Barack's Interesting Answer

Yes, if Senator Clinton can be universally referred to as "Hillary," then Senator Obama can be referred to as "Barack"... and President Bush can be referred to as "Shit for brains."

This is from the mashup.

Rose: ...Let me finally conclude with our wild-card question. It comes to us from Bill Maher, who's in Los Angeles. You can hear it on videotape now. And roll tape.

Bill Maher: Sen. Obama, we've heard a lot of talk about Democrats courting the Christian evangelical vote. You yourself are running as a candidate of faith, and you've said many times that progressives must take the views of religious right seriously. If the Ten Commandments constitute our greatest source of morality, why is it there no commandments saying do not rape, do not torture, or do not commit incest, yet there are commandments against swearing, working on Sunday, and making statues to other gods?

Rose: Go ahead. Your answer.

Obama: Well, you know, I love Bill Maher, and he--I think rightly he points out some of the inconsistencies and hypocrisy of people who mix religion and politics sometimes. I have said it's important for Democrats to reach out to the faith community, and the reason is because 90 percent of Americans believe in God. It's a source of values. It's a source of their moral compass. And I know it's a source of strength for me and my family. And the way to do it, though, is to understand that, No. 1, people who are religious don't have a monopoly on morality, so they've got to be careful about being sanctimonious. No. 2 is that whatever values may be religiously motivated, if you're in the public square, if you're involved in politics, I think you have to translate those moral precepts into something universal that people of different faiths or no faith at all can debate and argue and hopefully at some point come to a consensus. I think the mistake that's been made with respect to the religious right is a literalism that is so rigid that it does not allow for the possibility of somebody of a different faith or nonbeliever to engage in a dialogue. And on the other hand, I think it's important for us not to presume that faith has no part in the public square. Look, Martin Luther King, the abolitionists, the suffragettes. We have a long history of reform movements being grounded in that sense often religiously expressed that we have to extend beyond ourselves and our individual immediate self-interests to think about something larger.

Rose: And how is faith most influenced you as a human being?

Obama: Oh, you know, I think that I came to Christianity relatively late in life when I was already an adult. So, I wasn't steeped in organized religion when I was a child. What I found was that the values that had been taught to me by my mother and grandparents, the values I held most dear were expressed powerfully in the church and particularly the African-American church that I joined. But the faith that I have, that's, I think is most important is a basic optimism about people. That there's a core decency, what Lincoln called "better angels of our nature," that we can appeal to and that we can't perfect ourselves, and we can't perfect the world, but we can continually strive to improve the world and treat each other with kindness and empathy. Even in the absence of perfection, and that is what helped to guide me into politics and that's what sustains me when I make mistakes or when I see some of those tough things that are going on around the world.
I bolded a few things I thought were particularly interesting: his answer about faith in politics is the best possible answer for a left-center candidate, so well done, sir. He follows that by pointing out that we pick and choose our religions based on our pre-existing beliefs, rather than basing our beliefs on our religions -- a rare moment of honesty vis-a-vis religion in the public square: hear hear! Nothing so doctrinal about having "a basic optimism about people" -- in fact, most doctrines say the opposite, that we're tainted by sins that have to be cleansed away, blah blah. Just more proof that we mold our religion to our morals, rather than let religion mold our morals. Contradicting entirely what he said previously about it being a "source." (Cause and effect are so hard to distinguish sometimes...) All in all, though, I think this was a fantastic answer from a politician (who must by necessity be a theist) to a very loaded question. If my vote counted, I would let it count for him!

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