Since he came into the public eye, Barack Hussein Obama has been plagued with questions about his religion. Based on his name, many wrongly assume the Christian president is Muslim. And that assumption seems to be growing.
A new national poll released Wednesday shows 18 percent of Americans now say Mr. Obama is a Muslim, up from 11 percent in March 2009. Overall, only 34 percent of Americans say Obama is a Christian, down from 48 percent in 2009. Forty-three percent say they do not know what religion Obama practices.
The Pew Research Center poll was completed earlier this month, before the president's controversial comment about the proposed construction of a 15-story mosque two blocks ground zero.
The White House asserts President Obama is a committed Christian whose faith plays a part in his daily life. "He prays every day, he seeks a small circle of Christian pastors to give him spiritual advice and counseling, he even receives a daily devotional that he uses each morning," says the White House Office of Media Affairs. "The president's Christian faith is a part of who he is, but not a part of what the public or the media is focused on everyday."
Here are some of Mr. Obama's own comments on and references to religion:
PRESIDENT OBAMA'S INAUGURAL ADDRESS - JANUARY 20, 2009
"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth"
PRESIDENT OBAMA'S ADDRESS TO THE NATIONAL PRAYER BREAKFAST - FEBRUARY 5, 2009
"I was not raised in a particularly religious household. I had a father who was born a Muslim but became an atheist, grandparents who were non-practicing Methodists and Baptists, and a mother who was skeptical of organized religion, even as she was the kindest, most spiritual person I've ever known. She was the one who taught me as a child to love, and to understand, and to do unto others as I would want done.
I didn't become a Christian until many years later, when I moved to the South Side of Chicago after college. It happened not because of indoctrination or a sudden revelation, but because I spent month after month working with church folks who simply wanted to help neighbors who were down on their luck -- no matter what they looked like, or where they came from, or who they prayed to. It was on those streets, in those neighborhoods, that I first heard God's spirit beckon me. It was there that I felt called to a higher purpose -- His purpose."
"We know too that whatever our differences, there is one law that binds all great religions together. Jesus told us to "love thy neighbor as thyself." The Torah commands, "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow." In Islam, there is a hadith that reads "None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself." And the same is true for Buddhists and Hindus; for followers of Confucius and for humanists. It is, of course, the Golden Rule - the call to love one another; to understand one another; to treat with dignity and respect those with whom we share a brief moment on this Earth.
It is an ancient rule; a simple rule; but also one of the most challenging. For it asks each of us to take some measure of responsibility for the well-being of people we may not know or worship with or agree with on every issue. Sometimes, it asks us to reconcile with bitter enemies or resolve ancient hatreds. And that requires a living, breathing, active faith. It requires us not only to believe, but to do - to give something of ourselves for the benefit of others and the betterment of our world."
PRESIDENT OBAMA'S REMARKS AT GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY - APRIL 14, 2009Now, there's a parable at the end of the Sermon on the Mount that tells the story of two men.
The first built his house on a pile of sand, and it was soon destroyed when a storm hit. But the second is known as the wise man, for when "the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock." "It was founded upon a rock."
We cannot rebuild this economy on the same pile of sand. We must build our house upon a rock. We must lay a new foundation for growth and prosperity: a foundation that will move us from an era of borrow and spend to one where we save and invest; where we consume less at home and send more exports abroad.
PRESIDENT OBAMA'S REMARKS AT NOTRE DAME COMMENCEMENT- MAY 17, 2009
"I was not raised in a particularly religious household, but my mother instilled in me a sense of service and empathy that eventually led me to become a community organizer after I graduated college. A group of Catholic churches in Chicago helped fund an organization known as the Developing Communities Project, and we worked to lift up South Side neighborhoods that had been devastated when the local steel plant closed.
It was quite an eclectic crew. Catholic and Protestant churches. Jewish and African-American organizers. Working-class black and white and Hispanic residents. All of us with different experiences. All of us with different beliefs. But all of us learned to work side by side because all of us saw in these neighborhoods other human beings who needed our help - to find jobs and improve schools. We were bound together in the service of others.
And something else happened during the time I spent in those neighborhoods. Perhaps because the church folks I worked with were so welcoming and understanding; perhaps because they invited me to their services and sang with me from their hymnals; perhaps because I witnessed all of the good works their faith inspired them to perform, I found myself drawn - not just to work with the church, but to be in the church. It was through this service that I was brought to Christ."
PRESIDENT OBAMA'S REMARKS AT A NEWS CONFERENCE, CAIRO, EGYPT - JUNE 4, 2009
"Well, you know, I think it's interesting -- obviously I'm a person of faith, and as a Christian, but also as somebody who believes very strongly in democracy and human rights and I'm a constitutional law professor, so I have some very strong ideas about how a pluralistic society lives together -- these are things that I do spend time thinking about.
What I tried to communicate in the speech and what I believe very strongly is that in an interdependent world like ours, where the world has shrunk and different peoples with different faiths and different ideas are constantly having to coexist, that we have to have a mature faith that says "I believe with all my heart and all my soul in what I believe, but I respect the fact that somebody else believes their beliefs just as strongly."
And so the only way that we are going to live together, or operate in a political system that can work for everybody is if we have certain rules about how we relate to each other.
