One Nation Under God is a Religious Statement

This post was written by marc on February 1, 2004
Posted Under: Law,Politics,Religion

I would like to make the arguments in the upcoming Supreme Court case of Unified School District v. Newdow but realistically I don’t have the time and money to afford to file a brief. If I were to file – here’s some of the arguments I would make.

The Pledge is a law. It is specified in federal code. It is an act of patriotism. “One Nation Under God” is a religious statement and with that statement there it marries patriotism with religion. It forces non-believers who whish to recite the pledge to make a religious affirmation that they don’t believe in. The pledge is a statement of national identity. Its much more than a ceremonial or historic thing. It is more like an oath.

The Pledge is distinguished from other less important acts that include the mention of God. It is not merely ceremonial or historic. It is codified into federal law.

Lets look at mathematical sets. The big set is all people of all religions. This can be divided into to subsets – monotheists who believe in exactly one god – and everyone else who believe in multiple gods or no god. The argument is perhaps that there are so many monotheists that we can agree that this is a monotheistic country.

The flaw is that it excludes a class of people – non-monotheists. If it said “Under Jesus” or “Under Allah” or “Under Zeus” or “Under the Sacred Tree of Knowledge” then it would be more exclusive. They would argue that “Under God” is a sufficiently large subset to be close enough to be compliant. But because it is part of the phrase “One Nation – Under God” it ties our national identity to a religious affirmation.

Basically – to have “One Nation Under God” – in the context of the Pledge – is to have government make a determination that god exists. I would ask the court to be required to rule that god exists in order to include it in the Pledge. If the Pledge said “Under Peter Pan” then that would be right because Peter Pan is a fictional character and it would be wrong for the government to include a fictional character in the pledge laws.

God is a fiction character. He is no more real that Peter Pan. There is no logical difference between God and Peter Pan. Now – the court might not agree with that – but that brings up the real issue.

It is not up to the court or the government to determine if God exists. The first amendment prohibits the government from determining religious questions. Religious questions are for Religions to determine. It is up to Marc Perkel, Ferry Falwell, the Pope, the Dalai Lama, and individual citizens to decide that question. Judges and governments do not determine religious issues. It is not their place to do so. It is up to the people – not the government to decide whether or not to believe in God and that decision must be a separate act from pledging one allegiance to the nation.

The First Amendment of the Constitution “Establishment Clause” prohibits the government from establishing religion. Although the court recognized an exception for acts that have become the “fabric of society” in this case tying the pledge to a religious affirmation is designed to alter the fabric of society for the purpose of including government sponsored religious indoctrination to support infecting the fabric of society with the belief in the fictional character God. Including the phrase “One Nation Under God” establishes a government preference for monotheism over other religions.

Those who support the phrase “Under God” argue that is is a recognition of our national history, that the forefathers believed in God and referenced him in important documents. This is all part of the “fabric of society” argument that becuse we are all infected we should just accept the infection and declare we are a nation of people infected with a false belief and keep the infection in society.

As the founder of the Church of Reality I find this argument particulary offensive because the “fabric of society” argument basically say we are required to live the lie and to perpetuate the lie in the Tree of Knowledge. This precludes our Principle of Positive Evolution and the Principle of Bullshit and the very foundation of our church doctrine. To require our children to recite falsehood in order to make a patriotic statement is oppressive.

Reader Comments

I agree 100% with Marc on this issue. As a non-Christian American citizen, I am personally offended by the every-day reminders that would make one think that Christianity is the state religion in America. On behalf of everyone who has ever gotten the “yeah, you stupid arab!” or “yeah, you stupid _whatever_!” looks during the Pledge of Allegiance in second grade, or saw that movie where a drunk redneck shakes a dollar bill in someone’s face with the commentary of “see, you stupid atheist, go back to Commie Russia”, I strongly believe that the gov should pick more reasonable creeds of what we’re under and in what we trust.

