Obama is an atheist

Obama is a smart man, smart enough to know that unless he pretends to the trappings of faith, he has no credibility with the American people.  I’ve long thought that he was an unbeliever, and this was confirmed yesterday in an interview Obama had with NBC’s Matt Lauer. I saw this on the news last night; you can read the transcript at MSNBC.

Turning to personal matters, Lauer asked the president why he has yet to choose a regular church to attend.

“We’ve decided for now not to join a single church. The reason is because Michelle and I have realized we are very disruptive to services,” Obama replied. “We occasionally go across the street to St. John’s, which is a church that a lot of presidents traditionally have gone to. We love the chapel up in Camp David. It’s probably our favorite place to worship because it’s just family up at Camp David. There’s a wonderful chaplain up there who does just a great job. So usually when we go to Camp David we go to church on Sundays there.”

Obama also revealed that he avails himself of modern technology in his spiritual life.  “I get a daily devotional on my BlackBerry, which is a wonderful thing,” Obama said.

Instead of going to church in Washington he gets a daily devotional on his BlackBerry? Who is he kidding? The man’s an atheist


  1. FrankN.Stein
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    I agree in the hope he’s an Atheist. I only wonder if that would make him less or even more suspicious to the American people than the stupid rumour that he’s muslim. (probably more, as we all know all atheists are automatically communists as well….)

  2. Posted March 31, 2010 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    How sad though that he had to hide it in order to be a politically viable candidate in the first place. And surely he’ll stay in the closet for a long time.

  3. Posted March 31, 2010 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    I am sympathetic to the notion that Obama is an atheist or agnostic, but this could just as easily be an example of the difference between belief and religiosity.

  4. Jer
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    Don’t kid yourself – Obama’s not any more an atheist than Bill Clinton is.

    It seems pretty clear to me that he actually practices the most popular form of American Christianity – “Apathetic Christian By Default”. Almost a form of “Ceremonial Deism” as a personal religious non-choice. You don’t go to church, but if anyone asks your religion you respond with Christian. You believe in God but you don’t really give it much thought. Religion is kind of a background “pop cultural” element in your life. You wouldn’t think to take the Bible literally, but you also wouldn’t think to argue that the Bible was false. Mostly because religious just isn’t that important.

    • Badger3k
      Posted March 31, 2010 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      Pretty much my thought – he sounds like the “Christmas Catholics” of my youth – only go to Church on Christmas and Easter, pay lip service (if that) the rest of the year.

      • CasqueHead
        Posted April 8, 2010 at 10:38 am | Permalink


    • Posted March 31, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      I read somewhere about the difference between atheist and agnostic. This sort of fits the bill too. You might say you are Christian, but if the religion doesn’t affect the way you live your life, you are functionally an atheist.

  5. orangejuice
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    Well, erm, pardon me if I think you’re interpreting a bit more into that statement than seems reasonable…

  6. Posted March 31, 2010 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    Obama, an atheist? I thought this of him as well during the campaign. But there are way too many indications that he is not. For example, his willingness to allow the Office of Bullshit-based Initiatives to not only survive but grow.
    ~Rev. El

    • Cara
      Posted April 5, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      Do you think this has something to do with his attempt at bipartisanship and cooperating with all worldviews? His goal is, after all, to “unite” us… and how else can you do that but by compromising?

  7. Rob
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    It’s fascinating to me that you so readily seem to assume (a) that the President is a liar; (b) it’s a good thing that he’s a liar; and (c) do so without so much as a shred of evidence. Perhaps I’m too cynical, but my guess is that you simply can’t abide the thought of a “smart man,” and one you apparently admire, being such a dolt as to believe in God and find Christianity helpful.

  8. Sili
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    Please. Wishful thinking much?
    There are none so zealous as the newly converted. Obama, for his sins, chose Christianity. I, for one, would much prefer him to be an honest Christtard than a lying atheist. (And I mean just him in this case – of course, the Shrub was a lying Christard.)
    I find it hard to believe that he is not exactly what he appears to be: a moderate, modern (inconsistent) Christian.

