Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Pledge Project Revisited

We are nearing the one-year anniversary of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals hearing of a case in which Michael Newdow argued that "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance and "In God We Trust" as the national motto were unconstitutional. This is a second case, in which 'standing' should not be an issue. Michael Newdow, who argued the case on his own behalf 5 years ago, is arguing this time on behalf of parents who have full and legal custody of their own children.

At this point in the game, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that Court will release its decision before the election – which is a good thing, since it would likely become a major campaign issue and could perhaps alter the course of this election. (Though it should not do so – there are far more important criteria to base one’s vote on – a lot of people have a rather warped sense of what is important.)

However, the Court cannot wait too long after the election to render their decision. The Courts web site states that decisions are released up to one year after the hearing, and that one-year anniversary comes up in early December, right in time for annual war on Christmas.

Long time readers know that I consider this issue to be extremely important when it comes to anti-atheist bigotry and all of the issues tied to this bigotry. Through the national motto and the Pledge of Allegiance the U.S. Government is involved in a program of teaching children that those who are not 'under God' or who do not 'trust in God' are not good Americans.

See, The Pledge Project: Table of Contents

An atheist, according to this message, is not 'one of us.' 'We' trust in God, so a person who does not trust in God does not belong in the group identified as 'we'.

An atheist – or even a theist whose religion does not argue for putting the nation 'under God' – is the patriotic equivalent of somebody who supports rebellion, tyranny, and injustice for all.

Planting this bigotry into the brain of a very young child gives these ideas a strong emotional component. Many children learn to associate trust in God and the idea of a nation ‘under God’ with the deep emotional need of acceptance and belonging. This deep emotional link makes it quite difficult for the child, when she becomes an adult, to shake this idea. The very thought of not trusting in God or being 'under God' brings an emotional turmoil that even the adult would have trouble dealing with.

This motto and this pledge, then, feed society’s anti-atheist bigotry and, in turn, feeds off of it. The relationship is the same as that which existed between segregation (marking certain facilities or sections of a restaurant as ‘white’ and ‘colored’ respectively) and racial bigotry. Segregation was the product of bigotry. Yet, the signs, the rules, and the laws also promoted bigotry by teaching even young children to see a social difference between the two – to see members of one group as superior to members of the other group.

The effect was pronounced on both groups. Segregation not only taught white children that they were superior to black children, it taught black children that they were inferior to white children. It taught them this lesson at a young age where they learned the lesson not only intellectually, but emotionally. They adopted the attitude of inferiority, because this was the attitude that they were taught.

It took World War II, and the proven worth of the black soldier (along with countless black soldiers proving to themselves and others that they were as good as white soldiers) to end this stupor and begin the drive for racial equality at home.

Atheists also suffer from the effects of a learned sense of inferiority. There is a reason why atheists do not stand up to the likes of Kieffe and Sons, Monique Davis, Elizabeth Dole, and the local school in which children are taught daily to regard those not 'under God' as un-American. It is because they, too, have this learned sense of inferiority that makes them timid and afraid – unwilling to earn the displeasure of the 'superior' members of society, those who trust in God and support a nation 'under God'.

The last thing we want is for the better part of America (or that which the government told us in no uncertain terms was the better part of America) to be angry with us. Because we, quite obviously, do not deserve equal consideration and equal respect of our government and our fellow citizens.

When these decisions are released, I can easily predict that theocratic Americans (because a nation 'under God' is the very definition of theocracy) will scream and shout at the top of their lungs that this decision is wrong and something must be done to stop this outrage. While, on the atheist, humanist, and theist-secularist side of the equation, the bulk of the population will cower and declare, "Now look at what you did. You made them mad at us again. Shame on you."

Actually, the shame belongs to those who do not stand up to bigotry.

It is morally outrageous for any country to have a motto that says, “If you do not trust in God, then you are not one of us.”

It is morally outrageous for a country to have its youngest children pledge daily to regard Americans who do not support a nation 'under God' the same way they regard Americans who support rebellion, tyranny, and injustice for all.

It is morally outrageous to have the government of a free society involved in a campaign that is effectively designed to put up an insurmountable barrier between peaceful, law-abiding citizens and public office and positions of public trust. Because, this much is clear, 'under God' and 'In God We Trust' are being promoted precisely because they are effective in locking atheists out of public office and positions of public trust. This way, theists only need to compete with other theists for these positions.

The role of the atheist is never to govern, but always and only to be governed – never to lead, but only to obey.

Bigotry does not end as a result of the target group "playing nice". Bigotry ends when the "target group" musters the courage to make the bigots uncomfortable with their bigotry – when they muster the courage to stand up to the bellicose anger that the bigot inevitably uses to defend his position of social superiority. They have no reason – absolutely no reason – to give up their position of superiority without a fight. The question is whether their victims have the courage to fight back.

Once again, I end with my standard disclaimer. The right to freedom of speech, association, and religion is not a right to freedom from criticism. It is a right to freedom from violence. Fighting back, in this sense, is morally limited to fighting back with words and private actions (actions that one may legitimately perform without justifying them to anybody).

It also may include non-violent civil disobedience – such as the sit-ins of the 1950s where the object is to do no physical harm (and threaten no physical harm) to person or property, but to send a message to people who would not otherwise have an opportunity to hear it.

It means, in this instance, an unwillingness to be meekly sit down and shut up (as we are often told to do) as the theocrats rant and rave against the suggestion that it is not the government's right or duty to declare citizens who trust in God or who support 'one nation under God' are superior to those who do not believe that there is a god to trust or to be under.


anton said...

Hi Gang,

It is a natural attribute of mankind to have heroes. Those heroes can be "sports" heroes, "artistic" masters, "entertainment" celebrities, or "political masters". Regardless, they are perceived as achieving "greatness through their deeds".

In the same way, "Santa", "God", and "Jesus" receive hero worship, especially from children because they are "domesticated" that way.

What is being argued is the right to have "no heroes". It is impossible for us to create heroes for four-year-olds unless those heroes are of the fictional type that can get the hype.

Atheists have nothing that can appeal to the four-year-old. Until they do, they are stuck with trying to unravel the fifteen years of indoctrination, the memes and the heritage that have "controlled" their lives and given them "nurture" since they were four-years-old.

Until they have an "image" to which four-year-old's can "worship", Atheism will be burdened with the same battles it in which it has been engaged for more than 2,500 years.

When I was a child my grandfather attempted to create hero out of Karl Marx. He was the only atheist around at the time. It worked to some extent but I was still living in a society where Christmas, etc. still controlled my environment. Also, Marx was burdened with being identified with Lenin so Marx lost his true identity. (We could start if only every one read and understood the Manifesto, but even Atheists are too lazy and like to pretend that they have read it and understood it. From there we could move on to contemporary writers who, unfortunately, are aiming their messages -- as did Marx -- at an older audience. Also, any "worship" of Karl Marx is seen as "un-American" even though most of its contents describe what US America is fighting for. US America is careful avoiding any comparison with Marx, especially in view of its current economic crisis!)

Until someone comes up with events, people and practices that appeal to four-year-olds, all the intellectual, realist, freethinking efforts of Atheists will achieve little, if anything.

dbonfitto said...

I tell my kids that all of their Christmas presents come from Carl Sagan.