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Sunday, February 26, 2012

“In God We Trust” and “Under God”: Time to go

Of all the sound bites deployed by opponents of Jessica Ahlquist’s successful lawsuit to have the school prayer removed from the Cranston High School West auditorium, the ones about “In God We Trust” on currency and “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance—both of which are Cold War relics—only serve to prove why both phrases need to go.

By Linda Felaco

I could’ve set my watch by it. As soon as my colleague Will Collette posted his item about the Jessica Ahlquist scholarship fund the other day, the predictable response came back: How can she spend money? She’s an atheist! Our money says “In God We Trust”! Zing! Gotcha!
And straight into the spam can. Red herring. Asked and answered.

Let’s break this one down, shall we?

  1. In addition to “In God We Trust,” our currency also has Masonic symbols on it. Do we all need to be Masons to use it? Indeed, New World Order types and other conspiracy theorists argue that these Masonic symbols are in fact satanic. Seems to me no good Christian should therefore be using U.S. currency. Atheists, on the other hand, have no reason to fear Masonic or Satanic symbols.
  2. Buddhists don’t worship a god. Hindus and Native Americans don’t have A god; they have multiple gods. Muslims worship Allah. Are these religious groups also somehow barred from using U.S. currency?
  3. There are also numerous invocations of the names of non-Christian gods in everyday life. Should Christians not drive Saturns or Mercurys, both of which are named after non-Christian gods? Should Christians not use time? The days of the week and some months are named after non-Christian gods.
Besides, anyone who carries insurance, takes vitamins, or has been vaccinated is hardly trusting in god, are they.

As for “under god” being in the Pledge of Allegiance, it literally divides the “one nation indivisible.” Its insertion into the pledge in 1954 was both literally and metaphorically divisive, essentially questioning the patriotism of anyone who doesn’t believe in god. I myself much prefer the pre-1954 version.

The standard argument for why these two phrases supposedly do not violate the establishment clause is that they are examples of “ceremonial deism” and not overt religious messages. There’s just one small problem with that argument: Deists, although they believe in a creator, do not believe that the creator is in any way involved in the affairs of the world but that the creator simply set everything in motion and then walked away. So why invoke a god who isn’t even paying attention?

Now that we’ve dispensed with these trite arguments, I’ll be working on my Supreme Court brief. I think the court should be sympathetic to my arguments in favor of the traditional versions of both our pledge and our currency.

NOTE TO COMMENTERS: Before commenting on this item, visit the “Support the Removal of the Cranston High School West prayer” or “Humanists of Rhode Island” Facebook pages, find your intended comment, and read the replies. The only comments that will be posted here on Progressive Charlestown will be ones I haven’t heard a thousand times already.