Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled.”     Michael Crichton

December 4, 2008

Is It Time To Take “Under God” Out Of The Pledge Of Allegiance ?

by Doug Mataconis

A writer at The Washington Post says the answer is yes:

First, it isn’t the 1950s anymore. As religion scholar Will Herberg noted in his influential 1955 essay “Protestant-Catholic-Jew,” at that time 68 percent of Americans were Protestant, 23 percent Catholic, and 4 percent Jewish. (The remaining 5 percent expressed no religious preference.) “Not to be a Catholic, a Protestant, or a Jew today is, for increasing numbers of American people, not to be anything.”

According to a recent Pew report, those figures have declined to 51, 23 and 2. The remaining 20+ percent express plenty of preferences, including Mormon, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Atheist and Agnostic. Not to be a Catholic, a Protestant, or a Jew today is, for increasing numbers of American people, to be something else just as worthy of citizenship.

Second, the greatest threat to American freedom is no longer godless communism but “godly” terrorism — people who pledge their allegiance to God. Docherty noted that even Stalin’s Soviet Union could claim to be “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Today, even a Taliban-led Afghanistan could claim to be “one nation, under God.”

In his 1954 sermon, Docherty argued that Judeo-Christian America was engaged in “mortal combat against modern, secularized, godless humanity.” Today, pluralistic America is engaged in mortal combat against anti-modern, fundamentalist, religionized humanity.

It isn’t our belief in God that makes us different. It’s our belief in the liberties (religious and other) enshrined in the Constitution. The American creed is faith in liberty for all, not the religion of most.

On some level, Waters is absolutely correct but he misses the most important reason why claiming that the United States is a “nation, under God” is inappropriate. It was expressed by America’s Third President:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state. [Congress thus inhibited from acts respecting religion, and the Executive authorised only to execute their acts, I have refrained from presenting even occasional performances of devotion presented indeed legally where an Executive is the legal head of a national church, but subject here, as religious exercises only to the voluntary regulations and discipline of each respective sect.] Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

America, as Jefferson noted, is not a nation founded on a specific set of religious beliefs, but on the belief in the natural rights of man, from whatever source those rights are derived.

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19 Comments

  1. “Under God” should absolutely be taken out of the pledge. I am an upstanding, patriotic citizen, but I am also a strong atheist. I refuse to pledge myself to any god.

    Comment by Andrew — December 4, 2008 @ 9:32 am
  2. What if we just remove the pledge altogether. In what way is asking our kids to take daily loyalty oaths to the state consistent with any reasonable concept of liberty?

    Comment by coyote — December 4, 2008 @ 11:18 am
  3. Coyote, good point. Hell, even the Nazi’s took loyalty oaths. Hell again, I just lost to Godwin’s Law.

    Comment by Scott M. — December 4, 2008 @ 8:55 pm
  4. Here is an idea Why don’t you just not say it. you dont see all protestants going around upset because aetheist believe differently, although you do have the wild bunch. If you dont want to say God dont say God, that’s your choice. Because my choice is to say it. But if they ever do take it away (God help us) I am still going to say God and nobody is going to stop me. Thats my choice.
    If it bothers you that much, maybe you can add an
    X just like XMas, people did who do not want to say Christ say X I am not upset That they want to say Xmas as longas I can say Christmas, oh by the way merry christmas.

    Comment by prop74 — December 4, 2008 @ 9:31 pm
  5. The United States is in no sense founded upon the Christian doctrine.~ George Washington Administration Treaty

    Comment by Travis — December 4, 2008 @ 9:55 pm
  6. X is an abbreviation for Christ. It is the Greek letter Chi, the first letter of Christ in Greek.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chi_rho

    Comment by Joshua Holmes — December 4, 2008 @ 10:29 pm
  7. The X in Xmas is just an quick and lazy way to spell it.

    Oh and I agree with Coyote, the whole thing should be done away with. If not, then absolutely under god should go bye-bye. It should never have been put there in the first place.

    Comment by Aimee — December 5, 2008 @ 7:52 am
  8. How about we change it to “one nation, under Zeus”, or “one nation, under Allah”, or one nation, under Bochica?

