Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Debunking an "Obama is anti-Christianity" screed

A Facebook friend of mine recently posted a link to a list of supposedly SHOCKING!! quotes from President Barack Obama, with 20 quotes about Christianity and 20 quotes about Islam, supposedly demonstrating his hostility to the first and devotion to the second. I called him on it, and asked him to show me one single quote from the list and show how it demonstrates bias in any way. He couldn't, and yet he still maintains that somehow I am confused in not seeing the apparently obvious fact that Obama is the essence of evil, aiming to destroy the Christian heritage that made America great, or something like that.

Here is my point-by-point refutation of those claims, leaving them as a smoldering ruin.

20 Quotes by Barack Obama about Islam

#1. "The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam."

So what?? Obama is preaching tolerance, which Christianity also teaches.

#2. "The sweetest sound I know is the Muslim call to prayer."

Again, so what?? He thinks the Muslim call to prayer sounds beautiful.

#3. "We will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over the centuries to shape the world — including in my own country."

First of all, just in case anyone is unclear, the country he's referring to is the United States, not Kenya or Indonesia. Secondly, Islam has done a great deal over the centuries to shape the world. In particular, Europe might still be recovering from the Dark Ages if it weren't for the Islamic scholars who preserved much of the knowledge of the ancient world.

#4. "As a student of history, I also know civilization's debt to Islam."

See #3 above. Also, where would civilization be without, oh, say, algebra, just for one example. Most people hated algebra in school, but you can't have science and technology without algebra. Without Islam, we wouldn't have the computers through which you are reading my words. Also no iPhones, electricity, cars, or multistory buildings.

#5. "Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance."

Why, yes, as a matter of fact it does. Go back to, say, the 14th century. Which society is more tolerant of people with different beliefs, Christian Europe or the Islamic Middle East? It's not even a contest.

#6. "Islam has always been part of America."

There were Muslims (or Mahometans, to use the 18th-century term) in what is now the United States, even before the founding of the nation. There were thousands of Muslim slaves, even before the Mayflower set sail, but there were also Muslims who came here of their own volition.

#7. "We will encourage more Americans to study in Muslim communities."

Yes, cultural exchange benefits both sides. Muslims will see that Americans are not minions of the Great Satan, and vice-versa.

#8. "These rituals remind us of the principles that we hold in common, and Islam's role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings."

Simple fact: Christianity and Islam have more in common than the geographic proximity of their origins. Islam doesn't always live up to its lofty ideals, but neither does Christianity and neither does the United States.

#9. "America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles of justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings."

Simple fact: there are Muslims in the United States — right now, as I write this! Most of them are asleep (It's pretty late, even out here on the West Coast.), but tomorrow many of them will go off to their jobs DESTROYING AMERICA by being doctors and lawyers and short-order cooks and teachers and truck drivers and janitors and police officers and just about every other profession you can think of. As to those common principles, see #8 above.

#10. "I made clear that America is not — and never will be — at war with Islam."

America is not, and must not see itself as being, at war with Islam. We are at war with a small faction in the civil war within Islam. Going to war with all of Islam because of a few fanatical extremists would be very much like going to war with all of Asia because Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. We need to work with the vast majority of Muslims to isolate the violent extremists, for our mutual benefit.

And by the way, President George W. Bush said exactly the same thing, many times. In fact, it was one of the few things Dubya got right.

#11. "Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism — it is an important part of promoting peace."

See #10 above. The problem is not Islam. The problem is violent fanatical extremist Islam. More to the point, in the term "Islamic fundamentalism," Islamic isn't the problem. Any group of people who believe that they have a monopoly on the perfect truth of God, is a threat to humanity and certainly to civilization as we know it.

#12. "So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed."

Yes, President Obama lived in a majority-Muslim country, and has visited others, and knows Muslims even here in the United States. How, exactly, is that shocking??

#13. "In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education."

See #3 and #4 above. The world would be a far more ignorant place if it hadn't been for the centuries of Islamic devotion to innovation and education. It is true that the modern-day Islamic world has a spotty track record in embracing education for women, and that is a serious blindspot, but the history of Christianity has plenty of lapses in embracing the value of education, too. More to the point, though, Obama is speaking of the best of Islamic tradition in the hopes of encouraging Muslims to embrace it more fully.

#14. "Throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality."

Religious tolerance is another realm in which modern-day Islam is falling behind where it was a millennium ago, but Islam overall has a better track record than Christianity on both of those counts.

#15. "Ramadan is a celebration of a faith known for great diversity and racial equality."

Yup, it is. There are Middle Eastern Muslims, European Muslims, African Muslims, Asian Muslims, and Muslims from every part of the globe. Nothing shocking about saying that.

#16. "The Holy Koran tells us, 'O, mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.'"

I don't have the foggiest notion why anyone would find that statement shocking, unless for its disavowal of transgendered and intersex people.

#17. "I look forward to hosting an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan here at the White House later this week, and wish you a blessed month."

