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

Obama speaks out about religious transformation

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/05/art.obama.gi.jpg caption=" 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. Jimson Hallway

    Well for a man of God, he sure speaks out both sides of his mouth... this is the man that plans to use federal money to fund ABORTIONS. This man is a fraud, willing to let babies die so that he can collect the liberal votes. Last time I checked the bible was pretty clear that murder is wrong, and aborting babies is clearly planned and premeditated murder.

    February 5, 2009 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  2. Wolf

    The idea of someone, anyone, finding their faith in helping everyone who needs it, is heartwarming. It wasn't in a building, and it wasn't in a book. Mr. Obama found God by helping the least of his brothers.

    February 5, 2009 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  3. Salt

    I grew up in a non-religious family as well so I can totally appreciate what he's saying. As an adult, I still do not subscribe to any organized religion, but I really respect his own personal transformation. Even moreso, I really appreciate, although he has his personal beliefs, he is not trying to shove them down the throat of America like so many other politicians try to do. He seems to have so much respect for all different points of view and an understanding that part of what makes our country so great is that we have the freedom to practice whatever religion we please.

    There is no RIGHT way. It's all about a personal choice. Kudos to you, Mr. President.

    February 5, 2009 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  4. PULEEEZZZ!! lets tell some truth

    Its best to keep faith out of religion. If you start mixing it up, then you have to include all faiths. Why should Jesus be the only player on the field? MY GOD IS TOO BIG TO FIT IN ANY ONE RELIGION. Remember it is the EXTEMES whether Christian extremism, or Muslim extremism that gets us all in conflict.
    Whats unique about Obama is that he is INCLUSIVE, just as Jesus or Buddha is INCLUSIVE..There are many ways to get to the same goal.

    February 5, 2009 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  5. LIP

    Someday in the distant future, people will stand without the crutch called Religion. Fanaticism and extremists and religious zealots will all be a part of the past. Babies will no longer be murdered on a daily basis without a care or a thought of the baby and people will no longer die in the name of God, whether it be a Christian God or a Muslim God or some other God belonging to some other religion.
    Think its possible?

    February 5, 2009 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  6. DDRM

    I'm religious and I also praise science. Just because some have been jaded by religion does not mean it is evil. Unfortunately, just like there are good and bad people, you will find individuals that abuse their power in religion. The same could be said about teachers. Religion has made me a much better person and it helps to know that the world does not revolve around our vanity all the time. The majority of Americans are religious. In terms of separation of church and state – the constitution states that a state cannot force its citizens to follow a particular religion as the Church of England did centuries ago. It doesn't mean the people of faith (these people pay taxes too) should not have their voice heard. We're not in a Marxist country!!! The faithful have done so much good in this world – reports show that faith-based organizations did more to help the citizens of New Orleans than the government. Let's all get along!

    February 5, 2009 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  7. barack obama is still just B.O.

    Need I say "Bullsh!t?"

    But as I see, many people on this blog will worship anything he says as great no matter what it is. I bet if he accidently reread one of Bush's speeches, these same people would rave about it.

    In all my years, (and there are many), I have never seen so many people blindly follow someone and spout out information that is not based in facts or truth but rhetoric. It's like watching "Charlie McCarthy".

    Please people read and be informed. Not just about his policies but the same policies and results from history. Why the banking system is crashing, why trickle down economics doesn't work with high government involvement, why history shows this spending stimulus will not work, etc, etc, etc. It will change your mind about the self proclaimed great Obama.

    February 5, 2009 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  8. Pat-Pittsburgh

    Reverend Wright would be proud. A wolf in sheep's clothing! And on and on and on, please, go to your office and start working and stop the daily speeches.

    February 5, 2009 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  9. Hope

    Denine – You are still lost in the wilderness. You need to seek Christ fast.

    February 5, 2009 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  10. Cleaning up after W

    For the people posting that Obama advocates killing babies, you need to take your blinders off. Obama wants to reduce the number of abortions in this country but he believes, correctly, that it is not the government's place to prohibit you. That choice is personal and it is you that will ultimately be responsible for your decision. Not the government. The government should not be a moral authority. That's what the church is for.

    Why republicans always think that the world must bend to their views is beyond me.

