Saturday, February 12, 2011

Accidentally Deleted Comments - In God We Trust

I am afraid that I accidentally deleted three comments. I hit "delete" instead of "publish" in the comments moderation screen, and I do not know how to get them back.

However, I have copies of their text, so let me post them here.

Mike Gantt

Because you infer more and different meaning in the words than most people do. Thus your outrage is fueled to some degree by meaning you have superimposed on the phrase. Others who read the words without the same inference won't have the same reaction.

Well, I at least have a theory. It takes a set of observations about the status of atheists. It explains it in part in terms of learned desires and aversions acquired through the praise and condemnation, which has it's greatest influence on young children. It identifies the Pledge and Motto as praising those who trust in God and who support a nation under God, while condemning as unAmerican those who do not.

One can question whether the Pledge and Motto can have these effects. However, that only causes me to ask where these effects are coming from. If you have a better theory, let's hear it, and decide from that theory how best to alter those effects.

Just consider what other facts would have to be true of a country where the majority of the people found a pledge of allegiance to "One white nation" to be unworthy of challenge. I suspect it would be a nation where a black person running for office would have to buck a substantial portion of the population saying, "People shouldn't be bating for you. You are not white."

Tell me why it must be considered wrongheaded to argue that a similar set of truths apply in a society that holds "one nation under God" to be unworthy of challenge.

Mike (A different Mike)

Not if accepting the fact that the motto means very little and the act of removal means a great deal. In a society in which "God" is used to describe everything from Jesus' dad, to an elephant with 6 limbs, to Eddie Van Halen, I'm not sure this is as big a deal as you seem to think. Working hard to take the motto off our currency would be a slap in the face to the majority and leaving it causes no real harm.

Obviously, adding 'In Jesus We Trust' would go down without the help of any group since it would be unconstitutional...even in a country with a HUGE Christian fact, it's interesting to me that, while the self-identification as 'Christian' continues to decline (about 70-75% now) support for the motto holds steady at 90%.

That tells me that very few hold the view that its inclusion is outrageous.

I live in a deeply red state and I have no problem telling strangers in a bar that I'm atheist. I've had people say they are concerned for my soul, not in a condescending way, the way you'd tell a person that you care about them. Their intent is only kindness. It doesn't matter if I think it's silly, they're trying to be nice.

As for comparing our beliefs to the holocaust, slavery and suffrage...oh boy. This country does a lot more stuff that actually hurts people and you're freaked out over something that really hurts nobody - and many find indispensable...this is why nobody takes us seriously. I used to think this blog was about the philosophy of ethics without fear of final judgment...I'm starting to see it as the atheist Glen Beck.

I've never been labeled by anyone as unpatriotic or un-American (even in TEXAS!). Maybe there's something else about you that's bothering the people you run in, perhaps, telling a black person you feel the sting of slavery since you are forced use currency featuring a choice of words you don't like.

Use a debit card. You can even put your own picture/phrase on many of them...

Yes, few hold the position that the current Pledge and Motto is outrageous. however, this is an ethics blog concerned with how things ought to be held, not a sociology blog concerned with how things are held. In fact, one of my arguments has been to note how frequently there has been a break between how various forms of discrimination are held versus how they should have been held, and to argue that attitudes testes the Pledge and the Motto represent just one more break.

As for the accusation that I am comparing "our beliefs to the Holocaust, slavery, and suffrage", this is a very common form of rhetoric, principally used to try to change the subject. If I were to say that a fusion bomb works like the sun, you can say, "comparing a fusion bomb to the sun! Oh boy! The sun is orders of magnitude more powerful than a fusion bomb!" Your statement would be true - and entirely irrelevant as it missed the point by a country mile.

As for your claim to have never been labeled unpatriotic un-American, run for public office. Polls show that a majority of people hold that Atheists least share American values - whether they have said it to your face or not.

If you want to show that these practices are socially impotent, then give me evidence. Show me a society in which the motto is to trust in God (or anything relevantly similar) where an atheist (or a member of the target group in general) has just as good a chance of getting elected into public office as a theist (or a member of the select group).

Show me a society with a pledge to one nation under God where the people do not use a willingness to say the Pledge as a defacto religious test for public office. Show me how, in spite of there being such a pledge, it is inconceivable that people will raise it as an objection to a person's candidacy that the candidate does not say the Pledge.


While I agree (very much) with your insightful comments, I resent your redirection of the thread back to an appropriate discussion of the relevant topic. How am I going to be able to successfully hijack a thread onto my favorite topic, namely me? I find this tactic of yours disrespectful and shrill. Typical atheistic ploy.


Humor aside, it is refreshing for me to find someone actually thinking seriously about the psychodynamics of atheism as a political movement - the topic seems to be anathema on other boards, with torches and pitchforks quickly assembled among cries of "Down with the framers!"

I think there is a form of Stockholm Syndrome in the atheist community, which seems in line to what you have said. I really do think we need our own beat cop on patrol much along the lines of Bill Donohue, except with integrity. And less foam. The successful strategy of cleaning up NYC by enforcing a zero tolerance policy for minor infringements comes to mind.

