Monday, 14 April 2008

Norm: Guns, prejudice and religion

Norman Geras writes today on Obama's recent remarks, characterised by some as elitist and condescending:

Talking about the response of white working-class voters to job losses and economic hardship, what Obama said was:
They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
And the thing I find striking about this is that religion is in there alongside guns, antipathy to other (different) people, and anti-immigrant sentiment - in there as a symptom of bitterness and frustration. It seems to me a rather odd inclusion for someone who, as a believer himself, presumably has an understanding of religion that is different from one which might be offered by an unbeliever. He or she - the unbeliever - may think of religion as merely a symptom of lack, of frustration, unhappiness, grief or fear of death. But those for whom the content of religion is true need no other reason for their belief than that they think it is true. Of course, they might still turn to it in times of frustration and such. Yet it seems odd, even so, to list it next to guns and ethnic prejudice. For a man of faith, they were ill-chosen words indeed.

Could it be that Obama's view of religion is exactly that implied by the quote? That his practice of it is cynically political, due to a view of black working-class voters equivalent to his view of white working-class voters? 

Edit - added 30 April:
There is a more generous interpretation possible than the one I made above, that he is divided in his own mind, with a longing to belong, but a critical faculty that prevents complete belief. It's also possible that being forced to change his mind on some aspects of his religious life, he is now also questioning others.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Obama's statement probably does reflect his views about religion & it was probably a slip. It may be just about conceivable that Americans could elect a black president but it is inconceivable that they would vote for an atheist. We all know this, as does Obama, & I would far prefer to be lead by somebody who pretends to be a believer than somebody who actually believes that stuff.
In order to get to where he is & where he wants to go Obama has made and will continue to make bigger compromises in terms of his moral integrity.
Cynicism is an essential political tool. God save us from the true believers.