Again, why on earth would anyone find this statement shocking? Part of the job of the President is to be the President of all the people, not just those who share his religious beliefs. President Obama has hosted Iftar dinners, as well as Easter egg hunts, Christmas parties, Passover Seders, and who knows what all else.

#18. "We've seen those results in generations of Muslim immigrants — farmers and factory workers, helping to lay the railroads and build our cities, the Muslim innovators who helped build some of our highest skyscrapers and who helped unlock the secrets of our universe."

Again, nothing remotely shocking here. Many Muslims have immigrated to the United States, and most of them have been upstanding citizens who contributed to society in a variety of ways.

#19. "That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn't. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear."

Nothing remotely controversial here — unless you're an Islamophobe. Aha! Could that perhaps be the crux of the issue? Obama is evil because he isn't Islamophobic enough!

#20. "I also know that Islam has always been a part of America's story."

Yup, pesky historical fact: there have been Muslims in the United States every single day of its existence.

20 Quotes by Barack Obama about Christianity

#1. "Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation."

This is one that Obama got badly wrong. The United States never ceased to be a Christian nation, because it never was one to begin with! The Founding Fathers carefully, specifically, explicitly, intentionally created a secular nation. There is a world of difference between a secular nation that has a Christian majority and "a Christian nation." Christianity has no special legal standing in the United States, never has had, and never will have.

#2. "We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation."

The very first treaty that the United States signed — ratified unanimously by the Senate — stated unambiguously that the United States is in no way a Christian nation and that it is not the enemy of Islam. The ink was barely dry on the Constitution, but we were going out of our way to proclaim to the world that we are a secular nation, not a Christian nation.

#3. "Which passages of scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is an abomination? Or we could go with Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith."

The friend who posted the link to this screed is fond of pointing out various barbaric bits of the Holy Koran, and indeed there are several, but the Holy Bible has quite a few of its own. The bottom line is that no one can live 100% by the dictates of either text, since both contain unconscionable passages. Indeed, Obama soft-pedals a bit on this one, because Leviticus doesn't merely suggest that slavery is OK, it explicitly and specifically says so. It also bans polyester-cotton blend fabrics, by the way, along with cheeseburgers, catfish, and pulled pork. Thank goodness we as a society have chosen to completely ignore those particular passages in the Holy Bible!

#4. "Even those who claim the Bible's inerrancy make distinctions between Scriptural edicts, sensing that some passages — the Ten Commandments, say, or a belief in Christ's divinity — are central to Christian faith, while others are more culturally specific and may be modified to accommodate modern life."

Yup, there is no such thing as a person who lives entirely by the whole of the Bible, because it cannot be done. Even apart from the bits that are just plain ludicrous in the modern world, there's the simple fact that there are many passages in the Bible that directly contradict one another. That statement may be shocking to those who delude themselves into thinking that they are Biblical purists who dot every i and cross every t, but to anyone in contact with reality, it's just common sense.

#5. "The American people intuitively understand this, which is why the majority of Catholics practice birth control and some of those opposed to gay marriage nevertheless are opposed to a Constitutional amendment to ban it. Religious leadership need not accept such wisdom in counseling their flocks, but they should recognize this wisdom in their politics."

The Catholic Church says unambiguously that you are forbidden by God to use any form of even semi-reliable birth control, but the vast majority of their flock do it anyway, because they recognize the church's edict for the anachronistic bullshit that it is. And as for same-sex marriage, since we live in an intentionally secular nation, any law must have a valid secular purpose, and a law that is based solely on a religious prohibition serves no such purpose. If you try to get the state to enforce your religious beliefs, you run the risk of having the state enforce someone else's religious beliefs on you.

#6. "I am not willing to have the state deny American citizens a civil union that confers equivalent rights on such basic matters as hospital visitation or health insurance coverage simply because the people they love are of the same sex—nor am I willing to accept a reading of the Bible that considers an obscure line in Romans to be more defining of Christianity than the Sermon on the Mount." (The Audacity of Hope)

Everyone — yes, everyone — who professes Christianity, picks and chooses which parts of the Christian canon they follow. Denying hospital visitation or health coverage to gay couples serves no valid secular purpose, and it is choosing to emphasize the angry, vengeful Old Testament deity over the loving New Testament deity.

There's also the inconvenient fact that the people who take Romans to be more important than the Sermon on the Mount are not Christians, they are Paulians. Paul contradicts Christ, but many so-called Christians take Paul's word over Christ's. (Indeed, it was the teachings of Paul that first pushed me away from the Christian faith of my childhood.)

#7. Obama's definition of sin: "Being out of alignment with my values."

And if your values include obedience to God, there you are. Again, nothing even controversial, much less shocking, here.

#8. "If all it took was someone proclaiming I believe Jesus Christ and that he died for my sins, and that was all there was to it, people wouldn’t have to keep coming to church, would they?"

