President Obama was a practicing Christian (regardless of claims to the contrary) who regularly attended church services. Even so, as president he made sure not to push his faith onto American citizens, and he took time to recognize that we don’t all have the same beliefs. Going even further than previous presidents, he acknowledged that some of us don’t even believe in a deity or ascribe to any religion. Obama notably included atheists in his first inaugural address, asserting that “Our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus—and nonbelievers.”
President Trump, also a Christian, has gone the complete opposite route when it comes to acknowledging religious diversity and proselytization.
At his inauguration President Trump stated that “whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator.” And this week, during his televised address to a joint session of Congress, Trump claimed that “We are one people, with one destiny. We all bleed the same blood. We all salute the same flag. And we are all made by the same God.”
Regardless of whether or not humanity was in fact created by a deity (Charles Darwin would have something to say on this matter), the fact that President Trump insists on pushing this “one creator” narrative is insulting to non-Abrahamic religious communities such as Hindus and Buddhists, as well as to atheists, humanists, and anyone else who doesn’t believe in a god.
At its core, what Trump appears to be saying is that the United States he represents, and that his government is working for, is comprised only of those who believe in a Judeo-Christian god. Not only is this exclusionary of Americans who don’t hold those beliefs, it threatens the very foundations of our nation by rejecting religious pluralism and the separation of church and state.
By taking sides in a religious debate over how humanity came to be and whether or not one or many gods were involved, Trump is signaling that patriotic Americans are Christian Americans, and that those who don’t hold those beliefs will never truly be a part of American civic society.
That means that the quarter of all Americans who do not associate with any religion, along the nearly 5 percent of Americans who belong to the Hindu, Buddhist, or other non-Abrahamic faiths, are left out of the American tapestry. And by rejecting nearly 30 percent of the US populace from civic society, Trump is flat out rejecting his promise to unify the country and end the divisive state of our politics and our society as a whole.
President Trump, if you are truly interested in being a president for all Americans, you must stop claiming that we all have the same creator. Continuing to do so will only drive the American people further apart and undermine the progress our country has made towards religious tolerance for all.