JUNE 24, 2011 8:02AM

"Under God"

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Excuse me?"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." 1st Amendment, U.S. Constitution

"I disagree with what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it." Widely attributed to Voltaire


I fully support every individual's right to believe in God. I also fully support every individual's right not to believe in God, if that is what his/her conscience dictates. Unfortunately, while most Americans claim to agree with the first amendment, too few seem to share Mr. Voltaire's conviction.

Today I received a forwarding from a friend which included the Pledge of Allegiance, and the instant my eyes fell on "One nation, under God," I had the same hair trigger response of rage I have every time I see/hear it. Those two words, "under God" turns what is a uplifting, patriotic, positive and uniting statement into an unconscionably divisive blatant attempt to usurp my personal right to believe what I choose to believe. As a result, whenever I am in a large gathering in which the Pledge is recited, I refuse to say those two words.

For those who believe in God, to say "one nation, under God" is redundant. It's like saying "when the sun rises, in the east...." It's only purpose is as an attempt at religious proselytizing. It clearly implies that if I do not agree that ours is a religion-based (read "Christian") society, I have no right to claim it as mine. 

Written in 1892 by socialist minister Francis Bellemy, the words "under God" were not added until 1952, at the insistence of President Eisenhower, in a totally pointless response to the threat of communism. When the pledge is recited, those two words necessitate an awkward and unnecessary disruption in the flow of the oath, and dilute the essential message of patriotism to and love of country by inserting the issue of religion where it has no business being. If the author, Francis Bellemy, a minister, had wanted to bring God into it, he would have, and even his own daughter strongly objected to its insertion.

America was founded by Puritans and has always had far more than its share of religious zealots for whom fervor far outweighs logic, common sense, or any degree of concern for thoughts other than their own. Any attempt, by anyone, to dictate what others may believe is morally reprehensible.

I've always found it interesting that, for a nation supposedly firmly rooted in the ideal of separation of church and state, every piece of American currency prominently features the words "In God We Trust." That's never bothered me because it is merely an innocuous slogan, like "Remember the Maine," and having about as much relevance to the average person's life. Were I required to say "In God We Trust" every time I handed a clerk a nickel or a dollar bill, I am sure I would feel quite differently. (And I wonder in whom the U.S. treasury might suggest atheists and agnostics trust. I suppose a case could be made that any time one is unwillingly removed from the word "we," it is limiting and discriminatory.)

I'm fully aware that what I think and how I feel as an individual means diddly-squat to anyone else. The vast majority of people simply never give it a thought and wouldn't care if they did. But for someone like me, raised to always feel like an outsider who doesn't belong and is not wanted, seemingly little things like being made clear that the word "we" does not include me cannot help but rankle.

I hold no hope for and would not even espouse the removal of "In God We Trust" from our currency. But if there are enough individuals like me who deeply resent being force-fed any form of religion against our will, perhaps it may be possible to form a "we" of our own, strong enough to join together to remove "under God" from our Pledge of Allegiance and restore it's all-inclusive original intent.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

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At the opening of its U.S. Open telecast last Sunday, NBC left "under God" out of the Pledge. Predictably, I suppose, it caused some uproar, for which NBC subsequently apologized. I don't think it should have, not because I hold an atheirst's umbrage, but because of what you mention: the context of the phrase's addition has long passed. We are not that country any more. Let's go with the text as it was originally written.
"America will be crucified on a cross of gold." William Jennings Bryan (I love this statement, although he was really talking about the gold standard)
Try using "under Zeus", "under Allah", or "without any gods"...and see how the zealots would react.

I just skip the "under god" when making the pledge...and feel a bit of pity toward people who are so frightened they want to include something of this sort.