Did I just sneeze?

April 13, 2009

At one time in the world, humans did not have a concept of god.  The early civilizations of our planet had numerous gods and each person, city, nation and geographic region could have their own.  That is so much no longer the case that we can say “Bless you” after hearing someone sneeze without knowing them.  We don’t (casually or usually) say “god bless you” despite it being implied.  Furthermore, and to the point, we don’t wonder whose god.   An atheist does not reply “no one bless you” nor does a Satanist reply “no god doesn’t” nor does one who espouses pagan beliefs say the plural.  In fact, the response to “god bless you” after sneezing is “thank you.”

So what’s the big deal about taking an oath on a Bible, responding “so help me god” or pledging allegiance to a country underneath god?  Okay, that’s unfair, I snuck that last one in there.  First of all, they don’t make you do the other two anymore.  More importantly, they teach you to say that last one and in some schools will publicly pronounce it.  Is the pledge really religious talk?  Are ‘they’ indoctrinating our children with religious belief?  Are ‘they’ converting our children, secretly?  No.  Fear not America – pagans, atheists, Christians, Muslims, Jews, others – it is not (shocker!) a statement of religious affiliation or belief.  Being “one Nation under god” does not imply there is a god, there is not a god, there is one god, or there is a specific version of deity.  The pledge doesn’t say “a Nation under one god” or “under god’s Nation” it is clear, direct, and meaningful.

If we look at the historical context of the pledge, we see it was created during a time of polarization in world politics.  The Soviet Union, representing socialism and communism, was opposing the United States, representing democracy, republicanism, and free choice.  In the Soviet government, they did not allow religion.  The State, in that version of government influencing society, was to be paramount to any allegiance.  Therefore, the United States added two words to their pledge to keep things in perspective and send a message to the Soviets and the world.  “Under god” means that the United States does not consider itself to be the prime mover of society or culture.  “Under god” means that the United States does not consider itself to be more important to every individual than anything else.  “Under god” means that the United States will allow each and every individual to believe in god.  Whether you do or don’t believe in god, you must recognize others right to or not to.  So the United States was extending that right to all those willing to pledge their allegiance to that country.  Not a pledge to god, a pledge less important than that notion.

For those who believe in god, take assurance in that the US does not seek to override or become more important to you than that.

For those who don’t, take assurance in that the US is not seeking to replace that or come near to that level of belief or faith.

I take great comfort in those words, “one Nation under god” as many free men and women who come to the US have.  People with other views may interpret it how they wish, a statement of god’s sovereignty or a declaration of the existence of a specific version of deity, but I will take comfort in my opinion that it denotes more about our government than religious belief.

What we hold in our hearts is often what is true.  In other words, if you interpret it one way than it holds true for you.  I don’t wish to discredit either side’s opinion on the use of “under god” but only to explain my reason for supporting it.

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10 Responses to “Did I just sneeze?”

  1. Notelrac said

    You start by saying, “At one time in the world, humans did not have a concept of god.” From your second sentence, I assume you mean the capital-G God of the three Omnis: omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent.

    Later on, you make several claims about why the words “under God” were added to the Pledge in 1954. Do you have any cites for your argument? A quick perusal of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pledge_of_Allegiance#Addition_of_the_words_.22under_God.22 does not support your views.

    But in the spirit of this great country, I do support your right to express your interpretation of what the addition of those words means to you.

    • modernpiracy said

      Actually, a quote from that wikipedia link from President Eisenhower (who passed and supported the “under god” addition) I feel best sums up my argument that the phrase speaks about the nature of our government and not religion:

      “These words [‘under God’] will remind Americans that despite our great physical strength we must remain humble. They will help us to keep constantly in our minds and hearts the spiritual and moral principles which alone give dignity to man, and upon which our way of life is founded.”

      • Notelrac said

        I’m glad that you’re now doing some research to back up your position. And as an American, I am proud that I can support your right to rephrase your position.

      • modernpiracy said

        I’m not really rephrasing my position. As I made clear in the entry:

        “my opinion [is] that it denotes more about our government than religious belief.”

        Thus far, the comments offering citations from Notelrac and Palm Tree have strengthened that position,(as I demonstrate in my comments) and I thank both authors kindly for them.

      • Notelrac said

        Well no… I guess I wasn’t able to understand your position as stated in the original blog post. My reading of your comments was that you were revising your position, not strengthening it. But I’m glad we’re all now in a state of violent agreement. 🙂

  2. thebeerphilosopher said

    Minor nit-pick: “nor does a Satanist reply ‘no god doesn’t'”

    If we’re talking LaVey Satanism, as opposed to the Marilyn Manson-listening teenage Satanists who are just in it for the fashion, then a Satanist wouldn’t disagree that God bestows his blessings on people. They choose to live a life free from these ethereal symbols of divine benevolence, however, in favor of a more hedonistic philosophy. A proper Satanist response, then, would be, “Damn, that felt good.”

  3. thebeerphilosopher said

    More to the point, I agree with you that the word “god” in the Pledge is often overstated. But why choose god there? America as an entity stands on a number of principles, all of which are more important than America itself. Why not “under freedom,” or “under protection,” or even “under liberty and justice”?

    (Edit: Clarity.)

  4. Palm Tree said

    http://www.religioustolerance.org/nat_pled1.htm

    I just had a bone to pick with Notelrac. The part of the original post that states that “under-God” was added during the communist scare in the 1950s is historically accurate. I suggest that almost any source other than wikipedia would be more credible.

    http://www.religioustolerance.org/nat_pled1.htm

    • modernpiracy said

      I feel it is worth extracting the poll from the end of that link:

      The First Amendment Center and the American Journalism Review released the results of a poll on 2003-AUG-1. They found that:

      73% of respondents said that the pledge, including the “under God” phrase is “primarily a statement related to the American political tradition.”

      18% said that it was primarily a religious statement.

    • Notelrac said

      I agree that the “under-God” language was added in 1954, and that McCarthyism was a major driving factor behind the revision. I do not disagree with the original blogger on that.

      What I question is that the original blog post made several claims about why it was adopted. The remainder of the paragraph after the words “Therefore, the United States added two words to their pledge…” makes broad unsupported generalizations.

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