Obama Mentions Nonbelievers Again

During his Inaugural Address, President Obama gave a shout-out to us:

“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.”

It could be considered lip-service (and nothing more, some could argue) but it was a meaningful gesture for a lot of us.

Yesterday, he did it again.

While addressing the massacre at Fort Hood during his radio address, President Obama made this comment:

“Thursday’s shooting was one of the most devastating ever committed on an American military base,” Mr. Obama said in prepared remarks. “And yet, even as we saw the worst of human nature on full display, we also saw the best of America.”

Mr. Obama was also quick to note the diversity of U.S. military personnel. “They are Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and nonbelievers,” he said. Mr. Hasan, a Muslim, was scheduled to be deployed to Afghanistan.

Again, it may not seem like much, but it goes a long way to combatting the stereotype that there are no atheists serving the military. I’m glad he did it and I hope he continues to include in when talking about the diversity of viewpoints in America.

American Atheists president Ed Buckner was also thrilled to hear it (via email alert):

We thank the president for including us in the diverse population that is the people of the United States. We appreciate the fact that President Obama has acknowledged what we have always known: Of course there are Atheists in foxholes, and there are and always have been men and women who have worn the uniform of this nation and have served with courage in the military and in many other ways.”

We should still go after the President for encouraging faith-based initiatives and the like, but he deserves our appreciation when he does something right. This is one of those gestures that can make a big difference.

  • Heidi

    Yay! Thanks for the shout-out President O.

    This is the kind of thing that won him the peace prize. Small-seeming things that nobody else is willing to say or do.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    I hope I’m not alone in not going all a-flutter whenever some important figure mentions us. Lip service is lip service, whether we think (probably wrongly) that it will dispel stereotypes held by the majority.

  • muggle

    Yeah, it’s great that he acknowledges there are nonbelievers in fox holes and that this guy went after anyone of any religion but what’s he doing about all the problems within the military that discriminate and harass non-Christians.

    Frankly, that situation plays into this one. Also, he was apparently trying to get out of the Army and do we really want soldiers not willing to fight. That does not make for a strong army.

    I’m not envying any Muslim soldiers after this. They are gonna be the ones facing the backlash. We will, any non-Christians will, but they are going to be specifically targeted and have a lot of hatred directed at them for what one did.

    Hell, what’s he doing period? I’m getting pretty impatient with waiting for the promised change.

    I’m still wondering how exactly he qualifies for the peace prize. He hasn’t even got us out of there yet. Just talked about it.

  • Valdyr

    It’s nice to have a president acknowledge us, but it’s definitely not going to change the minds of the type of people who despise atheists. Possibly the opposite–after all, if you believe the president is a Kenyan-born communist usurper and also the Antichrist, you’re not likely to stop and say, “Hey, if the president mentioned that group favorably, maybe they’re not so bad.”

    As for what he’s doing… I dunno. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on gay rights and assume that he hasn’t repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in order to preserve his chances of being re-elected, and assume he’ll immediately get rid of it if he does get a second term… but maybe that’s just me being uncharacteristically optimistic. When it comes to the wars, I don’t know what to say. I’m not sure what I’d do in an executive position myself. If we just totally pull out, all we’ll have done is fuck up those countries and leave them worse off than they were for basically no reason… but if we stay, what exactly can we accomplish?

  • Christy C.

    I noticed yesterday that he stated that “our thoughts are with the soldiers/families/etc”. Not “we pray for” but “our thoughts are with”. Thank you, President. “Our thoughts” is a ways to speak as the leader of ALL Americans… not just those of us who pray.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/gettingfreeftw gettingfree

    I think being acknowledged as a group is good. However, Obama needs to fulfill secular promises he made during his campaign…

    “President Obama promised in his campaign to preserve President George W. Bush’s faith-based initiative aimed at helping social service programs sponsored by religious organizations win federal grants and contracts. He also promised a vitally important change: groups receiving federal money would no longer be allowed to hire employees on the basis of their religion.

    The idea was to prevent discrimination and preserve the boundary between church and state. But Mr. Obama has not made good on the promise.”

    NY Times, Oct 13 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/14/opinion/14wed4.html

    .. otherwise is it just lip-service.

    (And the Nobel Peace Prize should be reserved for great achievements, not small things.)

  • Miko

    There’s a difference between doing something right and not doing something wrong. Obama’s words fall into the latter category.

    This is the kind of thing that won him the peace prize.

    The pathetic thing is that this is actually true. Never mind that he’s been dragging his feet and breaking promises on getting out of Iraq, expanding the war in Afghanistan, launching a whole new offensive (in the most literal sense of that word) of death from the skies in Pakistan, reneging on closing Gitmo by the end of the year, using the so-called State Secrets Privilege to defend the use of torture, expanding the Patriot Act, telling the Supreme Court that he doesn’t believe that there is a Constitutional right not to be framed for murder (in an amicus brief in McGhee-Harrington case), etc., etc., because those things don’t matter as long as he quotes accurate demographic statistics now and then.

