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No religious test

Reader comment on item: Confirmed: Barack Obama Practiced Islam

Submitted by Joe Erwin (United States), Feb 11, 2008 at 17:09

Our Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and requires that there be no religious test for political leaders. So why are we injecting all this stuff about religion, including Obama's childhood religious practice into this discussion? My suspicion is that it is designed to take him down a few notches and to try to manufacture reasons for small-minded people to oppose him ...

As a child my experience was in a fundamentalist evangelical Christian religion that taught that anyone not believing as we did was doomed to everlasting torture in hell. Hell was clearly going to be a pretty big place, considering that salvation was reserved for less than 200,000 people. We were also taught the clearly false young earth creation concept, and many other errors. Many people raised this way in my religion and others like it, learn that it is an inaccurate view of the world. They may remain nominal members, but may live a life not in accord with the rigid doctrines of their religion. So, you have a lot of "Jack Mormans" in Utah, and not every Baptist attends church regularly. Not all Catholics get to mass very often. And some people who become agnostic or even atheistic go on to live decent lives--as good and decent as those lived by anyone else. Well, even though 85-90 percent of Indonesians identify themselves as Muslims, not nearly that many are rigid practitioners of that faith.

In fact, a VERY small percentage are extreme. Many are what we might call "Jack Muslims." And Indonesia is NOT an Islamic Republic. It is structured as a democracy. The Constitution DOES include five principles upon which the nation is founded, and one of those is belief in one God--but the NAME of that God is not specified, and, after all, Allah, Yaweh, and Jehovah are generally acknowledged by Indonesians as the same Guy. In some Indonesian provinces, there are more Christians than Muslims. In at least one province (Bali), the dominant religion is Hindu. It is a complex place. Obama was fortunate to live there as a child.

I suspect it made him a more well-rounded and more tolerant person. Such an experience would probably not have harmed any of us. We need more American leaders who have had substantial experiences in other countries. Such experiences highlight for us the strengths and weaknesses of our system, and can help us grow stronger and better, as individuals and as a nation.

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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