From my new VDARE.com column, in which I conclude with a quite reasonable suggestion for dealing with the serious questions that a close reading of Obama's autobiography raises:
So, what is Obama, religiously?
No, Obama is not a Black Muslim
Obama was intrigued enough by the Black Muslims to recount respectfully in Dreams (pp. 179-181, 195-200) long conversations in Chicago in the 1980s with an ex-gang leader renamed Rafiq al Shabazz, with whom Obama formed "an uneasy alliance" (p. 196) in their mutual business of extracting money for blacks from the taxpayers, an alliance that didn't go over well with Obama's church lady colleagues.
And Obama occasionally bought Farrakhan's newspaper The Final Call. Reading it, he understood the logic behind the Black Muslims cultivating hatred of whites: to unite blacks. Their racism is morally acceptable to him, in theory:"If [black] nationalism could create a strong and effective insularity, deliver on its promise of self-respect, then the hurt it might cause well-meaning whites, or the inner turmoil it caused people like me, would be of little consequence." (p. 200).
But, in his book, Obama dispassionately rejects Black Nationalism as economically and politically impractical.
In the final analysis, the Black Muslims are losers, and Obama, with his two Ivy League degrees and boundless ambition, is a winner.
What's striking about the bemused pages devoted to Farrakhan (pp. 201-204) is the lack of moral outrage at the chief beneficiary of the assassination of Obama's hero, Malcolm X, who was the (nominal) author of his favorite book, The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Ben Wallace-Wells wrote in Rolling Stone that Obama has "as openly radical a background as any significant American political figure has ever emerged from, as much Malcolm X as Martin Luther King Jr."
Malcolm X broke with the Black Muslims and their belief that whites are intrinsically evil following his pilgrimage to Mecca, where he saw orthodox Muslims of all colors worshipping together. Farrakhan responded: "The die is set, and Malcolm shall not escape, especially after such evil foolish talk about his benefactor, Elijah Muhammad. Such a man as Malcolm is worthy of death…"
Not surprisingly, Nation of Islam gunmen soon rid Farrakhan and Muhammad of this turbulent priest. After Elijah's death, his moderate son Wallace Muhammad led most of Elijah's followers into orthodox Sunni Islam, leaving Farrakhan as Elijah's heir, leader of the racist rump of the movement. (In an ironic postscript, in 1998 Farrakhan appointed one of Malcolm's three convicted assassins, Norman 3X Butler, now out of prison, to head the mosque that Malcolm had once led.)
And, no, Obama's definitely not an orthodox Muslim
…although he spent two years as a small boy at a Muslim public school in Indonesia. This highly intelligent man's personality is complex, but anyone familiar with his memoirs would realize there is little in him that would incline him toward mainstream Islam. That faith is too racially universalist to fill the hole in Obama's soul, his hunger for "race and inheritance" left by his father abandoning him when he was two.
Obama says in Dreams that he was proud that his late Kenyan grandfather had converted to Islam because he saw it as evidence that he was anti-white. Sadly, during his visit to Kenya in 1988, he discovered, to his distress, that Onyango had worked for many years as a domestic servant to British colonialists, and that he had gotten rich by introducing white ways on his farms. As Obama listens to the third wife of his polygamous grandfather tell the old man's story, he writes (p. 406 of Dreams):
"… I, too, had felt betrayed. … I had also imagined him an independent man, a man of his people, opposed to white rule. There was no real basis for this image, I now realized—only the letter he had written to Gramps saying that he didn't want his one son marrying white. That, and his Muslim faith, which in my mind had become linked with the Nation of Islam back in the States. What Granny had told us scrambled that image completely, causing ugly words to flash across my mind. Uncle Tom. Collaborator. House n*****."
So, is Obama a believing Christian, as he claims on the campaign trail?
Eh, not so much ... Prominent British essayist Jonathan Raban writes in The Church of Obama:
"Obama is cagey, in a lawyerly way, about the supernatural claims of religion. Recounting a conversation about death that he had with one of his two young daughters, he wrote, 'I wondered whether I should have told her the truth, that I wasn't sure what happens when we die, any more than I was sure of where the soul resides or what existed before the Big Bang.' So I think we can take it that he doesn't believe—or at least doesn't exactly believe—in the afterlife or the creation."
The underlying reality, Raban surmises, isn't very exciting. Obama believes, more or less, in nothing. He is, argues Raban, a "scrupulous agnostic."
Indeed, while Obama's 1988 "conversion" in Rev. Wright's church is dramatically described on p. 295 of Dreams, I can't find it, or Christianity in general, coming up again in the last 147 pages of his autobiography, most of which takes place later that year in Kenya. Apparently, his conversion didn't make much of an impression on him.
Fine, but then what has Obama been doing at 11am Sunday morning for the last two decades at Rev. Wright's church? And why, out of all the churches on the South Side of Chicago (and Obama met dozens of ministers during his race organizing years), did Obama choose Rev. Wright? [More]