I was having an interesting discussion with someone about perspectives on other people's religious affiliation (or lack thereof). I'd like to share and pontificate on that discussion.
The easiest starting point is the question: am I jewish? The answer is that it depends who you ask.
Let's start with my opinion. On one hand, my mother is jewish and in jewish culture, if you're mother's jewish, at minimum, you start out being jewish. On the other hand, I never had a bar mitvah, I wasn't really brought up to be jewish, I don't believe in god and the related dogma of the religion, and rarely attend services. On the third hand, I enjoy jewish holidays (Chappy Chanukkah all!), have a jewish extended family, have more jewish friends than statistically random, and while the kids were interested in the religion thing, we took them to jewish services and enrolled them in a jewish Sunday school. Waving all those hands, my internal perspective is that I'm non-religious but culturally somewhat jewish. I feel comfortable in jewish settings, have a bit of natural affinity for jewish events and gatherings, and sort of feel a slight attachment to jewish history and myth.
But it doesn't matter what I think when it comes to others' perspectives. Some of my family and friends think I'm jewish; some think I'm not. Some have bothered to ask what I think, but, in general, what I think doesn't seem to much matter to them as far as whether or not they think I'm jewish.
It's sorta like Schrodinger's cat. I'm simultaneously jewish and not-jewish until somebody observes me. However, my observed state of jewishness is completely dependent on the perspective of the observer and not really tied to any objective or quantum reality.
Now let's switch topics a bit.
Is Obama muslim? Some say yes, most say no (including Obama). Many who say no say that those who say yes are delusional but I think that's inaccurate. Each person observes and then forms a belief based on those observations and his or her perspective. Just because our beliefs are wrong doesn't mean they're delusional.
My observations lead me to believe that it's exceedingly unlikely that Obama is muslim. However, I won't say it's certain that he's not a muslim. Why? Because I don't trust anything he says and I can't get inside his head and heart so I can't completely eliminate the possibility that he is somehow a secret muslim by some definition of muslim. Extremely unlikely, but not absolutely, positively impossible. Therefore, it's almost, but not quite absolutely provable that Obama is not a muslim.
But who cares, anyway? Well, the person I was having the discussion with certainly cared. It's only a small exaggeration to say she considers it a great evil that some people think Obama is muslim because, in her opinion, irrational beliefs like that can lead to great atrocities (like the holocaust, for example). I think it's a bit of a leap from believing that Obama is muslim to a genocide event, but hey, what do I know?
She's an atheist (self-described). So I asked, "which belief is more evil, belief in god or belief that Obama is a muslim?" She wasn't sure and said she would think about it. I'll let you know if she gets back to me on the matter.
I think that if great atrocities occur even a small fraction of the time a group of people has an irrational belief then we wouldn't've made it this far. That's because each and everyone of us is full of irrational beliefs all the time, even if we're unaware of those beliefs. And that's ignoring the fact that rational beliefs sometimes cause us to do atrocious things as well.