Speaking at the 63rd annual National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday morning, President Obama said that he regularly seeks God's guidance in leading the United States and reminded attendees that violence rooted in religion isn't exclusive to Islam, but has been carried out by Christians as well.
After beginning his speech by giving "all glory and honor" to God," the President said the event, which was attended by numerous lawmakers, religious leaders, and other officials, was a strong reminder of his own faith journey.
"[God has] strengthened me through the power of His spirit, and I've sought His guidance not just in my own life, but in the life of our nation," he told attendees.
Referencing the humanitarian work of Ebola fighter Dr. Kent Brantly and the courage of imprisoned Pastor Saeed Abedini, the President said, "We've seen professions of faith used for great good." However, he added that faith has also been "twisted and misused in the name of evil," citing the recent terrorist attacks in France, Pakistan, and Nigeria.
He emphasized that there will always be people working to "hijack religion for their own murderous ends."
The Islamic State terrorist group, Obama asserted, is among those who profess to stand up for Islam while actually betraying it.
"We see ISIL, a brutal vicious death cult that in the name of religion carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism," he said, denouncing the group as a "death cult" and criticizing it for "claiming the mantle of religious authority for such actions."
However, he reminded attendees that this kind of brutality under the guise of religion isn't exclusive to Islam.
"Unless we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ," Obama said. "In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ."
This kind of distortion of faith, the President explained, is a result of "sinful tendencies" prevalent in humanity all around the world.
"As people of faith, we must speak up against those who use His name to promote oppression and violence with fierce certainty," he said.
In concluding his speech, Obama also reminded the audience of lawmakers and leaders of the importance of humility.
"The starting point of faith is some doubt - not being so full of yourself and so confident that you are right and that God speaks only to us and doesn't speak to others," he said.
"We should assume humbly that we're confused and don't always know what we're doing and we're staggering and stumbling toward him."
Those who assume that humility are more likely to respect the divide between church and state, Obama said.
"Our government does not sponsor a religion, nor does it pressure anyone to participate in a particular faith or any faith at all."