First the good news …
Obama will be President of the US. Although he’s a Christian (an essential qualification, as things stand – no chance of an atheist President, yet), he’s a liberal Christian. Maybe his attitude might be more like that of former President Jimmy Carter, who said, “I was very meticulous in completely separating my religious faith from any element of politics or governance in the White House. I believed in what Thomas Jefferson, one of our founding fathers, said that we should build a wall between Church and state. I worship a prince of peace, not a prince of pre-emptive war.”
Religion plays a huge role in US politics. If you didn’t watch Channel 4’s ‘True Stories: Jesus Politics’ on 28 October, you have 22 days left to view it online on the Channel 4 website (you’ll need broadband and Windows Media Player). The Republican Right has the strongest links to evangelical Christianity – you’d be forgiven for thinking that, as far as George Bush is concerned, God is an American and votes Republican.
After I’d emailed group members along these lines, one replied, “This reminds me of a TV documentary I saw ages ago, looking at how few people in the US learn languages other than their own English or Spanish. I recall one of the evangelical people interviewed saying to camera that ‘since the English used by Jesus in the bible was good enough for him, it’s good enough for me’.”
Obama may seem less hawkish than his predecessor, and more inclined to regard the environment as a crucial issue, so maybe the world will be a safer place with him in office, but what do US Humanists and atheists feel about him? The Institute for Humanist Studies quotes Ronald Aronson, professor at Wayne State University and author of Living without God: New Directions for Atheists, Agnostics, Secularists, and the Undecided. He says, “Life will be better for secularists (and almost everyone else) under an Obama presidency, but piety will still prevail in America and we secularists will largely remain a fragmented, unorganized non-community…” Meanwhile, The American Humanist Association claims that Obama was “raised as a Humanist.”
The bad news is that, despite the fact that many gay and lesbian voters supported Obama, California voters have adopted a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, known as Proposition 8. Thousands of gay marriages have taken place in the state. Gay marriage is unpopular with the Black Churches that Obama needed votes from, so he was unlikely to openly support gay rights. In Obama’s US, some people will still be more equal than others.