    As Peter Brierley told Tony Blair, “I’m not shaking your hand, you’ve got blood on it.” At this point, thanking Obama for something so pathetically small as this is not at all different from a battered woman forgiving her abusive husband because he bought her flowers and promised it’d never happen again.

  • Miko

    As an aside, it’s curious that he used that same ordering of the five groups both times. I wonder if it’s just a phrase he’s memorized by rote or if he has polling data to suggest that that order is most effective rhetorically.

  • P

    Lol never the buddhists with him, huh?

  • http://web.utk.edu/~bvanderf/ Hazor

    Miko: My thoughts as well. The repetition suggests a lack of sincerity and more the typical politician behavior of trying to please people for support.

    P: And never mind the Pastafarians. :P

  • Bronzepot

    Check out the comments at the linked article. As usual, full of neo-”conservative” nut jobs who actually believe that Obama “hates America”.

  • Gabriel

    As an atheist who served in the military I am thrilled to be acknowledge. I am also amused by the many people who question his accomplishments. What has he done? Why does he deserve the noble prize? Here is a question. What have you done? What are you doing? Does it amount to more than sitting in your room in your parents house writing on blogs? Do something better than the president and you will have standing until then you are just an anonymous person on the internet, probably living in your parents garage or basement because you are too noble to work and support yourself.

  • http://langeekblogs.blogspot.com Alli

    He didn’t mention us Buddhists :(
    But since I fall into the “non-believer” category, I don’t really mind

  • Anon E. Mous

    “nonbelievers” is extremely condescending.

  • http://smokesignalsonawindyday.blogspot.com/ Injun Trouble

    I admire his efforts to make the “non-theists” a part of the American fabric. Being the son of an atheist mother, he’s doing his best to put forth some sense of equality for us all. If his efforts seem stifled, it’s only because of the MASSIVE theistic base that currently exists in the White House. He’s trying not to rock the boat, so to speak…..some may think that’s not enough. I’m just glad he’s acknowledging us At All.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    No offense, Gabriel, but you’ve just committed a rather severe logical fallacy by asserting that if we haven’t met some standard you’ve created, our opinions don’t matter. It’s essentially just a veiled way of saying “shut up”.

    Though I do thank you for your service, I have to point out that you don’t gain expertise on the subject of qualifications for Nobel prizes by being a member of the military, in the same way that the parents of a school shooting victim don’t gain expertise on violence in schools (though they’re often treated as if they have).

  • Gareth

    Gabriel, in a comment above MikeTheInfidel asserted that he wished to offer you no offence in what followed, i cannot begin on the same footing. MikeTheInfidel points out a logical fallacy in your comment. Unfortunately, his example is but one of at least three. Firstly, you assert “Do something better than the president and you will have standing until then you are just an anonymous person on the internet”. Doing something better is an exceptionally subjective concept. Taking no action could logically be considered better than a disasterous one. Therefore if anyone contends that President Obama has acted negligently or against American interests then, even by your own standard, irrespective of what they have done, they have the right to criticize. Moreover, by any commonly understood definition of democracy, a citizen has the absolute right to hold their representatives to account irrespective of their own status or disposition, assuming they have not given up their rights through unlawful actions. Many would see the Presidency as the most challenging role imaginable. Moreover, the Presidency comes with the most leverage of power. Therefore it is logical to assert that no one has the potential or power to “do better” than the President. Thus, by your contention, no one should criticize him. Secondly, you may have not noticed that this is an atheist community. The cornerstone of atheist philosophy is rationale thinking. For you to assert without any knowledge of the people who communicate here that we are “probably living in [our] parents garage or basement because [we] are too noble to work and support [ourselves]” is the kind of illogical, idiotic nonsense better kept for the rather hollow interior of your cranium. If you have a disagreement with a contributor, formulate a response worthy of this forum rather then degrade it with such crap otherwise you just look like a moron. Your service should be respected, your stupid opinions should not

  • http://www.meetup.com/Hearts-of-the-south/ Steve Schlicht

    Our deepest and most sincere condolences are with all those individuals and families affected by this horrible brutal attack on our service men and women at Ft. Hood.

    May a reasoned and diligent criminal investigation proceed so that we can find the necessary answers and bring some semblance of justice and closure for the greater good of our community.

    Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers Founder, Military Director of the American Atheists and friend, Kathleen Johnson, works at Ft. Hood and has been there throughout this horrible event.

