home
RSS
My Take: Obama is not a Muslim (and Romney is a Mormon)!
There are a lot of misconceptions about the religious faiths of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, according to a new Pew survey.
July 27th, 2012
02:00 AM ET

My Take: Obama is not a Muslim (and Romney is a Mormon)!

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

Before I comment on a new survey on religion and the presidency, I want to say one thing: Barack Obama is not a Muslim. The U.S. president does not observe the Five Pillars of Islam. He does not worship in a mosque. He does not call himself a Muslim.

Why not? BECAUSE HE IS NOT A MUSLIM!

Also, Mitt Romney is not a Hindu. He does not believe in reincarnation. He does not worship the Hindu god Shiva. He does not self-identify as a Hindu. Why not? BECAUSE HE IS NOT A HINDU!

I say this, and I do so in capital letters with exclamation points, because of a survey released Thursday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life regarding voter perceptions of the religious beliefs of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

The people at Pew wanted to see how the candidates' religions are affecting voters’ views of them. But it is hard to hold Romney’s Mormonism either for or against him if you don’t even know he is a Mormon. And according to Pew, only 60% of Americans do know that.

Meanwhile, one out of every six Americans (17%) continues to believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim, and of that group, two out of three (65%) are uncomfortable with his faith. Though, of course, they are not actually uncomfortable with his faith, because, as I have said: Barack Obama is not a Muslim.

If this is starting to sound like a rant, perhaps that's because it is. For years, I have been lamenting the religious ignorance of the American public. In my book "Religious Literacy," I argued that the United States is one of the most religious countries on Earth, and yet Americans know very little about their own religions and even less about the religions of others.

According to the 2010 U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey, another Pew project, most Americans cannot name the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. And while 82% can identify Mother Teresa as a Catholic, only 47% know that the Dalai Lama is a Buddhist.

You might imagine that this problem is going away, but it is actually getting worse. Despite the fact that Obama has talked repeatedly about his Christian faith in the years since he was elected president, most Americans (51%) do not even know that he is a Christian.

Moreover, 30% of Republicans now believe that Obama is Muslim, roughly double the figure from the 2008 campaign.

None of this would matter if religion remained private, something presidents and senators did on the weekends in their places of worship and at the supper table throughout the week. But religion is now an undeniably public concern.

Republicans and Democrats alike routinely bring religious reasons to bear on public policy questions, quoting the Good Samaritan story in debates on immigration policy and the Sermon on the Mount in conversations about marginal tax rates. And the overwhelming majority of Americans — 67%, according to Pew — continue to want their president to have strong religious beliefs.

When he was running for president in 1960, Jack Kennedy told the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, “I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic.”

That sort of argument no longer washes in a public square saturated with religion. For better or for worse, Mitt Romney isn’t just the Republican candidate for president. He is also the Mormon candidate. Or is he? If a Mormon runs for president and you vote for him without knowing that he is a Mormon, did you just vote for a Mormon president?

I used to believe that our epidemic of religious illiteracy was rooted in large part in a system of public education unwilling and unprepared to teach our young people about the Bible and the world’s religions. I now see that much of the problem can be attributed to our partisan politics, more particularly the politicization of virtually every corner of our common life, including the facts.

According to today’s Pew survey, 34% of conservative Republicans are now laboring under the misapprehension that Obama is a Muslim. This figure is up sharply from only 16% in 2008.

Where are they getting this disinformation? Obviously from people who have something to gain by it. And there is plenty to be gained by it. According to Pew, 82% of Americans who know Obama is a Christian are comfortable with his faith, versus only 26 percent of those who wrongly see him as a Muslim.

I see nothing wrong with a public square informed by religious reasons. From the beginning of our republic, religion and politics have been in conversation with one another. Church and state have never been strictly separated.

But there is something deeply troubling about the state of religion and politics in America today. And among those troubles is the cynical manipulation of religion for political gain - the use of God as a pawn in our political projects.