    • Artikcat
      Posted March 31, 2010 at 8:26 am | Permalink

      Sort of agree with your opinion, however hard to deal with this issue is, especially after Barack attended Wrights’ church for 20 years. Nonetheless, I find surprising Dr Coynes’ opening salvo:.”.. unless he pretends to the trappings of faith, he has no credibility with the American people…”. So..whos kiddin who here? Whats the whole point of mouthlouding Templeton, creationism, berating the pope putting up with all the diatribes back and forth, when we advocate for Obama to shut up and stay in the closet: after all, he swore with (by??) a Bible, albeit Lincoln, but he did. This issue is bad news, but as Barack himself said “we need to act on hard choices: say, health “care” (ja!). Barack again :”….Folks tend to forget that during our founding, it wasn’t the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of the First Amendment. It was the persecuted minorities, it was Baptists like John Leland who didn’t want the established churches to impose their views on folks who were getting happy out in the fields and teaching the scripture to slaves. It was the forbearers of the evangelicals who were the most adamant about not mingling government with religious, because they did not want state-sponsored religion hindering their ability to practice their faith as they understood it.

  9. CJS
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    At best he’s aspiritual or agnostic. I doubt he’s committed enough to the non-existence of God to be an atheist.

    • Posted June 9, 2010 at 1:46 am | Permalink

      Another one?

      There is no such thing as just an agnostic. There is no middle ground between believing and not believing (theism and atheism). You can’t not not believe without believing.

      Agnosticism just means not processing to know, but it doesn’t say anything about WHAT you don’t know. You are either an agnostic atheist or an agnostic theist – or a gnostic either, except I don’t know any gnostic atheists. Don’t really think they exist.

      • Posted June 9, 2010 at 1:46 am | Permalink

        processing = professing*

      • Ron
        Posted December 16, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

        So, I don’t claim to know things which are unknowable. What am I?

        • Posted December 16, 2011 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

          If that means you don’t have an active belief in gods, which I assume it does: an atheist.

  10. Posted March 31, 2010 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    Suspected this for a long time. Reading his speeches and the careful wording of certain faith-related elements. Inclusion of mentions for ‘non-believers’ where they would have been normally overlooked. We’ll never know until he publishes his autobiography many years after his Presidency ends. It would be political suicide before then (unfortunately).

  11. Posted March 31, 2010 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    When he did go to church, he chose a UCC church (aka “Unitarians Considering Christianity”). He did so because it would have given him “street credibility” for his community organizing.

    He is probably a Christian of the Karen Armstrong variety.

  12. Doc Bill
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    Yeah, he’s an atheist all right.

    A True Believer would get his daily devotional on an iPhone.

    Just sayin’

  13. Na
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    @CJS: You don’t have to be “committed to the non-existence of God” to be an atheist.

    On Obama’s religion: I’m going for Pastafarian. Hey, why not.

    • Ron
      Posted December 16, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

      Pastafarian is just as credible as any other faith.

  14. Tulse
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    If he’s atheist, why was he hanging around with Rev. Wright?

    I think Jer’s right, and Obama is at least a generic Christian, although is belief may not be all that deep.

    • Posted March 31, 2010 at 8:36 am | Permalink

      One possibility is that Obama recognises the importance that religion plays in “black” politics and stayed with Wright until he became a liability. You could do that without actually believing in the religious doctrines themselves.

      Heck, if MLK Jr. were still alive, I’d proudly show up to march with him or hear him speak, even though I think his religion is BS.

  15. Posted March 31, 2010 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    My Blackberry is more of an essential friend, or perhaps a drug of choice, than a deity.

    We’ll seldom know a US politician’s actual religious views until he/she retires — and they usually don’t retire voluntarily. You just can’t get elected unless you make a show of religiosity.

    Anyway, I figure that Obama is loosely a liberal Christian, I hope with some freethinking leanings.

  16. Rieux
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    No one (including Jerry) seems to be paying attention to the substantial amount we know about Obama’s background. His two books (Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope) are must reading on this point: both of Obama’s parents were atheists, and his mother (who had vastly more influence on his upbringing than the absent Barack Sr. did) was an atheist anthropologist, of all things.

    Obama also grew up in the veritable Comparative Religion classes of Indonesia and Hawaii, rather than a more conventionally Christian place like (say) Dallas or the South Side of Chicago. Sorry, Jer, but a background like that is precisely what does not make “Apathetic Christians By Default.” Christianity was by no means a “default” anywhere Obama lived until he moved to the aforementioned South Side at age 24.

    Then there’s his academic background–Occidental College, Columbia, Harvard Law School. Not exactly ground zero for Coming to Jesus.