In other words, Works are the proof of your faith. You can't rape, pillage, and murder by day, and then say, "Oh, Jesus, save me!" and expect to skate right into heaven if you die in your sleep. Obama's perspective here is squarely in the mainstream of American Christian thought.

#9. "This is something that I’m sure I’d have serious debates with my fellow Christians about. I think that the difficult thing about any religion, including Christianity, is that at some level there is a call to evangelize and prostelytize. There’s the belief, certainly in some quarters, that people [who] haven’t embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior [are] going to hell."

Even the Pope says that Christ isn't the only way to stay out of hell.

#10. "I find it hard to believe that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell. I can’t imagine that my God would allow some little Hindu kid in India who never interacts with the Christian faith to somehow burn for all eternity. That’s just not part of my religious makeup."

The vast majority of human beings are not Christians. Many millions of human beings have never heard of Christ or the Bible. If you believe in a loving God, then you cannot believe that someone who never heard of Christ will burn in eternal damnation because he or she didn't accept Him as a personal savior. You also cannot believe that an infant who dies is going to hell for lack of having accepted Jesus, but that is a doctrine to which many so-called Christians adhere.

#11. "I don’t presume to have knowledge of what happens after I die. But I feel very strongly that whether the reward is in the here and now or in the hereafter, aligning myself to my faith and my values is a good thing."

Stop the presses! Aligning yourself with your faith and your values is a good thing?? How dare he!!

#12. "I’ve said this before, and I know this raises questions in the minds of some evangelicals. I do not believe that my mother, who never formally embraced Christianity as far as I know … I do not believe she went to hell."

Another shocker — Obama believes that his mother, who was a good person but who never (to his knowledge) accepted Jesus into her heart, is not burning in hell. Wow, just really leaves you speechless to know that this godless heathen loves his mother and thinks fondly of her, even after her death.

#13. "Those opposed to abortion cannot simply invoke God’s will. They have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths."

We live in a secular democracy. "Because God says so!" isn't a valid reason for a law. Isn't now, has never been, never will be.

#14. "If people find [Obama's support for same-sex civil unions] controversial, then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount."

Read the Sermon on the Mount. It's full of admonitions against judging others, favoring instead love, compassion, kindness, and humility.

#15. "You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

This quote caused quite a hullabaloo in the 2008 campaign, but it's unassailable on the substance. People who are beaten down tend to seek solace and scapegoats.

#16. (referring to his childhood) "In our household, the Bible, the Koran and the Bhagavad Gita sat on the shelf alongside books of Greek and Norse and African mythology."

Obama's mother had a quite balanced view, correctly seeing the Bible and the Koran as two more forms of mythology, different in the details but emanating from the same wellspring as any other mythological system.

#17. "On Easter or Christmas Day, my mother might drag me to church, just as she dragged me to the Buddhist temple, the Chinese New Year celebration, the Shinto shrine, and ancient Hawaiian burial sites."

His mother insisted on exposing him to a variety of different systems of belief, even though she was a non-believer. Why is that shocking?

#18. "We have Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, and their own path to grace is one that we have to revere and respect as much as our own."

We live in a secular society, and we are thus obliged to respect the right of others to believe differently. For him to have said anything else would have been shocking.

#19. "All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of the three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, peace be upon them, joined in prayer."

Shocking indeed, that Obama thinks that peace in Pisralistine would be a good thing. Clearly, the Christian God views harmony with those around you as blasphemy.

#20. "I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people."

Obama is an ecumenical Christian instead of a doctrinaire hard-liner. Anyone who finds that shocking just hasn't been paying attention for the last 9 years.

The Bottom Line

All those shocking, horrifying quotes proving that Obama is really a secret Muslim … just melt away to nothing at the slightest touch from reality and reason. President Obama is clearly and unambiguously squarely in the mainstream of American Christian belief, and no amount of Tea Party birther apocalyptic chest-pounding bullshit can change that.

The simple truth is that people have an irrational, visceral hatred of President Obama, and can't admit to themselves that the real reason is that he is a black man, so they make up pretty little lies about how he's somehow shockingly out of touch with American (white male land-owning) values.

I personally don't believe in Christianity or Islam, for pretty much the same reason: I don't believe in the mythical sky pixies, nor in the mythology of a Bronze Age society trying to survive in an unforgiving desert. The stories of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed are no less mythological than the stories of Thor, Apollo, Jupiter, or Quetzacoatl.  I do not believe that Mohammed was a prophet, because I do not believe that there ever has been or ever will be a true prophet who has a special direct line into the inner workings of the mind of God. I do not believe that Moses spoke on God's behalf. I do not believe that Abraham (or Ibrahim) was even an admirable figure — he was a lunatic who was prepared to kill his own child because the voices in his schizophrenic mind told him to, and it is from that poisoned seed that Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Satanism all sprouted.

However, I do believe that Barack Obama is 100% sincere in both his personal embrace of Christianity and his respect for Islam.