Friday, November 14, 2008

One Nation, Under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All

Alonzo Fyfe writes very eloquently on his blog Atheist Ethicist about an issue that I haven't followed very closely. Over the last couple years I've seen it in the news, I've received countless unsolicited e-mails from the conservative religious folks, but I could never get too worked up about it. The point seems to be, according to some, the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance and the phrase "In God We Trust" on the money, are a problem.

The Pledge says that supporting a nation under God is as important – as American – as supporting a nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. In doing so, it equates atheism with rebellion, tyranny, and injustice. The national motto simply says, "If you don't trust in God, you are not one of us."

In his statement Alonzo makes reference to fanatical comments made by President Bush about the kind of Supreme Court Judges he'd appoint, only ones who believe in God, and he mentions some extremist comments made at a Veteran's Day ceremony attended by his dad, a disabled vet.

But isn't taking issue with these traditional words equally extremist? Isn't saying that teaching children the Pledge of Allegiance encourages bigotry a bit of an exaggeration? When the religious right makes statements like only God-believing Americans are real Americans, shouldn't we just ignore them? Is it really necessary to remove these words? I don't think so. What about you?

Another idea that comes to me is perhaps we don't need to put a microscope on each and ever word in our traditional American writings. When "Liberty and Justice for all" was coined, we probably still had slavery and denied women the vote. Now, all of a sudden, we have to get so literal with the God phrases?

What's your opinion on this?


  1. I think you're reading too deep into it. First up, "Under God" I've always seen as a generic term for the spiritual nature of this country (The First Settlers came here to escape the Church of England, the 1st Amendment protects the right to worship, and most of our core documents were written by men who believed in God, tho they often were of different faiths *tho all Christian, they tended to see vast differences between a Quaker and a Protestant*) Tho I understand the sketchy origins that placed those words there. Overall on the Pledge is an issue I don't concern myself much with. The 1st Amendment says you don't have to say it....or you can add and subtract to it as you wish. Free will prevails.

    As for "President Bush about the kind of Supreme Court Judges he'd appoint, only ones who believe in God,"

    The Quote he gives is this:
    "We need common-sense judges who understand that our rights were derived from God. Those are the kinds of judges I intend to put on the bench." (July, 2002)

    This is an artifact left over from the founding fathers that carries over today under the same, non-religious meaning.

    As an example, from the Declaration of Independence:
    "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

    Is Jefferson only speaking of religious men? Is he just talking about males?

    No, it was just the way he wanted to express that certain rights are not granted by man. Not King George who we were declaring independence from, not the Continental Congress, nor the State Governments that the people would be under if no-longer subjects of the British Crown.

    I personally feel that "God" and "Creator" are lousy terms for what I speak of...but what better word? I don't think there is one that is so succinct and clear.

  2. I've never liked the references to God and religion in our government, but I also have never really been too worked up to care very much.

    You don't have to say the Pledge if you don't want to. You don't have to say "So help me God" when swearing an oath if you don't want to. You don't have to swear that oath on a Bible if you don't want to. Even the President.

    But I guess it's the kid who refuses to say the Pledge in school because of his/her beliefs or lack thereof that we should be concerned about. What if that kid goes to a school that is predominantly Christian? What if that kid is made fun of because of his/her stand? What if it gets bad?

    It's just one more way to divide us, as a people. Because the norm is to include the references in our oaths and pledges, it is a subtle way of pointing out those differences. I'd rather religion just stayed out of our government in the first place. Even with the spiritual nature of this country and its origins, the Founders also believed in the separation of Church and State.

    That seems like the best idea to me, personally.

  3. you lazy bums aren't reading nearly deeply enough into this, and what you're reading is motherfucking wrong.

    i'm not going to even try to comment further, because all three of you --- especially Earl, and to some extent Weerd --- have me too infuriated to write anything coherent, what with your narrow-minded bigoted exclusionist theocratic bullshit that you're trying to convince yourselves and one another should count as actual thinking. it is not. all you're actually doing is flinging shit at my citizenship, my patriotism, and my worldview, for absoFUCKINGlutely NO reason whatsoever!

    but that's what religion does. always has, always will.

