Religion

Obama Acknowledges Value of Secular Humanism, Social Justice, and Interfaith Activism

Obama was on the WTF with Marc Maron podcast this week, and they started with a phenomenal discussion about race, social justice values, and interfaith work. It’s a great segment, and Obama’s words speak for himself, so I’m going to quote it at length:

“After a couple of years in college, I started realizing that there were certain things that were important to me. Having an impact on social justice issues, having something to say about poverty, or race, or things like that.”

Maron asks him what sparked that, and Obama credits his mother and his personal experience as a black man in America:

“My mother was the biggest influence of my life, and this wonderful woman. I am raised without a dad. An African-American, but not grounded in a place with a lot of African-American culture. And so I’m trying to figure out that I’m seen and understood as a black man in America – what does that mean?

[…]

And then at a certain point, right around 20, right around my sophomore year, I started figuring out that a lot of the ideas that I had taken on about being a rebel, or about being a tough guy, or being cool were really not me. They were just things that I was trying on because I was insecure, or I was a kid. And that’s an important moment in my life, but also a scary one, because you start realizing, ‘I have to figure out what I really do believe, and what is important, and who am I really.’ A lot of that revolved around issues of race, and being able to say that I don’t have to be one way. To be both an African-American, but also somebody who affirms the white side of my family. I don’t have to push back from the love and values that my mom instilled in me.”

Maron notes that Obama’s mother was a very progressive person:

Obama: “She was. I always call her ‘the last of the great secular humanists.’ She thought all religions had something to say, and thought all cultures were fascinating. ”

Maron: “So you weren’t raised with religion at all?”

Obama: “No, we’d go to church for Easter sometimes. We had a Shinto temple across the street from the apartment where we were living. When I was in Indonesia, that’s a Muslim country, we’d have mosques.”

I have my quibbles with Obama (his actions on drone strikes and privacy, among others). But having the president acknowledge secular humanists (particularly in his own family) as well as a mention about the importance of social justice and interfaith activism is pretty huge! Representation is important, and a nod from the President of the United States is nothing to laugh at.

Of course, there will always be that asshole that uses something like this as an example to prove to us that OBAMA REALLY IS AN ATHEIST. Or perhaps, Dave Silverman will call Obama up to let him know that his mother was lying to herself. Personally, I’ll just take a moment to revel in a bit of joy that the President of the United States appreciates the value that secular humanists, social justice, and interfaith work can bring to the table.

Featured Image by Marc Nozell

Courtney Caldwell

Courtney Caldwell

Courtney Caldwell is an intersectional feminist. Her talents include sweary rants, and clogging your social media with pictures of her dogs (and occasionally her begrudging cat). She's also a political nerd, whose far-left tendencies are a little out of place in the deep red Texas.

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2 Comments

  1. June 22, 2015 at 2:50 pm —

    President Obama frequently acknowledges non-believers in his speeches, and that’s no coincidence. He doesn’t do it to mollify those who think he’s a closet muslim, obviously. And he’s done it from the beginning, so it’s not just about not worrying about winning elections anymore. He’s seen firsthand how deeply moral humanism is. It’s a far cry from George H.W. Bush’s comment that atheists shouldn’t be considered citizens or patriots.

    I’m afraid, even if a Democrat wins in 2016, our next president won’t be so accommodating to the non-religious. The nones may be growing, but there are still far more believers out there. And God bless America is still a reliable applause line.

  2. June 23, 2015 at 6:19 pm —

    > But having the president acknowledge secular humanists (particularly in his own family) as well as a mention about the importance of social justice and interfaith activism is pretty huge!

    Especially in the US where 1) 95% of the population declares itself religious, 2) the President takes the oath on the Bible, and 3) the currency says “In God we trust”.

    This, in 2015.

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