Saturday, August 28, 2010

Is Obama a Christian? Is Palin?

There has been a lot of coverage of the fact that, according to at least one report, about 18% of the population believe that Obama is Muslim. I know of no reason to believe they are correct. On the other hand, I find the confident assertion that he is a Christian by most of those commenting on the question somewhat naive.

For an American politician to announce that he was an atheist or agnostic would cost him a lot of votes in a national election. Obama is an ambitious and successful politician. So the fact that, at an early stage in his career, Obama announced that he had become a Christian tells us very little about his actual beliefs.

The same is true of other politicians. Sarah Palin was, I suppose, the most visibly Christian of the four candidates in the most recent presidential election. That may well represent her actual beliefs. But without knowing more than I do about when she first acquired political ambitions and what her life was like before that, I have no way of telling whether she is a devout believer or a competent pretender.

We do have pretty good evidence that neither Obama nor Palin is a Muslim, however. Islam requires of its believers visible actions, such as praying four times a day and fasting during Ramadan. I think someone would have noticed.

31 Comments:

At 5:39 PM, August 28, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My understanding was that Islam permits hiding that one is a Muslim under certain circumstances. I believe the main term for this is Taqiyya, though taqiyya might just be one particular manifestation of a more general idea.

I am not arguing that Obama is a Muslim, only speaking to the particular point you raised about the absence of outward evidence.

 
At 8:51 PM, August 28, 2010, Blogger blink said...

I think religion is more about group affiliation than beliefs. The test should be what one outwardly professes and whether he/she is accepted as such by the relevant community. Same with politics: if you are a member of the Republican party, I call you a Republican; if you are a member of the Democratic party, I call you a Democrat. There is no need to test your beliefs to find out what you "really" are.

 
At 9:10 PM, August 28, 2010, Anonymous Henry said...

If Obama was not a Christian, anyone not on favourable terms with him that had evidence suggesting this would have had a considerable incentive to reveal it. Also, consider that Obama was baptised at the Trinity United Church of Christ (home of Jeremiah Wright) in 1988. Was he faking then? If so, why?

 
At 11:12 PM, August 28, 2010, Blogger lowly said...

Henry, the Trinity United Church of Christ appears to be more of black 'hate whitey' cult than a Christian church, but hey, it's difficult question - right up there with 2 + 2.

blink, if acceptance by the relevant group is the test then Obama must be a muslim. Of the different faiths, his acceptance is highest among muslims at around 75%. They must see something in him. Perhaps it's his unseemly bowing and scraping to muslim Potentates that impresses muslims favorably.

Personally, I think that he grew up muslim, and he's comfortable around, and with, muslims. That's the way I feel about Christianity having grown up surrounded by Christians.

 
At 12:09 AM, August 29, 2010, Anonymous Genius said...

Islam requires of its believers visible actions, such as praying four times a day and fasting during Ramadan. I think someone would have noticed.

Islam does mandate a whole lot of things, but so does Judaism, and it's not said that a Jew who doesn't keep kosher is no longer Jewish.

President Obama's father was a Muslim - a secular one to be sure, but we should see this as no more odd than the concept of "secular Jews," of which there are certainly over one million in the United States. Obama himself was thus born into the faith, as Muslims follow patrilineal descent for determining these things.

Did he ever utter the shahada (there is no god but Allah, etc.) at any time before his questionable conversion to Christianity that everyone doubts was heartfelt? Maybe, but I don't think so. Does he consider himself a Muslim? Absolutely not.

So I say he's neither a Muslim nor a Christian:
http://declineofgenius.com/religion/obama-is-not-a-muslim-or-a-christian-21082010/

 
At 12:53 AM, August 29, 2010, Blogger lowly said...

http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=38633

Mr. Obama recalled the opening lines of the Arabic call to prayer, reciting them with a first-rate accent. In a remark that seemed delightfully uncalculated (it’ll give Alabama voters heart attacks), Mr. Obama described the call to prayer as “one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset.”

The opening lines of the Muslim call to prayer go something like:

“Allah is Supreme! Allah is Supreme!
Allah is Supreme! Allah is Supreme!
I witness that there is no god but Allah
I witness that there is no god but Allah
I witness that Muhammad is his prophet… “

That's a cut and paste from another blog's comment section; too lazy to put it into my own words.

So he's said it, Genius.

Doesn't change my mind about him in any way. He's either an atheist or an agnostic. And, I still wouldn't trust him further than I could throw an M1 Abrams.

 
At 1:53 AM, August 29, 2010, Blogger Doc Merlin said...

@Anonymous:
You are correct. Hiding you are muslim under certain circumstances is ok in Islam.
Also, about Obama's religion, it depends on who you ask:
If you ask a Mulsim imam, then he would say that Obama is a muslim, as by islamic law if someone's father is Muslim then they are Muslim too... regardless if they Muslim practices or not.

I really doubt he considers himself to be Muslim, but for many religions it doesn't matter what you consider yourself to be.

 
At 2:11 AM, August 29, 2010, Blogger Tim Worstall said...