One solution to this problem is religious literacy. If "we the people" know more about the Bible, politicians will be less likely to quote from it haphazardly or to draw bogus conclusions from its words.

The same goes for Mormonism or Islam or Hinduism. If we know more about these religious traditions, there will be fewer opportunities for politicians to use disinformation about them to draw us toward one candidate or scare us away from another.

I have no problem with voters who care about the religious faith of their presidential candidates. But if religion is so darn important to our public life, can't we at least make a modest effort to learn something about it?

If so, let's start with these two indisputable facts: Mitt Romney is a Mormon. And Barack Obama is not a Muslim.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Barack Obama • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • Islam • Mitt Romney • Mormonism • Obama • Politics • Polls • Uncategorized • United States

soundoff (831 Responses)
  1. trekie70

    "In my book "Religious Literacy," I argued that the United States is one of the most religious countries on Earth, and yet Americans know very little about their own religions and even less about the religions of others."

    I don't think it could be put any more concisely. Americans tend to be ignorant about the in-depth aspects of any given religion, yet take what they hear from friends or the media as "absolute fact." Evangelicals in-particular become defensive when asked to defend their beliefs when a contradiction is pointed out.

    July 30, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  2. SPA Knight

    Obama is certainly not a Muslim or he wouln;t be peddling his daughters as reasons for promoting planned parenthood. I'm not sure a sensible Mormon, Christian or any other respectable person of character would do that either. Not sure what kind of fathers would peddler his own daughters for political points.

    July 30, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • visitor

      That's true. Bush just ignored his twins while they fell on the sidewalk drunk in New York, while Daddy was President. Teaching birth control is just so odious. Less Birth Control, More Drunks!

      July 31, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
  3. godwad alert

    "If "we the people" know more about the Bible, politicians will be less likely to quote from it haphazardly or to draw bogus conclusions from its words."

    Also, if we the people learn less and less about the Bible until it eventually fades from existence, then we wouldnt have to worry about that problem period.

    July 30, 2012 at 6:31 am |
  4. Grizzly

    What are all you kooks talking about? ThevAmerican people vote fot whomever they want to be their President. It doesn't natter what religion he/she practices, because that has nothing to do with running the country. If he/she is capable to govern then why should we question their religion?

    July 29, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
  5. More Time at the Table

    Can you spell "Jeremiah Wright?"

    July 29, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
  6. Linda Lara

    Mitt Romney is a Morman, Mormanism is a cult. Obama is a good Christian. If anyone would bother to look at Black Theology beyond the "God Damm America" comment, you would find a Christian Church filled with the Holy Spirit. A church that loves Jesus. A church that believes in being born again.
    Strange that most white evangelicals are so egar to vote for a member of a Cult.

    July 29, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • Erik B.

      I kind of doubt that Obama is a 'good Christian' whatever that means. He appears to have belief. He doesnt wear it on his sleeve like the wacko right wingers do. If the bible belt thumpers are 'good Christians' that Obama is not one of those.

      July 29, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • yodude

      they're both really cults.

      July 30, 2012 at 4:09 am |
    • SPA Knight

      A person's faith is reflected in their character. If he's a christian, then how can he promote a culture of death and pass on a debt onto the next generation that can never be paid for. That is simply immoral for any person claiming to have faith whether Muslim, Mormon, Christian or whatever.

      July 30, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • T-Max73

      Actually, Christianity was once considered a cult. All religions begin as cults; belief systems outside mainstream beliefs. Christianity may be more widely subscribed than Mormonism, but it is no less bizarre and silly to those who were not indoctrinated into these ideas.

      "One man's religion is another man's belly laugh." ~ H. L. Mencken

      July 30, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Nancy

      Interesting that you are so ignorant of what Mormons are. Perhaps you should try to find out what they believe. Mostly the same as you. They are Christians. So how did you all the sudden become an expert on cults and on Mormons. Try learning something before you show your ignorance.

