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Obama and Religious Pluralism in US

The idea of ‘American Exceptionalism’ qualitatively differs the United States from other developed nations around the world on the basis of its ethnic diversity and its philosophy regarding certain beliefs which guide the entire nation. Barack Obama in this respect drew from the revolution as well as the evolution-sprung history of the United States as “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers.” (President Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address, n.d.) to explicitly address the religious pluralism in US. He drew upon American exceptionalism by naming the religious diversity line of the more divided nation like no other in the recent history of the US as a significant American construct. This essay builds upon the notion of Barack Obama regarding the varying beliefs of the different religious perspectives acknowledged through the idea of religious pluralism.

Obama envisioned the American nation as “Come together as one American family” (President Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address, n.d.) in his pluralist presidency with all races, creeds, colors, and religions under the same big tent. The idea of religious pluralism of Barack Obama seems to be an inconvenient truth as the majority of people in the US mistrusted the beliefs and ideology of people who had different perspectives than their own. (Espinosa, 2013) Obama as he attempted to universalize the religions of people residing in America with the inclusive approach, the prominent religious advocates in the US seemed to disagree with different religious faiths. Under the watch of Obama, protests proved that nation did not acknowledge the president’s idea of religious pluralism. In one of the instances, protestors in Texas wanted the Muslims born in the United States to ‘Go back home.’ In another one in Idaho, the senators refused a non-Christian prayer as according to them that prayer would invoke the ‘false gods’ in the faith of people who would attend it instead of Jesus Christ’s teachings.

My argument here is that the President repeatedly tried to invoke people to take initiative to “remove the darkness of ignorance” through religious pluralism. However, the majority with multiple religious perspectives have had a conflicted attitude as well as an entirely opposite expression towards religious pluralism. So, in Obama’s era, universalizing religions like Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism was seen as the manifestation of a threat and a paradox by the Americans in the history of religious diversity. The reason also was that Obama was a Muslim by birth so his idea was not acknowledged by the religious extremists. (Tope, 2017)

My opinion, in the nutshell, is that although Obama acknowledged the religious differences through his notions of American exceptionalism and religious pluralism to allow Americans to choose their personal faiths through the exchange of different religious worldviews. On the other hand, much of the nation and especially the advocates of religious pluralism did not raise their voice and remained unwilling to accept these faiths.


Espinosa, G. (Ed.). (2013). Religion, Race, and Barack Obama’s New Democratic Pluralism (Vol. 2). New York, NY: Routledge.

Salama, A. H. (2011). The pluralist context model in Obama’s Cairo speech: A rhetorical semiotic-cognitive approach. ESP Across Cultures, 8, 103-124.

President Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address. (n.d.). The White House.

Tope, D., Rawlinson, B. D., Pickett, J. T., Burdette, A. M., & Ellison, C. G. (2017). Religion, Race, and Othering Barack Obama. Social Currents, 4(1), 51-70.



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