February 5th, 2009
12:00 PM ET
9 years ago

Obama speaks out about religious transformation

 Obama discussed his own religious transformation.

Obama discussed his own religious transformation.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama spoke out Thursday about his religious transformation. The President's comments came at the National Prayer Breakfast.

Here's what Obama said, according to the prepared remarks.

"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. "

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama
soundoff (175 Responses)
  1. JPM

    I was raised very much like Obama. In a household with Catholic connections, but rarely, if ever, attending church. My mom was also suspicious of organized religion – and yet she taught me that kindness, generosity, love and goodness were virtues above all others.

    I am not a "non-believer", but I don't go to church. Many of the things I practice – charity towards others, kindness & caring towards strangers and volunteerism – these are true human values that are in line with Christianity. I believe if one is full of hatred and judgement for their fellow man/woman, they are not following what Jesus taught.

    February 5, 2009 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  2. TCM

    Brother Ayers? Brother Rezko? Can I get an Amen on that?

    February 5, 2009 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  3. Greg Pottstown, Pa.

    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. "
    So I decided to find the most the most dangerous minister i could. Little did I know that I would have to disown him along with the black community.

    a mother who was skeptical of organized religion
    and yet you did not learn anything from her skepticism.

    February 5, 2009 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  4. rosalind


    February 5, 2009 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  5. Dan, TX

    That's my President. I am proud to be an American with this President. Atheists should be treated with respect, as should Jews, Christians, Muslims or any other religion in our society.

    February 5, 2009 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  6. PATC

    Then he met Jeremiah Wright and Louis Farrakan and the rest is history.

    February 5, 2009 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  7. Dilligaf

    Yaaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwwwnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The only religion this guy believes in is Socialism. The One worships at the altar of Big Gov't running every aspect of our lives. You idiots who voted for this tool deserve what he's about to do to this country, starting with this stimulus (LOLF!) package that is nuthin' but payback and handouts for every left-wing group in existence!

    February 5, 2009 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  8. Lisa

    Praise God: Although we are Christians we are called love sinner as well as our brother and sisters in the faith... we are the hands and the heart of God in the earth... We are to pray and care for those who are lost and live by example not necessarily with our mouth although it is certainly that but most importantly by our lives so that they two can come to know the truth... Barack Obama I truly admire you for standing and in the love God has call for you to... in a true and real love for people and a true and real love for the truth... you are already the greatest president we've had- thanks

    February 5, 2009 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  9. Independent Paul from Phoenix

    Wow, you could have put the name George W. Bush in front of this quote, and nobody would be surprised. I wonder if the far left will get as angry over these comments as they did for Bush.

    Don't forget, Obama just expanded the much maligned and joked about Faith Based Initiative program.

    February 5, 2009 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  10. Ellen Perkins

    If Obama has been called by God for any purpose, it is to destroy the world through arrogance and deceit, reference Judas. Obama believes in himself, not Him the Almighty God.

    February 5, 2009 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  11. Baze

    This man had better stop before people start sacrificing themselves in his name. I mean seriously he gets more and more inspirational everyday. His influence makes politics look small, and those who oppose him look bad.

    February 5, 2009 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  12. Independant Vet





    February 5, 2009 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  13. Doug, New Jersey

    Obama was indoctrinated into his black liberation theology by Rev. Jeremiah Wright. If you have read Michelle Obama's Princeton thesis then you can see that it is possible that she also influenced him as well.

    We are all free, at least for now, to believe whatever we want in America. It did upset me when people said Obama was Muslim, as if it were a negative. I believe their is more love and tolerance in the hearts of the believers in Islam than most black liberation theologists.

    February 5, 2009 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  14. Maggie

    There's a big difference between faith, religion and spirituality. Me, I don't trust organized religion. Not one little bit. I grew up in a fundamentalist baptist school/home, and after doing some of my own research, I have my own belief system now because I don't follow organized religion.

    That doesn't mean I don't have faith. I do. There's a huge difference between faith and religion.

    February 5, 2009 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  15. bluedog

    GWB II?

    The Dems learned their lessons in '00 and '04 and evolved from the party of atheists into the party of religion.

    Dem candidates, including Obama and Clinton, virtually slathered themselves in Christianity. Many of them, who'd never darkened the door of a church, began to trip over themselves for opportunities to speak in churches (esp. when TV cameras were present). Christianity swept over the entire party in a religious revival that hasn't been seen since the 1920s.

    This may have been the biggest Dem hypocrisy of the recent election.

    Come 2012, they'll again put aside their tax-evading ways, stop taking contributions from lobbyists and start paying their illegal nannies a minimum wage and fill the churches again. It's a rip-snortin' joke on the American voter.

    February 5, 2009 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  16. Marilyn

    President Obama.......stay close to your faith. In the midst you can find your guidance.

    February 5, 2009 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  17. Ben

    This may have been his best speech!

    February 5, 2009 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  18. Simmy

    Amen Mr. President!

    You are called to this position, that is why you are being so vehemently opposed. You are not fighting against flesh and blood, but against old spirits that have etched their ideologies in Washington for years, and resent being challenged. They personify .........evil in high places.....Beloved President; Stay strong in the Lord!

    February 5, 2009 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  19. Henry Miller, Cary, NC

    Why does everyone in politics think they have to make this big show about their adherence to superstitious religious drivel? The Dark Ages ended a long time ago–isn't it time we got over the silly gods-and-devils nonsense?

    February 5, 2009 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  20. Toby in Illinois

    And now he will impose his religion upon the rest of us and force us to pay taxes to support "faith-based initiatives" - programs that reimburse churches for doing what they claim to do anyway as a matter of conviction and duty. Thus, Obama is freeing up church funds so religious zealots can proselytize me with my own money.
    The government is collecting taxes for the church, and I am being forced to support the church. So much for the Constitution and the secular state.
    This was not what I voted for.

    February 5, 2009 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  21. Karen- Change is coming

    Great! God spoke to President Obama in when He was ready to receive what God had in store for him and to take President Obama higher. God comes to each of us in his own way and time.

    February 5, 2009 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  22. bill

    i can relate. difference??? born southern illinois, white, educated family, republicans. MY WIFE was the influence that got me to accept Christ, her example. Note: the only area now is the belief on abortion, we have to stop that–all else, go obama go. you da man.

    February 5, 2009 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  23. Nacho Cheese

    I think this is a beautiful expression of religious faith and spirituality. I'm glad Obama found a faith that works so well with his personal life and that he went to it with his heart open. He's Christian not for the doctrine, not for the "truth"... but for the people who he helped and who ended up helping him. Even as a Pagan, I put my wholehearted trust and faith into him to lead us right. 🙂

    (Oops, I said "Pagan"... are you going to leave this comment out, CNN?)

    February 5, 2009 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  24. James in Dallas, Tx

    Americans need a President to focus on the economy not our religion which is a private matter. I don't care what religion the President is. I do care that he shows leadership on the economy and foreign policy.

    February 5, 2009 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  25. Nicholas

    THIS is what Christianity is about. Not trying to convert anyone. But living your life as a Christ like as you can, so that other may see your good works and follow what you have been doing in Jesus. It's that simple.

    Glad to hear it Mr. President!

    February 5, 2009 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
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