July 17, 2002

‘One Nation’ or “Under God’?

Is anyone else as hacked off as I am about this whole Pledge of Allegiance ordeal? Not likely, because I am not mad at all. I love it!

With seemingly the entire nation (or at least editorial writers) in extreme hysterics at the imaginary prospect of being forced into atheism and bankruptcy, you would think that the 9th District Court was trying to remove “United States of America” from the pledge instead of “Under God.” But I doubt that merely removing the name of the nation would cause anywhere near the fury that only the religious right can muster.

This latest backlash, added to school vouchers and faith-based initiatives, shows that the nation is hitting the trifecta against religious freedom. Unfortunately, dissent is all but nonexistent, as everyone now seems to want to stick it to Michael Newdow (atheist) as much as Osama bin Laden (religious fanatic). Are we ever satisfied?

I think that the key to understanding this complex issue is to look at it from a patriotic angle. And what could be more patriotic than upholding the Constitution? Apparently no one has bothered to read the document; otherwise someone would have noticed that the words “so help me God” do not show up in any official oath. The Constitution is, and was intended to be, a secular document. Any mentions of a deity that actually do exist in our founding documents are far different from the references to God we make today.

To put the difference in perspective: If the God mentioned in the Pledge of Allegiance is generic, then why is there so much uproar from Christians? Because the God mentioned is in fact very specific and very much in line with a theological agenda.

The decision of the court was that mentioning “God” in the pledge amounts to endorsement of a single deity, thereby violating the Establishment Clause and the First Amendment. In an attempt to subvert charges of anti-Christianity, the court reasoned that “One nation under Zeus” was just as unconstitutional.

Simply put, to refer to any one God in the pledge of a country with spiritual diversity is to ask for trouble. Advocates of the status quo argue that the presence of God in our slogans and oaths reflect a long-standing heritage of religion. But if this is so, then why did it take so long to get it in our pledge and on our money?

The addition of “under God” to the pledge in 1954 and the adoption of “In God We Trust” as our national motto in 1956 both reflect the arrogant anti-Communist sentiments of the disgraceful McCarthy era. In any case, they do not come close to matching any intentions of the Constitution. And while our coinage has sported “In God We Trust” since a few religious people appealed to the U.S. Mint to add it in 1864, dollar bills have only displayed the phrase since 1964. I suspect our Founding Fathers had very little to do with any of these events.

As for the pledge, I would like to see the people who are so eager to profess their piety to the flag stay on their altar when the word “God” is replaced with “Allah,” “Buddha,” “Moses” or “Mohammad.” That is exactly what could happen once we have decided to let government meddle with affairs of belief.

If this ruling should encourage anyone, it’s people of faith. Personally, I don’t need some memorized morning monologue or dollar bill telling me in whom I trust. Do you?

The oath is called the Pledge of Allegiance, not the Prayer of Allegiance. Government has no business endorsing or tearing down any religion, and having the words “under God” violates both at the same time.

With such a vast spectrum of beliefs and opinions, America should adopt a more inclusive pledge, or at least drop the words “under God.” Otherwise, we may as well cut out two other words: “one nation,” because as long as our pledge continues to divide the country, we will not have one nation under anything.


Anonymous erin kramer said...

i searched and found your article via google because i refuse to stand durring the pladge at my school[i'm a freshman in high school]. this year my teacher being a vet and a tyrant got official permission to kick me out of his classroom untill the pledge is over. i'm glad you've written this because it helped me to choose the correct words to use while i type a letter to him and my familly so they all get off my case about it. i agree with you 100%. i enjoyed reading this. thank you.

9:36 PM  
Blogger Ian McGibboney said...

Thanks, Erin. You might also find useful another article I wrote: Why I Hate the Pledge of Allegiance. Even more points to consider.

9:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I personally think that people should stand and say the pledge even if they are atheist. Just because you do not believe in God does not give you the right to not honor and respect the millions of soldiers and leaders that gave their life for you. They gave their life to somebody they have never even seen. Why is it so hard for people to give 30 seconds of your time and show respect for the nation you live in? I am damn sure that the soldiers that died while fighting for you did not sit down and put!

7:39 PM  

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