President Obama's inauguration speech and references to God
(This is also posted on servingatheists.org)
I listened to President Obama's inauguration speech with interest today because I believe myself to be a responsible American citizen. How he frames his next term is important to me and all citizens of the United States and, indeed, to everyone around the world. But I also listened to his speech to see how often and in what ways he would invoke religion and make references to God. In short, Obama mentioned God no fewer than five times. He ended his speech with, "Thank you. God bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America."
When Obama -or other public speakers in the United States- refer to God they think that they are being inclusive of all believers since the three Abrahamic religions refer to "God" in some form. But what of the large number who are non-theists? Can you imagine a President or other public speaker knowingly saying something that they know marginalizes, for example, Jewish people?
As a researcher examining the world of atheists for the last five years, I know that his words made a large number of people in the United States uncomfortable. Here is the relevant question from my most recent survey and the responses:
Which best describes how you feel in public gatherings where religion is invoked (for example when a speaker refers to God or says a prayer)?
I feel no discomfort 10.67% 688
I feel slight discomfort 30.19% 1,947
I feel moderate discomfort 35.09% 2,263
I feel great discomfort 24.06% 1,552
From these data I think it is safe to say that the nearly 20% of US citizens who fall in "none" category when it comes to religion were made at least somewhat uncomfortable, many extremely so, by President Obama's overt religiosity.
How about you?