Monday, October 05, 2009

The Pledge: Atheism as Unpatriotic

The claim that "one nation, under God" is not meant to promote the idea of one nation under God is one of the most absurd claims that a person can utter.

It is like saying that, "one nation . . . with liberty and justice for all" is not meant to promote the idea of "one nation . . . with liberty and justice for all."

Yet, a federal judge wrote this absurdity into an opinion in which he dismissed a lawsuit against the Pledge of Allegiance in New Hampshire last week.

(See: Religion Clause: New Hampshire Federal Court Rejects Challenge To Pledge of Allegiance)

The Pledge does not thank God. It does not ask God for a blessing, or for guidance. It does not address God in any way....

Right.

And the Pledge also does not address issues of liberty or justice at all either. These types of concepts are entirely foreign to the Pledge of Allegiance which is, in fact, a purely patriotic exercise that has nothing at all to do with liberty and justice for all.

A purely patriotic exercise . . ,

Yes. It is a patriotic exercise that says that to be patriotic, you have to support "one nation under God," in the same way that a patriot has to support, "one nation . . . with liberty and justice for all." It says that anybody who does not support these things is not a patriot. It says that atheism is incompatible with patriotism, in the same way that tyranny and injustice are incompatible with patriotism.

Now, what truly surprises me is that I do not see these arguments mentioned anywhere other than this blog. I have done a fair amount of reading on this subject, and listened to recordings of oral arguments, and I have never heard anybody mention in Court that "one nation under God" aims to establish a nation under God in the same way "one nation . . . with liberty and justice for all" aims to establish one nation with liberty and justice for all.

Let some judge just try to argue the difference.

However, by tradition, judges do not argue points that the attorneys do not bring before them. The judge may think, "I believe that point over there, that nobody mentioned in their brief, is relevant in this case" However, the judge would then be bringing up points that neither team addressed in court. The teams on either side might have had good reason not to consider that issue. The judge needs to give the attorneys a chance to answer any new material brought into the case.

This is one of the very reasons for oral arguments – to give the judges an opportunity to ask the attorneys why they might not have considered an issue that the judge things is relevant.

Yet, in the briefs and the oral arguments I have read and the transcripts I have listened to, I have yet to find an instance in which it was brought up that "one nation under God" seeks to establish a nation under God in the same way that "one nation . . . with liberty and justice for all" aims to establish a nation with liberty and justice for all.

Nor do I recall ever hearing anybody challenge the claim that “the pledge is a patriotic exercise: with the challenge, "What right does the government have to insist and to teach children that atheism is incompatible with patriotism? That tyranny and injustice is incompatible with patriotism – I can see that. But isn't the government barred from saying that atheism is incompatible with patriotism?"

More importantly, I am surprised by the fact that I do not read or hear this point being made in public debates on this issue. In fact, I wonder if anybody in the nation has ever heard that argument who has not read this blog.

And it is here, in public discussion, that this point needs to be brought out more than it needs to be brought out in the courts. I wrote just two days ago about the stupidity inherent in the apparent secular strategy us using lawsuits alone to protect a secular government, while allowing the proponents of theocracy to turn the people against the very judges that secular proponents depend on. Those who wish to defend a secular government need to be making their case to the people, not just to the judges, or the people will no longer permit judges who accept a secular interpretation to the Constitution to sit on the bench.

The people need to be asked the question, "Where does the government get the right to teach children that atheism is incompatible with patriotism?" They need to be made aware that the claim that "one nation under God" does not aim to establish a nation under God is as absurd as saying "one nation . . . with liberty and justice for all" does not aim to establish a nation with liberty and justice for all.

Clearly, there are people in the world who are so intellectually disfigured by their religion that they can look at the most obvious evidence and not see the truth. That these arguments will not persuade the willfully stupid is not relevant here. Their effect on those who still have some capacity to think – and capacity to tilt the balance in judicial appointments and elections – is what matters.

So, I would really like to know why so many people are so silent on a point that, to me, at least, seems so obvious and so easy to understand and can even be expressed in terms of the simple sound bytes that dominate politics these days.

I would really like to see a case brought to court on these terms. "What right does the government have to teach children that atheism is unpatriotic? I am an atheist, and I am harmed by the governments declaration to this effect. They begin each school day by saying that atheism is unpatriotic. They print it on the money. By my rights as granted by the First Amendment, I demand that the government stop teaching that atheism is unpatriotic."

If you believe that "one nation under God" does not aim to establish one nation under God, then you must also believe that "one nation . . . with liberty and justice for all" does not aim to establish one nation with liberty and justice for all.

Or, combining the two, if you believe that atheism is compatible with "one nation under God" then you must also believe that tyrannical injustice is compatible with "liberty and justice for all".

I would like to see these points made a part of the national debate. I would like to see the contortions that the theocrats will go through in trying to answer them.

2 comments:

R2K said...

: )

J said...

Good point. I hadn't seen it before either.

Now, on telling "the people" about it... I just imagined the danger of that backfiring, so to speak. Let's see if that's too far-fetched.

You see, it's quite possible that a good one quarter or even one third of the American population would in any circumstance say "hell yeah" if you asked them whether "one nation under God" should be established as much as the "with liberty and justice for all" part is. They would have no problem at all with your argument. Of course that would run afoul of the Establishment Clause, but as you said, they might just not allow the judges to sit there who would uphold the clause to begin with. And eventually people might even get a movement to change the Constitution. Some former president once said it was just a god-damned piece of paper, didn't he?

Now, if you ask the question in the "right way", you might have more than 50% of the population agreeing with the establishment of "one nation under God".

Is what I said too crazy?