"praying four times a day"

Five I think....

 
At 2:48 AM, August 29, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

My parents and grandparents never had any religion; I've never had any religion; I've never felt any need to pretend. I'm glad to be so uncomplicated in this respect. Fortunately, I'm neither an American nor a politician.

I feel that Obama's religious beliefs, if any, are his own business and no-one else's. But I'm just a bystander.

 
At 3:08 AM, August 29, 2010, Anonymous Genius said...

In a remark that seemed delightfully uncalculated (it’ll give Alabama voters heart attacks), Mr. Obama described the call to prayer as “one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset.”

Haha. I've heard it at sunset many, many, many times. Also at sunrise and at various times throughout the day. It's one of those annoying features of life in the middle east that non-Muslims tolerate and then learn to ignore. There's nothing beautiful about it.

The opening lines of the Muslim call to prayer go something like:

“Allah is Supreme! Allah is Supreme!
Allah is Supreme! Allah is Supreme!
I witness that there is no god but Allah
I witness that there is no god but Allah
I witness that Muhammad is his prophet… “

That's a cut and paste from another blog's comment section; too lazy to put it into my own words.

So he's said it, Genius.


Yeah, I don't think that counts. It has to be said in a certain state of mind with a certain understanding and/or intent. Similarly, if an actor in a movie playing a racist says the word "nigger," it doesn't mean he's a racist in real life, though he might be.

 
At 5:08 AM, August 29, 2010, Anonymous Laura said...

Michelle Obama was brought up Methodist. I had thought that possibly the president became a Christian (in some sense) to please her, but the timing doesn't quite work - they began dating in 1989.
What makes someone consider him/herself a Christian is a matter of personal preference. I remember walking past a shouting match outside the Republican National Convention site in 2004. A woman was holding a placard touting Mr. Bush as a Christian due to his pro-life (anti-abortion) stance. A passerby claimed that Bush was pro-death (invasion of Iraq, promotion of the death penalty) and therefore was *not* a Christian. I expect that both of the people arguing consider themselves to be Christians.

 
At 5:24 AM, August 29, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's an unfortunate only-Nixon-can-go-to-China angle to this stupidity. Bush Jr. could, and did, say nice things about Islam in an effort to tamp down anti-Muslim sentiment. But it's bad politics for Obama to do likewise. If he does the right thing, he'll pay a political price.

 
At 7:21 AM, August 29, 2010, Blogger jimbino said...

Our idea of what constitutes religion is totally confused. You are Jewish if your mother was, Muslim if your father was, Catholic if properly baptized at birth, Presbyterian if God has chosen you, and Baptist only after adult profession of faith that requires no works.

So a person with a Jewish mother, a Muslim father, sprinkled as a baby by a Catholic nanny, unknowingly chosen by God to be of the Presbyterian elect, and who professes faith in the Baptist God as a youth can be a Jewish Muslim Catholic Presbyterian Baptist.

Likewise, one who professes atheism as a youth (like Einstein) can be a Jewish Muslim Catholic Presbyterian Atheist. Apparently, you can be a Catholic and Atheist at once (as was Mother Theresa), though you can't be a Baptist and an Atheist, since Baptists are non-Calvinists "justified by faith alone."

I myself am a militant atheist who considers funerals, marriages, and passing around birthday cards at the office to be brainless religious rituals, best avoided.

 
At 8:53 AM, August 29, 2010, Blogger Gordon said...

Tim Worstall writes:

>"praying four times a day"
>
>Five I think....

I think David is well aware that it is five times a day; this is *just* the sort of "mistake" that a secret Muslim would make. Can't be *too* careful today.

 
At 9:24 AM, August 29, 2010, Blogger David Friedman said...

By blink's definition, Obama and Palin are Christians—but that isn't the definition I was using, and I don't think it's the most relevant one.

Henry writes:

"Also, consider that Obama was baptised at the Trinity United Church of Christ (home of Jeremiah Wright) in 1988. Was he faking then? If so, why?"

From 1985-1988, Obama worked as a community organizer in Chicago. He then went to Harvard law school, and after graduating, in 1992, ran a large voter registration project. In 1997 he was elected to the Illinois Senate from the (largely black) south side.

That suggests that he had political ambitions well before 1988. Joining a prominent Chicago Afro-American church would be a sensible tactic for someone planning a political career on the South Side.

So far as evidence that he wasn't a Christian, what sort of evidence are you imagining?

So far as Genius' argument is concerned, there are doubtless nonobservant Muslims who miss prayers or violate the fasting rule and there have been lots of Muslims, including Caliphs, who violated the rule against drinking wine. But someone who has not made the profession of faith is not a Muslim.

Several posters seem to believe that having a Muslim father makes you a Muslim. So far as I can tell, there is no truth to that claim; as I understand the matter, being a Muslim requires the profession of faith.

And so far as Gordon's final point is concerned ... . I am only a Muslim for a week or two a year, as part of my hobby of medieval historical recreation in the Society for Creative Anachronism—and then it isn't a secret.

 
At 9:44 AM, August 29, 2010, Anonymous Rex Little said...