    February 5, 2009 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  11. Phinizy

    He is clearly an atheist.

    I'm loving it!

    February 5, 2009 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  12. Joe Mahma


    Adults with imaginary friends...

    February 5, 2009 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  13. mickey

    "I have a hard time believing this. Nevermind that attributing the generosity and helpfulness of ordinary people to "God's spirit" diminishes the effort of each of those people. Human kindness needs not answer to a higher power. " Dave

    The Bible speaks of man having a natural affection with or without God and of man being able to possess agape love which only comes from God. Obama attributing those church folks love and service to Gods spirit was correct and diminished nothing. Only thing I disagree with from what he said was it didn`t matter who they prayed to.....

    February 5, 2009 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  14. Adalberto L.


    February 5, 2009 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  15. obama supporter in NC

    randy – i am a catholic who fully supports Obama, i do not however, fully believe in everything the catholic religion preaches – no one is perfect and i am sure everyone makes mistakes or sin every day of their life – i am sure you do too...does the catholic church promote war like your buddy GWB? i didn't think so – i am sure GWB will be answering to God with all the blood on his hands when he left the white house, i.e. Iraq and so forth – please think before you write such nonsense.

    February 5, 2009 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  16. Mark

    I dont know what favortism he is talking about. I hope its not us defendng ourselves against terrorism.

    February 5, 2009 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  17. WI Cheesehead

    Here we go. We have nut jobs coming out to nitpick Obama’s testimony, not realizing how hypocritical they sound in addition to bundle of contradiction they become since Obama didn’t use their scripted version of a testimony. Some may go to the extent of saying it doesn’t sound genuine, guess what, my testimony too is not based on some template and its most hallowed to me. Nuff said.

    February 5, 2009 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  18. Charles

    I take Obama at his word and applaud his simple and elequent statements on his evolving faith. Taking to the streets to do community service has never been the preferred road to take to be successful. Obama had to have felt a higher calling, not just his own ambitions.

    It is scary to review the emails on this matter. Everyone reads into the President's words what they believe about him, for good or ill. I support Obama, but I will admit that former President Bush is a genuine Christian–misguided in how his applied it, of course, but his motivation has never been in doubt. We should give President Obama the benefit of the doubt on his Christian authenticity, as well.

    February 5, 2009 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  19. Just Me In WV

    President Obama professed Christ as his personal savior on many occasions – I guess only people who actually listen have heard him.
    God will continue to bless this man.

    February 5, 2009 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  20. Lane

    Such hateful people. Let the man go to church.

    February 5, 2009 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  21. Obama/Biden 2012

    The skeptical "Christians" that don't believe Obama are certainly judgemental. It's not for you to judge. God knows what's in his heart. Judge not lest thee be judged.

    February 5, 2009 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  22. matt

    This is laughable...not the article, but the responses. Bush got trashed for talking about his relationship with God and was ridiculed for "hearing" God. Now Obama talks about hearing God's spirit and the Obama desciples (the same ones that would have ripped GWB) are falling in line and singing Hallelujia. Thanks for the laugh Obama democrats.

    February 5, 2009 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  23. Kay

    I hope Obama starts talking about the importance of life and the family. Instead he is tearing it down piece by piece with his pro-abortion status and wanting to ruin all the pro-life laws in this country. A country that does not respect it's unborn, it's children, elderly and the traditional family will harm itself. Obama's decision to take money that America needs right now to fund organizations that support abortion (possibly forced abortions!) is cruel and against religion.

    February 5, 2009 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  24. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    Exceptional speech, I saw all of it. Now, the right-wingers are going to feed it to him along with conspiracy theorists on the web who "just know that Obama is a Muslim extremist!"

    At least Obama was candid enough to admit that he didn't "get religion" until after college and as a result of observing other people in service to their communities.

    Bush "got religion" to appeal to the extremist portion of the GOP – period!!! Remember the famous film footage and picture of Bush in the Naional Cathedral where the Bible is upside down?!

    February 5, 2009 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  25. Kemora

    "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
    courage to change the things I can,
    and the wisdom to know the difference."

    “Seek peace, and pursue it."

    Stop hating on the man!!!!!!!!!

    February 5, 2009 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
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