      August 2, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
  7. coltakashi

    Dr Prothero: I think whatnyou were trying to say is, a large number of American voters do not try to understand the religious beliefs of the candidates, because it would place a cinstraint on the rhetoric they can use to denigrate the ones they hate for other reasons. Since there are massive amounts of information on Mormon beliefs at Mormon.org and LDS.org, no American with internet access has any excuse for spouting slanderous lies about candidates or their religioys affiluations. They are intentionally ignorant, in order to promote gossip that demobstrates religioys bigotry. And they are sadly aided and abetted by many news reporters who are just a intentionally ignorant as thenanonymous blog commenters. You would think that organizations like MSNBC could afford to have religioys factncheckers to ensure they don't promote religious bias with fake statements about Mormons. But the writers on The Daily Show are more accurate writing jokes about Mormons than MSNBC repirters doing allegedly serious news. They apparently have no adult editorship on their news network.

    July 29, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • Camille Blackburn

      I agree with you. My biggest concern is the media's goal appears to be to make running for president like a sporting event. There doesn't seem to be an effort to have a serious interview at length and in depth for each candidate to express their plan and agenda (without interuption or interjection of trivial facts.. true or slated)

      July 30, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  8. Belinda Blosser

    My take is that Obama is intelligent enough not be believe in an invisible old man in the sky watching over us and still allowing horrible tragedies to befall the beings he supposedly loves. Believe me, if an earthly parent were to be so neglectful to their children, they'd be locked up and the key thrown away.

    July 29, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • Brenda

      I AM SO SORRY TO HEAR THAT YOU FEEL THAT WAY ABOUT MY HEAVENLY FATHER WHO DOES LOVE MANKIND. WHAT YOU AND THE REST OF THE WORLD DOESN'T UNDERSTAND IS ONE GOD GAVE MAN A FREE WILL, TWO, HE NEVER SAID THAT BAD THINGS WOULDN'T HAPPEN TO PEOPLE, HE SAID HE WOULD BE THERE FOR THEM WHEN IT DOES, TO HELP THEM THROUGH THE STORM. WHEN ADAM AND EVE SINNED IN THE GARDEN, THEY PUT A CURSE ON THE REST OF MANKIND WHICH RESULTED IN US BEING BORN INTO SIN AND A SINFUL WORLD. BUT IF YOU ACKNOWLEDGE AND ADMIT THAT YOU ARE A SINNER WHO HAS FALLEN SHORT OF GOD'S GLORY AND HIS PLANS FOR MANKIND THROUGH ACKNOWLEDGING THAT JESUS IS THE ETERNAL HOPE, SALVATION, REDEEMER, SACRIFICING LAMB FOR MANKIND. HE SHED HIS BLOOD ON THE CROSS TO REDEEMED AND SAVED YOU, ME AND THE REST OF MANKIND FROM THE PENALTY OF SIN, WHICH IS DEATH. WHAT I MEAN BY DEATH IS THAT YES, YOU AND I AND EVERYBODY WILL DIE A PHYSICALLY DEATH, BUT IF YOU RECEIVE CHRIST AS YOUR LORD AND SAVIOR THEN YOU WON'T DIE A SPIRITUAL DEATH THAT RESULTS IN US SPENDING ETERNITY SEPARATED FROM GOD. MY PRAYER AND HOPE IS THAT GOD WILL REMOVE THE BLINDNESS FROM YOUR EYES, SO YOU WILL BE ALLOWED TO SEE GOD AND JESUS. TO SEE THE TRUTH ABOUT THEM AND THE TRUTH ABOUT HOW THE DEVIL HAS DECEIVE MANKIND INTO BELIEVING THAT GOD ISN'T REAL OR THAT GOD DOESN'T CARE ABOUT YOU OR MANKIND. BECAUSE GOD DOES CARE VERY MUCH, HE CRY'S FOR YOU AND MANKIND.

