Thursday, March 18, 2010

Newdow v. Rio Linda: Redefining God

Here is an easy rhetorical trick.

In order to get around the objection that the phrase 'under God' is the endorsement of some type of religious belief, we are simply going to re-define the term 'God' so that it is not religious but, let's say, patriotic.

Let us redefine the term 'God' to mean, a political philosophy whereby a power greater than government grants people their inalienable rights.

Now, how stupid of you atheists to assert that the phrase 'under God' is a violation of a government prohibition on religion. This is not about religion at all. It is about a political philosophy that holds that individuals have certain inalienable rights, and those rights come from a source outside of government. As a result, governments can neither create nor destroy these rights. When you protest 'one Nation under God', you are not protesting a particular religious idea. You are protesting the idea that humans have moral rights independent of government. Which, of course, is something that no decent American would ever do.

If this were a valid form of argument, then I can give another form of argument that is equally valid.

Let's define the term 'white' to mean a political philosophy that came out of Europe, and embraced by our (caucasian) founding fathers, that holds that individuals hold certain inalienable moral rights that find their source outside of government - that governments can neither create nor destroy.

Great. Now we can change the Pledge of Allegiance to be a pledge to 'one White nation', and we can proudly assert that this is an endorsement of the basic principles on which this country was founded. Consequently, when you protest 'one White nation', you are not protesting an expression and endorsement of the white race above other races. You are protesting the idea that humans have moral rights independent of government. Which, of course, is something that no decent American would ever do.

There are some falsehoods that warrent a patient and quite expression of the reasons why the person making that claim is mistaken, and a respectful but diligent attempt to steer them onto the right path.

And there are some falsehoods that betray such a defect in moral character that they do not warrant such a patient response. They warrant our outright condemnation.

This is a lie.

This type of statement can only sensibly be uttered by somebody who says, "I want to use the Pledge to promote my brand of religious/racist bigotry. Of course, my brand of religious/racist bigotry is prohibited by law, by the Constitution, and by morality itself. So I am going to lie and say that the term 'God' or 'white' respectively means 'a political philosophy that holds that humans have certain inalienable rights that come from a source outside of government.'

The only people who would go along with this lie are people who, with a wink and a nudge, decide share the immoral attitudes of those who originated this lie and for the sake of political and immoral expediency agree to assert, "Yes. Yes. Of course. It's perfectly obvious that the term 'white' (or 'under God') refers not a race (or religious belief) but to a political philosophy."

That way we can have our pledge of allegiance to one White nation or one nation under God and pretend, at least in our public lives, that we are obeying the legal, constitutional, and moral prohibitions against racial/religious bigotry respectively.

Two of the three judges who heard the case of Newdow vs. Rio Linda, with their own wink and a nudge, have decided that they are going to go along with this lie and write it into their legal opinion.

Where it can now be found in their statement:

[B]oth the purpose and effect of the Pledge are that of a predominantly patriotic, not a religious, exercise. The phrase 'under God' is a recognition of our Founder's [sic] political philosophy that a power greater than the government gives the people their inalienable rights. Thus, the Pledge is an endorsement of our form of government, not of religion or any particuar sect.

Newdow v. Rio Linda, USD p. 3921

Finally, sometimes a typographical error is simply a typographical error. I make a number of them.

However, in this case, I have to wonder what philosophy the judges in the majority were thinking in this case when they wrote about:

our Founder's (singular, capitalized) political philosophy.

We have reason to ask what a person might be thinking - what their particular philosophy of religion and government might be, if they think that the United States had only one Founder, and that a reference to Him must begin with a capital letter.


Unknown said...

I swear your posts on this Pledge business keep getting better and better. I've started recommending them to other people.

Scott M. said...

If you like his commentary, be sure to buy his book A PERSPECTIVE ON THE PLEDGE at

felix said...

This is reminiscent of the claim that Alcoholics Anon isn't a religious organization because they keep adding "as we understand him" after each reference to God.

Robert C. said...

Hey Alonzo, is everything okay? What's going on?