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September 24, 2008

Is it The Internet's Fault that More and More People Think Obama is Muslim?

Last March when polls reported that 10% of the population thought Barack Obama was Muslim, I counseled calm: Obama is a new character on the scene. As people get to know him, that percentage will decline.

Instead, it's gone up. The newest poll from the Pew Research Center showed that 13% now believe he's Muslim - and a staggering 19% of McCain supporters believe him to be Muslim. Only 48% of Republicans say Obama is Christian (the balance is unsure).

This is truly frightening - not so much because of the implications for Obama but because of what it says about how we as Americans consume information. With more time, and more information swimming about, the public has become progressively less well informed.

To some extent this is about the politicization of mainstream media. Increasingly, people gravitate to the media sources that confirm their preconceived notions - Fox and Rush and WND.com for conservatives and Olberman and Kos for liberals. If that's true, that represents a searing indictment of conservative media - for either promoting or failing to shoot down a blatant falsehood. (There may be counter examples on the liberal media; please post if you have them).

But this can't be the whole explanation. After all, the percentage of independents who think Obama is Muslim also rose from 8% to 14%.

Then I noticed this: the biggest increase in the percentage who think he's Muslim was among young people. Only 8% of people from 18-29 believed he's Muslim in March. Now, 17% do. By contrast, among those 65 and older, the percentage who thought he was Muslim actually dropped during this period.

What's the biggest differentiator between those groups when it comes to news consumption? The internet. Younger people get their information online. Older people still use print.

As the editor of a website, I hate to even suggest this but is it possible that this Muslim factoid provides chilling proof that web-dependent news consumers end up more poorly informed than in the olden days? Is it possible that all the fuddy-duddy old media people who warned about the internet dumbing us all down were right?

(Originally posted at Steve Waldman's blog at Beliefnet.)

Comments

Clearly there are a lot of commenters on these boards that still believe he is a Muslim. It is on here pretty much every day. So does that say anything about Christianity Today? This isn't an age or internet issue, this is an honesty issue. Both sides bend the truth, and sometime outright lie. I read another article earlier today about the fact that people tend to believe what their bias says in spite of overwhelming evidence. So Republicans tend to believe negative things about Obama, Democrats tend to believe negative things about McCain. Christians need to seek out truth. It is not a matter of faith to believe things in spite of evidence. That is a bad definition (but frequently cited one) for faith.
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By the way I also saw that Evangelical Christians are more likely to support torture than any other religious group in the US in spite of traditional beliefs about morality, human rights (people being made in the image of God), etc.

"This is truly frightening - not so much because of the implications for Obama but because of what it says about how we as Americans consume information."

The implications for Obama are even more frightening, and also for conservatives and Evangelicals. You would think that we would be diligent about the truth in regard to Obama's faith, particularly since he is a fellow Christian, who we should be treating as a brother despite our differences.

The world will know we are Christians because we love one another. Seeking the truth and not spreading fear and hate would seem to be essential for love. But, then, sometimes it seems like we are Republicans first, and Christians second. It's not the internet, it's our sinful nature.

As soon as those first mass-emails started circulating I checked it out at snopes.com - I find that I still have to convince people to check there no matter what the issue is.

Its frustrating that people are willing to just assume something without doing the research. Thankfully I know people who, like me, are starting to question everything we are being fed.... but unfortunately most people just don't care enough.

Obama made this impression for himself, by being tied for decades to Black Panther pals and groups--including his MILITANT, Hate-Whites-Teaching church (TUCC), and his "pastor"--"gentle shepherd"--Wright. Truly Christian churches and pastors do not incite hatred toward a racial group, as TUCC has done toward caucasians. And true Christians would not stay around and fund them for 20 years so they can indoctrinate innocent children to the same kind of militancy.

