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Austin Cline

Buddhist Explains Opposition to "Under God"

By March 30, 2004

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Defenders of the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance like to attack atheists and pretend that the debate is one between religious believers and godless nonbelievers - completely ignoring the fact that religious people have supported Michael Newdow's case. One religious group that filed a brief in support of removing the religious reference from the Pledge was Buddhist - but perhaps Buddhists don't really count among True Pledge Believers?

Brad Wong writes in the Houston Chronicle about Tom Phelan is an 82-year-old veteran of World War II

"By repeating the pledge over and over, children's minds are being conditioned to accept God as a reality," Phelan said from his Walla Walla home. "I think that's what's happening. The government doesn't have to back any religion." ... Those two words in the pledge also run afoul of Phelan's faith, which developed from years of spiritual searching that began decades ago in a letter from a pen pal.
"Christians put (those words) in to say that this nation is under God. I don't believe in a God," he said. "According to Buddha, everything is impermanent. So, therefore, there cannot be a permanent God." ... Two Washington state Buddhist temples -- one in Auburn and one in Richland -- also have signed a U.S. Supreme Court brief opposing the language. Some Seattle atheists have signed another brief.

Many Christians in America associate "religion" almost exclusively with their own religion; if they deign to acknowledge any other religions, it might be Judaism and Islam. At no point, however, do they imagine a religion which doesn't adhere to a monotheistic system similar to theirs. Thus, they are unable to acknowledge that it is a violation of some people's religious liberty when the government endorses monotheistic beliefs. The fact remains, however that non-monotheists - whether religious or not, theist or not - have just as much rights as they do.

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