    In response to the recent speech by President Obama with inclusive and positive language regarding non-believers in the military, she writes,

    “The tragedy of Ft. Hood claimed soldiers regardless of what they believe in respect to religion, though. Our armed forces — at all levels — need to be united. It’s good to know that our Commander-in-Chief shares that vision.”

    Thank you Kathleen for your long time military service and for your care and compassion for our military personnel.

    E Pluribus Unum

    Steve Schlicht
    Biloxi MS
    msatheists.org

  • keddaw

    …he deserves our appreciation when he does something right.

    Appreciation for a President doing something right? Is that not his job?

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/gettingfreeftw gettingfree

    Gabriel, let’s hear exactly what you think the president has done that deserves the Nobel Peace Prize that we might be clear on the standard?

    Don’t be vague like a Christian apologetic when they defend their god.

    (I would like to thank you very much for serving our country. Our military is a necessity.)

  • muggle

    What has he done? Why does he deserve the noble prize? Here is a question. What have you done? What are you doing? Does it amount to more than sitting in your room in your parents house writing on blogs? Do something better than the president and you will have standing until then you are just an anonymous person on the internet, probably living in your parents garage or basement because you are too noble to work and support yourself.

    I note that you were totally unable to answer the first two questions. I wonder why. Could it be that you too do not know? That you’re as mystified as everyone else why he was handed the thing on a silver platter without earning it?

    I’ll tell you what I haven’t done: I haven’t run for President. Why when I see so much that could change for the better in the US? Because, frankly, I’m not qualified to do the job and could not handle it — so, even if I could win, I wouldn’t run.

    I also do not see myself as deserving of a Nobel Prize precisely because I have done nothing to earn it. If it were offered to me, I’d turn it down for that very reason. This is what Obama should have done since he has also done nothing to earn it.

    As for living in parents’ basement, etc.: No, I’m 51 years of age and have been working for a living since I was 16; semi-supporting myself at 16, fully supporting myself from 18 on. Thank you very much. Probably longer than you’ve freaking been alive. Least ways, that was a very naive assumption that makes you sound rather wet behind the ears.

    As for having standing, I and every citizen of this country has standing to approve or disapprove of our President as we see fit. This is the United States of America.

    Do you not even know what you defended (if you really are a veteran)?

  • DGKnipfer

    I should get excited? He hasn’t pushed to repeal DADT yet. He hasn’t closed GITMO. He has fought to create minimal healthcare reform. I hope he doesn’t waist all his political clout on the one issue that is hardest to solve.

  • David

    I feel like there’s a false “words VS things that matter” dichotomy going on here. Through his words, the president has shown respect for us, one of the least respected groups in the nation. True, words need to be backed up with actions. But words and other means of exchanging ideas are on the forefront of changing the way we are percieved. Words are the ways that actions are inspired and prejudices are changed.

    After a months-long application process, my officer commission paperwork is in processing as I type this. If I am granted the commission, it will be an honor to serve under a president that recognizes my personal value as equal to a theist’s. Just as uplifting the president’s words were, it would have been equally degrading to serve under George HW “neither citizens nor patriots” Bush.

    The president’s words are not enough to secure our rights in a nation that trusts us least of any other group. However, his words are a big start, and I hope that they will be the impetus for both a change in policy and a change in the perceptions and prejudices of the citizenry.

  • Jonas

    Had to check the source: Kristina Peterson’s article specifically mentions the faith of the suspect. Not going into any detail as usual — I have to say ‘So what’s his religion to do with it?’

    Unless you can show the suspect was a fundamentalist Muslim sleeper agent, and Osama Bin Ladin was his pope, so what. — Are you trying to create a backlash against Muslims serving in the military?

    Again yes there are atheists in the military, just as there are non-christian people of faith, but when are you going to let them out of the closet along with the Gay/Lesbian soldiers? Repeal Don’t Ask / Don’t Tell already, we know it’s a failure. Besides did not racial integration in the military work, when ordered, why when put to the test would this not work?

  • http://www.parentingbeyondbelief.com Dale McGowan

    For years we rightly complain about being invisible to our political leadership. Now someone shows that we are visible, that we do count, makes the effort to show it again and again. And what do we do? We complain about his word choice, or suspect his word order shows too much premeditation, or shrug it off and “Yeah, but…” our way into the next complaint, and the next.

    This kind of ungenerous response makes me think we damn well deserve the margin we’re stuck in.

  • http://www.meetup.com/Hearts-of-the-south/ Steve Schlicht

    Dale,

    My view is that you simply cannot please all of the people all of the time…and we humans are routinely more drawn to the flame than the flower.

    Did you note those posts which were appreciative and respectful?

    I look for those rare jewels because they are hopeful.

    Steve Schlicht
    Biloxi MS

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