Go and read Mike's opinion over on his blog; and be sure to comment on what you read!
In the mean time, here's my two cents:
"Is it appropriate for the United States Pledge of Allegiance to contain the words 'under God' in it?"
When an Atheist wades into this issue, people roll their eyes.
“Here it comes! More crap from some idiot claiming two words inhibit his ‘freedoms’.”
And honestly, that's how I felt until recently! Even though I was atheist, ‘under God’ seemed so utterly inconsequential, the phrase had never bothered me before. It was just tradition, right?
But that was because I’d never been asked to recite the Pledge of Allegiance before.
The day I became an American, I stood up and realized these words meant something.
The Pledge of Allegiance was as significant to me as my marriage vows, which meant the words ‘under God’ presented a problem: because God had nothing to do with my allegiance to America.
And while 90% of Americans are Christian, it’s wrong that the rest should be required to pledge loyalty to something we don’t believe in; especially when it’s attached to something we do so passionately believe in (i.e. our allegiance to the United States.)
The founding fathers agreed. Their First Amendment reads: “…make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”
By including the words ‘under God’ in the pledge, it ‘establishes’ a single, monotheistic religion (one God, instead of none, or many) that contradicts the beliefs of atheists, Hindus and many others.
Conservatives argue: “This country was founded on Christian principles”, but the founding fathers, despite many being devout Christians, separated Church and State from the very beginning.
Benjamin Franklin even edited Thomas Jefferson’s first draft of the Declaration of Independence to replace ‘sacred rights’ with ‘inalienable rights’ because he didn’t want people thinking that a religious deity granted these rights.
Need more proof? The 1794 Treaty of Tripoli, made law by many of the founding fathers, opened: “The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”
But why, if the founding fathers separated church and state, are the words ‘under God’ included in the pledge at all?
Well, they had nothing to do with it. The pledge was actually written in 1894, by a Baptist minister called Francis Bellamy.
You might think: “If he was a Baptist minister, no wonder he included the words ‘under God.”
But you’d be wrong.
Because Bellamy understood the Constitution, and despite his religious beliefs, knew it would be unconstitutional to include God in the pledge.
In fact, it wasn’t until 1954, during the height of McCarthyism, that religious extremists campaigned to have ‘under God’ added. They argued that communism was defined by atheism – religion being the ‘opiate of the masses.’ To establish America’s differences more firmly, they petitioned Eisenhower to include the words ‘under God’ in the pledge (words possibly used by Abraham Lincoln during the Gettysburg Address, although many contemporary transcripts don’t include them.)
It was paranoia and persecution that forced congress to add ‘under God’ to the pledge; despite it being in opposition not just to the intentions of the founding fathers, but the man who wrote the pledge itself.
Which makes the question no longer: “Should the words ‘under God’ be removed from the pledge,” but “should they have ever been included in the first place?”
To which the answer – whether you’re a Christian or not – is a resolute, resounding: “No!”