  4. ironically, over on Daisy's blog, i see that her witch doctor^W^W shaman^W ju-ju man^W^W^W^W geezer in a funny hat is taking political stances that, by rights, should result in his congregation losing tax exempt status. (it won't, of course, because people think religion is so motherfucking special.) because the political stance taken conflicts with Daisy's own, she subtitled the post "what should Daisy do".

    now, i can't comment there, because of that blasted captcha she uses that won't ever load for me (because blogger fucking sucks, as i may have mentioned before --- those control-W's i used up above should be strikeouts...), but i wouldn't anyway. i wouldn't give her my thoughts on the matter, because i know she'd be offended by it. why would she take offense? because, once again, that's what religion does. it drives wedges between people who have most everything else, most everything that matters, in common, because that's how religion itself benefits.

    always has, always will.

  5. Nomen, I was hoping we'd hear from you on this, but I didn't expect all that. Now that you've calmed down, I ask again, "Isn't saying that teaching children the Pledge of Allegiance encourages bigotry a bit of an exaggeration?"

  6. no, it's not an exaggeration at all.

    here, try an experiment the next time you're stateside: get yourself an opportunity to lead a few people in saying the pledge, and substitute one of the other common terms for invisible sky fairy instead of "god". say "under brahma" (you do know just how vague and fluffy the typical high-brahmin notion of the supreme deity is, yes?) or maybe --- if you have a REALLY GOOD escape plan --- "under allah" (we all know the arabic word "allah" translates literally to "god", anyway, right?).

    if the pledge, as amended with divinity during the McCarthyist red scare ("under god" was not originally in it), really doesn't encourage bigotry, then none of these experiments should cause anything much at all to happen; you should be by and large ignored.

    you will not be ignored. even just leaving out the "under god", you will attract criticism.

    why is that?


    for an encore, research the various court cases about getting god out of public schools. really research them; not just what the arguments were, what the points of contention were, and what the outcomes were, but how people reacted to them. one thing you'll find: every time somebody has filed suit about unconstitutional preaching in a classroom somewhere, they have received threats of physical violence for it, from members of their own community. every single time.

    there's a case going through the courts right now, and Ed Brayton has been all over it; a so-called "science" teacher was teaching christian creationism instead of "science", and by way of demonstrating static electricity, used it to burn crosses into his students' arms. he's going to court for it now, and the complainants are receiving all manner of threats for having complained. and that is the usual way of these things.

    yet you're calling people like me bigoted, for merely pointing out that this is a load of hateful bullshit! shove that back up where you pulled it out of, mike --- if you can fit it back in there, what with your head being in the way.


    and even after all that, i still have to point out the article mr. Fyfe wrote was right to begin with. so long as you put forth the phrase "in god we trust" as something all Americans can implicitly agree on --- so long as you pretend it is somehow not contentious, and somehow an uniquely patriotic thing for an American to say --- you're spitting on my citizenship. i do not trust in any invisible sky fairies, yet i'm an American. deal with it, because i'm not about to renounce my citizenship to please your religious delusions.

  7. Nomen, I don't understand why an intelligent person who has a good argument based on the facts, which you are and you have, has to resort to phrases like "invisible sky fairies." I find that unnecessarily sarcastic to say the least.

    I agree totally about substituting Allah for God not going over very well, but what does that prove? It proves that the people for whom it would not go over very well are close-minded rubes, something like that. So what?.

    Your idea that the phrase "In God We Trust" is exclusionary, I find to be a bit of a stretch. The fact that many of these phrases are in our historical tradition and documents and money does not necessarily exclude anyone that I can see. Those who say otherwise could easily be ignored, no?

  8. Well I'd say a Substitution of "Allah" isn't an appropriate example only because "Allah", as far as I know is only used to refer to the Muslim God, as would Jaweh, Jahova, Xenu, or Satan. Meanwhile Jaweh, Jahova, Jove, Zeus, Mars, Belial, Cthulu, Loki, or Vishnu, all can be described with the term "God" (or "god" if you feel that more appropriate)

    Personally I have known many people who refuse to say the pledge, or simply Omit "Under God" from the saying with little notice, and with a general regard of respect from onlookers. And honestly any superstitions will only be noticed because of the dissonance that comes with many people speaking in unison and one voice saying something different, its rarely understood what the word is, but I consider that disrespectful only because it is disruptive.