Let's look at the realities. Mr Obama DID have Islamic schooling and Islamic religious instruction. He does not APPEAR to be a practicing Muslim, but, he does NOT openly claim Jesus Christ as Lord. If he did, he would not, for example, support abortion in any shape or form. My opinion (or anybody else's for that matter) does not matter. God makes the rules and we have God's Rulebook. If we do not choose to play by God's rules even as a public figure, then we can expect a negative response from those who do claim Christ as Lord and attempt to live by God's rules. because God's Rulebook states, for this example, that God finds child sacrifice abhorrent. Consequently it must be considered Mr Obama is NOT a new creation in Christ (1Tim.2:5) and therefore has not rejected his Islamic roots.
The media doesn't let facts get in the way of a story and the internet in particular, is not to blame for what people conclude Mr Obama to be. He does that himself.

The internet has nothing to do with what I think. I think he is Muslim. He is 1/2 black and 1/2 white but he doesn't seem to mention much about his mother. He just claims the black part. I do not trust him. I don't see how anyone does. He just seemed to come out of nowhere. And I don't see anything he's done? I think the Muslim world is backing him. This might sound strange, but he doesn't seem like an American black person. He seems foreign.

Grandpa. He does openly claim Jesus as Lord. He has many times. He supports making abortion legal, but so do a significant portion of the US and of Christians, even Evangelical Christians. Also Obama went to public or Catholic school in Indonisia, not a religious madrassa (which by the way means school).

Here is a factcheck.org (non-partisan fact checking organization) article about the reality of his education and his church.

Diane, even if you don't like his church, how does that make him a muslim. Black Panthers are not muslim.

I HAVE BEEN A CHRISTIAN FOR A LONG TIME AND I BELIEVE THAT GOD IS GOING TO COME THROUGH WITH HIS PLAN. AT ONE TIME WE WERE THE STRONGEST NATION IN THE WORLD. WE ARE NOW BEING BOUGHT UP BY FOREIGN COUNTIES.
WHEN I WATCHED OBAMA WITH HIS ARM AROUND HIS PASTOR AND CALLING HIM IS MENTOR AND THEN THE PASTOR COMING OUT WITH THE HATE THAT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE HAVE FOR BLACK PEOPLE, KNOWING THAT THIS IS NOT TRUE. I AM OF GERMAN/DUTCH DECENT AND I AM PROUD OF THIS BUT I HAVE SOME GREAT BLACK FRIENDS. WE DON'T SEE COLOR!
ANY PERSON WHO WOULD STAY IN A CHURCH THAT TEACHES HATE FOR THE AMERICAN COUNTRY IS NOT A CHRISTIAN. HE IS ANOTHER JIM JONES, OR WACO. WHY DID OBAMA STAY IN THAT CHURCH FOR 20 YEARS.
IF OBAMA WAS GOING TO RUN FOR THE PRESIDENCY WHY WASN'T HE IN A MIXED CHURCH? I LOVE MIXED CHURCHES!!
DID OBAMA MAKE A MISTAKE WHEN HE SAID HE WAS MUSLIM OR WAS THAT JUST A SLIP? I DON'T TRUST HIM! THERE ARE LOTS OF PEOPLE THAT SAY THEY ARE CHRISTIANS BUT THEY ARE NOT TO BE TRUSTED. I WOULD VOTE FOR BILL CROSBY BEFORE I VOTE FOR OBAMA. THERE SHOULD BE MORE BACK GROUND CHECK ON OBAMA. WAS HE BORN IN THE U.S.A. WHAT ABOUT MS. OBAMA'S BACK GROUND? IS SHE FIT TO BE FIRST LADY OF OUR COUNTRY? THEY ARE REALLY INTO PALIN'S BACK GROUND WHY NOT OBAMA? HIS WIFE?

I find many of these comments discouraging. Obama may not be the kind of Christian you think is authentic, but that does not make him a Muslim.

So Rev. Wright likes to say provocative things. Call him crazy. That does not undo the real, positive contributions to the community the church has accomplished: operating a food pantry, offering free career/legal counseling, hosting all kinds of tutoring classes, supporting drug & alcohol recovery, helping women and children hurt by domestic violence, and so on.

It seems to me that you have to believe quite a bit on conspiracy theory to believe that 20 years in a church that proclaims Christ somehow supports the claim that Obama is a Muslim.