    And he didn’t, of course, until after graduating from HLS and spending more time back in Chicago; his professed religious conversion just happens to have occurred precisely when he was starting to mount a career in politics. It’s hard to ignore the convenience of that coincidence.

    Whatever else it was, Obama’s conversion was thoroughly considered, as opposed to “default.” And it’s odd what effects it hasn’t had; just read the passage about his mother’s irreligiosity in Audacity of Hope. There’s not the slightest concern for Ann Dunham’s eternal soul, worry that she missed out on Jesus’ love, or any such thing–instead, Obama mentions the human community his mother deprived herself of by staying outside of religion. That’s not exactly chapter-and-verse Gospel.

    To use Dennett’s phrase, Obama very clearly “believes in belief,” at least insofar as professed belief is necessary (as Jerry notes) to get American voters to take him seriously. Given his statements in Audacity of Hope, very likely he “believes in belief” somewhat more broadly, in that he thinks religious belief is a helpful element in building communities that can advocate for social change. (He has explained repeatedly that the Christian organizations he worked with in Chicago played a big role in his decision to convert.) But there’s nothing about belief in a personal deity in his narratives at all. The fact that he evidently thinks religion is empirically useful is a far cry from a belief that its notions are true.

    As blueollie hypothesizes, I think there’s a real possibility that Obama has convinced himself that he believes in a Karen Armstrong-ish empty word-game “God.” The eye-rolling disingenuousness that Armstrong-style religion requires doesn’t fit terribly well with the exacting and honest introspection Obama shows in Dreams from My Father, but wishful thinking is a powerful force. Given the obvious advantages to claiming religious belief, it seems to me entirely plausible that Obama has talked himself into a hollow Armstrong-ish theism.

    Still, an extremely intelligent and learned ultra-high-achiever who was brought up by secular parents and only claimed religious belief precisely when it was politically advantageous for him… that does seem awfully suggestive. People with Obama’s characteristics and background do sometimes fall into Armstrong-ish silliness, but they really very rarely decide that there’s an invisible being in the universe that has a hankering to roast us all eternally but decided to torture its own son instead to propitiate its need for bloody vengeance. It’s more than a little difficult to believe that Obama, who was not indoctrinated in his childhood with any such notion, believes it now.

    • orangejuice
      Posted March 31, 2010 at 8:38 am | Permalink

      I didn’t know about all those facts, but what really struck me was when Obama included “non-believers” in his speech at the presidential inauguration. To me as a European, that seemed like a revolutionary thing for the USA.

      • Rieux
        Posted March 31, 2010 at 9:10 am | Permalink

        That passage was actually lifted straight from The Audacity of Hope (2006):

        [Thomas] Jefferson and [Baptist Rev. John] Leland‘s formula for religious freedom worked. Not only has America avoided the sorts of religious strife that continue to plague the globe, but religious institutions have continued to thrive–a phenomenon that some observers attribute directly to the absence of a state-sponsored church, and hence a premium on religious experimentation and volunteerism. Moreover, given the increasing diversity of America’s population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.

        It should also be noted that both Presidents Clinton and Bush II mentioned nonbelievers in lukewarm-positive contexts, though only in passing and not in inaugural addresses. Bush I, of course, had a somewhat uglier record.

        • orangejuice
          Posted March 31, 2010 at 9:42 am | Permalink

          Yes, I remember the statement by Bush-41, since at least Dawkins quotes it prominently in The God Delusion. I’ve never forgotten this outrageous statement, and it still strikes me as a strong candidate for the most outrageous thing a US President has ever said.

    • Posted March 31, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

      Awesome work with this comment.

      Though is there a single full-blooded atheist on the planet who would bother with getting devotionals off the internet? This isn’t exactly a public act that will help reassure people you’re a good Christian.

      My guess is that when he got into politics, he met a lot of people who took their religion very seriously, and adopted some form of religiosity through them. That’s actually how most people convert: via close contact with believing friends and family.

    • Posted March 31, 2010 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

      Great comment.

      I think it’s possible that the church he got to know as a community organizer in Chicago speaks to him – which is different from belief in a deity of course. Maybe he believes in what one finds in certain kinds of churches – the Beloved Community, that kind of thing.

      • Rieux
        Posted April 1, 2010 at 9:07 am | Permalink

        Thanks, Ophelia!

        BTW, your blog is terrific. I enjoyed the distinct flavor of Martha Nussbaum (a former professor of mine) a week or two ago.

