“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

I remember as kid, standing up at the beginning of class each day. I would place my hand over my heart; look up at Old Glory and recite the pledge of allegiance.  I never paid attention to the content nor did I care.  As an adult, I’ve begun to look back and think critically about what I was taught. Now, through the magic of the internet, I bring to you this episode of C-Webb’s Sunday school…the Pledge of Allegiance.

First, a Brief History:

The pledge we say today is not the same pledge that was written over one hundred years ago.  There have been several revisions since the original.  A Christian Socialist named Francis Bellamy wrote the original pledge in 1892.  The pledge was first published in a popular children’s magazine called The Youth’s Companion.  It was published in conjunction with the National Public-School Celebration of Columbus Day.  This celebration marked the 400th anniversary of Columbus arriving in the Americas.  Essentially, this was a marketing campaign to revitalize patriotism.  The Youth’s Companion would sponsor the event, making the public school flag ceremony the center of the celebration.  Bellamy designed the pledge to be short and sweet, to be said in under fifteen seconds.

Bellamy’s original pledge is as follows:

“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

They finally won approval from Congress to use the pledge in the Columbus Day celebration.  This announcement made the public school flag ceremony the center of the celebration.  The pledge was first used in public schools on October 12th, 1882.

Bellamy stated the following reasons for creating a pledge of allegiance:

“At the beginning of the nineties patriotism and national feeling was at a low ebb. The patriotic fervor of the Civil War was an old story…The time was ripe for a reawakening of simple Americanism and the leaders in the new movement rightly felt that patriotic education should begin in the public schools.”

On June 22nd, 1942, Congress officially recognized the pledge of allegiance in the following form:

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

You may have noticed that “My flag” was changed to “the flag.”   This was done so new immigrants weren’t confused between swearing allegiance to the United States of American and their birth countries.

Not content to leave well enough alone, “under God” was eventually added.  Louis A. Bowman was the man responsible for adding this phrase.  He first used this version on February 12th, 1948 during a meeting of the Illinois Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.  On August 21st, 1952 the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus, the world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organization, adopted the “under God” pledge as well.  Prior to 1954, several groups tried unsuccessfully to petition Congress to adopt this new of the pledge.

The final push came from George MacPherson Docherty, a Presbyterian pastor.  It was tradition that on President Lincoln’s birthday, the current President attends the Presbyterian Church Lincoln attended.  President Eisenhower attended a church service on February 7th, 1954 where Docherty delivered a sermon based on the Gettysburg Address.  He argued that the nation’s might lay not in weapons but in its spirit and higher purpose.  He stated that the words “under God” were defining words that set the United States apart from other nations.  President Eisenhower was moved by this sermon and immediately set in motion a bill to change the pledge to add the word’s “under God.”  The bill was signed into law on June 14th, 1954.  President Eisenhower stated the following when signing the bill:

“In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource, in peace or in war.”

One myth that involves adding the words “under God” to pledge has to do with the Soviets during the Cold War.  The US wanted to show the world they were a God fearing nation unlike the atheist communist.  I could not find any evidence to support this claim [1].

So what’s the big deal with adding “Under God” to the pledge?

What seems like a harmless statement on the surface, has several, deeper implications.  In 1954, approximately 88% of Americans identified as Christian.  This number has dropped over the years and now sits around 76%.  The US Constitution explicitly prohibits establishing or even endorsing a specific religion.  But, what is it about the phrase “under God” that is so wrong?  Why is it even an issue?  On the surface, it seems harmless considering the vast majority of Americans believe in some kind of god.  It can be said that this phrase just cast the widest net.  This may be true but we run into problems if even one American does not believe in a god.  Recent surveys suggest that 13% of Americans have no religious affiliation and a large percentage of them are atheist.  We can stop right there and conclude that the phrase “under God” discriminates against non-believers but let’s keep going and see what else we can find.

Let us first look at what this phrase implies:

1)    That a deity even exists and traditionally, this deity is omniscient and omnipotent

2)    That said god is a male.  God with a capital G implies that the God being spoken of is a male

3)    God is used in the singular, implying monotheism

4)    This phrase implies that God is omnipresent, that God is ruling over the US and is present everywhere

And

5)    It implies that God is in control, guiding the US and intervening in the affairs of planet earth

Based on this list alone, several groups are immediately excluded because of this simple phrase.  Here is a brief rundown of some of those groups:

1)    Atheist; who do not believe in any god’s existence

2)    Agnostics: who are unsure about any god’s existence

3)    Buddhist: who generally have no belief in a personal god

4)    Deists: who believe a god exists but is more in line with at watchmaker god.  God set the universe in motion but does not intervene in its affairs.

5)    Humanist: who base their beliefs on secular considerations

6)    Hindu’s: who believe in many gods both male and female

And

7)    Pagan’s: who believe that natural objects have souls such as planets and animals

This list can go on and one but even if one group is excluded because of this pledge, it goes against the foundation of our country.  No one should feel left out or marginalized by their government.  This pledge very explicitly implies belief in the Judeo-Christian God [2].

As with anything controversial topic, there are defenders of the “under God” inclusion in the pledge.  One of the arguments that is most used is the logical fallacy known as “the appeal to tradition.”  Simply put, this fallacy states: “this is right because we’ve always done it this way [3].”  This argument falls flat on its face for several reasons:

1)    It condones violations of the separation of church and state, which somehow renders it Constitutional because of traditions.  This puts a statute of limitations on the Constitution.  One would not sit by and watch freedom of speech be hindered because of “tradition”

And

2)    The phrase “under God” was added in 1954, so the original pledge is an older tradition and should be superseded by the “newer” tradition.  This argument is illogical.

