Monday, May 12, 2014

"Under God"

To avoid being stoned in the streets, I suppose a caveat might be in order before we begin: the views expressed in the following blog are my views. You are under absolutely no obligation to agree with them. But I hope you might try to understand them.

When I was in the Naval Aviation Cadet program, trying to learn how to become an officer and a gentlemen, we were told frequently and in no uncertain terms that there were certain subjects absolutely forbidden to be discussed at mess (dinner): sex, politics, and religion. Probably good advice, since those three subjects are time-bombs all but guaranteed to blow up when a strong disagreement arises.

So when I recently saw yet another internet posting bewailing the lack of "traditional values" in our culture and noted the absolutely inevitable "so that we can return to being one nation under God..." my Krakatoa blew its top. There are few things that infuriate me more (which is really saying something since, if you are a regular reader of these blogs, you know there is a very long list of things which infuriate me) than having someone else's religious beliefs forced upon me.

I detest proselytizers of any ilk, and most particularly religious proselytizers. Their infuriatingly arrogant, rock-solid assumption that they have the right to tell me what I must think or say or do or believe or feel is degrading, demeaning, and ultimately insulting. Nothing is more private or personal than one's religious beliefs. I may not agree with yours, but I would never have the unmitigated gall to insist you discard them in favor of mine.

I have often pointed out that the words "under God" did not appear in our Pledge of Allegiance until 1954. It was written in 1892 byFrancis Bellamy (1855-1931), a Baptist minister and a Christian socialist, and even he didn't find it necessary to put "under God" in the pledge! We are "one nation, indivisible," but God is not and should not be directly involved in that fact. Those two words are totally unnecessary to the meaning of the pledge, and they are divisive and demeaning in the clear implication that if you are follower of Buddha, or Islam, or if you (God forbid!) should happen to be agnostic or atheist, you cannot be a “real” American.

On those occasions where I am in attendance when the Pledge of Allegiance is recited, I do not refuse to participate, but I do refuse to utter the words "Under God." I am an agnostic. Agnostics do not deny the possible existence of God and I personally would really like to believe that He/She exists, but basic logic cannot allow me to do so, and I will not betray my own beliefs to "fit in."

Perhaps oddly, I do not object to the words "In God We Trust" on our national currency. I look on it as more a historical reflection of our heritage than a statement with which I have to agree. I get a lump in my throat whenever I hear "God Bless America," but again it is because of patriotism and history, not religion. And I often say "God bless you" when someone sneezes as a matter of social custom and courtesy.

I've always rather envied those with strong religious convictions. I know it gives many people great comfort and solace, and I am truly happy for them. The ability to, in effect, turn all one's problems and concerns over to someone else and say "it's in God's hands" is oddly appealing. But I can't do that. The fact is that every problem is resolved eventually, one way or another, with no otherworldly involvement. And I always delight, on behalf of my religious friends, in that wonderful oft-quoted line from the musical "The Unsinkable Molly Brown": "You say your prayers weren't answered? That's just not so! Your prayers were answered: the answer was No." Talk about a win-win situation!

So please, believe in whatever it is you choose to believe in; worship or do not worship as you see fit. That is your inalienable right. If you believe we are "one nation, under God," that's fine. But please, I respect your rights, I have the right to expect you to respect mine and keep your religious beliefs out of my Pledge of Allegiance.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is also available as an audiobook (


Kage Alan said...

I have two thoughts on this today. I've been reading lately about a Presidential hopeful wants to return the US to a true Christian nation. That scares me to no end. Not that he could, but that he'd try in the extremes that he's relaying.

Second, I've noticed an increase in the number of times I go through a line at the grocery store or Target or even some other place only to be told "Have a blessed day" by the cashier. It just strikes me as an odd thing to say. Yes, it beats being told "Have a good one" since I've never found out what exactly a "good one" is, but I would prefer the old standby of "Thank you. Have a nice day."

Katy said...

My sentiments, exactly, Dorien. Well said.