  17. Bryan
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    If he is an atheist, that wasn’t the most effective hat tip. Avoiding church so as to avoid disrupting others’ worship is just a sign the man is considerate – which is right within his public character.

    I’d love an atheist president too – but a stauchly secular one does pretty well.

    Still, casting atheism on him as some sort of secret is not helpful: One, fundagelicals will believe you, and they think it’s a bad thing (not that they don’t already). Two, religious moderates won’t believe you, but /will/ take home the message that “secret atheists” exist in high profile positions (and I don’t have to tell you, in some people’s minds, if it’s “secret”, it’s bad). Lastly, your target audience are critical, and know that it matters well enough to think more deeply about it than you have.

    • Posted March 31, 2010 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

      “but a stauchly secular one does pretty well.”

      Except he’s not secular enough. Rick Warren; the faith-based blah blah.

  18. Posted March 31, 2010 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Hey! This site is where I come to get my daily devotionals. What does that make me?

  19. NewEnglandBob
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    It does not matter what religion Obama adheres to or none at all. What matters is how his actions reflect in policy. So far, he has not done enough to get religion out of the federal government where it does not belong.

  20. Grinch
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    For a Hindu like me, Obama’s attitudes, beliefs, conclusions, make perfect sense, and don’t puzzle me one bit. The atheistagnostictheist spectrum makes no sense outside Christianity, which alone among the Abrahamic traditions spends a great deal of time on the process of conversion, sinfulness etc.,

    • Rieux
      Posted March 31, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

      The atheistagnostictheist spectrum makes no sense outside Christianity….

      Oh, baloney.

      Atheism has no necessary connection to “conversion, sinfulness, etc.,” either. It’s just the lack of belief in gods. That includes Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Krishna, Rama, and the lot.

  21. Posted March 31, 2010 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    My wife and I have discussed this point several times. She is quite convinced he’s a secret atheist. I, on the other hand, suspect that he “believes in belief” so strongly that he is willing to accept certain truth claims and dogma uncritically. I got this impression from reading Dreams from My Father. It seemed he was quite enamored with the ability of black churches to mobilize the African-American community, as well as being deeply moved by his personal experience, and so basically swallowed the whole thing as one atomic entity.

    In other words, he might theoretically be an agnostic, but it seems to me he is a de facto Christian, even in his internal life.

    But one can never truly know the mind of another, so it’s all just speculation, of course.

    • orangejuice
      Posted March 31, 2010 at 9:55 am | Permalink

      Is the assessment of your wife based on specific observations and considerations that might be more compelling than Professor Coyne’s incredulity about “daily devotionals” on a Blackberry, or is it more of a gut feeling?

      • Posted April 1, 2010 at 8:13 am | Permalink

        Gut intuition. Or, perhaps not as kindly, wishful thinking 🙂 My wife still hopes that Obama is going to be the Great Progressive Who Fixes Everything, and as such she assumes he can’t possibly be a godbot. On the other hand, I’m, eh, a bit more jaded about Obama these days. e.g. before he finally got the health care bill through, I was starting to refer to him as “the most milquetoast president since Carter”. 😉

        • Marella
          Posted August 20, 2010 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

          He is a politician working in the political structure, it is unreasonable to expect miracles. At least he is unlikely to consider the enrichment of the already disgustingly rich to be his primary goal.

    • Rieux
      Posted March 31, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

      I think you and your wife just about mark out the range of reasonable hypotheses on the matter.

  22. paul01
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Was his mother not an atheist? It sounds as if her approach to religion was purely anthropological. Perhaps someday in one of his pre-election talks with Rick Warren, he will explain how he came to disagree with his mother. Until then I am entirely willing to entertain the proposition that he is a closet atheist. At any rate he has to know a helluva lot more about it than people think. I’m surprised more is not made of it.

    Of course he may also be one of those who “believes in belief”, as some have pointed out. When did he decide he wanted to go into politics, I wonder?

  23. Posted March 31, 2010 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    I wish he was an Atheist and would come out strongly supporting secularism, but alas it is just that; wishes to a genie that doesn’t exist. Who knows, if he is Godless, then it will come out in his memoirs. Until then it would be better if he hid it and tried to push America towards secularism and away from theocracy.

  24. Posted March 31, 2010 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Sadly, I don’t think you have enough solid facts to support your conclusion. I do agree with your hypothesis, however, that an atheist would currently have a hard time being elected president.