I strongly suspect that Obama's true beliefs are atheist/agnostic. Of course, neither he nor any other politician in America would cop to that.

Many on the Left, even those with no religious beliefs of their own, see Muslims as an oppressed people deserving of sympathy and victim/protected-class status--and Christians as the oppressors. Obama may share this mindset.

 
At 10:54 AM, August 29, 2010, Blogger Vijay said...

The title of your post is eerily similar to a post by 'Brutus' from a few days ago

 
At 5:28 PM, August 29, 2010, Anonymous Dog of Justice said...

The content revealed in the Palin email hacking incident is pretty convincing evidence that she's a true believer.

 
At 12:14 AM, August 30, 2010, Blogger David Friedman said...

Interestingly enough, a recent article in the Huffington Post speculates that Obama may be an atheist or agnostic pretending, for political reasons, to Christian belief.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ali-a-rizvi/barack-obama-closeted-non_b_692751.html

 
At 4:07 AM, August 30, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If anything, Obama's an autotheist -- his unjustified belief in himself is an abomination.

 
At 9:14 AM, August 30, 2010, Blogger jimbino said...

David says: "...as I understand the matter, being a Muslim requires the profession of faith."

This raises the question of the faith of a child too young to profess.

Another question is whether a child born to a Muslim father is free of the threat of being killed for not professing Islam or for "converting" to another religion.

 
At 10:00 AM, August 30, 2010, Anonymous RKN said...

Interestingly enough, a recent article in the Huffington Post speculates that Obama may be an atheist or agnostic pretending, for political reasons, to Christian belief.

Pretty weak. The author hypothesizes Obama is a closeted Christian, provides no compelling evidence to support the hypothesis, indeed the evidence he provides variably contradicts the hypothesis, then concludes it doesn't really matter after all as long as Obama "doesn't govern like a Christian." Which begs the question, what does a Christian govern like - like Bill Clinton?

I note there is no mention of the controversial appointment by Obama of Francis Collins, a professed Christian, to head the NIH. If the hypothesis had been that Obama was a Christian, you can bet that appointment would have been entered as supporting evidence.

 
At 10:03 AM, August 30, 2010, Anonymous RKN said...

The author hypothesizes Obama is a closeted Christian...

correction: "closeted non-Christian"

 
At 8:49 PM, August 30, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"That suggests that he had political ambitions well before 1988. Joining a prominent Chicago Afro-American church would be a sensible tactic for someone planning a political career on the South Side."

Or for a young community organizer wishing to be taken seriously, where most organizing was through churches.

So said a serious profile from well before the koolaid, er, before his campaign heated up.

 
At 7:55 PM, August 31, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe that Obama is a Christian. Palin's religion revolves around treating people like crap. So yes, she is a christian.

 
At 10:14 PM, August 31, 2010, Blogger Karl said...

I think whether he's Muslim, Christian, or whatever depends on who gets to make the call.

Apparently, some authorities, including Muslim authorities, would count him as Muslim from birth. Of those, at least some would count his later conversion to Christianity as apostasy, and Obama subject to the penalties due apostates.

He has professed Christian faith, and we either take him at his word or judge him by his works.

It may well be he is agnostic, or even atheist, but has joined a Christian church because even today, neither an atheist nor an agnostic has a very good chance of being elected to high office. If he is Christian, he seems to be a very tepid one. (Maybe he's Unitarian, a faith which is described as believing in "at most, one god".)

Based on where he goes to church on Sundays, I suspect his true faith is golf.

 
At 10:51 AM, September 01, 2010, Blogger David Friedman said...

Karl writes:

"Apparently, some authorities, including Muslim authorities, would count him as Muslim from birth. "

I have seen that claim made, but I have not seen it made by any Muslim authorities. Do you have a source you can cite?

 
At 12:19 AM, September 03, 2010, Anonymous Johnny Mac said...

This comment thread is simply embarrassing.

"Is Obama Muslim" is code-speak for "black people are not legitimate citizens of the USA".

You never hear this sort of talk about white politicians.

The only way to win is not to play. Ignore the stupidity.

(Personally, I suspect that most presidents have been atheists and like many atheists are Christians who go to church for the community and votes and not for the god)

 
At 10:59 AM, September 09, 2010, Blogger nightlysok said...

When Feisal Abdul Rauf tells him to; Obama will bow down on his Oval Office rug 4 times daily.

http://reload1776.blogspot.com/

 
At 2:16 PM, September 15, 2010, Anonymous Woodrow said...

My guess: He probably believes in God (in some sense), affiliated with Christianity because that's the default choice for most Americans, shows up at church a couple of times year, and doesn't trouble himself with the intracies of doctrine or ritual observance. In other words, he's just like 80 percent of Americans.

Oddly enough, the President really is a normal American in this respect.

 
At 10:54 AM, September 26, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jesus is able to rule or govern without lying or fooling his followers into following him.
Does Obama do that ? Can Palin do that ?
If not ,they are not Christians ! only self professed. That does not qualify for following in Jesus' footsteps !

 

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