President Barack Obama has “touched the untouchables,” said Steven Waldman in During his inaugural address last week, Obama became the first president in history to acknowledge the presence of atheists in what he called America’s “patchwork heritage.” We are, Obama declared, “a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers.” Some Christian leaders were unsettled by the remark, saying that Obama was trying to “redefine” American culture and downplay our religious heritage. In fact, the inauguration ceremony was infused with religious references, and it’s absurd to accuse Obama of any animus toward religion. But by boldly asserting our national creed of religious diversity and tolerance, he reminded us that despite the claims of some zealots, the U.S. was not founded as a
“Christian nation.”
It’s about time, said Nica Lalli in About 16 percent of Americans, or about 50 million people, describe themselves as atheists or religiously unaffiliated. Yet, in the political sphere, people like us have been pariahs in a nation that supposedly honors separation of church and state. But our new president has made it clear: “Being religious is not a test one must pass to be part of this country.” As an atheist, I suppose I should also be grateful, said Kevin Brooker in The Calgary Herald. But I consider the term “nonbeliever” to be something of “a slur,” since it subtly reinforces the notion that we “don’t believe in anything” other than our “hedonistic impulses.” In fact, many atheists, or secular humanists, are no less committed to bettering the human condition than the most devout are. We just don’t get all preachy about it.
For preachy, look no further than Obama himself, said Terry Eastland in The Weekly Standard. During his inaugural, Obama quoted Scripture and repeatedly invoked the name of the Lord. Having grown up without any organized religion, Obama became a self-described “devout Christian” when he joined a church—Chicago’s Trinity United—“that shared his belief in social change.” Obama’s belief that Christianity implores the faithful to help establish “a Kingdom of God right here on earth,” neatly undergirds his notion of an activist government. In other words, said the Rev. Raymond J. De Souza in the Toronto National Post, Obama used his inauguration to advance “his effort to reclaim religion” for the political Left. And that’s an agenda his friends, the nonbelievers, are more than happy to get behind.