At this time with so many challenges facing humanity, it is more crucial than ever that we band together using objective means of measurement and clear thinking in identifying, understanding, and finding solutions to our shared problems. Autonomy of the individual is very important, for our freedoms allow us to be fulfilled and happy. However, the public sphere cannot and should not be populated by subjective beliefs, if we are to maintain our civilizations and quality of life. This blog is dedicated to examining the political, religious, psychological, and philosophical aspects of our modern discourse in the public sphere, endorsing that which is beneficial, and exposing that which is not.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Pledge of Allegiance

When could be a better time to talk about the Pledge of Allegiance than Flag Day? It is necessary, I think, that we should have a symbol for the values that bind us together as a nation. It is also useful for those who don't actively consider the identity of those values, and who do not consciously commit to them, to have a visceral patriotism inducing recitation to help draw them into a cohesive unit. Though I find regionalism to be as harmful as it is helpful, I will save that for another day, and another post. Suffice it to say that being part of a group allows for a common identity that hopefully engenders beneficial attitudes and, by extension, actions. I believe this to be the case for the most part in American pride.

The addition of the words "under God" by Congress in 1954, however, does not seem to serve the same purpose as the rest of the pledge. By inserting these words, they have created a divisive element in this pledge, which was intended to unite. No other ideal in this pledge is controversial for an American. But, with more and more agnostics and atheists "coming out of the closet" every day, the insistence that "under God" be in this pledge disenfranchises a growing portion of the American people, a portion that is disproportionately intelligent and educated, judging by statistical analysis. Are these not valuable Americans? Should they be forced to give lip service to a god in whom they do not believe?

I don't care if a person believes in, worships, or prays to any god or not. I am not personally offended by the words "under God" in the pledge. But, it was an example of establishing a religion, when these words were added to the pledge by Congress. It was an unconstitutional use of their legislative powers. No one, except perhaps for a few fringe radicals, is for abridging the individual rights of the religious within America. Anyone may say under God at any time. What they, and I, are advocating is adherence to the Constitution of the United States of America. There is a wall between church and state that was built by the founders of our great nation. This wall was established to protect religion from the state, as much as to allow objective reason to be the unimpaired and unimpeded means of establishing our laws. It is also a recognition that religion and state together lead to tyranny. We are a nation composed of various waves of immigrants, who hold a variety of religious and non-religious traditions. Each of these traditions is welcome, just not as part of the public sphere. We must not tear down this wall without just cause. And, we should repair the holes that have been blasted through it by well meaning but misguided persons, in the past, lest we place either of these institutions in jeopardy.

As a last example of what I am saying, I urge you to watch this video that I have seen various atheist friends posting on facebook today. It is a Porky Pig cartoon from 1938 that illustrates that the original pledge, written in 1892, did not contain the words "under God". And, for 62 years, it served its purpose of uniting Americans in saluting the flag, and uniting in common cause without those words. It can certainly continue to inspire today, without those words.


  1. I think the problem with removing "under God" from the pledge at this stage is that the religious nutjobs will be able to argue that God is under seige or we're trying to take God out of the world or something. Unfortunately, that sort of argument will resonate with the religious nutjobs and "energize the base" as they say. By the very nature of intellegent discourse, with the emphasis on reason, logic, and facts, and leaving out the emotion, does not energize the base. People picket and write letters to their congresspersons and demand change from Washington when they are passionate about something, when they feel something strongly. To me at least, that is the problem with logic, reason, using evidence to make decisions, etc. When strong emotions come into play, people will do/say/support all sorts of things that are bad for them and make bad decisions.

  2. The use of cold logic does not preclude the use of passion as a rhetorical tool. I think it was Benjamin Franklin who said: If it is passion that drives you, by all means let reason take the reins. Nevertheless, I suppose that the emotion of fear felt by the religious man drives harder and hotter than the feeling of injustice observed by the critical thinker. So, in the end you are right...Dammit!

  3. Did you know that a majority of conservatives really believe that Under God was put in our constitution by our forefathers? I have had so many arguments stating the facts and it always fell on deaf ears. It is amazing how some will completely ignore fact with the argument of it being liberal propaganda.