As I am currently unemployed, and noting that Mr. Donohue pulls in a a cool annual $300k for spearheading the efforts of a "League" that consists of himself, his laptop and a cat, I would be interested in the position as it seems I have real trouble pulling myself away from the keyboard as it is.


Mike Gantt said...

Alonzo, as I've said before, I think you are perfectly within your rights to agitate for the change you want, especially in a democracy.

As for your racism analogy, however, I don't think it does justice to your opponents' best arguments and is therefore likely only to hurt your cause. This is because, with some exceptions, theists do not regard the God clause in the Pledge as saying theists are better citizens than atheists.

As for your view of children and the inferences they take from such things, most of your theistic opponents will be in complete agreement with you...and therefore will be as motivated for the fight as you are.

This is why I originally said that in a democracy, the majority will (ultimately) rule. As you pointed out, this doesn't mean that the majority is always right or that it should not be resisted. Ultimately, however, the majority will rule - even if it allows minority rights as an expression of that rule. Change doesn't happen instantly, of course. For example, there's always a significant hurdle in overturning precedent. That's probably the only reason the God clause stays in the Pledge or on the coins right now. If they were not already there, I can't imagine Congress voting in our day to put them there, nor can I imagine the Supreme Court allowing it even if they did.

As for me, I am a theist and deeply committed to Jesus Christ - though I distance myself from Christians for the reason that I don't think God cares about Christian, atheist, or any other such distinctions. Rather, He cares about morality (which is one of the reasons I like your writing). Thus, I'm far less worried about what's on the coin or in the pledge than I am what's in the heart (which is why I don't campaign for the Christians' argument on these issues). The coin and pledge are political issues; I'm more concerned with spiritual and moral issues.

Badger3k said...

An "attitude testes"? Wow, you got cajones....hee hee

Seriously, Mike in Texas needs to look at the state constitution. Although it is unconstitutional, he (and I) would be banned from running since we do not believe in a god.

I find the "it means so little, but removing it would mean so much" type of argument bizarre - if it means nothing in the pledge, then removing it should also mean nothing.

dbonfitto said...

I'm puzzled that a fellow who goes by GingerBaker would let Mike (a different Mike) get away with comparing Eddie Van Halen to the divine without mentioning Eric Clapton.

Mike Gantt, you know it wasn't very long ago that Congress did vote to put the God bits into the pledge. There's just a certain haze in collective human memory that fogs in sometime during the lifetime of your grandparents. If it was like this before your parents were around, it was "always like this."

Also, we've never been at war with Eurasia.

Mike said...

Just a few points to clarify my earlier comment:

I understand the difference between ethics and sociology, my point is simply that if you want to work towards real change, facts on the ground are more important than pie in the sky.
No "free" society will ever be perfect to every person and people in the minority have to be at least as willing to compromise as the majority they're trying to influence. You continually bring up the lack of open representation and inclusion in gov't. I agree.
Perhaps the reason for that is the only time the average person hears the word atheist it's in a news report about some group trying to take down a memorial that honors the self-sacrifice of "heroes"....or trying to change strongly-held American tradition.
Ethics strategy and sociology have to go hand-in-hand if we want to actually do something instead of daydreaming about a fantasy land.

I didn't accuse you of making a straw man argument, you did. Had you made the bomb/sun comparison, there would have been some truth to it. If you are saying the only difference between the way atheists in the U.S. are treated and the holocaust is size and scope, I'll maintain my objection.

The problem with your argument hangs out in the pesky realm of reality. A Muslim who gleefully agrees that we should be a nation under god has about as much of a shot in a heavily Christian district as an atheist. 'God' isn't a defacto religious test to most American Christians, it's a moral qualifier that they can understand without doing any work....and, when taken with my earlier statement regarding our public image, they don't need to hear any more to believe that our moral structure doesn't resemble theirs. Politicians understand this and pay lip service.

As far as your challenge to show you a society with an 'under god pledge where an atheist has as much chance as the average theist, I think you'd agree that we have one of (if not) the most religiously ambiguous presidents in history. Huge chunks of the country believe him to be Muslim, similar numbers don't know what, if any, affiliations he really has.
I think an atheist candidate, who is 100% honest about his/her beliefs, has as much chance as any candidate who is 100% honest about their beliefs and
And, yes, I'm saying they should (and do) lie just like the rest of them.

Anonymous said...

I was called a Punk and blamed for the 'downfall of America' by a History teacher\Basketball coach for silently refusing to stand and put my hand over my heart and say the Pledge... Because making me say a pledge including 'Under god' (which was added in '54 NOT IN THE AUTHORS WRITING) is unconstitutional in a public school...

Don't try to tell me it doesn't affect people... AND YES THIS WAS IN TEXAS. You're lack of negative attention does not mean that none exists... (Speaking to the other Mike)

Violence B. Gawn said...

I propose civil disobedience as an apt response to IGWT. If all atheists and freethinkers marked out the motto on our paper currency with a Sharpie, perhaps the issue would get more attention.

dbonfitto said...

Marking out IGWT on money just seems like a way to stay on the outside.

The mint's presses are faster than your Sharpie.

Putting on makeup to cover a black eye doesn't stop the bully.