      July 29, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • Smittens for Mittens and his Kittens

      Brenda- you need to get laid, sweet cheeks.

      July 29, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Erik B.

      All caps Brenda likes to yell about her illusion. That doesn't change it. Illusion is illusion. If its not illusion, why dont you show us the proof?

      July 29, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  9. Seyedibar

    I can barely tell the two candidates apart from their platforms, but one wrote for an atheist newsletter in college and the other believes that a demigod sorceror will return someday to Illinois and raze the world in flame an death.
    I'm gonna go with the first guy.

    July 29, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • coltakashi

      Sir, not a single thing you said has any relationship with the beliefs of either candidate. You are thebsame kind of religioys ignoramus that was duped by the Nazis into collaborating in the mass extermination of Jews. You need to learn some of Prothero's religious literacy.

      July 29, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  10. Veritas

    Do people in the US realize that it is only here and in very oppressive nations like Iran and Saudi Arabia that we seemingly care what religion our political leaders are. So sad, so sad. Jefferson must be turning in his grave.

    July 29, 2012 at 9:28 am |
  11. Reality

    What we do understand about religion- WE WOULD SAVE A LOT OF MONEY WITHOUT IT:

    To wit:

    How much money would the following save the US taxpayers ?: (And how many “souls” would be saved?)

    Saving 1.5 billion lost Muslims:
    There never were and never will be any angels i.e. no Gabriel, no Islam and therefore no more koranic-driven acts of horror and terror LIKE 9/11.

    – One trillion dollars over the next several years as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will end.

    – Eighteen billion dollars/yr to Pakistan will stop.

    – Four billion dollars/yr to Egypt will end.

    Saving 2 billion lost Christians including the Mormons:
    There were never any bodily resurrections and there will never be any bodily resurrections i.e. No Easter, no Christianity!!!

    – The Mormon ti-the empire will now become taxable as will all Christian "religions" and evangelical non-profits since there is no longer any claim to being a tax-exempt religion.

    – Saving 15.5 million Orthodox followers of Judaism:
    Abraham and Moses probaby never existed.

    prob•a•bly

    Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell.

    – Four billion dollars/yr to Israel saved.

    – All Jewish sects and non-profits will no longer be tax exempt.

    Now all we need to do is convince these 3.5+ billion global and local citizens that they have been conned all these centuries Time for a YouTube,Twitter and FaceBook campaign!!!!

    BOTTOM LINE: SAID SAVINGS WOULD PAY FOR UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE !!!!
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    July 29, 2012 at 9:23 am |
  12. Thomas

    Oh STOP!! I knew Mitt Romney was a Mormon. He made his religion clear. He didn't hide that fact. Who cares!!
    But the Obama..liar, wouldn't disclose his birth certificate, the most public record on any person; I have no idea what religion Obama is. Even if he does follow the Muslim faithful...he still hates America. Why did he attempt to ORDER the catholic church to violate their beliefs about ABORTION? He's a muslim hater of America!!

    July 29, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • ufadoof

      Dumb as a bag of rocks. ....shakes head and walks away..........

      July 29, 2012 at 9:15 am |
    • Veritas

      You are a bona fide idiot, Thomas

      July 29, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • Larry L

      A birther... A.K.A. a hateful, evil racist. Hate has blinded you to the point you're unable to think, be a good American citizen, or practice any religion that promotes the basic principles of humanity. If you believe in Hell you should worry.

      July 29, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • MY THOUGHTSCOUNT

      HEY BIRTHERS,
      HIS MOTHER WAS A US CITIZEN, THEREFORE. OBAMA HAS AUTOMATIC CITIZENSHIP. GET OVER IT!!!!!!! YOU LOSE

      July 30, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  13. James

    Romney's religion shares so many things in common with the average American. The average American wears magic mormon underwear, Their holy book was read from gold tablets hidden in a hat. His ancestors moved to Mexico so they could practice polygamy. Their founder Brigham Young had 150 men, women and children killed for passing though their territory. He's just like us?

