I am going to break protocol with this blog and spend a posting discussing strategy, regarding the status of 'under God' in the Pledge and 'In God We Trust' as the national motto.
The people who want to keep these references are going to market their position by branding opposition of these terms under the word 'offense'. The position that they are going to sell is that atheists react to the word 'God' the way that vampires react to the sight of a cross. It causes us to cringe and hiss and to fly away in fear. That is why we want the word 'God' removed from all public buildings and public ceremonies.
Of course, under that term those who want the word 'God' inserted into these civic ceremonies have as little reason to do so as one would have to put away a cross in the presence of a vampire. Doing so is very dangerous. Furthermore, it is obvious that vampires (or atheists) do not deserve such consideration. After all, we have to remember what kind of people we are dealing with here – people who have rejected God and given themselves over to dark forces.
Two other key terms that are association with the Pledge and the Motto are "Patriotism" and "Respect". Saying the Pledge and displaying the national motto are ways in which a person shows respect for the country and for all of those who have fought to protect it.
We must recite the Pledge in schools to teach patriotism and respect. We must start civic ceremonies with the Pledge to teach patriotism and respect.
We must post "In God We Trust" in our civic buildings to show patriotism and respect. It is, after all, our national motto, so refusing to display it is the same as being ashamed of one's country. It is the opposite of patriotism and respect.
Or so the sayings go.
These three terms – 'offense' on the other hand, versus 'patriotism' and 'respect' – are what shapes most peoples' understanding of 'under God' and 'In God We Trust'. Given these associations, the vast majority of the people favor keeping 'under God' and 'In God We Trust'.
There is this issue of 'separation of church and state'. However, this is just some slogan that the vampire-atheist has invented to try to get good Christians to remove the offensive word 'God' from the public square. For the past 40 years, fundamentalists and evangelicals have been hard at work convincing the people that no such "separation of church and state" exists. So, it does not provide a good reason to concede to the requests of the vampire-atheists 'offended' by the mention of God in public.
Now, I want to suggest a new strategy.
This strategy begins by taking "patriotism" and "respect" as given values. These are good things.
Of course, these are not absolute goods. The Nazi soldier was hyper-patriotic and full of respect for his country and its leader. The patriot cannot be somebody who will support his country without any regard to the moral quality of its actions. A patriot should be somebody who is proud of his country, including the moral quality of its actions, and strive to make a country worthy of pride and respect. These must be considered patriotic acts. A patriot will not only defend his country, but he will work to make his country constantly worthy of that sacrifice.
Taking these two values as a given, in questioning the use of the Pledge of Allegiance at a civic ceremony or in school, the question to ask is this:
Why do you insist on starting this ceremony with a message of contempt for some of the soldiers who are fighting and defending the freedoms you take for granted? Is this your idea of patriotism – declaring that soldiers who are, at this moment, putting themselves at risk for us are to be virtually spat upon by putting them in the company of our nation's greatest enemies? The Pledge, with the phrase 'under God', says that many of those soldiers are no better than those who would support rebellion, tyranny, and injustice. What about showing a little respect here? Do you deny that the soldiers fighting for our freedom deserve respect?"
Of course, where respect is a value, the only response available to this claim is to deny that 'under God' shows a lack of respect towards any soldier.
But that is just not true.
To say that the words 'under God' respects the soldier who does not believe in God is the same as saying that the word 'indivisible' respects rebellion and that the words 'with liberty and justice for all' respects tyranny and injustice.
There is no escape from this objection – because the statements above are all true.
The same form of objection applies to those who would post the motto 'In God We Trust'.
You insist on posting a sign here that says to the soldier who has returned from fighting to defend this country, 'If you do not trust in God, then we do not consider you to be one of us.' I believe that these soldiers deserve our respect for what they have done, not to be insulted. I think we need a sign that speaks well of all soldiers who have fought honorably for our defense. But that doesn't seem to be the case with people like you. You think that insulting people who have fought for our freedom by saying, 'We do not consider you to be one of us,' is a perfectly legitimate act. Apparently, you do not value respect.
When they say that the national motto respects those who do not believe in God, then they can be asked:
If somebody were to suggest that you put up a sign that says, 'If you are not white, then we do not consider you to be one of us,' that this would be taken as showing respect for those who are not white?
So, whenever you encounter somebody defending the Pledge and the Motto using the terms 'patriotism' and 'respect', throw the terms right back at them.
Yes, you believe that it is important to show our respect for people who have fought for your freedoms by insulting them and excluding them. You declare that they are the moral equivalent of rebels and tyrants, and declare that they are not fit to be considered one of us. And you have the gall to say that this is necessary to show respect. I am the one who favors respect here. I insist that we show respect for all soldiers who have served honorably.
The ultimate power behind this argument is that the claim being made is true. The question that I have in my mind is why people have, for so long, ignored what is an obvious fact, and thus allowed the theocrats to obtain a monopoly over the concepts of 'patriotism' and 'respect'.
The 'strategy' that I am talking about here is simply one of putting people face to face with the truth. 'Under God' was added to the Pledge and 'In God We Trust' was made the national motto precisely to teach the American people not to respect those who held particular religious views. They were passed into law for the purpose of branding particular religious views 'unpatriotic' – and, thus, to brand those who hold these vies as 'unpatriotic'. This is in spite of the fact that some of the citizens who hold those views still fight and die for the sake of defending the government that insults them.
As long as the theocrats are able to hold a monopoly on the concepts of 'patriotism' and 'respect', they will always be able to brand atheism and secularism as 'un-American' and 'disrespectful'. The way to deny them this monopoly on the concepts of 'patriotism' and 'respect' is to make it clear how these policies disrespect some of the people who most deserve our respect – those who fought to defend our rights and freedoms even though they did not believe in God.