Barack Obama's campaign recently launched a new site called Fight the Smears, intended to debunk the rumors and mischaracterizations that are so easily spread via the Internet, and then given unwarranted credence through mainstream media inquiries.
I like the idea of taking on these issues and refuting them point by point with evidence. It's particularly effective when correcting statements taken out of context and clarifying supposed quotes that have been paraphrased.
But it's much more difficult to address false accusations. As debaters know, you can't prove a negative. For example, if your spouse accused you of cheating, what proof could you offer to refute that accusation? In fact, your spouse should be the one to provide proof (or circumstantial evidence at least).
Likewise, as an atheist, I've been told to prove that God doesn't exist. Again, it's not possible. The burden should be on them to provide proof of the positive.
Unsurprisingly, one of the so-called smears that caught my attention was the following:
Barack Obama is a Muslim.
Senator Obama has never been a Muslim, was not raised as a Muslim, and is a committed Christian.
As noted above, it's not possible for Obama to offer definitive proof that he is not a Muslim. I can appreciate that he does not want there to be a single misunderstanding about who he is as a person; I'd feel compelled to make such a correction for the sake of honesty myself.
Does America equate all Muslims with Osama bin Laden? And before bin Laden was a household name, was Louis Farrakhan the de facto face of Islam in America? Or the Ayatollah Khomeini?
Perhaps it's my own atheism that prevents me from understanding why Obama's religion is such an issue that it's worthy of a place on his Fight the Smears page. I understand that the United States is often characterized as a "Christian nation" and that as a country, we hold "Judeo-Christian values". As an atheist, it's easy for me to brush off such labels -- while I find them exclusionary, I'd feel the same way about any alternate characterizations steeped in religious beliefs.
But I have to wonder how Muslims view them. Are they able to disregard the exclusionary nature of these descriptors as mere tradition? Or are these descriptors now inaccurate and irrelevant?
Either way, the fact that Obama's detractors call him a Muslim as a means of discouraging votes and Obama's supporters repeatedly avow his Christianity speaks volumes about the role of religion in America across the board.
Julie is a former Air Force officer and professional project manager turned web writer. She spent four years at the Pentagon and five years in New York City, and her suburban life in Colorado seems pastoral by comparison. She's no political pundit, but she is an objective thinker in a sea of partisan propagandists. She writes for The Mom Slant, Cool Mom Picks, and is co-founder of The Parent Bloggers Network.
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