President Obama's religious identity - Does it matter?

August 20, 2010

August 20, 2010

According to a recent national survey, conducted by the Pew Research Center, a growing number of Americans believe President Obama is a Muslim. When asked in October 2008, "Do you happen to know what Barack Obama's religion is? Is he Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist, agnostic, or something else?" roughly 12% responded that he is a Muslim (compared to 51% who said he is a Christian). As of August 2010, however 18% said he was a Muslim and only 34% said he was a Christian. (Additionally, some 43% of respondents said they "don't know.") It should be noted that this most recent survey was completed early this month, before President Obama's statements regarding the proposed construction of a mosque two blocks from the site of the former World Trade Center.

So what exactly should we conclude from these findings? According to an article that accompanied the survey titled "Growing Number of Americans Say Obama is a Muslim: Religion, Politics and the President," "Beliefs about Obama’s religion are closely linked to political judgments about him. Those who say he is a Muslim overwhelmingly disapprove of his job performance, while a majority of those who think he is a Christian approve of the job Obama is doing. Those who are unsure about Obama’s religion are about evenly divided in their views of his performance." Evidence of this is 67% of those who believe he is a Muslim disapprove of his job performance. The question remains however... what exactly should we conclude from these findings?

It may be some time before social scientists and cultural critics weigh-in on the causes and implications of these results, but its never too early for students at High Point University to consider the issue. Does it matter what religion our President professes? If so, why? Assume for a moment that our current President is a practicing and believing Christian, can you see a day when a professed Muslim or Buddhist IS elected to the presidency? How religiously tolerant is the United States? Start thinking, as we may wrestle with these very questions during Week One of school.

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