Jesus Christ is the one who gave us salvation that our sins may be forgiven and we could have everlasting (eternal)life in Heaven. This is a reality, and everyone including Obama should be aware of it. Why is it so hard to believe!
Obama may be having some difficulty in expressing his belief of Jesus Christ according to the bible. He is our president now and he has a great responsibility to help this nation.
It is still great to know that he is a christian searching more of God in his life. If God is on his side he will not fail us.

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