I have been thinking of the series of posts that would make up this project for months. Here it is, the second day, and I am already altering the arrangement.
Two members of the studio audience responded to yesterday's posting by saying, in effect, "I'm comfortable with 'under God' in the Pledge. The issue just does not interest me."
I know that this is a very common sentiment.
I consider this sentiment to be like that of the fundamentalist Muslim woman who has become comfortable wearing a burka each time she goes out in public. She is comfortable going outside only in the company of a male family member and is comfortable being denied an education or any activities outside the home.
I am not saying this to insult anybody. I am attempting to describe a common psychological phenomenon where the victims of one generation of social discrimination prepare the next generation to also be victims of the same discrimination - to be comfortable in their role as second-class citizens.
Not only is she comfortable in this life (because, face it, it is the only life she knows and we are certainly more comfortable with what is familiar to us than what is different), she enthusiastically begins teaching her young daughter to be comfortable in this life as well. Young minds are malleable, and can be made comfortable with a great many things. We know as a matter of fact that a young girl born in such a country can be raised to be comfortable with the limitations that the leaders of her fundamentalist religion will require of her.
In Texas recently we found another example in which children, raised in a closed community where girls are married off at puberty, also became comfortable with their situation. They could not conceive of anything else. When the camp was raided and they were taken off to foster care, they did not praise their liberators. They demanded a return to what they were comfortable with.
In America, the government begins the process of fitting children comfortably into the atheist burka on the first day of school. From that first day they are told then told to repeat the mantra that the the government does not like those who do not support 'one nation under God'. It thinks that they are just as bad - just as 'un-American' - as those who do not support 'liberty and justice for all'.
As these children come to understand what the words in the Pledge mean, they will include in their growing understanding the idea that people who support 'one nation under God' and 'liberty and justice for all' are good people, and that those who don't support 'one nation under God' or 'liberty and justice for all' are not good people – at least as far as the government and the school are concerned.
Some people like to speak about phenomena such as this in terms of 'memes' – mental analogues to genes that get passed from one generation to another. We should not be surprised that natural selection will favor the meme that will give its host a sense of comfort and will suppress resistance against passing that meme on to the next generation. Ideas fed into the brains of young children are just the type that generate the type of comfort. So, the six-year-olds of today will teach the six-year-olds of tomorrow to wear the atheist burka comfortably and not to complain.
Many of us have applied these concepts to other groups. We have spoken of the way that religious fundamentalists pass religious fundamentalism on to the next generation in ways where the child cannot grow up to question them. We have not realized that we are a party to passing down a set of myths to our own children as well.
We have not been so eager to apply these concepts to ourselves. We have been fed the meme since we were six that not favoring 'one nation under God' is shameful and as un-American as not favoring liberty and justice for all. The government requires that signs be posted where the youngest Americans cannot escape them that tell children, "If you want to be one of us, then you will trust in God – and if you do not trust in God we will not think of you as one of us."
The question of how religions hand down their myths from one generation to the next can be found in how 'comfortable' we are with the way atheists are treated in this country. We can look at ourselves to study how these memes work. They have certainly infected us, given the lack of interest many of us have in rejecting the denigration and abuse of atheists even by their own government.
In some of his writings and his speeches Richard Dawkins has talked about 'consciousness raising'. Here is one area where the concept of 'consciousness raising' applies.
"I am 'comfortable' with the myth that a person who does not support 'one nation under God' is like a person who does not support 'liberty and justice for all'. "
You're comfortable with that?
And you're going to stand aside while the government teaches the next generation to be comfortable with the idea that those who do not favor 'one nation under God' are as bad as those who do not favor 'liberty and justice for all'? You are comfortable with our children growing up to be 'comfortable with' a barrier that keeps them out of public office and positions of public trust? You are comfortable with society handing out atheist burkas to their children and demanding that your children wear them, and then pass those burkas on to their children?
'Consciousness raising' was introduced to deal with the problems found in other groups who were made 'comfortable with' various forms of discrimination against other groups. They were 'comfortable with' treating women as property whose sole duty was to to obey their fathers and their husbands, and with being treated as property. 'Consciousness raising' applied to the practice of teaching women exactly what it is they had become comfortable with, so that they could see it for what it is.
Atheists need to be made aware that they have been made 'comfortable with' barriers that keep them out of public office and positions of public trust. They have been made 'comfortable with' civic ceremonies where the people unanimously declare, "A person who does not support 'one nation under God' cannot possibly be a patriot." They have been made 'comfortable with' signs in civic hall and on the money that say, "Only somebody who trusts in God is to be considered one of us."
Atheists have been made 'comfortable with' a President who states, "We need common-sense judges who realize that our rights come from God, and that is the type of judge I intend to nominate." Even though they and their neighbors have young children who have just heard the President say, "If you do not believe that our rights come from God then you are not qualified to be a judge," they are 'comfortable with' this situation and simply go about their business.
The atheist burka means atheists not being judges in the United States.
They hear of an Illinois representative tell an Atheist witness before a government committee that, "Yours is a philosophy of destruction," and "You have no right to sit in that chair." The atheist burka means shrugging and doing nothing.
Ultimately, my point is that I do not care how comfortable you have come to be in the atheist burka. It is time to take it off.
More importantly . . . much more important than you taking off the atheist burka yourself . . . you should not allow the government to put the atheist burka on the next generation of children.