… and Non-Believers

January 20, 2009 | By | 18 Replies More

Yes, our new Potus has, for the first time in an address by a President, explicitly included in his description of America that faction among us who don’t have imaginary friends. Hemant Mehta commented on this, but I saw it live via satellite and felt included. My fellow curly-headed 47 year old with a foreigner for a father took the oath of office, and included me. Not by name, but by my most often ignored demographic categories.

In the name of Fair and Balanced, the name of Jesus was also uttered for the first time during an inaugural ceremony during a painfully theistic invocation. Many in the VIP section crowd appeared uncomfortable with it.

Ted Kennedy, brother of the first Irish-American and/or Catholic president, was there to see it. Then he was taken to the hospital. Four former presidents dating back to the election of 1976 were there. And I forego naming the other 2,000,000 or so present at the moment.

The scene was so overwhelming that the President Elect (a seasoned and elegant public speaker) briefly fumbled during the oath. Quite a day!

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Category: American Culture, Communication, Current Events, History, Noteworthy, Religion

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A convoluted mind behind a curly face. A regular traveler, a science buff, and first generation American. Graying of hair, yet still verdant of mind. Lives in South St. Louis City. See his personal website for (too much) more.

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  1. "To restore science to its rightful place" | Dangerous Intersection | February 1, 2009
  1. Quite a day indeed! Despite all the required religious references at the inaugural, the mention of "non-believers" was a thrilling moment for me!

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    I echo your celebration, Dan. But hold on, about the "fumbling." It was Justice Roberts who fumbled several times, while Obama tried to say what he was supposed to say rather than repeating Roberts' mistakes. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28753348/

  3. grumpypilgrim says:

    I was stunned by the number of explicit references to imaginary friends. First, there were not one, but two, preachers who spoke at the actual inauguration ceremony, then there was another one who gave a prayer at the luncheon afterward. Yikes!

  4. Erich Vieth says:

    D.J. Grothe's website sent me a link to this post by the Center for Inquiry:

    By mentioning in his Inaugural Speech that this is a nation that includes nonbelievers, and by calling to restore science to its rightful place, I can only imagine that if his mother could look down from the heaven she didn’t believe in, she would be proud to see the influence of her secular humanism on the 44th President of the United States of America.

    The entire post is available here.

  5. Erich Vieth says:

    Here's more on the fact that Justice Roberts flubbed the oath: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/

  6. Erika Price says:

    Slate's Dahlia Lithwick claims that both Roberts and Obama made slip ups: Obama for cutting Roberts' off too early, and Roberts for misplacing the "faithfully" in the oath. Eventually, Obama accepts Roberts' mistake and repeats his error in order to move on. See here: http://www.slate.com/id/2209298/

    I wonder if the misplaced "faithfully" could technically invalidate this (admittedly symbolic) practice. I'm waiting for the "let's see Obama's birth certificate" conservatives to make such a claim, at least.

  7. Dan Klarmann says:

    I didn't mean to impugn the prez and his speechifying prowess. It would have been nice if the Chef Justice had been able to stand in the freezing wind before the multitudes and smoothly do his duty. But what we saw is what we got.

    And for God count, Mehta tracks how many mentions of deities were involved as part of a plan to figure donations to secular causes: Inauguration Prayer #3.

  8. Erich Vieth says:

    For those interested in knowing Obama's exact words, here they are:

    For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090120/ap_on_go_pr_w

  9. Tim Hogan says:

    Does that mean Biden is President? Or, for gosh sakes, Bush? ARRRRRRRgh!

  10. Erich Vieth says:

    Someone had a bit of fun here: Jon Luc Picard responds to Rick Warren.



  11. Dan Klarmann says:

    Here's a commentary on a Fox news commentary on those 3 little words:

    <object width="425" height="349"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/twoXZE9U0Io&border=1&color1=0xcc2550&color2=0xe87a9f&hl=en&feature=player_embedded&fs=1"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/twoXZE9U0Io&border=1&color1=0xcc2550&color2=0xe87a9f&hl=en&feature=player_embedded&fs=1&quot; type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="349"></embed></object>

  12. He did it again, you know!

    Pres O once again said, "…and non believers," right in the middle of the interview with Al-Arabya TV.



    I forget if it was in Part 1 or Part 2.

    It warms my heart every time I hear it!!

  13. Erich Vieth says:

    Dan: That Youtube about FOX's analysis of Obama's recognition of non-believers was right on the mark. Thanks for sharing it.

  14. Alison says:

    Why is it that these theistic authority figures are allowed to make the sweeping generalizations that show they know nothing about atheism, but anyone who contradicts their belief needs to go and get a doctorate in theology before he's allowed to speak about religion or the religious?

  15. Erich Vieth says:

    Alison: I wish I knew. It all sounds like aggressive bigotry to me. Perhaps it's because people who do not believe in supernatural (or to use Ann Druyan's perferred term, "subnatural" http://dangerousintersection.org/2007/11/12/ann-d… beings haven't founded opulently decorated institutions to publicize and defend their views. They don't speak as a coherent voice that yells "Bigot!" every time someone accuses all non-believers of being selfish, pleasure-obsessed and damned. What else can you call it that "Bigotry" when non-believers are judged simply by their non-belief in "God" regardless of how much they are dedicated to improving their communities?

  16. Erich Vieth says:

    More recently, we have talked about the "Abrahamic Traditions," Jews, Christians and Muslims, thereby broadening the circle to include Islam, one of the three major monotheistic religions. Even with this broadening landscape, however, presidents have generally acknowledged only believers and failed to mention atheists or agnostics.

    Our rhetoric, in fact, has always lagged behind our reality. When President Obama declared, "We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and nonbelievers," he sent a signal that it's time, once again, to enlarge the circle of inclusiveness, consistent with the great American tradition of equality and toleration.

    Although I'm sure that Buddhists and Jains and Sikhs and countless other religious adherents would like to have been included in the president's roll call, the message was clear: We are a diverse nation, and the "free exercise" of religion guaranteed in the First Amendment also protects the exercise of no religion at all.

    Randall Balmer – CNN http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/02/04/balmer.non

  17. Dan Klarmann says:

    Dale McGowan published a nice take on this issue: http://parentingbeyondbelief.com/blog/?p=1702
    He basically chastised those non-theists who took umbrage at the perceived implication that they have no beliefs, rather than appreciating the expressed inclusion.

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