Monday, February 13, 2012

One Nation, Indivisible

Today a Boston news site reported that a family in Acton, Massachusetts, has filed suit against the local school district to get them to remove the phrase "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. Naturally, the reaction from most believers is extremely negative. The comments section of the article has been overwhelmed by the denizens of r/atheism, but here are a few of the comments from theists:

It's a bit like watching one of those terrible reality TV shows: it's utter drivel, yet its very foulness is what makes it so fascinating. Having read far too much of the comments section, I concluded that the arguments boil down to...
  • "If you don't like it, don't say it." – A totally backwards understanding of how religion is treated in this country. How about we add "hail Satan" to the pledge and see how you like that logic?
  • "The majority wants it." – The majority wants a lot of things. For much of our history the majority wanted slavery legalized. Fortunately, we have a Constitution that defends the rights of the minority.
  • "We've had it for a long time."Appeal to tradition, and a false one at that: "Under God" was added in 1954 in a sensationalized, fearmongering response to the godless Soviets.
  • "This country was founded on Christian principles."Genetic fallacy, and again, a false one at that.
  • "It's a waste of time/money." – Defeating a blatant and widespread violation of church-state separation, removing a phrase that marginalizes a huge segment of the population, and raising awareness that not everyone believes we're "under God" is an extremely worthwhile effort.
  • "You're infringing on our freedom of religion." – Seriously? Wow.
What most of the believers don't seem to realize is that it's not just non-religious atheists who aren't included in the pledge's current incarnation. "Under God" specifies a single sovereign deity. It marginalizes not only nonbelievers, but also many atheistic, pantheistic and polytheistic religions. Buddhists, for example, often don't believe in any sort of supreme being, and many Hindus believe in hundreds of deities without claiming one as supreme.

I did see one comment retorting that he'd never heard any of these religious people speak up to voice their discontent. This argument reveals an startling naiveness: did he ever consider that they might be afraid to speak up precisely because of the responses this issue gets from many monotheists?

Even if we completely ignore the fact that the pledge violates the Constitution and alienates both religious and nonreligious groups, there's another completely separate reason that "under God" should be removed: it's factually inaccurate. America is clearly and objectively not united by a belief in God, no matter how much some theists want it to be. I wonder how believers would feel about issue if they realized that we're essentially lying about being "one nation under God." If God exists, surely he'd rather that we own up to the fact that some of us don't believe. Instead of deceiving ourselves about our collective beliefs out of wishful thinking, we should focus on the values that truly make this country great: liberty and justice for all.

Update: Hemant Mehta over at Friendly Atheist has more details on the lawsuit. The family is using the Massachusetts Constitution's "equal protection" guarantee rather than church-state separation as their legal. According to a lawyer he talked to, this is a good route to take. Incredibly, a Christian group called The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is counter-suing, because apparently the first suit discriminates against theists. Their sense of entitlement is staggering.

1 comment:

  1. I love how the one poster called the family cowards for remaining anonymous. Did she not read the other posts?