Even by the most conservative estimates, at least 20% of Americans do not fall into the broad category of being “Christian” (or Agnostics just going with the flow), and do not naturally identify with any spiritual concept that’s spelled G-O-D. One may say that the comfort of the majority takes precedence, but just because something is popular, does it mean it should be shoved down everyone’s throat? Here are a few things to consider: About 80% of the Americans are white. A recent study found that 80% of men in US cheat on their wives. Anyone wanna put “a nation of white swingers” on any national symbols? In addition to being dominantly Christian, the “founding fathers” of our country were many other things – yet many of things were lost from our history books. Other countries have been founded in roots of one religion and are still less diverse than America, but the best of them have far greater separation of religion and state than we do. Christianity isn’t truly the foundation of our country, it is simply the methodology those in power use to organize the society. Maybe it still plays an important role in our broad society. After all, there are a lot of stupid people out there…

Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for unbiased religious studies. Religion is at the center of most historic, mythological, and sociological topics, and one cannot ignore it. I am perfectly OK with subtle religious references in established art, like the Ten Commandments carved into decorative marble somewhere in Supreme Court. It is there as a symbol of law in its earliest forms, not as the pragmatic defining example of what drives the law in America. I am perfectly OK with some fraction of state-sponsored cultural programs being related to religion. If religion represents a part of the human experience, it should get its fair share of attention. (Charity programs are a different story: I’ve observed that religious charities are more interested in spreading their ideology than in providing unbiased aid.) The Government can reflect the religious character of its people, but in way that is fair and accepting of inevitable diversity. Only a totalitarian dictatorship can take sides or claim that all of its citizens believe in the same thing, and that of course is meaningless propaganda.

And it’s very dangerous propaganda. In many Islamic states, school textbooks define America as a Judo-Christian nation, immoral and rich because of its corruption but nonetheless Judo-Christian, and willing to finance Crusades and bully them around. In most third-world countries, the leaders are looking for a scapegoat to make people believe that their problems are not internal to weasel out of their responsibilities, and to provoke public anger at something external to, through fear, ensure their support. (Wow, come to think of it, the Bush administration is playing the same game on our end too, but that’s a separate issue.) America (and especially the Bush administration) is doing nothing to counteract this image that other countries find threatening (which is the true motivation of their terrorism), and is doing a lot to provoke it. And the “In God [not Allah] We Trust” slogans are a part of it. Of course we also have a tradition of silly counter-gestures to make us feel more fair and balanced (i.e. killing a hundred civilians, then giving one a Band-Aid for a front page photo op). This time around, we are throwing American tax dollars into Islamic charities. Oh, yeah, sure, that fixes everything…

As an Atheist (not to mention a tax payer), I find all of this just very frustrating and insulting… But I am just not sure that this situation can be changed in our favor.

I’ve become somewhat pessimistic about this situation as of late… There is a price to living in America, the land with highest GDP in the world, highest average quality of life, and tremendous opportunity to raise yourself above average if you use your head and work hard. Every good thing has its parasites. The “good `ol religion”, and everything that comes with it, isn’t going to let go a single inch on the Pledge of Allegiance or National Motto issues. Taking away their affirmations of dominance is like entering a barking contest with a pack of dogs. The Church will continue to weaken, but it will take decades… centuries… With the current state of our country, things may become worse before they get better. We’ll just have to sit this out. Over all, America is worth it.

If we don’t have a choice in what is shoved down our throats, perhaps we have a choice in how we digest it. There is one other alternative to addressing this situation: changing our personal definition of the word “God”. Make it a metaphor, in your mind. Interpret it on your own terms. It doesn’t solve the problem, but it makes me, personally, feel better about it. This is how Atheists and Free Thinkers have been tolerating and surviving Christian brutality for millennias, keeping themselves alive while keeping their minds on solid foundation in spite of everything. Things are far better now, the light is definitely visible at the end of the tunnel.

Yes, of course the Christian religion uses that word more directly than all others, but other religions use it as well. In Judaism the correct spelling is “G-d”. In Islam, “Allah” is the name of God, but He can still be referred to as The God. In Hinduism, “Karttikeya” is a god, and “Bombay Kamayan” is a goddess. (Please don’t quote me on the specifics here, but you get the idea.) Is that necessarily different from the “God” that in U.S. we are pressured to accept?

What does the word “God” mean anyway? Here are a few quotes I found on the fundamental origin of the word: “The word god seems ultimately to mean ‘that which is called’, coming from the Indo-European root *ghut-, which is likely related to such words as Sanskrit havate and Old Church Slavonic zovetu, both meaning ‘call’.” Here is an alternative: “Gad is a Syrian or Canaanite deity of good luck or fortune. In Hebrew, it is written GD, but with Massoretic vowel-pointing, it is ‘Gad’. Other Scriptural references to a similar deity, also written GD, have a vowel-pointing giving us ‘Gawd’ or ‘God’. Gad, or Gawd is identified with Jupiter, the Sky-deity or the Sun-deity.” The more you google the matter, you more confused you will become. What it comes down to is that the word “God” has no objective meaning. It was meshed together from many things, and has been used in many different ways. It is a wildcard word, it can mean anything to anyone. I think the interpretation of this word is in the eye of the beholder.

