A little remark by my friend Tommykey over at Exercise in Futility got me to thinking about something. He said this in the comments section of a recent post at Daylight Atheism. Ebonmuse had discussed the recent Barna poll showing a definite decrease in support and enthusiasm for Christianity by young people in the US. I’m not going to get into the implications of that poll, as it’s being hashed about in that thread, and others. But there was something that struck me. Tommy said:
I think secularists should resist the temptation to push for removing “under God” from the Pledge or other pointless symbolisms and instead enjoy watching the Fundies implode.
The words he refers to relates to the insertion of religion into the Pledge of Allegiance, and I think by extrapolation, our currency. It’s a major flash point in the culture war being waged by theists and atheists alike. Christians and other theists (OK, only Christians) believe that America is a Christian country, that it was founded on Christian values, and further that those few words are a minimal recognition of what they perceive as an obvious fact. On the flip side, atheists and secularists alike believe that forcing us to say “under god” or handle money with such inflammatory language on it is an unconstitutional infringement of our rights under the First Amendment doctrine of separation of Church and State.
I’ve never written or expressed an opinion on the matter here, because frankly I never could get myself worked up enough to feel any outrage. Sure, I understand, sympathize and generally agree with the rationale for the secular position, but there was always that voice in my head that said “so what?”. Ambivalence reigned.
With regard to the Pledge, on those rare occasions when I must recite it, I simply mumble “under a good looking blond” or something equally irreverent, and go on with the Pledge. It doesn’t really bother me that others say it. As for those who actually believe in god, and feel comfortable saying it, well…to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson from another context, it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my arm.
As for our currency, there are other things on those bills and coins that bother me too. What’s with that silly pyramid with the eyeball Apollo spacecraft taking off from the top? Is that something we want on our money? One little word, “god” doesn’t make me not want to spend my money. When I pull a bill out my wallet, or plug a quarter into a soda machine, it’s the Federal Reserve I Trust, not god. If a bunch of superstitious people want to believe their money will buy them a six pack because they trust in a non-existent being, who am I to object? The money buys six bottles of Heineken for both of us either way.
Again, I do follow the secular argument, that it discourages rational thinking, perpetuates myths, and generally seems stupid, not to mention that it imposes someone’s belief, via my government and my tax dollars, on me and my children. Again, so what? It has no effect on me, because I still don’t believe. I don’t have to recite the pledge with those words in them, nor do I even read the money, I just spend it. This doesn’t even take into consideration that most of my money is represented by little zeros and ones in my digitized bank accounts. As I look in my wallet this evening, of all of my net worth, only $15 of it is represented by currency with “In God We Trust” emblazoned across it. A sizable portion of my assets say “Mortgage” or “401K” or “Toyota” or something equally secular. (Note to self: Stop and pick up a six pack.)
Whether there is validity to either the pro or cons of the argument is not my point, however, nor Tommykey’s point. TK’s comment was in response, partially, to what I said in a earlier comment, i.e.:
I can see the day when atheism will be embraced by a majority.
On the assumption that one day atheism will be accepted by the majority, that will be the day that changes to the Pledge and the currency will occur. Pending that, the majority of this country want their little token to god left in place. Why get our tits in a wringer arguing about something that has only symbolic value? Substantively, no one’s rights are being taken away, no one is being forced to worship god, tithe to Christ, or join a religion. It is not a big deal, yet the people who are defending their Pledge and their money think it is. It is a rallying cry for anti-atheism. Why give them ammunition for righteous indignation, and right wing fund-raising?
One of the responses (and a good response it is) to the claim that atheists took prayer out of public schools, is that we didn’t. Why? Because theists can pray anytime they want in school, out by the flagpole, or in the doorway. They just have to do it themselves, and sometimes they have to do it silently. The teachers may not lead the prayer.
Likewise, they can say the same thing to us about the Pledge. We don’t have to say the words “under god”. And they’re right. We don’t. And we can think and believe what we want. Ain’t America grand?
So, let’s take away this particular point of contention, and focus on teaching theists why the imposition of these words is offensive, rather than forcing them to dispose of them, creating theistic martyrs and rallying cries to the cause in the process. Once we have convinced a majority of Americans that god doesn’t exist, these little words will disappear faster than snow in July in the tropics.