“What about ‘Under God?'”
You may ask: “what about ‘Under God?'”
When I was growing up, I recited the Pledge of Allegiance every day. “One nation, under God, indivisible . . .” at first, I just went with it. Then I began to wonder why an Atheist should profess to “one nation, under God” . . . if I didn’t believe in God, wasn’t swearing that my nation was “under God” dishonest? Really, didn’t saying “one nation, under God, indivisible” basically negate, for an Atheist, the entire pledge? Was I lying? Was I being disloyal?
As a young person, I thought long and hard about it. I concluded that as an American, I ought to be free to swear oaths to God, or not. And that, as a nation full of Christians, the people running our government had slipped up and forgotten about us Atheists, and that really I should spend my life lobbying Congress to fix the Pledge of Allegiance. But as I was still a kid in grammar school, and later found other things to do, I neglected this duty to repair my government, and satisfied myself with the strange expediency of dropping a three-syllable pause in to my own personal Pledge of allegiance.
“I pledge allegiance, to the flag, of the United States of America, and to the republic, for which it stands, one nation, ah hmm hmm, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
The fact is, that we got along without being “under God” until the 1950s, when we faced the Communist enemy. One of the worst things about Communists was their State Atheism. In order to secure our religious freedom, Congress slipped those two words in to the Pledge of Allegiance. It was a reactionary move, self-defeating. The real problem of the enemy was that they mandated a particular religious view.
Michael Newdow is doing us all a favor, and I have written him and sent him money. I believe that in time, America will come to share our conclusion that confusing God and the nation is not the way we want to do things. The Supreme Court basically agrees with him, but in observing that quite a few Americans start to froth at the mouth when the Atheists come and ask for a little fair treatment, they compromised by claiming that due to a technicality, Michael Newdow had to start over again, thus buying some time for us secular types to try and explain how we’re not really trying to dismantle the Republic, really we want to make it better.
I am of the opinion that the Founding Fathers knew what they were doing. They understood that government had certain purposes, and the government had certain problems. They concluded that mixing Religious doctrine with Governance led to trouble, and decided that in forming our government, they would make a seperation of Church and State. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” declares the First Amendment.
From a religious point of view, this is actually a very good thing. The United States’ Democracy was a radical break with the Divine Right of Kings then ruling Europe. “We the People of the United States . . . do ordain and establish this Constitution.” Or, as Lincoln described it, “government of the people by the people for the people.” The government, very clearly, is run not by divine right, but by fallible human beings.
The American government is a consensus among free people, and run by those same people. They hold a variety of religious beliefs, and therefor they will not establish any particular belief as the law of the free people. “Religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God,” wrote Thomas Jefferson, as he described the First Amendment as “thus building a wall of separation between church and State.”
There is another matter to consider, especially for people who support the Second Amendment. “The right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The people will defend “the security of a free State,” but being that power of government is such a great temptation for tyrants, “when a long train of abuses . . . evinces a design to reduce [the people] under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government.”
The swastika is a crooked cross, the type that has been burned on the lawns of black home. The Soviet Union was ruled by false idols, and Saddam Hussein amended the Iraq flag to praise Allah. Making a claim to Divine Right is a trick that lesser governments use to compensate for their lack of a popular mandate.
Let us not confuse government and worship.
In all fairness, there is a valid alternative interpretation to this issue, and that is that Atheists are not allowed to be Americans. If it comes to that, I will take my heavy heart, and look long and hard, at emigrating to some nation that actually does respect individual religious freedom, and values the seperation of church and state.