I also find it disturbing, Nellie, that you say "a church that teaches hate for the American coutnry is not a Christian." Set aside Rev. Wright and listen to yourself: I don't think you'd want to take that statement to its conclusion. What if our country is doing things that God condemns? If a church preaches against our country, ever, at all, are we not Christians? I heartily disagree with what you seem to be saying.

Adam ... Obama's voting record speaks for itself. As said, my opinion does not matter. The Word of God says sacrificing children is abhorrent. Those so-called Christians who support abortion should look in the mirror of God's Word. Jesus Christ said "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. (Matt 7:21) which means a Christian will reject abortion, based on God's opinion. Repentance means turning away from what God's rules say are wrong. Not repeating what is wrong.
On checking factcheck.org (Obama religion) this is what I find.

When Obama was 6 years old, the family relocate to Indonesia. Obama attended a MUSLIM school in Jakarta. He also spent two years in a Catholic school.
Obama takes great care to conceal the fact that he is a Muslim.
He is quick to point out that, "He was once a Muslim, but that he also attended Catholic school."

Once more ... until Obama publicilly claims Jesus Christ as Lord and
proves it by his policies, which will demonstrate the Lordship of Christ in his life, he is NOT a 'new creation' and remains ... a Muslim, by admission (my Muslim faith)

The internet may have started the muslim rumor. And sadly it did a degree of damage to Obama's image. But I blame the pollsters for continuing to "bait" the public with this nonsense. And I suspect McCain supporters are seizing the opportunity to viciously perpetuate the damage in the way they choose to answer the pollsters. Never mind the bigoted nature of the strategy. The media and McCain - dark and darker.

Grandpa - you sound ridiculous. Muslims don't believe in abortion either by the way.

Do you realize that a Muslim who denounces his faith is worthy of death in the Quran? If Obama is a Muslim, he's obviously a very bad one, he would never be accepted by other Muslims.

I'm not sure how Reverend Wright is now a Muslim just because you believe with his church's doctrine. Go to the Trinity church's website and you will find nothing there that claims Islam or Mohammed.

Linda, my goodness, maybe you should associate with more people who don't look and think just like yourself. Most of you don't seem to know anything about the Islamic faith - certainly not enough to judge Obama according to it (black guy, highly educated, doesn't act like I would expect, oh my gosh he must be a Muslim lol). I am very ashamed that those of us who claim to walk in the Light seem to be the most ignorant and uneducated.

Following Christ doesn't mean you check your brain at the door - Paul the apostle was a man of reason and great intelligence - I wish his logical thinking was heralded more as an example.

Judging by the thread of the discussion, one is either pro or anti Obama. Everyone seems to interpreting facts rather than presenting them. For example, nobody cited a chronological order of Mr. Obama's life and work, local and overseas; his teachers in America & overseas, and where are those teachers now? Any record, (with date, venue, surrounding circumstances), that he declared Jesus Christ as his Lord, Savior & God?

Hey! Anyone care to answer the following?: What would be your position if Mr. Obama is a Muslim after all? Would it have mattered if he admitted early on that he is a Muslim? Did he ever cheered or nodded in agreement as Rev.Wright gives his highly hateful and divisive sermons?

Religion is extremely personal. I respect some people's position not to publicly declare his/her spiritual belief, unless when asked to must then fully divulge them, but given that & the alleged fact that Rev. Wright is Mr. Obama's mentor for 20 years, does that explicitly mean that he shares Rev. Wright's view of America? Remember 20 years is a very very long time.

If you know or possess the required facts, then, that's tantamount to holding history w/o the highly divisive & subjective interpretations one tends to do. Furthermore, documented pronouncements about various issues, political, religious, etc., is the key to determining Mr. Obama's seemingly camouflaged intentions.

Lastly, if America is really a land of equal opportunities, what is Mr. Obama's position regarding the discussion of the Bible inside and outside of the classroom? What's his position too re the discussion of Creationism viewpoint over the Theory of Evolution when asked for in the classroom? Shouldn't all beliefs be liberally discussed for the sake of unbiased critical thinking?