  25. SaintStephen
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    Obama is too smart to be a real believer, and much too politically savvy to admit it. He was most certainly involved in — or at least aware of — the recent decision to let Richard Dawkins’ organization be included among the groups that met recently with Whitehouse representatives, however. To me, that singular decision speaks VOLUMES.

    I say wait until his second term in office. If Obama wins four more years, then we might well see him take a more significant, calculated risk and distance himself more clearly from religion. I’m sure Professor Coyne and all the New Atheist ninjas will also still be making headway in the interim, which will hopefully result in a more conducive political environment for Obama’s “coming out” party.

    In da land of da phree, one snapped photograph of Obama, shaking hands with a beaming Richard Dawkins perhaps (or even Sam Harris or Christopher Hitchens), could go a very long way! Here’s an idea for Obama’s second term: have the RDF present Obama with an award of some type — perhaps for his advocacy of improved science curriculums in American public schools. Obama shows up to receive his award, and UH OH LOOK WHO’S HERE — out pops smiling and delighted Arch-Atheist Richard Dawkins, hair combed and all, from behind the curtain, to present him with it. A couple of strategically placed photogs capture the moment for posterity, and soon these photos adorn every atheist website on the Internet.

    Guilt by association. It can be a beautiful thing.

    • Marella
      Posted August 20, 2010 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

      You sir, have a dangerous mind!

  26. Posted March 31, 2010 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Check out this video:

    The key comes at 1:44 and lasts until 2:05.

    Is the url

    • SaintStephen
      Posted March 31, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      I’m not sure how this particular video adds anything new to the argument?

      Everything Obama said was just political boilerplate. I even sensed a tone of irreverence in his expression when he said “Praying to Jebus“.

      Or Jesus, rather. Somebody.

      • Posted March 31, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think that an atheist would have phrased that this way. He would have said “I pray every night” or “I read the Bible” or something. No atheist “prays to Jesus”, even if it is an Armstrong like “metaphorical Jesus”.

    • Rieux
      Posted March 31, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

      I see a politician who knew precisely the audience he was speaking to.

      That speech wasn’t about explaining his religious beliefs. It was about rebutting the notion that he’s a Muslim.

      Not to mention that the UCC church he attended in Chicago did (and does), in fact, pray to Jesus.

  27. Kalib
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    This is just silly. I mean do atheist really need to add credibility to their numbers by going around calling some theist, closeted atheist? Is this the equivalent of ‘death bed conversions’ for nonbelievers?

    The interesting thing is, it’s always the likable theist that get branded as atheists in disguise by Coyne, Hitchen, Dawkins like folk. When theist start to prune their ranks of certain unlikable theist, labeling them not real believers, they get accused of the no true Scotsman fallacy. Yet their reasoning is as persuasive as that of these atheists.

    Is it me, or has the quality of these prominent atheist just gone down hill? They’re beginning to sound a lot like a bunch of loons, and resembling more and more the folks they despise.

    • SaintStephen
      Posted March 31, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      It’s just you. ;-P

      “Likable” theists?

      People who give respect and monetary support to those who surreptitiously rape children in church confessionals, and people who participate weekly in primitive rituals with other worshippers who conveniently turn a blind eye to the rampant pederasts in their midsts — are not LIKABLE. Period.

      And neither are you, so far.

      • Kalib
        Posted March 31, 2010 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

        what does Roman Polanski and the French have to do with anything?

        • SaintStephen
          Posted March 31, 2010 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

          Okay, you’re likable again.


    • Rieux
      Posted March 31, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

      The interesting thing is, it’s always the likable theist that get branded as atheists in disguise by Coyne, Hitchen, Dawkins like folk.

      Baloney. Dawkins accuses Karen Armstrong–who he does not remotely consider “likeable”–an atheist right here.

      Jerry and various commenters here are contemplating the possibility that Obama is an atheist because there is real (albeit inconclusive) reason to believe that he is one. There’s no lying Lady Hope in sight.

      • llewelly
        Posted March 31, 2010 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

        Jerry and various commenters here are contemplating the possibility that Obama is an atheist because there is real (albeit inconclusive) reason to believe that he is one.

        Karen Armstrong has famously described God as a “metaphor”. Her work is filled with indications she does not believe God to be an interventionist being – or any sort of being at all. Obama has said little or nothing of that sort. At most, Obama is a Christian who can’t be bothered to attend church regularly, but nonetheless pays his respects in 1st Amendment-violating policies.