“God” can be a metaphor for … oh, I don’t know, it’s a personal thing. To some, the idea of “God” is symbolic of the collective human conscience. Some see it as a metaphor for the universe as a whole, with all its mysteries that will not be clearly defined within our lifetimes. To some, it is nature, art, science, philosophy. To some, it is the accumulated knowledge and experience of mankind. All good things, on each individual’s own terms. In a weird way, this “In [meaningless wildcard word goes here] We Trust” thing then almost makes sense.

Does this help Hindu or Atheist people in America live with the insult of the Christian creeds favored by the U.S. government? If the oversight can’t be changed, I hope that it does. No matter how flexible the society gets, the will of the majority will always step on the needs of the individual. The damage is less severe though: a few hundred years ago, non-Christian heretics were burned by the hundreds of thousands. Sometimes the best we can do is tolerate the injustice the best we can. It’s gonna be a while until problems like state-sponsored religion are fully resolved. Better get comfortable.


Written By Alex Libman on February 1st, 2004 @ 12:29 pm

For me the statement just mirrors the hypocrisy of the govt. and what it stands for. A country founded through trying to stamp out an indigenous people, calling them heathens to justify thier actions. A country that took part in the greatest forced, mass exodus in history (Trans Atlantic Slave trade)to feed chattel slavery. Described a man as 3/5 ths of a person in its constitution. I could go on and on but you see my point. The statement is sheer hypocrisy.

Written By humper on February 9th, 2004 @ 5:28 am

you’re a fuckwit.

Written By seph on February 11th, 2004 @ 1:05 am

Regarding your stance on the Pledge of Allegiance:

“The First Amendment of the Constitution “Establishment Clause” prohibits the government from establishing religion. Although the court recognized an exception for acts that have become the “fabric of society” in this case tying the pledge to a religious affirmation is designed to alter the fabric of society for the purpose of including government sponsored religious indoctrination to support infecting the fabric of society with the belief in the fictional character God.”

80% of this society doesn’t share your belief that God is a fictional character! Atheists try to get religion taken off of money, out of schools, off of the public media. But who says they’re right? I hate it when people like you have the attitude that your opinions are the only ones that matter, that you’re somehow more enlightned than the VAST majority of this planet because you choose to not BELIEVE in a deity. Keyword being BELIEF…since most atheists base their religion (and it is a religion, whether you want to admit it or not) on the THEORY of evolution (and it’s not even a scientific theory. But thats’s a whole different topic.) So why should the majority of this nation suffer because of your beliefs? It seems to me, if you were really secure in your faith that there is no higher power, you wouldn’t be so offended by something that doesn’t exist. Some atheists say “ban the bible.” And I say try it and see what happens, people who have said that will be the first ones killed in the ensuing nationwide riot. I agree with the seperation between church and state, but damn, this nation does not need your “enlightenment.” But I guess the empty can rattles the most. If I was a little dumber, I could create a website and use it to spout verbal diarrhea, but I’m secure in my beliefs, so I’ll pass.

Have a nice day

Written By Mikey on March 12th, 2004 @ 1:38 am

Hey. Interestingly enough, I am currently writing a paper on this issue. While you bring a very strong arguement I would have to disagree with a few matters of it:
1) The Establishment clause states that the government will not FAVOR A RELIGIOUS establishment. Nowhere in it does it state the government is not religiously established.
2)Our forefathers came to this country for religious freedom, therefore we are truly one nation under god. Therefore, it is very appropriate to include this statement in the Pledge.

Written By Avi on April 19th, 2005 @ 12:45 pm

The Bible says “give unto Ceasar what is Ceasar’s and unto the Lord what is the Lord’s.”

Pray for our misguided friends that they one day know God, and let the government buid roads, defend us and educate the children.

However, in educating the children, the government cannot be blind that religion exists… but it does not have to promote it.

Written By Dave on September 15th, 2005 @ 12:23 am

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