I've had to be honest with myself (and what is a blog without at least a little honesty?) and have thought about the question of Barack Obama's religion. Specifically, what if he was a Muslim? I would like to say that it wouldn't matter to me, that I would still be a fan of his, but I don't know if that would be true.
The fault would be mine alone. All religions are highly suspect, but I see Christians every day, while Muslims are strange, foreign and frightening to me. Obviously not all Muslims are terrorists. Obviously most Muslims are not terrorists. And I know that I've turned a very cold, skeptical shoulder to Islam - much of my rhetoric is baseless and needlessly cruel. So a discussion of this hypothetical has to include an apology. There is much suffering in the Muslim world. More, I would say, than currently in the Christian world. These people do not deserve my cruel derision of their faith. As much as Christianity is ubiquitous in the Western world, so is Islam in the East. So to that degree, I soften my tone toward a religion that is different from the one I grew up with.
With that in mind, if Barack Obama was a Muslim, it would certainly be something. It is absurd to even consider, in fact. It is common knowledge that an atheist could never be elected president, but we can all imagine the difficulty in a Muslim candidacy, considering that there are over twice as many atheists in the U.S. than Muslims (according to the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey). If a candidate did rise up through the Democratic ranks (no chance of a Republican Muslim, obviously) then he or she would have to be a very secular Muslim. In much the same way that Mitt Romney would have had to push his crazy faith into the background, any serious Muslim candidate would have to be extremely private about his or her faith. Is this a double standard? I don't think so. I am supporting Barack Obama despite his very public claims to faith. I have repeatedly complained about the profuse mileage that religion has gotten in this campaign. I wish it would go away completely, that it did not matter what anyone's religion was because we would never hear about it. Sadly that is not the case.
So what is my final word? If a Muslim politician were able to rise in the xenophobic American atmosphere, I am sure that he or she would necessarily be secular enough for me to consider them on the virtue of their policies alone. If a Muslim managed to make a splash despite being extremely religious, I would have serious doubts - just as I do about any Christian politician who makes their religion a centerpiece of their platform.
That was honest and I feel better having sorted that out. When I started writing, I was not at all certain where I would end up. One surprising item is that I find myself lamenting Mitt Romney's departure from the stage. I think that the absurdities of Mormonism would have forced him to be more secular than either McCain or Obama have been.