Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Pledge Project: Sound Bytes

In the near future, the 9th Circuit Court opinion giving its decision on ‘under God’ and ‘In God We Trust’.

And, a reminder, when the story break, I will begin tracking developments as they happen in my other blog, Atheist Ethicist Journal.

The purpose of the Pledge Project is to introduce a set of arguments against 'under God' in the Pledge and 'In God We Trust' as the national motto that have been missing for the past 50 years – arguments other than the legal arguments we are all familiar with.

Moral arguments.

I have written a series of essays on the subject in this blog. (You can find a list of these essays at The Pledge Project: Table of Contents) Unfortunately, you will almost never have the opportunity to deliver a 15-minute speech or present a 1500 word essay on the immoral qualities of these practices.

All too often, you will have to make your point in 15 seconds or less – and even that might be generous.

Consequently, this post is dedicated to sound bytes – quick statements that deliver some of these missing moral considerations in a sentence or two that can be quickly thrown into a discussion.

For example.

'Under God' has never been about allowing God into the public square. It has always been about keeping atheists out of public office..

If you are given an opportunity to explain yourself you can start to bring out points from the 1500 word essay. 'Under God' was introduced in the 1950s to put atheist communists at a political disadvantage, but targeted all atheists. This sound byte has opened the door to that discussion. Yet, even if the recipient of the sound byte hears nothing else, she has heard something she had not heard before, and something for her to think about.

Here are some other sound bytes. Many of these are variations on a theme. The context in which the statement is used will determine which variation has the most relevance.

It is no more legitimate for the government to post a sign that says "We Trust in God" than it is to post a sign that says, "We Are A White Community,” or "We Are Not Jews".

If 'under God' is consistent with respect for people who do not believe in God, then 'with liberty and justice for all' is consistent with respect for tyranny and injustice.

This is how you intend to show respect for soldiers who do not believe in God, by saying that they are as bad as those who defend tyranny and injustice?

By adding 'under God' to the Pledge of Allegiance the government put atheism in the company of rebellion, tyranny, and injustice as the great evils that no patriotic American can accept and every patriotic American would oppose.

There is no better way to teach children that atheists cannot be patriots than to have a ritual of pledging allegiance from which atheists are conspicuously excluded.

To say that the Pledge of Allegiance is a patriotic exercise is to say that atheists cannot be patriots.

What's wrong with a pledge that shows respect for ALL OF THOSE who have fought for our freedom? What is right with a Pledge that compares some of those who defend our rights to the defenders of tyranny and injustice?

If you want to bring God into the public square, then do what the founding fathers did in writing the Constitution. They wrote an oath of office that did not mention God, allowing each individual to decide to add a phrase like, "so help me God" according to his or her private belief.

A good Christian would reject a sign the says "We Trust In God" for the same reasons a good Caucasian would reject a sign that says, "We Are a White Community."

Atheism is like race in that neither necessarily implies a lack of patriotism or moral character – and it is pure bigotry to assume otherwise.

The right to freedom of speech does not imply a right to freedom from criticism. Even the Nazi and the KKK member has a right to freedom of speech.

Psychologically segregating the nation between 'we' who 'trust in God' and 'they' who do not is as immoral as physically segregating the nation between 'we' who are white and 'they' who are colored.

Protesting 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance is anti-Christian in the same way that protesting segregation was anti-white or respecting the rights of women to vote was anti-male.

Moral chauvinism is the state of believing that the people who share your religion are inherently morally superior to those who do not.

There are as many ways to mention God in the public square that do not express bigotry as there are to mention race in the public square that are not bigoted. This is not one of them.

If you compare a sign on the currency or in public office that discriminate on the basis of religion with signs that discriminate on the basis of race, somebody will likely accuse you of equating religion with racism.

I am not equating religion with racism. I am equating signs and oaths that teach religious prejudice with signs and oaths that teach racial prejudice.

If a person denies that 'under God' or 'In God We Trust' denigrates the patriotism and moral character of those who do not believe in God, demand that they prove that they believe this.

I demand that the legislative body pass a resolution condemning any statement that explicitly or implicitly denigrates the patriotism or moral character of an American citizen based solely on the fact that the citizen does not believe that there is a God to trust or for the nation to be under.

I have given some of my ideas for sound bytes that might be useful. However, I might be suffering from a serious lack of imagination. I would like you, the reader, to think about this and come up with a few more.

I have some caveats.

I an looking for sound bytes that express moral concerns that have been missing over the last 50 years.

I am not looking for sound bytes that trash religion. This is not about being opposed to religion. This is about being opposed to injustice. As I wrote above – a Christian can oppose the psychological and social segregation of atheists in the same way that a Caucasian can oppose the physical segregation of blacks. It is not appropriate to answer anti-atheist bigotry with anti-theist bigotry; that would just make us hypocrites.

With these facts in mind, and with 33 essays from The Pledge Project at your fingertips, along with your own experiences, I would like to know what type of sound bytes you can provide to help arm those who will be debating 'under God' and 'In God We Trust' once the story breaks.

Sometime between now and June 30th, we will all have an opportunity to put those suggestions to work.


vjack said...

I tend to emphasize that the presence of "under god" in the pledge and on U.S. currency is exclusionary. It excludes all non-theists from being part of America.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

That sign (In God We Trust) says that we have two classes of citizens in this country; first class citizens who trust in God and who have our government's approval, and second class citizens who do not and have our government's disapproval.

CrypticLife said...

I usually point out that "Under God" or "In God we Trust" is exactly the sort of phrase a brutal theocracy could use, and doesn't say anything about what's actually good about America.

This isn't an "anti-religion" argument, as religion doesn't necessarily imply theocracy. With regards to the motto, the sheer emptiness of the phrase now bothers me as much as the implied bigotry.

Anonymous said...

It would be great if you did a video blog of the Pledge series on YouTube. A lot of people won't sit and read these, but they have a lotof important information.

Alonzo Fyfe said...


Thank you for the suggestion.

Unfortunately, I am not the best public speaker. I have a lot of practice writing, but little practice speaking.

However, if somebody out there has the technology and thinks they have the personality to create and narrate a video, I would love to do the writing.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Attempts to characterize objections to 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance as 'offense at the mere mention of God in the public square' is a bit like characterizing objections to slavery in the 1850 as 'objections to having blacks do an honest day’s work'.

Anonymous said...

I sent a couple of messages to people on YouTube to see if they might be interested in helping with this project.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to encourage as many analogies as possible in these soundbites. Analogies can be quite powerful and concise in making one's point.

Anonymous said...

One argument I haven't yet seen addressed is that "'Under God' and 'In God We Trust' is now a tradition. No one's complained about them until now. Why are you doing so?"

One response might be, "crime and war have always been around. Does that mean that we should respect and promote them?"

Of course, people HAVE complained about these religious phrases. But they've been buried by the courts and media.

Anonymous said...

If you're pledging allegiance to "one nation under God", you're pledging allegiance to God. The nation is just the middleman! Why should the US government be forcing children to pledge allegiance to (the Christian) God?

Also, this is not about atheists vs. "people of faith". It's dishonest for the religious conservatives to frame it in those terms, and foolish for us to let them. There are minority religious (including Christian) groups who find a pledge of allegiance just as offensive as we do.

Astrid said...

I simply use the fact that this is not the original pledge and only points up a place in time when we feared a "commie under every bed". Better that we return it to the original that was inclusive and unafraid, than to keep on reminding people that at one time this country feared others different from ourselves.