    Meanwhile Obama chose to attend that same church as the hated George W. Bush, closet Muslim no doubt, after his previous pastor made racist remarks about white people. He found that offensive to most Americans, as well as to himself being a half white American.

    July 29, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • Martin

      James, you appear to be labroing under some misconceptions.
      1. Brigham Young was not the founder of the church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints. Jospeh Smith was the first prophet of this dispensation.
      2. Brigham Young did not order the Mountain Meadoes massacre. That was lead by rogue locals without the knowledge of our genreal church leadership. And it has always been condemned by our Church.
      3. The gold plates were not read from a hat. If you will read the preface to the Book of Mormon, you will get an abbreviated historical account.
      4. Our underwear isnot magic. It is cotton-polyester. It is meant to remind us of the covenents we have made as disciples of jesus Christ to serve our fellow man, thereby emulating our Savior. Please note, we are not the only ones who use special colthing as a token of rememberance. Jews and sihks immediately come to mind for me.

      If you wish to know more, to correct the misconceptions, please visit http://www.mormon.org

      July 29, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  14. nabb

    My take : Obama used to be a Muslim ( and Romney is still la Mormon) !

    July 29, 2012 at 8:10 am |
  15. truth be told

    Gods curse on a nation is to allow poor leadership.

    July 29, 2012 at 8:07 am |
  16. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    July 29, 2012 at 8:05 am |
    • Erik B.

      prove it!

      July 29, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • just sayin

      You are here. God bless

      July 29, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things
      Proven;

      July 29, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!^

      July 30, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  17. Swizzle

    I would like to see survey results for these two questions:

    1. Of those who knew Obama claims to be a Christian, what percentage perceive his actions to support that claim?

    2. Of those who knew Romney claims to be a Mormon, what percentage perceive his actions to support that claim?

    These surveys are constantly asking questions about religious labels, but I think they need to delve deeper to see which labels the public believes.

    July 29, 2012 at 2:38 am |
  18. Marilyn

    Of course he is not a Muslim, he had Osama Bin Laden killed for Christ sake, not only him but many other Muslims. Who ever thinks that is choosing to believe a lie, If he wasn't president no one eles would have had the balls to order that, not Clinton, Bush (he only wanted Sadam Husein dead even if many innocent people had to die too) or Romney. he has stated he would not have ordered it for what ever reason, He would still be alive right now planning to kill more Americans, Obama needs to be reelected for that reason and many more.

    July 29, 2012 at 12:19 am |
    • coltakashi

      Muslims predominantly kill other Muslims. Almost all the deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq over the last decade were Muslims killing other Muslims over religious arguments, tribal disagreements, and political power. In Syria Assad is killing thousands of Muslims.

      As to the notion that Bush would not have had the manliness to send a SEAL team to kill bin Laden, please note that Bush sent the military to Afghanistan in the first place, and also into Iraq. He was happy to authorize the killing of Saddam Hussein and other Muslims who had declared their intention to kill Americans. Obama did not train the SEALs, did not deploy the SEALS to Afghanistan, and did not tell them where to find bin Laden. Homer Simpson could have made the decision to give thebSEALs the go ahead for the attack.

      July 29, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
  19. His friends just call him Lucifer, because he's in need of some restraint.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=bMUgNg7aD8M

    July 28, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
  20. Article6

    I don't care if our next President is a Mormon,Muslim or whatsoever.The point is is he deserving to preside american people?

    July 28, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
    • JungleQueen

      Someone that gets it! It's not about religion. I could give two flying craps about what religion my president is. My question is, is he capable of running this country and putting us in the right direction? People put TOO much faith in religion.

      July 29, 2012 at 9:47 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
Advertisement
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.