Under Who?

Who is God anyway? The question occurred to me as I read about the current Superior Court decision in New Jersey that “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance remains constitutional. The American Humanist Association had sued to have the offending prepositional phrase removed, based on first amendment rights to religious freedom. I’ve always found the whole indoctrination of swearing to a flag somewhat provincial and perhaps even damaging to the unity of humankind. Nations, after all, are about keeping things for ourselves, something that the God of the Bible seems to find naughty. During the Cold War, waged against the “godless Communists,” the questionable phrase was added in 1954, only after we’d secured nuclear weapons. Does any nation that has the bomb have the right to declare divine sanction? I guess so, on second thought.

IMG_0962In his decision Judge David Bauman said that God, in this context, is not about religion, but about the state’s history. Granted, one of the New Jersey delegates to sign the constitution was a clergyman, and president of Princeton College. The same Princeton that became the home of the man who would open physics enough to let us begin a nuclear reaction. But I’m getting ahead of my story. This concept of God being an arcane aspect of history as opposed to a present and active force motivating people’s lives is a curious one. In order to keep the deity, he (and the historical God is male) must be demoted to an historical relic. If that is true of divinity, what does it say about the concept of nationhood itself? Have we come to admit that it is all a fiction to keep status quo ante?

Humanist and atheist groups have argued for years that public school (which no government takes that seriously) should not be a forum for religious indoctrination. Some religious groups (such as Creationists) clearly see such schools as a mission field ripe for proselytizing young minds. Such was clearly the case in 1954. Today we see the Russian Orthodox Church becoming a supporter of the government in Russia, where godlessness might be more a factor on the ground than on paper. In the United States we have a culture that provides lip-service to the almighty while the true god is secreted away in the shrines of bank vaults and expense accounts. It is really about a way of life, after all. Should we keep or remove “under God” from a pledge to personal gain? It is all a matter of how you define “God.”

3 responses to “Under Who?

  1. Let’s not forget “in God we trust”.

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  2. My father was a Viet Nam war Vet. He was a Love the Flag and Country or leave it kind of man. In school, from my earliest memory, (I grew up in Florida) the pledge was said every morning facing the flag. It was almost compulsory. I never heard anyone “ever” complain otherwise.

    We live in a God Fearing country, or maybe that has changed since I left the country, but I am sure there are still bastions of patriots who raise their kids on flags and creeds and pledges. This new creation of folks who hate or deny the word God is from a couple of generations after mine.

    Free thinkers who don’t necessarily follow the creed of a nation that was built on God. It is so interwoven that I don’t think you could ever divorce God from schools, buildings, money or the constitution. There are too many patriots that would go to their graves protecting Almighty God from those who would see it banished from public consumption.

    But I live up here now, I guess I did not love my flag or my country enough to stay there. You could learn a great deal about the U.S. if you observed it from somewhere else for a years time.

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