        There’s no lying Lady Hope in sight.

        Not remotely equivalent. The claim that Obama is religious comes from Obama himself, and is echoed by all his family and close associates. In contrast, Darwin was clear first about his doubts, and later his agnosticism. His family and friends did not disagree. Even those who were religious, and even those who believed his agnosticism would jeopardize the reputation of the anti-slavery movement so important to Darwin and his family, did not claim Darwin was not an agnostic.

        • Rieux
          Posted April 1, 2010 at 9:21 am | Permalink

          Karen Armstrong has famously described God as a “metaphor”.

          And if you read the things Obama writes about religion, it’s notable that he by-and-large treats God in much the same way. Can you quote anything Obama has written about his faith that Armstrong couldn’t echo precisely about hers?

          Obama has said little or nothing of that sort.

          The man is not a theologian; unlike Armstrong, Obama’s job is not to give discourses on the nature of God. The question is whether what he believes is more (or perhaps less) theistic than what Armstrong describes.

          There’s no lying Lady Hope in sight.

          Not remotely equivalent.

          Huh? I said there is no lying Lady Hope in this scenario. No one here is claiming to have spoken to Obama and heard directly that he doesn’t believe in gods.

          The point is that the arguments being made here to support the notion that Obama is less of a theist than he has let on are of a fundamentally different form than “Lady Hope heard him say it.”

          I suppose “not remotely equivalent” was in fact the fundamental point of my line about Lady Hope. The argument from Jerry et al. is “not remotely equivalent” to Lady Hope’s argument.

          • llewelly
            Posted April 1, 2010 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

            Huh? I said there is no lying Lady Hope in this scenario. No one here is claiming to have spoken to Obama and heard directly that he doesn’t believe in gods.

            My apologies – I misunderstood you.

  28. Posted March 31, 2010 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    Everyone is an atheist. No one really believes in any god. Why not? Because it’s impossible.

  29. oldfuzz
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    If your definition of atheist is someone who doesn’t go to church we are an atheist nation.

  30. Michael Labeit
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    I think the argument commits a non-sequitor. These facts aren’t sufficient to demonstrate that he is a closet atheist. Furthermore, even if Obama was an atheist, it certainly would not allay any of my fears regarding his already catastrophic presidency. After all, Hitler and Stalin were atheists. Atheism may be a necessary condition for moral conduct but it is not a sufficient one. Obama has maintained and expanded Bush’s Office of Faith-based Initiatives (http://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/election/764), so what do I care if Obama is a secret atheist or not. He acts like a religionist.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted March 31, 2010 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

      You mean Obama’s terric presidency. I know you are confused with Dumbya who had the catastrophic presidency that will go down as worst of all time.

      Oh, there is that “Hitler is an atheist” bullshit once again. Hitler was a Catholic and said so. He did his disgusting deeds in the name of god. Read Mein Kampf or listen to his speeches.

      • Michael Labeit
        Posted April 8, 2010 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

        My claim that atheism is not a sufficient condition stands. Who cares if Obama is an atheist? He is acting like a mystic. Fine, Hitler was not an atheist. This is irrelevant when it comes to the fact that atheism is not enough.

      • Michael Labeit
        Posted April 8, 2010 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

        You mean terrific presidency? Don’t kid yourself. Mr. Obama has demonstrated that he is as clueless when it comes to fiscal and monetary policy as Mr. Bush. Talk about bullshit.

        • Marella
          Posted August 20, 2010 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

          Obama is advised by the same sort of economists which advised Bush and all the other presidents. The sort of economists which didn’t see the Global financial crisis coming and which have no idea how to stop it happening again. How could he possibly do any better than his predecessors under these circumstances?

          • Posted May 13, 2011 at 11:13 am | Permalink

            “Atheism may be a necessary condition for moral conduct but it is not a sufficient one.”
            So you’re saying that it’s impossible for someone who’s not an Atheist to behave morally?

    • llewelly
      Posted March 31, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

      Hitler was not an atheist; he was a Christian. Arguably, he was a bad Christian, but his writings and speeches are filled with Christian rhetoric, and there are no credible secret diaries or other evidence he was not Christian.

  31. benjdm
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    Now you know what Obama thinks better than he does? Horseshit. If he says he’s a theist and a Christian, you are in no position to say otherwise.

