Under God

PledgeI thought I’d share with you a post I made some time ago on my now-defunct blog Egreggious. Unfortunately, some of the original links are no longer valid, and I believe I have deleted all of these:

I’m not a big fan of the Pledge of Allegiance. I don’t really like that our kids are taught to recite it before they have any real concept of what it means. It’s too much like brainwashing or indoctrination, too much like goose-stepping nationalism.

BrainwashI think that “allegiance”—in a democracy that’s worthy of the name—should be a passion that is developed through careful reflection. I hope that the Age of Reason has not been entirely abandoned, that people no longer blindly swear faithfulness to a country that they find cruel and unjust, nor require others to do so.

[…] I am annoyed that the correct version of the Pledge of Allegiance contains the words “under God.” If it was merely a matter of seeing these words in historic perspective, it wouldn’t bother me so much. Unfortunately, the fundamentalist nutjobs cling desperately to these two words, as though they prove that the United States is, after all, officially a religious nation.

JesuslandIt is not enough for guys like Dobson and Hannity to believe in their own hearts that a Christian God is smiling down on the USA with a special smile reserved just for this land. In addition, they are obsessed with the idea that the entire American citizenry must unanimously acknowledge that the U.S.A. is—both by design and in practice—Jesusland.

We are reminded again and again of the piety of our Founding Fathers. Never mind that Hannity, if visiting the past, would hardly approve of the Deist leanings of many of the Revolutionary leaders, or of the overt atheism of Thomas Paine. Never mind that the Constitutional framers must have inadvertently left the Bible out of that outdated document. Never mind that much of what motivated those who fought for independence was their desire to be free of the demands of a state-sponsored religion.

Thomas Paine

I imagine that some Christians feel they are serving their God better by seeking to insert His influence in our governmental affairs. I suppose thGod's Countryey feel God is more likely to protect their country if their country in turn “protects” God.

In matters of national security, the Christian Republic of America surely makes a good balance to the Islamic Republic of Iran. In addition, domestic issues such as abortion and gay marriage would no longer be issues if we could finally once and for all simply accept the fact that this is God’s Country.
Bellamy I find it ironic that Francis Bellamy—the author of the original version of the Pledge of Allegiance (which did not contain the words “under God”)—was a socialist, one who believed that the separation of church and state was good for both church and state, and one who stopped attending church in his retirement.

About 1950, the Hearst newspaper chain, along with the American Legion and the Fourth Degree of the Knights of Columbus, began a campaign to have the magic words “under God” officially inserted into the Pledge.

K of CIn the 1950’s the Fourth Degree believed that a patriotic American should be a person of religious faith and one who opposed communism, socialism, secularism, deism, agnosticism and atheism. In the 1950’s the Knights opposed communism in eastern Europe, Latin America, and Vietnam. It suported Senator Joseph McCarthy is his early campaign against communist subversion in the United States.

McCarthyBy 1952, to most Americans, the Soviet Union was the scariest thing on earth. And it was a country of atheists!

Eisenhower’s 1952 election campaign, which was against the liberal Adlai Stevenson, had the character of a moral crusade and a religious revival. Baptist minister Billy Graham worked closely with “Ike.” He gave Eisenhower a Scofield Bible, thus assuring the public that this President would not be reading a liberal interpretation of the scripture. Patriotism and piety combined to serve as an idealogical weapon against atheistic Communism during his two terms in office, 1953-1961.

Protest march

Ike & BillyEisenhower understood the importance of a President’s symbolic duties as the nation’s spiritual leader. Withing the Amercial civil religion, the President functions as a high priest in much the same way as the Jewish priesthood di in the Old Testament. During his administation, the Eisenhower-Graham alliance included giving Graham office space in the White House and the State Department giving Graham briefings after each of Graham’s international Christian crusades.

One of the most popular measures during Eisenhower’s administration was his additional to the Pledge of the two words, “under God.”

Air RaidAfter signing the legislation into law on June 14, 1954,. Eisenhower stated that “From this day forward, the millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural school house, the dedication of our Nation and our people to the Almighty.”

GuatemalaAfter signing “under God” addition in the Pledge resolution on June 14th, 1954, Eisenhower participated in an air raid drill to help prepare the American people for the possibility of nuclear war with the Soviet Union. On June 15th, 1954, Eisenhower authorized the CIA to overthrow the Socialist government in Guatemala.

Of course, the Pledge is recited these days with the hand over the heart. Originally the pledge had been given with a straight right arm salute, but “Congress apparently was embarrassed by the similarity between the original Flag salute and the Nazi salute.”Salute

17 thoughts on “Under God

  1. Goood post.

    I used to grow up in a small bavarian town where catholics were predominant (if I remember correctly, the two protestants never quite fitted in). It was the special brand of catholicism, that you don’t get in regions predominantly protestant. As they didn’t have much competition, the morals were quite medieval. People worked hard, sinned hard and afterwards confessed. And after seven “hail maries” returned to their daily life. Acceptable. Nevertheless, the church doesn’t have any business within a state. Non at all. The Bavarian state was badly influenced by the catholic church and that’s why you didn’t get all the books (like K.Marx) in libraries, for instance and that was unacceptable.

