For the first time I can recall my President acknowledges me.

I watched Obama’s inauguration speech being replayed last night after getting home from class and there was a sentence I couldn’t help but notice and feel good about:

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.

Granted it’s just words, but it’s nice to be acknowledged as an American after so many years of Presidents either not mentioning us at all or saying things like the first President Bush in 1987 when he was still a Vice President:

No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God.

It’s a small gesture, but it’s still nice to be included rather than excluded. It’s good to know that my President won’t dismiss what I have to say simply because we disagree on the existence of God(s). Most of all it’s nice to not be vilified for a change.

It seems I’m not the only one who noticed:

Using inclusive language about religion is pretty much ritual now. If you’re a politician giving a speech and you’re going to cite one faith, you have to cite many—i.e., not just Christians, but Jews, Muslims, and Hindus as well. And that’s a good thing.

But if the standards of polite political discourse now require accepting people who pray to god in different ways, it doesn’t require recognizing those who choose not to pray at all. At least not yet. That made this line in Obama’s address significant: 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.

Perhaps this is another barrier, albeit a rhetorical one, that Obama intends to tear down over the next few years.

It certainly gives me reason to hope. Something Obama seems to be pretty good at.

14 thoughts on “For the first time I can recall my President acknowledges me.

  1. I take “non-believers” as an insult. He wasn’t acknowledging us, he was putting us down for not “believing” in an invisible sky daddy.

  2. I’m rather pleased to hear it. I have to admit there’s something mildly off-putting about the term “non-believer”, but I suppose I might see that in “atheist” too.

    It’s a step forward that I am glad for.

  3. I was completely stunned when I heard him say that and it is a step in the right direction.  Also, I am not really offended by the concept of “Non-Believer” since it covers Agnostic and Athiest and because it has completely pissed off the uber-believers of the right who still see us as not being American Citizens.

  4. I liked it too.  I think unbeliever is an appropriate word to use…It encompasses a wider scope than Atheist does.

  5. I appreciate what the (now) president said, but it’s not him I’m worried about.  The fact that he was elected means it wasn’t all that important on a grand scale.  I’m more concerned with certain religious “leaders” that still have enough power to insist we still have stupid things like “In God We Trust” on our money and “One Nation Under God” in our pledge.
      I’d like to know what Obama thinks of that.

  6. While I’m really pleased to see that agnostics and atheists were actually recognized in Obama’s speech, as a Heathen (which is basically the Norse branch of NeoPaganism) I’m still looking for the day when the list of acknowledged faiths extends beyond Christianity, Hindu, Islam, Judaism and the occasional mentions of Buddhism.  I’d would have loved if he’d said “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, followers of faiths large and small and those who follow none”  (rephrasing the “non-believers” just for “flow.”

    Speaking of which, Moloch – this is just my opinion, but “non-believer” is only an insult if you consider “believer” to be the only acceptable standard. If “believer” is simply one option, then “non-believer” becomes just another option.

  7. Obama retakes oath, really is president now

    By Yael T. Abouhalkah, Kansas City Star Editorial Page columnist

    Barack Obama wisely and quickly retook the presidential oath of office Wednesday night from Chief Justice John Roberts.

    Why wisely?

    Remember, Obama still can’t convince some people that he’s not a Muslim. Or that he’s a natural-born citizen.

    He certainly didn’t want to start his first term in office with any cloud hanging over the legitimacy of whether he really was, technically, the president of the United States.

    Roberts had slightly scrambled some words while administering the oath at Tuesday’s inauguration. As a result, Obama did not say the oath, word for word, as it’s laid out in the U.S. Constitution.

    By Wednesday afternoon, legitimate constitutional scholars were saying Obama ought to retake the oath, just to make sure he was really president.

    It was the proper move by Obama.

    Spending a few minutes to retake the oath of office Wednesday will avoid four years of diverting questions about this issue.

    Cover all the bases just before some challenge occurs, good thinking.

    On a different note, re your little God banner:

    The UK Advertising Standards Authority has ruled in our favour, decided not to investigate the 326 complaints about the Atheist Bus Campaign adverts, and closed the case. Hurray!

    It’s a great day for freedom of speech in Britain. Atheists are officially allowed to be represented in public for the very first time (adverts are not pre-vetted by legal organisations before they go up) and a rational counter-view can now be visible at any point to balance out evangelical advertising.

    Most people have recognised that ours is a gentle, philosophical advert aimed at non-believers and fearful agnostics. We’re really pleased that the ASA has recognised this too. At last, we have a truly free voice – and it feels good.

  8. I voted for Obama, and still would.  But let’s not forget that Obama’s speech was preceded by this drivel:

    And may we never forget that one day all nations and all people will stand accountable before you.

    Definitely a moment when I DIDN’T feel good about being ‘included’.

  9. Rover, Obama is a believer plus that sort of crap plays well with the religious folks so I’d have been very surprised if he hadn’t said something like that.

  10. mildly off-putting about the term “non-believer”, but I suppose I might see that in “atheist”

    Unbeliever was out. Too many negative connotations. Atheist and agnostic means wildly different things to different poeople, plus they are too narrow.

    As for being surprised – well, actually he has done this thing before, mentioning nonbelievers as part of the American society. In quite similar ways. So instead of being surprised, I am buyoyed that he felt is relevant enough when most nonbelievers would not have held it against him if he had gone the easy route and omitted it.

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