    I'm curious, Nomen, if there isn't more you aren't telling us. Seems your rage goes deeper than the simple questions Mike has asked.

  9. what's sarcastic about it? i'm giving the idea of divinity all the respect which i feel it is entitled to. to me, adults who earnestly believe in gods truly are every bit as ridiculous as adults who earnestly believe in santa claus. possibly more so; there's more evidence for santa than for gods, after all.

    here's why you think i'm being sarcastic: you want me to give that idea all the respect you think it is entitled to, and damn what i think. well, i don't play that game.

    ...and that's another thing religion does, demand respect which it has not earned and is not entitled to. usually it demands respect over and above, and ahead of, all other possible viewpoints --- that is, when it doesn't demand such respect at the expense of other viewpoints. it never provides any explanation or reason for why it should get any such respect, yet demands it nevertheless.

    always has, always will. only difference now is, i can call it on the carpet for this baseless demand without being burned at the stake for "blasphemy" (the original victimless crime).

  10. Nomen,

    What I see in people who think that religion is ridiculous is that they don't include their own philosophies in the realm of ridiculous.

    I've said it before, I think it is more far fetched to believe the entire universe, multiverse, cosmic existence JUST came into being then it is to believe that an all powerful god, who exists outside of the cosmic existence, created.

    Wouldn't a better test of rationality be in what that religion requires a person to do? If it is holding a harmless belief that a god walked the earth as man, then went back; what harm does it cause anyone else?

    I don't care how a person came to their belief system; through secular means or religious, I still respect that they have a system and try not to ridicule it.

    I can and will debate, question, try to understand a belief system, but to even if that belief system is about Santa Clause, I don't think that is worth ridiculing the person.

    In the end, isn't it as simple as treating another person or their belief system as you would want to be treated?

  11. i have no beliefs concerning the origin of the universe, bob. as best i can tell, we have not sufficient knowledge to answer the question, or even to tell whether the question makes sense enough to have an answer.

    true, modern physics has produced some interesting hypotheses, thoughtworthy ideas, which i do find interesting to contemplate. but so far, i don't think we can call any of them definitively proven. the sensible thing to do in such a case is to admit to ignorance, not resort to invisible friends.

    In the end, isn't it as simple as treating another person or their belief system as you would want to be treated?

    but i am. insofar as i hold to ridiculous beliefs, i want to have them ridiculed. how else am i ever to learn better? how else am i to come to humility?

  12. Nomen, One thing I really can't stand is the typical Christian right fundamentalist who tries to lay his beliefs on others. But, I don't get a sense of arrogance and superiority from him, in most cases. That's what I get from you, though, when you resort to ridicule. It sounds like you're talking from an intellectually superior hilltop to all of us lower beings, all of us who are like silly children. Do you really want to sound like that? We're not all stupid you know.

  13. One thing I really can't stand is the typical Christian right fundamentalist who tries to lay his beliefs on others. But, I don't get a sense of arrogance and superiority from him, in most cases.

    that's funny, because i do get just that from them. that, and often a few rather less savory senses, as well.

    honestly, if i switched from strident atheist to strident pick-a-religion here and kept my language otherwise equivalent --- even (no, especially) if i were to speak of atheism specifically in these tones --- i'm reasonably certain nobody would lift an eyebrow at me. i'm somewhat certain you would give me a complete pass on my language if i merely didn't target religion.

    heck, bush the elder targeted the citizenship and patriotism of American atheists using far more discriminatory language than any i have used so far, and the only people who ever noticed were atheists. don't pretend that i am being somehow horribly rude here, because i still have not begun to approach the rudeness and bigotry which believers routinely get away with!

  14. Nomen, You said "i'm somewhat certain you would give me a complete pass on my language if i merely didn't target religion." Now, come on. Have you seen anyone get a complete pass on this blog for anything?

  15. touche, Mike; on your blog, not even you can usually catch a break.

    still, i've seen enough of U.S. society to say with some confidence that it doesn't operate like your blog does. religious people routinely get much more leeway than folks like me, even when they're pushing bigotry far worse than what i've put forth in this thread.

    and they have the ears of legislators. just for example, some day i'll do a review of state constitutions and total up how many of them still blatantly violate the federal constitution's "no religious tests for office" clause; i need not hurry, such practices aren't going out of style.