Though Obama is a practicing Christian, and he was chiefly raised by his mother and her parents who were Christians, both his father Barack Obama, Sr. with whom he lived only as a baby, and his stepfather Lolo Soetoro, with whom he lived during his early childhood, were nominally Muslims.
But the story according to Obama's books and extra information supplied by his political adviser David Axelrod, is that Obama lived in Jakarta from age 6 to age 10 with his mother and stepfather, neither of whom were particularly religious.
For two years he attended a Catholic school and for two years he attended the Besuki School - "where students were predominately Muslim but where they had only one hour a week of comparative religious studies," Axelrod said.
Obama has frequently mentioned the Golden Rule or that general idea when speaking about how his faith shapes his policies, and he can point to chapter and verse to back up his views.
Jesus twice invoked the Golden Rule in the Gospels, in a phrase that is often rendered "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." And Jesus is cited three times boiling down all of God's law to what is known as the Great Commandment, a dual injunction to "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart" and to "love thy neighbor as thyself."
“Congratulations, Mr. President, for making history today by becoming the first sitting president to explicitly support marriage for same-sex couples,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
In his interview with ABC, Obama talked about squaring his decision with his personal religious faith.
“We are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others,” Obama said, referencing his wife, Michelle.
“But, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule,” he said. “Treat others the way you would want to be treated.”
He is deeply inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr., and Reinhold Niebuhr, who inform his sense of history and justice. While both of these theologian-activists worked with Jews, neither developed an extensive theology of pluralism. Furthermore, Obama has said that while he respects others' faiths, Christianity is the only faith for him.
As a black politician, Obama echoes some of Martin Luther King's rhetoric, if not his preacher's style. He uses code words from King like the "beloved country," and borrows some lines, such as "the arc of the universe bends towards justice." Obama quotes black spirituals. He also includes Biblical allusions to David and Goliath, Daniel and the lions, and of course, to the Promised Land — a favorite and repeated theme of Martin Luther King.
The president also spoke of praying with Billy Graham, and said, "I have fallen on my knees with great regularity since that moment."
In his speech Obama made specific mention of his calls, visits and prayers with Joel Hunter, a megachurch pastor from Florida, and with Bishop T.D. Jakes, a megachurch pastor from Texas.
"From time to time, friends of mine, some of who are here today, friends like Joel Hunter or T.D. Jakes, will come by the Oval Office or they'll call on the phone or they'll send me an e-mail, and we'll pray together, and they'll pray for me and my family, and for our country," he said.
Obama's father was born into a Muslim family in Kenya, but was an atheist by the time Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, according to the president's accounts. Obama has written that he was not raised in a religious household, but converted to Christianity as an adult, in part through Wright's influence.
The dominant influence in his life was neither his father (whom he barely knew) or his stepfather, but his mother, Ann Dunham, a free-spirited type he once described as a "secular humanist."
The Obama campaign says they believe that the Muslim notation was made in the ledger because that was the nominal religion of Barack's stepfather, now deceased. Campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor said that Obama "is not, and was never, a Muslim." The campaign yesterday established a new website, Fight the Smears, to counter such rumors.
Born to a Christian-turned-secular mother and a Muslim-turned-atheist African father, Obama grew up living all across the world with plenty of spiritual influences, but without any particular religion. He is now a Christian, having been baptized in the early 1990s at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.
After working in the business sector for two years, Obama moved to Chicago in 1985. There, he worked on the South Side as a community organizer for low-income residents in the Roseland and the Altgeld Gardens communities.
It was during this time that Obama, who said he "was not raised in a religious household," joined the Trinity United Church of Christ.