A few things needed to be understood about being a Muslim whether he is indeed a Christian.
One, a muslim who become a true Christian does not enter politics, but rather proves the reality of the Christian claims and his Christian faith. Obama is not that type.
Two, why only this time that he make his Christian claim?
Three, association. We cannot deny that association is a big deal (issue) in the Christian faith. Read Psalm 1:1, then measure Obama with this claim.
Four, who are backing up your candidacy financially?
Lastly, I personally believe his Christianity is for convenience.

Thank you.

I'm not an American, I'm a Frenchman.


Your comments saddenned me.


Who you are, to declare that one christian or not ? Are you God himself ?


Though


I can hardly believe christian someone who favours weapons, who kills living persons (see Columbine), as those in NRA.


I can hardly believe christian someone who favours death penalty, who kills living persons, even if he's a killer.


So, my doubts are not first related to Obama, or even Clinton, but surely to Bush (both) or Palin.


Just to think about.

Interesting study in attitudes, “do not let reality get in the way of a good story”. Time for an increase in the teaching of logic, current world affairs and an awarness of other cultures in the schools. Goebbels would have been delighted to get such a result to convince the people that they were winning the war in 1945.

What is going on in the American collective mind? I some sometimes wonder if the apparent fading of European Christianity is being matched by a similar fading in the US. Is what seems to be a fixation on what are purported to be key indicators of Christian belief (eg homosexuality), hiding an equally well advanced falling away from traditional Christianity?

As Martin Luther seems to have indicated, personal beliefs do not matter as much as the ability, actions, honesty and consistency of a ruler who puts the welfare of the community before his own that matters.

As an Australian with a long standing material American heritage, I agree with Philippe from France. The mixing of gun worship, flag worship and Christianity certainly makes it hard to explain Christianity here.

Yes, your bank crise is costing me allot in reduced superannuation returns; time to get our collective act together & stop the rorters.

I was won over by Obama early this year when I read his Call to Renewal speech. In that speech he said a lot of things that I really connected with, including the fact that Jesus Christ is his God and that everyone should be reading their Bibles. I didn't doubt his affiliation with Christianity and I still don't. But I do doubt that he is listening to the Holy Spirit in his life and work. I can't get past the fact that legalized abortion and promoting gay rights at the very core is encouraging sin. As a Christian counselor I am on the side of healing sin. Homosexuals are seeking to leave that lifestyle and coming to Christ by the thousands each year, and they are being healed. I can't support leaders who seek to make laws to encourage sin in the name of an individual's rights. I don't know about the rest of you, but my rights were given to me by God, I don't support man's laws when they break God's laws. God is the final authority on all things. The only real freedom is found in Christ. I've been told by Christian people who are freaking out about the economy that these are social issues and that the economy and the wall street problems are a more important crisis. Well I say that it's all part of the same crisis. All of the problems we are experiencing in the U.S. are a direct result of loss of virtue and the deliberate removal of God from all things. When a nation experiences moral decline there will be wars, financial corruption, government corruption, blatant sexual indecency, overall rebellion, and that's exactly the environment we live in today. We made our beds. Obama should take his own advice and read his Bible.

Trying to do research on Obama is difficult. Things have been blocked from his university years and who paid for Harvard? He does have a black muslim associate who paid for his education...from what I am finding....I am very suspicious of him and at this moment I firmly believe he is a closet muslim. Obama calls for changes....but I would be very cautious about him. My biggest objection to him is his pro-abortion stance. He will not get my vote.

"Homosexuals are seeking to leave that lifestyle and coming to Christ by the thousands each year, and they are being healed." -JD

That's good.

But JD, why do you ignore the fact that thousands of Gay Christians (raised in the church - still love Jesus) have sought to leave the lifestyle (ie no more clubbing and promiscuous relationships) and/or have sought to cultivate a same-gender attraction (during years of prayer, bible study, counseling) YET are still homosexually oriented? Why?? Maybe you just don't know about these thousands of people. Or maybe your professional training has become an idol that you worship more a bit more than God.

