Rules Are for Schmucks: Preacher-in-Chief

President Obama has been on a religious roll this month. I can’t wait for it to be over.

First came the “National Prayer Breakfast,” with the touching anecdote that “you come to understand what President Lincoln meant when he said that he’d been driven to his knees by the overwhelming conviction that he had no place else to go.” Trouble is, there’s no good evidence that Lincoln ever said that. And ignorance is no excuse, because the last time Obama used this line, historians immediately jumped all over him. But Obama, like other God experts, never lets mere facts interfere with divine rhetoric.

He spent most of the speech praising Jesus—“the acceptance of Christ promises everlasting life and the washing away of sins”—and thanking him for the courage “to stand up not just to our enemies but, sometimes, to stand up to our friends.” It appears from the speech that the “friends” he wants to stand up to are the humanists, who’ve given him so many millions of dollars and votes over the years. He studiously, meticulously ignores us. “I have drawn strength from witnessing all across this country and all around this world, good people, of all faiths, who do the Lord’s work each and every day,” Obama opined. Nary a word about any “good people” he may have stumbled across who don’t belong to any faith. Apparently he draws no “strength” from us—just money and votes.

The day before the prayer breakfast, the president visited a mosque in suburban Baltimore to draw attention to the vilification of Islam in American society. Perhaps his most telling line, though, was in his boilerplate introduction, where he acknowledged the presence of the two Muslims who are members of Congress.

Muslims make up 0.9 percent of the population, so having two representatives out of 435 makes them somewhat underrepresented. Not as underrepresented as Hindus, though, who are 0.7 percent of the population and have only one representative. But what about us? The 22 percent of the population who have no religious belief and who are so reviled that not a single member of Congress is willing to acknowledge being one of us? The closest we come is Representative Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), but even her campaign is so terrified of being associated with us that it says “the terms nontheist, atheist, or nonbeliever are not befitting of her life’s work or personal character.” There’s a ringing endorsement! I wonder if she’s willing to accept money from scumbags like us?

Don’t hold your breath waiting for Obama to attend a humanist meeting to draw attention to the demonization of nonbelievers. Instead, he joins the chorus in defense of Muslims as the oppressed minority du jour, decrying the fact “that threats and harassment of Muslim Americans have surged.” It is true there has been an increase, and every instance of threats and harassment against individuals on account of their Muslim belief is despicable. But consider some data. According to FBI statistics for 2014, there are far more hate crimes committed against American Jews, both in the aggregate and per capita, than there are against Muslims. Depending on how fast you believe the Muslim population is growing, American Jews are as much as three times as likely to be victims of hate crimes as American Muslims are.

What does our president say about that? Nothing. Bleeding over Islamophobia is trendy; similar concern for anti-Semitism is not. Obama did visit a synagogue last May, where he mentioned anti-Semitism around the world, but said nothing about the surge here at home. He implied that anti-Semitism is a problem that’s behind us, which it assuredly is not. And he spent most of the speech boasting about how much money we’re giving to the government of Israel, which is one of the root causes of the rise in anti-Semitism.

Of course, you can remember all those times when Obama criticized those who deface humanist billboards, or destroy humanist nativity installations, or threaten teenage girls trying to enforce the First Amendment in their schools, or jeer at humanist veterans marching in a Memorial Day parade. And all the times he defended us from the steady stream of insults we receive from elected officials. Oh, you don’t? I don’t either, because it’s never happened.

On a roll after the prayer breakfast, Obama’s next religious event was authoring an exclusive article for the Religion News Service: “Religious Freedom Keeps Us Strong.” Again, he starts by gushing over religious faith in general: “Religion helps strengthen our nation.” Logically, therefore, does irreligion weaken it? “From women’s rights to civil rights, men and women of faith have often helped move our nation closer to our founding ideals,” the president writes. How exactly did all those pastors serving on White Citizens Councils in the 1960s move us closer to civil rights? And how are the Catholic Church and the fundamentalist Baptists today moving us closer to women’s rights? As AHA Executive Director Roy Speckhardt details in Creating Change Through Humanism, it’s we humanists who have been consistently out front on cutting-edge issues.

Obama’s RNS article then cuts straight to Islam, without mentioning freedom for any other variety of religious belief or nonbelief. And here he deliberately conflates attacks on individual Muslims—which are indefensible—with intellectual attacks on the belief system of Islam itself. “The world’s religions are a part of our national character,” he writes, “So we should never play into terrorist propaganda or suggest that all Muslims, or Islam itself, is the problem. That betrays our values.”

Which part of our national character punishes blasphemy or apostasy with death? Or chops off the hands of people who steal? Or stones women to death for adultery? Or chops up the genitals of infant boys and girls? Or prevents people from consuming wholesome and pleasant food and drink? Or censors mainstream art and literature? Or criminalizes ordinary business transactions involving the time value of money, unless they are twisted into a ludicrous pretzel? Or celebrates the Holocaust? I’m not even talking about ISIS—I’m talking about mainstream Islam as currently practiced in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, England, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, and elsewhere. It is appalling, and what really “betrays our values” is for our president to condemn those of us willing to shine a light on it.

It is entirely possible that whoever succeeds Obama as president will be even more sanctimonious and hypocritical than he is. Even so, I can’t wait to try whoever’s behind door number two.