Leaders at the American Humanist Association (AHA) were pleased today with remarks made by President Obama at the Annual National Prayer Breakfast recognizing his nontheistic family upbringing. While Obama focused on his current Christian faith, he also noted that his mother, widely regarded as a secular humanist, bestowed him with the values responsible for his strong character.
“President Obama’s remarks acknowledge that children can be raised with a strong moral and ethical foundation, free from the presence of dogmatic religion,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “He’s living proof that one can lead a successful, moral, and dedicated life of service without the drumbeat of religion in one’s upbringing. The humanist community has fought for the validation of this fact, and to hear the President of the United States echo the sentiment is gratifying.”
“For as some of you know, I did not come from a particularly religious family,” said Obama at the breakfast. He continued, “My mother, whose parents were Baptist and Methodist, grew up with a certain skepticism about organized religion… She was somebody who was instinctively guided by the Golden Rule and who nagged me constantly about the home spun values of her Kansas upbringing—values like honesty and hard work and kindness and fair play. And it’s because of her that I came to understand the equal worth of all men and all women, the imperatives of an ethical life, and the necessity to act on your beliefs.”
The AHA previously praised President Obama’s account of his secular upbringing in his 2006 book The Audacity of Hope. In his 1995 book, Dreams from My Father, Obama wrote that his mother stood alone in her community as a “witness for secular humanism.”
Speckhardt concluded, “While it would be better for government officials not to engage in public prayer events, it’s refreshing to hear President Obama reiterate his secular roots. In a climate awash in religious rhetoric, the importance of these values – secular values – shouldn’t be underestimated. “
The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org ) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.
Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.