When we confront these wonderful people with a thoughtfully open mind and steadfastly loving heart we can only conclude that sexual orientation is not a choice and therefore not a sin. And we can only serve in any "healing" by encouraging these folks to accept themselves as God accepts them and to remind them that God blesses those who, in Christ, live, and move, and have their being (sexuality). As far as any "seeking", that will be as deeply personal and spiritual for Christian homosexuals as for Christian heterosexuals. And that seeking is to know whether one is called to a life of celibacy or of abstinence until marriage. But the process needn't be overly complicated by therapies to "reconfigure" one's sexuality.

Seems like the inmates are out of the asylum. It would not matter if Jesus himself vouched for Obama's faith many of you would just see some strange looking Middle Eastern guy and assume that he was a Muslim too I'm sure. God is not an American you know!! The prejudice you are showing is astounding. Its also ironic that Christianity Today is running an article about real Muslims who are now Christians and are struggling to find Christian Community in the US. Well no wonder with folks like Grandpa, Maryanne, Ray and Linda displaying their Christlike love and grace for all to see!!!

"What would be your position if Mr. Obama is a Muslim after all?" - Reid

First I'd like to re-frame that question:
"What would be your position if a presidential nominee were openly Muslim?"

Obviously we'll never be answering THAT question.

So the thrust of Reid's question is that Obama's hiding either a weakness or a political handicap or a wickedness.

Well I don't think people like Bush, McCain or Obama view the Muslim faith as a weakness, so I don't think he would hide it on that basis. And I don't think a true Muslim would lie about his religion for political gain without a fear of God's retribution. So I don't think he would hide it on that basis. Which only leaves us with the idea that Obama belongs to a radical Muslim terrorist organization with wicked, violent schemes that he must cover-up until he can unleash them on our country. And even Michelle, Sasha and Malia don't know about it. Or they do and they're hiding it to. But how does that reconcile with them attending and tithing to a weak Christian church for 20 years?


Denise...you're trying to use reason (and you're absolutely right)...but I'm afraid its no use. These people steadfastly believe that Obama is a Muslim and he's going to take over America and turn it into a radical Islamic nation. He's that powerful you know. And folks like Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi are just going to stand by and let it happen. You see what happens when you're imagination runs riot!! Trying to set people like Grandpa and MaryAnne straight is like trying to teach a pig to sing... it's a waste of your time and it annoys the pig!!

Heather -- thanks for the comment. I guess my lingering hope is that this election will be decided moreso on the basis of logic and reason than on flimsy emotion and personality preferences. Time and again it is the way Obama shows that he is respectful of and ready to lead all Americans. It is sorely lacking in McCain's campaign.

"If America is really a land of equal opportunities, what is Mr. Obama's position regarding the discussion of the Bible inside and outside of the classroom?" - Reid

Does anyone see a difference between discussing and referencing the Bible in a classroom?

I think people who value the separation of church/sects and state get nervous because a "discussion" of the Bible must allow for varying scriptural interpretations illiciting a struggle to establish a dominant religious view. Our constitution has protections against that in mandated public institutions. And I don't think you can simply reference the Bible in a science class because there's just so much there to "discuss".

Denise,
I think your sentiment is a beautiful one and I understand. However, if you are truly looking for answers to your questions you can find them at http://www.exodus-international.org/. As a parent of a homosexual and a friend to many ex-gays, I simply know the truth. Thank you for your response, I hope you'll find the truth, as Jesus said, it will set you free.

Obama's very public suporter Oprah says "What about Jesus? There has to be more than one way." Obama has never said that he is a Christian because Christ is the true and only Son of God, and that the only way to salvation is by placing one's faith in Him and Him alone. A Christian is a "Talmid" of Christ, someone who not only follows, but does all they can to be just like Jesus. Obama's stand on abortion even to the point of not allowing babies who survive abortions medical care, certainly brings that into question. His association with Rev. Wright for 20 years of racial, hate speech, also brings a lot of questions in the mind of voters. Yes his relationship with God is personal, but his actions speak volumes.

Obama did not start claiming to be a Christian yesterday, he discusses his conversion and views on faith in his books, not sure why that hasn't be mentioned at all.

Heather, I agree - looks like those Muslim converts would not be welcome around some Americans...