Another argument is that “under God” is recognition of the historical beliefs of our country.  I have already pointed out the history of the pledge and adding “under God” was not recognition of historical beliefs.  It was an active statement of patriotism which expressed a promise of loyalty to the nation and its ideals.  Upholding history is irrelevant in this case.

Apologist for the phrase “under God” will argue that saying the pledge is voluntary.  Children do not have to say those words if they choose not to.  They can simply leave the classroom.  At one point in our history, the Bible was taught in schools.  Children were given the opportunity to leave the class but this does not negate the fact that teaching the Bible in public schools is unconstitutional.  Peer pressure is a huge deal and children who refuse to say this phrase can be harassed and bullied.  This even happens with adults.  Representative Jim McDermott leaves out the phrase and is mercilessly attacked by conservatives.  Replacing government force with mob pressure is immoral and wrong [4].

Opposition to the phrase “under God” does not just come from atheist.  Several religious groups oppose this phrase and specifically see it as a religious pledge.  Buddhist and Jewish organizations oppose it.  Liberal Christians oppose it.  Church/State separationist oppose it.  Having the United States government endorse any particular religion is no good for anyone.  From the believer to the atheist, keeping the government out of the affairs of religious organizations benefits everyone.  Keeping religion out of government protects all citizens of this great nation from persecution based on beliefs.

This Week’s Profile in Hate:

Concerned Women for America

Here is the group’s mission statement:

“The mission of CWA is to protect and promote Biblical values among all citizens – first through prayer, then education, and finally by influencing our society – thereby reversing the decline in moral values in our nation”

The six “core issues” are as follows:

1)    Family – “CWA believes that marriage consists of one man and one woman. We seek to protect and support the Biblical design of marriage and the gift of children.”   Simply put, preventing gays from marrying

2)    Sanctity of Human Life – “CWA supports the protection of all innocent human life from conception until natural death. This includes the consequences resulting from abortion.”

3)    Education – “CWA supports reform of public education by returning authority to parents.”  They want to include creationism and “biblical principles” in all school, both public and private

4)    Pornography – “CWA endeavors to fight all pornography and obscenity.”  They want to make any erotica a criminal activity

5)    Religious Liberty – “CWA supports the God-given rights of individuals in the United States and other nations to pray, worship and express their beliefs without fear of discrimination or persecution.”

6)    National Sovereignty – “CWA believes that neither the United Nations nor any other international organization should have authority over the United States in any area. We also believe the United States has the right and duty to protect and secure our national borders [link].”

It comes to no surprise that CWA is anti-same sex marriage, it donated $409,000 in support of Proposition 8 and opposed the 1988 Act for Better Child Care, which would have provided government-sponsored child care for families in which both parents are working.  They describe same sex unions as “counterfeit marriages and that these unions will be used quote to take control and the have the force of law to legitimize their disordered, unnatural behaviors.

They oppose abortion, birth control and emergency contraception, including cases where rape occurred.

The Southern Law Poverty Center classifies CWA as a hate group based on its stance against homosexuality.  They diminish the evidence of increased hate crime against homosexuals and accuse GLSEN, which is an anti-bully organization, of indoctrinating children to accept homosexuality as normal [link].

They are in the news recently because they want congress to block the Protection of Women Act, which protects women against domestic violence.  The CWA opposes the Act because it will extend protection to Native American Women, lesbians and illegal immigrants.

They had to this to say:

“The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), S. 1925, creates new protections for homosexuals. In order to receive federal grants, domestic violence organizations have to agree to embrace the homosexual agenda. It also expands categories of who is eligible to receive services.  These broad definitions actually squander the resources for victims of actual violence by failing to properly prioritize and assess victims [link].”

It is safe to say that groups like this would not exist if the Bible was never created.  As long as there is passage in the Bible to justify such actions, people will use it to support their cause.  Concerned Women for America is just another hate group that will be on the wrong side of history.

And now, the gospels according to Google Voice, Mark 1:21-34

They want to compare notes. And when the Sabbath came G. Just wanted to the synagogue again to teach. The people were amazing teaching because he talked to him as one who left already. Not as a teacher took a lot Justin, a man in the synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out what you want with us, cheeses, nazar, hey you come to destroy as I know who you are the hold of one of God, be quiet jesus At, sternley come out of him. The evil spirit shut them in filing in came out them with the street. The people were still amazed that they ask each other what it is a new teaching and with authority. If you can give orders. T evil spirit in the obey him news about inspect quickly over the whole region. Uncle Lee. I’ll Galilee, as soon as I left the synagogue. They went with James in jogged almost Simon Angeles time is mother and I was in bed with a fever and I told you this about. So we went to her took her hand and helps her out. The fever message we can do without them died evening after sunset, the people about Jesus. All the sick and giving possessed the whole town gathered at the door hinges. Your Mamie who it is diseases. He offered you about maintenance, but you could not let the teams be, because they knew who we will us.

In closing:

We are not a Christian nation, simply a nation made up of Christians and Buddhist, atheist, Jews, Humanist, Wiccans, Pagans, scientologist, Hindu’s, Muslims and so on.  It’s easier to just remove the “under God” part then to try to include every single religious and non-religious group in the United States.  If we are going to use the pledge at all, you must use the original to avoid marginalizing any group. We have to be careful because when people are given an inch, they take a yard.  So, if you are so inclined, stand up and say the pledge, the original version, just like our old friend Porky Pig.

Thank you for listening to C-Webb’s Sunday school.  Please follow me on Twitter at cwebb619, email me any feedback at cwebb619@gmail.com and don’t forget to check out atheistsocialworker.org.