Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Jan/09

19

Obama as God

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Conservatives, particularly religious conservatives, undoubtedly guffawed at this New York Times headline: “Poll Finds Faith in Obama, Mixed With Patience.” Faith belongs to God, they probably said, not to Man, and certainly not to a man as untested, lightweight, and liberal as Obama. 

Scorn for the media’s Obama worship is understandable; the press has abandoned any pretense of neutral reporting in favor of all-out wallow.  But I doubt whether conservatives would object to similar treatment, however unthinkable, of a Republican nominee; they themselves have turned Reagan into a patron saint, to be invoked for protection and guidance at every setback. 

Whether or not Obama deserves the people’s faith—I myself am moderately heartened by his bipartisan overtures– I don’t see why it is more appropriate to put one’s faith in the unseen and unknown rather than in human capacities.  It is human beings who have conquered God-given disease, famine, and what were once fatal birth defects; human engineering prowess protects children fortunate enough to be born in developed countries from God-tolerated earthquakes and floods; human wisdom created the American constitutional framework that has progressively enlarged our freedoms and prosperity.  When human ingenuity or responsibility fails, we can correct the failures and hold the relevant parties accountable.  Not so with God.  The passengers on US Airways Flight 1549 were right to put their faith in the pilot, his training, and their aircraft.  The passengers on TAM Airlines Flight 3054, which overshot its runway at the Sao Paolo airport on July 17, 2007, killing nearly 200 passengers and pedestrians, were wrong to have put their faith in their pilot and crew.  Ditto the passengers on UTair Flight 471, which crash-landed in Russia on March 17, 2007, killing six passengers.  But those deceased passengers of TAM Flight 3054 and UTair Flight 471 were also wrong to have put their faith in God, presuming that what they asked or would have wanted him to do was to save them from grisly and premature death.  The human failures behind those plane crashes can in theory lead to reform, assuming accountable bureaucracies.  No reform of God, however, is possible. 

God apologists will come up with the usual justifications: “He has given the deceased passengers something much better than life—eternal residence in heaven.”  “We cannot know his ultimate plan for us; if early death is part of it, it is for the best.”  I’d be more persuaded by those defenses if I ever once saw someone pray to God to strike his child with fatal leukemia so that the child may join God sooner in heaven.   

Outsized faith in political leaders can be merely silly, as Obama worship has already become, or can lead to something far more dangerous.  Ideally, Americans would realize that no one has as much power over the course of their lives as they do themselves.  But if appeals for salvation we must have, I would rather they stay within the human realm than leap into the imaginary divine one.  The inaugural prayers tomorrow will ask for God’s protection.  I will instead be hoping that during this time of growing economic stress, Americans continue to play by the rules, treat each other with respect, and seize the opportunities available to them. 

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5 comments

  • Author comment by Steel Phoenix · January 19, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    Some of the earlier gods were political leaders. Even the pope seems to be considered to be a bit closer to God than normal subjects. I live dead center in the middle of the land of Marxist Obama lovers, but I haven’t heard anything close to worship. The closest I hear is relief that Bush is going. A feeling I share.

    As for the press and Obama, it is all posturing. The press is bringing him up now because it gets ratings. They will be even happier to tear him down for the same reason when they see the opening. Even comedians have found little to work with so far. The man isn’t even president yet, and the usual tack of making the president look like a moron hasn’t stuck. The people who like him want to give him the appearance of support to reduce opposition to his first hundred day push. Those who don’t try to paint him as a Marxist muslin secretly planning to destroy America. The man isn’t even president yet.

    I would like to think that most people at least hope he will be a good president. Being a fan of small government, I imagine I’ll be complaining in short order, but I lost the election (again), so I’m going to wait until I have reason. I can see opposition is a way of reducing his ability to make changes, but really, do we want to stay where we are? Things are pretty screwed up, and it was a republican who started the path to socialization and fiscal irresponsibility.

  • PM · January 19, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    Absolutely right about a republican starting the latest expansion of big government. And this administration will have to do some major spending on the stimulus plan as well, but after that…well, then there will have to be belt tightening, and probably on Obama’s watch.

    Sounds as if Obama is going to try to get some interesting reforms thru–health care and entitlement reform–a significant restructuring of what government does. I do not expect that this will lead to a reduction in the size of government, but i imagine that this will mean that there will be fewer things that government will do–less discretionary spending, as a greater and greater percentage of the total budget goes into these types of social spending and defense spending programs.

    I think that there will be some kind of grand re-ordering of the current state of federalism–what is done by the states and what is done by the federal government.

  • mnuez · January 20, 2009 at 8:12 am

    Heather, despite the fact that your largely libertarian “monetary-might and brain-might (and not physical-might) makes right” audience appears to have already gone off the railings in their comments on your post, let me say that this post is awesome. You’re the only one of the commentors here who appears to share with me a visceral bitterness towards God which (lacking any avenue for expression, on account of his non-existence) we tend to take out on the stupidity of believing in Him. In my view the only plausible excuse that any sort of anthropomorphic God could possibly have for the awesome amount of suffering inherent in the lives of billions would be his non-existence. Anyhow Heather, I’ve been a fan of yours from before I ever saw anything of yours on this specific subject and I want to thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings so brilliantly.

    mnuez

  • Victoria · January 20, 2009 at 9:25 am

    “As for the press and Obama, it is all posturing. The press is bringing him up now because it gets ratings. They will be even happier to tear him down for the same reason when they see the opening.”

    I agree. The one thing the media loves is a freak show. And, let’s face it, in a way, an African man becoming leader of this land founded by Anglo-Euros, is freakish. For the media, it’s man bites dog, it’s theater and entertainment, it’s ratings up the wazoo. They will milk it for as long as they can, until they learn something salacious about him or some other principal in his court, and then they will have another kind of field day.

  • Donna B. · January 20, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    I, for one, have scorn for both those who worship Obama and those who make a villain of Bush. Neither attitude shows much thought or common sense.

    Bush did not use his greatest power, that of the veto, and I hope that Obama does. I’m pretty much in the mood to view whatever Congress wants is probably bad for the country.

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