  32. llewelly
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    Obama supports faith-based initiatives, mentions his belief in God at every opportunity, attends the National Prayer Breakfast, and so on. Whatever his private beliefs – he functions as a Christian.
    If Obama is secretly an atheist, he’s gone well beyond protective camouflage.
    Not going to church is poor evidence of atheism; there are many religious people who do not attend church, and many more, who, like Obama, attend church frequently. Obama’s security entourage would indeed disrupt services, and it’s hard to imagine he wouldn’t attract more attention than the preacher.
    The story of his adulthood conversion to Christianity in The Audacity of Hope is plausible, and these speculations about closet atheism are lacking in evidence.

  33. Kalib
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    “Jerry and various commenters here are contemplating the possibility that Obama is an atheist because there is real (albeit inconclusive) reason to believe that he is one. There’s no lying Lady Hope in sight.”

    Yes, just like Global Warming skeptics are contemplating the possibility that climate change is a hoax. If the tin foil hat theory here were true, it wouldn’t just be that Obama is an atheist, but that he is also an unabashed liar. At least Lincoln was ambiguous and subtle, while Obama proudly wears his lie on his sleeve.

    So what are these ‘real reasons’ you speak of? The fact that when he entered the White House that he didn’t frequently attend church services, even though he did prior to his election? Bush also infrequently attended church services while he was president, and he did not become a member of any Washington Congregation during his entire 8 years of service. And Reagan didn’t attend church at all. Were they closeted atheist too?

    Am I getting a whiff of some confirmation bias?

    Are his beliefs out of place with a typical moderate Christian, with someone line Clinton who attended church quite frequently? I mean I would like to hear about this criteria to judge if a theist is really a closeted atheist?

    I find that atheist like Hitchens who go down this path with individuals like Bonhoeffer, and Rev. King, reveal more about their unexamined disbelief, than they do about the beliefs of those they accuse of being atheist.

    It’s a sad display of individuals shitting on themselves, but it’s also quite amusing.

    • Rieux
      Posted April 1, 2010 at 9:34 am | Permalink


      Yes, just like Global Warming skeptics are contemplating the possibility that climate change is a hoax.

      If you seriously think that a global conspiracy to fabricate evidence of climate change is equivalently implausible to an atheist politician lying about his beliefs in order to retain any chance of being elected, I can’t say I think much of your acumen for separating truth from fiction.

      If the tin foil hat theory here were true, it wouldn’t just be that Obama is an atheist, but that he is also an unabashed liar.

      That members of despised minority groups stay in the closet, and indeed lie about their status, is not “tin foil hat.” It’s an overwhelmingly common phenomenon, whether the status involved is homosexuality, atheism, or any other matter one can hide.

      According to interviews conducted by the Secular Coalition of America, 21 members of Congress lack a belief in God but keep that fact a secret. (#22 is Pete Stark, who admits it.) That’s not “tin foil,” it’s political reality.

      Perhaps you’ve noted that GLBT communities discuss politicians they believe (for various reasons of varying solidity) to be closeted gays? Or are they just talkin’ “tin foil,” too? This is no different.

      So what are these ‘real reasons’ you speak of? The fact that when he entered the White House that he didn’t frequently attend church services, even though he did prior to his election?

      No. I explained my reasons in a lengthy comment above. You appear to have missed it. (And them.)

      It’s a sad display of individuals shitting on themselves….

      How self-referential.

  34. littlejohn
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    It seems to me you’re reading far too much into Obama’s remarks. He said nothing that a conventionally liberal Protestant wouldn’t say.
    On the other hand, he seem far too intelligent to be anything other than an atheist.
    But given his line of work, he cannot say so.

  35. Michael K Gray
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    I judge him by his behaviour, not his belief.
    That behaviour is astonishingly pro-theist.

  36. SaintStephen
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    Nobody in this thread will ever convince me that Barack Obama isn’t simply donning the religious clownsuit required of all American presidents, and would shed it like a bad habit if the political environment dictated such a move.

    There isn’t a word President Obama could say either. I’ll even go as far to say Obama stayed “religious” simply for his Grandma’s peace of mind. She’s passed on, and the only reason her fine baby boy stays in the Christian faith now is because of the imbecilic American electorate.

  37. MadScientist
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    I wouldn’t call him godless based on that. For years I kept a copy of the Roman Missal to I can invent stories about what the preacher said that sunday and quickly dismiss my annoying superstitious relatives; incidentally I always happened to (well at least claim to) go to churches which they never went to. However whenever any friends looked at my bookshelf and said “I never thought you were religious” I’d say “I don’t believe that bullshit, it’s just there to help me make stuff up so my relatives don’t bother me about going to church and wasting my time.” On the other hand I know quite a few people who claim they’re believers and they’re not attached to any particular church either – however they do go to church voluntarily and they don’t have a voting public to pressure them into it.

  38. Stan Clark
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    The evidence for the assertion that Obama is an atheist is precariously thin, actually non-existent the way I read it. It appears to be little more than wishful thinking really. His words and deeds seem mighty religious for an atheist, even a closet atheist. “If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.” I’d certainly like to believe it is true, but it’s a real ssttrreettcchhhhhh. Further, if I were to believe it true, then I would have to admit that the President is just cynically leading us on in order to get elected. That would be troubling, but no different from politics as usual. I had hoped for better than that from him….how naive of me. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

  39. The Arab Atheist
    Posted April 1, 2010 at 4:49 am | Permalink

    WOW! Obama is an Atheist! What an honor to Atheism!

  40. stvs
    Posted April 1, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    I’ve long thought that he was an unbeliever

    Likewise. I believe that Obama’s quoting the Treaty of Tripoli at his Cairo speech is conclusive. Even though Obama’s quotation began with the phrase just after “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion“, Obama knows the full quote, and indeed, his speech is a nod to this truth. And tell me just one theist who quotes the Treaty of Tripoli for a major policy speech.

    That’s why I didn’t raise my eyebrow too high when Obama chose Rick Warren—who else but an atheist can fully appreciate the Machiavellian posturing of another?

  41. SaintStephen
    Posted April 2, 2010 at 12:20 am | Permalink

    Obama: “I can go to my right… but I prefer the left.”

    • SaintStephen
      Posted April 2, 2010 at 12:31 am | Permalink
      • SaintStephen
        Posted April 2, 2010 at 12:32 am | Permalink

        (Can’t get video from HuffPo to embed.)

  42. Posted May 20, 2010 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

    You’ve got to be kidding. You think the president is an atheist because his worship is less public and more private? A daily devotional on his Blackberry instead of appearing in a church?

    I read the snippet of interview you say say convinced you Obama is an atheist and it indicates the opposite to me: that Barack Obama’s faith is not just for show, but is sincere and personal.

    I never joined a church as a Christian. I was devout, but my devotion was in many ways intensely private. I also felt that no single church had cornered the market on the truth and felt no urge to choose one over another. I studied the scriptures deeply, too, but privately.

    I don’t have a Blackberry, I have an iPhone. It has a variety of scriptures on it: Bhagavad Gita, Bible, Qur’an, several volumes of Baha’i sacred texts and a prayer book. Does the fact that I use a digital prayer book make me an atheist too?

    Maybe you’re merely indulging in wishful thinking. You know, “He’s cool, he must be one of us.” Or maybe this blog is just tongue-in-cheek. I hope it’s the latter, because the evidence for the former is non-existent.

    From what I’ve seen of Mr. Obama, he exercises his faith in deeds, attitudes and words on pretty much a daily basis. I find these things all consistent with what I understand of Christ’s teachings … which is not to say it squares with church doctrine.

  43. Anonym
    Posted August 20, 2010 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    Given Obama’s academic background, he might have dropped Wright a bit more eloquently with Prince Hal’s politically similar dismissal of Falstaff: “Old man, I know thee not.” ;^)

  44. Posted August 21, 2010 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    If he is an Atheist he’s a piss poor one. I rather he be a Christian as worthless as he is. Not single payer health care cause he sold out to big pharma, continued the police action in Iraq far too long. and has allowed Right Wing Christian Dominionist to propagandize with very little push back, Sherrod as the prime example of his capitulations along with cow towing to Fox Infortainment Network.

  45. Brasilmagic
    Posted February 16, 2011 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    I’ve been saying Obama is atheist for a long time. He gives little signs, that we atheists can pick up (including the non-religous in his speeches for example)without offending the religious. The fact his mother was a secular intellectual no doubt left a mark on him. The man’s too smart. I hope one day, after he’s left office and is too old to care about the consequences, he writes an autobiography coming out of the closet.

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