I can't force my religion on you. I can't try to organize a majority to discriminate against you because you're a religious minority. I can't simply take what's in my religious beliefs and say you have to believe and abide by these same things. Now, that doesn't mean that I can't make arguments that are based on my belief and my faith -- right? If I'm a Christian, I believe in the Ten Commandments. And it says, Thou Shalt Not Kill."
PRESIDENT OBAMA'S REMARKS ON A NEW BEGINNING, CAIRO, EGYPT - JUNE 4, 2009
"Freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one's religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state in our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That's why the United States government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab and to punish those who would deny it.
So let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America. And I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations -- to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity."
PRESIDENT OBAMA'S ADDRESS TO THE NATIONAL PRAYER BREAKFAST- FEBURARY 4, 2010
"I'm privileged to join you once again, as my predecessors have for over half a century. And like them, I come here to speak about the ways my faith informs who I am as a president and as a person.
Last month, God's grace and God's mercy seemed far away from our neighbors in Haiti, and yet I believe that grace was not absent in the midst of tragedy. It was heard in prayers and hymns that broke the silence of an earthquake's wake. It was witnessed among parishioners of churches that stood no more, a roadside congregation holding Bibles in their laps. It was felt in the presence of relief workers and medics, translators, servicemen and women bringing food and water and aid to the injured."
PRESIDENT OBAMA'S REMARKS AT THE EASTER PRAYER BREAKFAST - APRIL 6, 2010
"I can't shed light on centuries of scriptural interpretation or bring any new understandings to those of you who reflect on Easter's meaning each and every year and each and every day. But what I can do is tell you what draws me to this holy day, and what lesson I take from Christ's sacrifice and what inspires me about the story of the Resurrection."
"As Christians, we believe that redemption can be delivered by faith in Jesus Christ. And the possibility of redemption can make straight the crookedness of a character and make whole the incompleteness of a soul."
PRESIDENT OBAMA'S REMARKS AT IFTAR DINNER - AUGUST 13, 2010
"In my inaugural address I said that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and every culture, drawn from every end of this Earth. And that diversity can bring difficult debates. This is not unique to our time. Past eras have seen controversies about the construction of synagogues or Catholic churches. But time and again, the American people have demonstrated that we can work through these issues, and stay true to our core values, and emerge stronger for it. So it must be -- and will be -- today.
And tonight, we are reminded that Ramadan is a celebration of a faith known for great diversity. And Ramadan is a reminder that Islam has always been a part of America. The first Muslim ambassador to the United States, from Tunisia, was hosted by President Jefferson, who arranged a sunset dinner for his guest because it was Ramadan -- making it the first known iftar at the White House, more than 200 years ago."
"For in the end, we remain "one nation, under God, indivisible." And we can only achieve "liberty and justice for all" if we live by that one rule at the heart of every great religion, including Islam -- that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us."
CANDIDATE OBAMA PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE - SEPTEMBER 26, 2007
Q: Senator Obama, what is your favorite Bible verse?
OBAMA: Well, I think it would have to be the Sermon on the Mount, because it expresses a basic principle that I think we've lost over the last six years.
John talked about what we've lost. Part of what we've lost is a sense of empathy towards each other. We have been governed in fear and division, and you know, we talk about the federal deficit, but we don't talk enough about the empathy deficit, a sense that I stand in somebody else's shoes, I see through their eyes. People who are struggling trying to figure out how to pay the gas bill, or try to send their kids to college. We are not thinking about them at the federal level.
That's the reason I'm running for president, because I want to restore that.
CANDIDATE OBAMA PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE - JANUARY 15, 2008
OBAMA: Well, look, first of all, let's make clear what the facts are: I am a Christian. I have been sworn in with a Bible.
WILLIAMS: I figured.
OBAMA: I pledge allegiance and lead the pledge of allegiance sometimes in the United States Senate when I'm presiding.
CANDIDATE OBAMA CAMPAGIN EVENT - MARCH 26, 2008
My question is: What role does Jesus Christ play in your life? And how do his teachings and those of the Bible affect your decision- making in politics?
OBAMA: That's interesting. That's interesting. Well, look, it's a wonderful question. It's a complicated question, but it's a wonderful question.
I believe that Jesus Christ died for my sins and that his grace and his mercy and his power, through him, that I can achieve everlasting life. So that's what I believe.
Now, what I also believe in is a gospel of not just words, but deeds. And I believe in doing right here on Earth and treating people with the dignity and respect that is inherent in them being children of God, all people.
SENATOR OBAMA'S REMARKS ON RELIGION AND RESPONSIBILITY - JUNE 28, 2006
"When we ignore the debate about what it means to be a good Christian or Muslim or Jew; when we discuss religion only in the negative sense of where or how it should not be practiced, rather than in the positive sense of what it tells us about our obligations towards one another; when we shy away from religious venues and religious broadcasts because we assume that we will be unwelcome - others will fill the vacuum, those with the most insular views of faith, or those who cynically use religion to justify partisan ends."
SENATOR OBAMA'S REMARKS RELIGIOUS DIVERSITY IN AMERICA - JUNE 28, 2006
"Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers."