Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Balancing the Non-Believers

An article published last week in the Wall Street Journal addressed efforts made by President Obama to include both religious and non-religious groups in his rhetoric. In the article, titled < a href”Obama Walks Religious Tightrope Spanning Faithful, Nonbelievers”, author Laura Meckler discusses the fact that Obama is the first president to mention atheists in an inaugural speech already addressing Christians, Muslims, Jews, and Hindus. She addresses the controversial move to place believers and non-believers on an equal plane, for the first time acknowledging the, for lack of a better term, “godless” part of American society.

Meckler also addresses complications that are already arising as Obama tries to balance religion and secularism in his policies, pointing out several of his policies which favor religious organizations and others that are “troubling to religious conservatives” in their support of science. The primary focus of her article lies in the question of whether this attempt to appeal to all sides will help or hurt Obama’s career as president.

While it is an undeniable fact that the United States is a primarily Christian country, many recent studies have indicated a growing decline in religion, and a slow increase, albeit small, in atheism. Personally, I feel that President Obama’s acknowledgement of non-religious Americans represents an important step in the development of American society. Such a step may prove especially powerful internationally, representing the growing tolerance and maturity of a country often faulted for its religious zeal. Still, I agree with Meckler that Obama’s attempts to appeal to all sides could easily backfire, since he risks losing his already tenuous evangelical support. Since Obama is also an open Christian, I also wonder how secular or multi-faceted he will allow his policies to become before he finds himself over-stepping his own religious beliefs.

3 comments:

Molly G. said...

Although I don't really see that the presence or importance of religion in America is decreasing, I do believe that Obama's attempt to include atheists in the religious dialogue of our country is a great symbolic move, if nothing else. The inclusion of the term shows that Obama is really out to represent everyone. However, anyone can mention atheists in a speech-- it's when Obama will have to balance religious and secular concerns that the issue will get grittier. However, even though the "balancing act" will be difficult, I agree with Tanya that Obama is showing the rest of the world that that the United States is truly a place where everyone's concerns get equal weight, and I believe that that has immense value.

David D said...

I agree with Tanya's observation that President Obama's acknowledgement of non-religious Americans represents a “growing tolerance and maturity of a country often faulted for its religious zeal.” Bearing in mind the fact that atheists are not nearly the size of Evangelicals as a potential constituency, Obama could very easily have played it safe and not issue such a remark. The fact that he did broadens our traditional notions of acceptability. I agree that it's possible that Obama's level of inclusiveness may prove to be more symbolic than effective in the end. However, I'd still prefer a president who would appeal to both sides rather than one who provides preferential treatment to one side and not the other.

panet said...

Obama was raised by an atheist. His non custodial parent was also an atheist. I doubt he is religious. I think he had to join a church to marry Michelle. He knows you can't be pres without attaching yourself to a religion. His deep intelligence is enhanced by his lack of delusions.