What is a closet Muslim? lol. Does that mean he only prays 3 times a day instead of 5 and camouflages his prayer rug under his bed? Again, most with these silly claims know little about Islam - and certainly not enough to judge if someone is a Muslim or not.

It would make more sense to debate Obama's beliefs of the role of faith influencing a believer's life..

At the same time, nobody seems to be judging McCain's or even George Bush's level of faith according to their actions, they seem to get a mysterious pass on foolishness or sin for whatever reason.

McCain and Palin are my choices and I wonder why the press is digging into their lives to find out anything that would be used against them and Obama and his wife are left untouched by the media. This is a true fact: Obama is being supported financially by Muslim countries, he is unpatriotic, he is bent on pulling our wonderful nation down the tubes, he says repeatedly that he wants to "change" things from the previous 8 yrs. BUT....things have only regressed in the last ONE YEAR....and that is due to our Democratic congress. Let's think about that one a little! I am a born-again christian......I pray for God's will for our country each day. If by some chance Obama becomes president, it is still in the will of God and we accept his will for our country. God has promised that if we pray, he WILL heal our land.

I believe the rumors have been spread (and believed) because of Mr. Obama's long time association with people on the extreme left, as well as his family connections in Indonesia who purportedly are practicing Muslims. I don't doubt his claim to be a Christian since only God can know the heart and one's actual allegiance. Perhaps the gaps in his biography have lead some to be suspicious of him. To me, the most troubling information about Mr. Obama is the recent article in the NY Times reporting on the incredible amount of financial support for Mr. Obama's campaign coming from the Arab world. I'm concerned about the effort of these unidentified donors to influence the election and have questions as to what stake they hope to have in his political campaign and/or ascent to the Presidency? Perhaps it is time to explore and learn the motive(s) behind the huge financial investment in his candidacy by people who are, if the N.Y. Times is to be believed, undeniably Muslim.

What ever his "religion"..one wonders about many things.
You are known by the company you keep! He keeps some very strange company.
Not only are Arabs supporting him....ACORN the group from Chicago known for registering people to vote.....only to find out that many were dead people...is associated with OBama. He was their lawyer...in the past. More recently he hired them to "get people registered to vote"! ACORN ,if some had had their way, would have recieved 20 million dollars from the bailout being foisted on the American taxpayer.
BTW...when considering Mr Obama's "Christianity"....look up the meaning of "Liberation Theology".....and Black Liberation Theology.
EYE OPENERS! No wonder his former "pastor" preaches not the Gospel of Jesus Christ...but the "Gospel of hate". I don't care how much "good" this pastor has done....he still preache another Gospel....and one that Obama felt comfortable with for 20 years...until it got in the way of his political ambition.

Jeri,

You erroneously reference a debunked so called New York Time article about Obama and Arab funding. Here check out Snopes.com on this one. Another right wing lie about Obama. People do some googling before you post more nonsense.

http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/donations.asp

If you are a christian we have to seek the truth. We are at enmity with God unless we accept Christ as our personal savior. If we do what Christ instructs in his word, using the right context, then we will be called the Children of God. But one thing we are forgetting, if we don't do as the bible says, then judgement will come, and not just on the government, but all people of that nation. Read the book of Jerimiah, and how Israel turned there back on God. Practically the whole Old testiment is about Israel turning their back on God and then God brought judgement on them and then they repented and God had mercy on them and brought them back to him.

Now as far as the political canidates go, I think we should take our privelage to vote very seriously, and very reverently. It is an awesome responsibility, that shouldn't be taken lightly. For in that context, it can cause this nation to be a nation who's leaders reverent God, and honor God through the passing of laws, that govern the people. Futhermore, if that canidate does not have the Judean Christian values that made this nation, and have a personal relationship with Jesus, and if that canidate doesn't have the character and core values that should represent this nation, then they should not be elected. God have mercy on America. Please pray for this nation and that God will allow the right person to be put in place this next election!

Quote: "Bad men cannot make good citizens. It is impossible that a nation of infidels or idolaters should be a nation of free men. It is when people forget God that tyrants forge their chains. A vitiated state of morals, a corrupted public conscience, are incompatible with freedom." - Patrick Henry