Monday, February 07, 2011

The Great Debate: "Is it appropriate for the United States Pledge of Allegiance to contain the words 'under God' in it?"

Today is the first of (hopefully) a series of cross-blog debates with conservative blogger Mike Waters; who enjoys the challenge of a gentlemanly discussion. To kick things off, we started with the question of whether or not 'under God' should be included in the Pledge of Allegiance. He argues 'yes,' whereas as an atheist, I firmly believe that God should stay out of my business (after all, I stay out of his.)

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!”


paul mitchell said...

Two things: "that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights."

And McCarthy was pretty much right across the board. History and the declassification of the Soviet records PROVED it.

J.M. Waters said...

Roland, cheers on the first of (what I hope will be) many "Great Debates."

I appreciate your concern for the 10%! Should then the will of the 90% be bent to that of the 10% in this case? It will not surprise you that I say "No!" There is a certain amount of adapting that must be undertaken by those who choose to live in a Republic such as ours.

To your point regarding the "Establishment Clause," I believe Madison was more in line with the thinking of the day when he proposed that a National Religion should not be established. The thinking of the day was that Christian Sects would compete to have their brand of Christianity take hold of the Government. The "Establishment Clause" aimed to keep the Government from becoming Methodist, Baptist, Catholic, etc. It was not meant to rip the tapestry of the Christian Faith away from the American Fabric.

Roland Hulme said...

"Should then the will of the 90% be bent to that of the 10% in this case?"

Mike! Shame on you! :-)

The very spirit of the American ideal is the protection of EVERYBODY'S freedom, not just the majority. That 10% is, for example, the population of California, or just under the number of African Americans in America. You're basically arguing that these people should be expected to toe the line with the majority because their values aren't as important as other people's!

"There is a certain amount of adapting that must be undertaken by those who choose to live in a Republic such as ours."

The majority of those 10% are BORN and RAISED Americans. It sounds like you're claiming that they are somehow second-class citizens because they're Hindu, or atheist. That because they don't believe in a monotheistic God, they are somehow 'less' American than those that do. That's in COMPLETE opposition to the spirit of 'all men are created equal' and the right to 'equal protection under the law.'

And our Republic was NOT founded on the Christian religion - I've given evidence pointing that out in my post! The majority of Americans are Christian, and Christianity is an inextricable part of the CULTURE of the United States - but not the government. Not now, not EVER. From the day the Founding Fathers signed the Constitution, it was with the understanding the GOVERNMENT was secular.

Count said...

I realise that you are talking about 'under God' but I have always been intrigued by 'the pursuit of happiness'. I find it charming and useful and a good mandate overall but it can also be deeply troubling if that happiness it at someone else's expense. Any thoughts?


PandaDementia said...

I am a Christian, but I side with you, Roland. It's always amazed and baffled me how prayer is not allowed in schools anymore, but every morning, students are expected to stand up and pledge their allegiance under God. Here in Texas, they even go one further - after the Pledge of Allegiance, students are then expected to recite another pledge:
Honor the Texas flag;
I pledge allegiance to thee,
Texas, one state under God, one and indivisible.
I never participate in this pledge because I don't consider Texas to be my home, so why should someone who doesn't believe God be expected to say this part of the Pledge of Allegiance?
Logically, I believe that the separation of church and state is the only way to go, and spiritually, I believe that God wants people to honor Him because they WANT to, not because they are forced or feel obligated to.
Take it out!