A new national survey by the Pew Research Center reports an increasing number of people in every group polled holds the wacky belief that President Obama is a Muslim. Sadly, the folks that look like me (conservatives, white evangelicals) are the ones most likely (34 percent and 29 percent) to believe this nonsense.

But if you look at the percentage increase, the most significant shift on the religious side is white mainliners (22 percent, a change of +12) and white Catholics (22 percent, a change of +13). The groups that have shifted the least are, naturally, African Americans and liberal Democrats. Yet both of these groups are now less likely to identify him as a Christian.

Almost as interesting—and not nearly as crazy—is the increase in the number of people who say they can’t identify his religion. A plurality—43 percent—now say they do not know what Obama’s religion is, up from 34 percent in 2009.

Being confused about Obama’s beliefs is understandable considering the confused way he defines himself.

In a 2004 interview Obama stated clearly, “I am a Christian.” Yet in the same interview he says “intellectually I’ve drawn as much from Judaism as any other faith” and “I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people.” While his grandparents “joined a Universalist church” his mother (“wasn’t a church lady” ) married a non-practicing Muslim and moved to Indonesia where Barack attended Catholic school: “So I was studying the Bible and catechisms by day, and at night you’d hear the prayer call.”

Obama thinks religion is “at it’s best comes with a big dose of doubt.” He thinks “Jesus is an historical figure . . . he’s also a wonderful teacher” and certainly doesn’t think Christ is the only way to salvation (“I find it hard to believe that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell.”). He’s not sure about heaven and defines sin as “Being out of alignment with my values.” Additionally, he says he feels the most centered and most aligned spiritually when he’s being true to himself and that he’s a “follower, as well, of our civic religion.”

With answers like that, is it any wonder people are confused? Whatever that adds up to (Unitarianism?) it sure doesn’t look anything like the beliefs of a secret Muslim.

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