Utne Blogs > Mind and Body

Spiritual Extremes in Obama’s America

by Jake Mohan 

Tags: Spirituality, religion, politics, Election 2008, Barack Obama, Religious Right, Christianity, atheism, New Atheists, Revealer, Huffington Post, Slate,

Barack Obama’s faith was the subject of a lot of analysis on the campaign trail, and many are pondering the effect that his victory will have on religions in America. Jeff Sharlet at the Revealer wonders whether Obama’s election signals the demise of the Religious Right, but some think that reports of the movement’s death are premature. Sharlet quotes conservative scholar D. Michael Lindsay who predicts that an Obama Administration will give the movement something rally against: “Political movements like the Religious Right don’t need a ‘god’ to succeed, but they do need a devil. Nothing builds allegiances among a coalition like a common enemy.”

The Religious Right might make an enemy of Obama, even though he is a Christian, because his faith is moderate and measured, and because he’s prone to seek out different opinions and shun absolutism.

This measured worldview could be why Obama will present a problem the New Atheists, too. As Frank Schaffer wrote for the Huffington Post the day after the election that Obama’s victory is drawing the curtain on an era on spiritual certitude and intolerance at both extremes:

Into the all or nothing culture wars, and the all or nothing wars between the so-called New Atheists and religion the election of President elect Obama reintroduces nuance. President elect Obama’s ability to believe in Jesus, yet question, is going to rescue American religion in general and Christianity in particular, from the extremes.