    Comment by Akston — December 5, 2008 @ 10:26 am
  9. For us atheists out there:
    “one nation under the flying spaghetti monster”

    Comment by Aimee — December 5, 2008 @ 12:43 pm
  10. Who gives a crop about the Pledge of Allegiance. When is that last time you said it. If you have a problem with the under God part and don’t want your kids to say it just tell them not to say it. It’s not like your kids are going to be sent to jail because they don’t say under God. If your school has a problem with that then take it up with them.

    If there is any part that should be taken out, it is pledging allegiance to a flag. Why would anybody pledge allegiance to a flag.

    O mighty flag I am in your humble service and will do whatever you tell me!

    Our country was founded on freedom and we should not be pledging an allegiance to anyone or anything in the case of the flag.

    Comment by TerryP — December 5, 2008 @ 1:35 pm
  11. Your average libertarian is waaay too Lockean in both Constitutional and societal philosophy, as well as politics, which is part of the reason why they seem so distasteful on the national stage. And they’ll never figure this out either.

    Comment by fsdfasd — December 5, 2008 @ 2:41 pm
  12. Your average libertarian is waaay too Lockean in both Constitutional and societal philosophy, as well as politics, which is part of the reason why they seem so distasteful on the national stage. And they’ll never figure this out either.

    I wonder what the characteristics of being less Lockean would be.
    “Libertarians should be less interested in defending life, liberty and property?”

    It’d be easier to agree or disagree if the statement was phrased based on some positive goal to be achieved. Maybe: “Libertarians should check the national stage, and espouse whatever Constitutional and societal philosophy would make them more palatable on it.” Or how about: “Libertarians should be willing to pledge more allegiances.”

    Comment by Akston — December 5, 2008 @ 11:10 pm
  13. Well, the pledge was changed in 1954, “in god we trust” first appeared on paper money in 1957. Around that same time, “in god we trust” was legally mandated as our national motto.

    Here’s the problem I have with that. I have 19 years, 4 months of Army and Army National Guard service under my belt, including trips to Kuwait, Bosnia, Thailand, Panama, and I’m heading for Iraq in less than two months, for an entire year, without my fmaily (wife, two kids).

    I love my country. I don’t believe in relgion. Not in any way. I don’t believe in the very conept of it. So to have “in god we trust” printed on our national currency is disgusting to me. Having the words “under god” in the pledge are offensive to me.

    And don’t tell me “just tell your kids not to say it”. You know how kids act, my kids would immediately get screwed with becuase they didn’t say it. If your not part of the majority in this country, then your a no good nobody, who doesn’t deserve the freedom that everyone else has. And that’s the problem.

    Comment by c.d. — December 6, 2008 @ 7:56 pm
  14. Just out of curiosity, I wonder how a deeply religious person would see it if we changed the pledge to:

    I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, one nation regardless of gods, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

    Ridiculous? Insulting? Unnecessarily antagonistic to religious folks?

    How about:

    I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

    Comment by Akston — December 6, 2008 @ 11:27 pm
  15. ObTopic: Free societies do not have loyalty oaths to the state.

    Comment by Joshua Holmes — December 7, 2008 @ 4:54 pm
  16. Yeah, I’m going to back away from my last post on this thread. It was an attempt to get religious folks to see how insulting “under God” might be to other folks who don’t share the belief.

    In that attempt, I appear to legitimize the concept of the oath in the first place. For the record, I don’t.

    I agree with Joshua and coyote: loyalty oaths to the state are not compatible with liberty.

    Comment by Akston — December 7, 2008 @ 9:44 pm
  17. under god will NOT be taken out of the pledge. God is real is to be recognized, everyone will see it with their very own eyes. hes love and thats what we all need[even those who dont believe]

    Comment by Heidi — December 10, 2008 @ 7:57 am
  18. under god will NOT be taken out of the pledge. God is real is to be recognized, everyone will see it with their very own eyes. hes love and thats what we all need=]

    Comment by Heidi — December 10, 2008 @ 7:57 am
  19. Heidi, please read this for me. It makes a good argument.

    http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

    http://godisimaginary.com/

    Comment by Travis — December 11, 2008 @ 10:47 pm

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