What's wrong with having "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance? Most Americans today probably grew up pledging their allegiance while declaring that America, in addition to being indivisible and promoting "liberty and justice for all," is also "under God." During the same time, distrust of and hostility towards atheists has remained the highest of any group and decreased slower than any group. There is a connection: the government cannot promote the idea that patriotism
and citizenship are linked to belief in God without also thereby teaching that atheists are less patriotic and less deserving of trust.
Pledge of Allegiance is Intended as a Religious StatementMany don't realize that the Pledge of Allegiance did not originally include any references to any gods. The phrase "under God" was only added in 1954 as part of an effort to better define America as a godly, religious, Christian nation as opposed to the atheistic communism of the Soviet Union and allied states. The addition of "under God" was thus always intended as an endorsement of particular religious and theistic beliefs and that's how it was perceived at the time. Opposition to the Soviet Union was important, but it could not justify trying to define America along religious lines or telling Americans that patriotism must be linked to particular religious or theistic beliefs.
"Under God" Promotes Belief in a Particular God, Not Theism GenerallyFar from being a general endorsement of a vague sort of theism, "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance endorses belief in and particular attitudes towards a particular sort of god. First, it's "God" which is the designation of the monotheistic deity of traditional western religions — Christianity and Judaism in particular. Second, the phrase indicates a special relationship between this god and the nation, a blend of religion and nationalism which not even all Christians accept. The early Deists, for example, believed in a God who created the universe but then stepped away from it and did not intervene in the affairs of humankind and certainly didn't provide any special cover for any nations in particular.
Pledge of Allegiance Teaches that Atheists Cannot be PatrioticIt is both immoral and unconstitutional to teach or even suggest that patriotism is in any way linked to whether a person believes in one particular god or any god generally. It's just as immoral as teaching that patriotism is linked to how white one's skin is and as unconstitutional as teaching that patriotism is linked to being a Christian. No one today would accept a Pledge of Allegiance to "one White Nation under God" or "one Nation under Jesus" because they would recognize how wrong such discrimination is. The same people refuse to acknowledge the similar bigotry and discrimination when directed at atheists or, if they do, argue that it's appropriate and reasonable.
Pledge of Allegiance Teaches that Atheists are not TrustworthySurveys repeatedly show that atheists are the most distrusted minority group in America and that people see atheists as least likely to share their values. This can't be separated from a Pledge of Allegiance which teaches that atheists cannot be patriotic because if atheists aren't part of the nation which is "under God," then they can't share American values and must not be entirely trustworthy. There is nothing remotely moral or constitutional about this, but many believe that internal unity can and should be enhanced through the scapegoating of enemies, even if that requires the creation of an internal enemy out of a minority that can be libeled, discriminated against, and even oppressed in the name of God and country.
Pledge of Allegiance Attacks Veterans who were Atheists
If America is a nation "under God," what does this say about atheists who serve and have served in the armed forces? The idea that "there are no atheists in foxholes
" is a pernicious and bigoted myth which is simply reinforced by the current Pledge of Allegiance. Having "under God" in the Pledge leaves no room for atheists either in the nation or in the defense of the nation. Atheists who have risked or even lost their lives for the sake of defending America are thus directly attacked - and often by people who themselves have not chosen to take the same risks. Who is really more patriotic: the atheist who is willing to die in defense of the nation or a theist who stays home to write about how evil and un-American atheists are?
Pledge of Allegiance Teaches Children that Atheists are InferiorNo group recites the Pledge of Allegiance more often than school students. Over the course of many years, they repeat without question or critical engagement the idea that America is a nation "under God," thus establishing in so many minds an indelible link between belief in God and patriotism, belief in God and America, belief in God and working towards liberty & justice, etc. It's little wonder that adults today have such a low opinion of and so little trust towards atheists. The last thing the government should be doing is indoctrinating children into the belief that they need to believe in God in order to be good Americans.
Under God vs. Under No GodThe simplest way to demonstrate the problem is to replace "under God" with "under no God." Some Christians would be outraged if an atheist merely inserted the "no" on their own; many more would be incensed if anyone suggested changing the official Pledge of Allegiance to read "under no God." Why, though, if it's really no big deal? If "under God" is no big deal, then "under no God' should also not be a big deal. The fact that Christians would take it as a personal insult and attack on their beliefs demonstrates how "under God" is really intended: as an attack on people who don't believe as they do. This is also why they work so hard to defend keeping it in. They refuse to treat it as harmless and unimportant, so why should atheists?