Thursday, 22 January 2009

Has the lack of a Bible at Obama's "second inauguration" been overplayed?

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At the risk of throwing cold water on things, is there a chance that the whole issue of the fluffed oath at Barack Obama's inauguration, and the subsequent rerun in the White House, has been slightly overplayed?

Could it be that a desire for a story (as if there weren't enough of those around on the day the first black US president was sworn in) has made something out of nothing, even leading to Obama having to take a couple of minutes out from his first day on the job to retake the oath (talk about having enough to be getting on with). After it all, it seems to have been Fox news that started the "debate" over whether he was legally president in light of the fluffed oath.

And now that Obama has taken it properly, we have a new debate over the implications of there being no Bible involved the second time around. We've had atheist bloggers claiming it shows the lack of emphasis the new president places on religion, while opponents argue it could damage his relationship with religious Americans.

But let's face it, the lack of a Bible doesn't really demonstrate that much, does it? The official word from the administration is that there wasn't a Bible at hand and, to be honest, the last thing likely to have been on Obama's mind as he set about cleaning up after the Bush presidency would have been sending a subtle message about religion by deliberately forgoing the use of a Bible while taking the second oath. Although, as the Heresiarch points out in some measured analysis, it seems unlikely this would have happened in the Bush White House.

We know that Obama is a Christian, however much fervent atheists and evangelical Christians on both sides would like to argue to the contrary. But we've also seen major signs that he's a moderate, tolerant Christian, who seems determined not to let religion be a divisive issue in America. With that in mind, far more important than the lack of a Bible at the second swearing-in was this nod to atheists in his inaugural address:
"For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Chris tians 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."
Now that definitely wouldn't have happened under Bush.


martian613 said...

Based on Obama's campaign willingness to talk with Iran, his inauguration comments about cozying up to the muslim world, which hates us, & his decision to close prisons housing muslim enemies of the US, I'm surprised he didn't us e a koran.

Anonymous said...

Ah, is that what nice, normal, intelligent people are carrying these days? You ever think that the prisons housing Muslims (not yet proven to be enemies of your state) could be partly the reason some members of the Muslim world hate you? I think you need to go away and think a little harder about it all. Or perhaps just go away?

scottmaciver said...

Forget it Anon, people like Martian don't need actual PROOF that 'rag heads' are enimies. That just slows the whole process down....punishment without trial is much more efficient.

IMO, Xian said...

This is the dumbest story ever. It's beyond me how anyone would consider it anything more than a fun little bit of historical trivia, like how it was so cold at Reagan's inauguration that they held it inside. Or Nixon didn't want pidgeon droppings on the parade so he had people put something on branches that would keep pidgeon's away, but they ended up eating it and the parade route was covered with dead pigeons instead of just their droppings. Funny, cute, useless information.

Pete said...

Let us hope that Obama IS tolerant - his predecessor's father was a religious nut. This is the 21st century for Pete's sake - the American fascination for killing things and believing in fairy tales will finish it off if everyone doesn't grow up.

Anonymous said...

Oh I know Scott, I know Martian is a silly little man, with a silly little brain, but it doesn't mean he is allowed to find this nice little haven (and how did he find this place?) and then dump all over it with nasty little comments. Oooh, a president who dares to talk with leaders of another country before they bomb the shit out of them? How quaint. Grrrr.


scottmaciver said...


Although what Paul said about Obama giving a slight nod to nontheists in his speach was true. When i heard that on tuesday a wide smile spread across my face.

But I'd say that Obama's most forward thinking (read anti fundamentalist) views are on abortion and bio-sciences like stem cell research.

Anonymous said...

I'm actually very excited by the prospect of a Prez who dares to mention the A word. Brave man. And his policies in so many areas back up a very brave agenda. With a Dem. Congress and Senate I'd hope he will make at least some progress in his first term without being beaten back by the neo-cons and old farts who hate change. The sort of people who question the validity of an oath without an old book being present.
Sorry Martian, you are living in a brand new world, a better one hopefully.

scottmaciver said...

"With a Dem. Congress and Senate I'd hope he will make at least some progress in his first term..."

I hope you're right. I work in Borders book shop and this morning whilst putting out the mags I flicked through the Tablet - the catholic churches weekly. According to one of its' reporters this mag is sure that things like a pro-choice bill will never even go to congress. Something to do with pro-life democrates not wanting to loose their seats in the 2010 bi-election.

But then, it could be biased...

Andy said...

Well, he claims to be a Christian. But then anyone with political ambitions in the US has to. Is he really?

scottmaciver said...

he has attended church for a long time....yet surely he had ambitions to be prez for a long time maybe...

you raise a good point though....I can't find the study but i saw one recently that showed it owlud be easier for a out-gay person to be elected than an out-nontheist.

Anonymous said...

Who cares what religion he belongs to? After reading the quote from his speech above in the story, who cares what book he swears on, or whether he swears on one at all?

That there is a religious book under the hand of our politicians for official occasions is troubling enough. That politicians will lie no mater where their hand is during an oath shouldn't surprise anyone. If anything, what we need is more separation. I'm not about to advocate an end to religion, I'm just sick of it being so obstructive to progress in government.

Don't like Evolution? Home school. Don't like stem cells? Don't walk after your spinal injury. Don't like Muslims? Christians? Buddhists? Don't talk to them. I really don't see what the problem is.

Zabimaru said...

Here is something I've felt the need to say several times these last few days, and feel the need to say again thanks to martian613:

After the inauguration of Obama, the world's opinion of America is once again on the rise, after eight long years of decline.

That you managed to elect a man who seems so sensible and intelligent (and that you actually have the guy who got the most votes in office now), that you managed to have 2 million people to see the inauguration without any fights or trouble, that Obama is a black man and many other things have reminded the world that Americans aren't necessarily guntoting, racist, overreactionary rednecks who want to bomb all of the middle east for little to no reason.
The world is once again on the way to uniting in cries of "America, Fuck Yeah!"

But people like martian613 really try to ruin that.

Based on Obama's campaign willingness to talk with Iran

There are few things that are scarier than people who think that talking things over is wrong or evil. Not talking is what starts wars. Refusing to listen to their point of view is one of the things that make some Muslims hate America.
If Obama actually does have good talks with Iran he'll be doing all Americans a favor.

his inauguration comments about cozying up to the muslim world, which hates us & his decision to close prisons housing muslim enemies of the US

Treating every member of a faith as an enemy, when a very tiny percentage of them have ever done anything against you, is certainly something that encourages terrorism.
Terrorist leaders thrive on the fact that America detain Muslims without due process; it makes it very easy to recruit people to the cause, and so much easier to motivate calling America "The Great Satan."

I'm surprised he didn't us e a koran.

Ah, yes, because anyone who doesn't treat every member of a different faith as an enemy is a member of that faith?
This is why war and strife between religious people is so prevalent. If people aren't allowed to have civil talks with each other there is no hope for understanding and lasting peace.

So, in short, martian613, shut the hell up and let the world forget you.
I am sure that your ilk is a minority in America, but for eight years you have been so loud that it has been hard for the rest of us to remember that most Americans are nice and sensible people.

Michael said...

It would be excellent if, after 8 years of a kick-ass presidency, Barack Obama comes out as a Muslim or an Atheist. Maybe people like martian will realize that faith (or lack thereof) doesn't (or shouldn't) make a difference