  2. Egg,
    For a while the final photo overlapped into the post about Karl Rove, to about one text line below the title of the post. The post date (for Rove)showed up in the left middle of the photo with a white backround. Once I made my comment, the alighnment somehow corrected itself. The only other problems I see are that the photo of McCarthy and the one above the irregulars seem to be missing about two thirds of their pixels (Truncated to the bottom.). Those problems persist.

  3. Excellent post. I love this. “a Christian God is smiling down on the USA with a special smile reserved just for this land.” Well woo hoo! God loves the good ‘ol USA and the rest of the forsaken world be damned. Who knew Jesus was American! Roflmao
    And millions of people believe this shit!

  4. Once I had firmly established my own atheism, I refuse to say the words “under God” or “so help me God” in any pledge or oath I took. When I was sworn in to the Air Force, I opted for the “I solemnly affirm…” (as opposed to “I solemnly swear…”.) At the end, when everyone else was saying out loud “so help me God,” I just mouthed the words. Though I knew in my heart and, more importantly, in my mind, that I was atheist, I was still encountering prejudice from others. When people would learn of my atheism, I would either start getting quizzed to death about it or I would sense a look that suggested that I was the crazy one. One of the things that I love about Think Progress was that it gave me the opportunity to communicate with other atheists, to find out I wasn’t alone.

    But, you know what? As long as somebody who wishes to believe in a God can take away from their religion the idea that we should treat other people the way we would like to be treated, then it’s fine with me if a belief in a Supreme Being and in the afterlife comforts them.

  5. Well said, as always, Wayne.

    I certainly mean no disrespect to Christians who respect my right to live my life without being forced to observe and obey the “values” they obtain from their religion.

  6. You know, it’s so hard to know for certain what other religions espouse unless you can talk to someone who practices that religion correctly. If your religion teaches you to treat other people the way you yourself would like to be treated, then go ahead and throw in all the Heaven and Hell stuff along with the Supreme Being story. I don’t care. But, on the other hand, if your religion teaches you that anyone who doesn’t practice your religion must die, then that is not a religion at all but more a form of mental illness. I’m not completely sure where Islam falls in this view. The moderate people I hear speaking about it say it’s more the former than the latter. But the radical extremists (and the Bush administration and their followers) say it’s more like the latter than the former. I tend to believe the people in the former group. Otherwise the entire world population has a serious problem that must be dealt with before more people die needlessly.

  7. I like this post, Egg. Well done.

    I haven’t said the words “under God” during the pledge since highschool. That’s not what this country is supposed to be about.

  8. Thank you for the references.

    The pledge as it is today is an instrument of bias, a way to instill entitlement to divine rights and justify the abuses that follow. The original text is something more akin to pride of country without the superiority complex. Nothing is inherently wrong with a healthy pride of country or family or the desire to be seen as a product of God’s grace; the true error is the belief in its uniqueness.

    Also, a pledge of allegiance is not necessarily a failed device or purely an exercise in constructing an arrogant race of beady-eyed automatons, though its current practice presents but a façade of depth. If parents pledged in ease at the breakfast table or on some pertinent holiday, then its meaning might sink deeper roots. What practical purpose comes from demanding oaths from the youngest of minds yet unable to pronounce, let alone understand, the words uttered. And if He exists, Under Dog surely understands either way.

    You said, “Never mind that much of what motivated those who fought for independence was their desire to be free of the demands of a state-sponsored religion.”

    I ask genuinely, do you mean this to be true or false? My understanding is that those folks gave their lives for state-sponsored religion – well they took a bunch anyway. The issue was not ridding such a form, but which one to have.


  9. You said, “Never mind that much of what motivated those who fought for independence was their desire to be free of the demands of a state-sponsored religion.”

    I ask genuinely, do you mean this to be true or false? My understanding is that those folks gave their lives for state-sponsored religion – well they took a bunch anyway. The issue was not ridding such a form, but which one to have.


    When I originally wrote these words, I meant them to be true. Upon reflection, I have to wonder how many Patriots of the American Revolution were actually fighting for religious freedom, especially as their primary driving force.

    Certainly, in the decades prior to the War, the New England Puritans had some rough times with the official Church of England. The Great Awakening also brought about a religious fervor which the more sedate state church was ill-equipped to provide for.

    The desire to be free of the yoke of a state-sponsored church was undoubtedly one motivating factor in the rebellion against the Crown, even if for some the ultimate goal was simply to replace the state church with another imposed religion.

  10. Francis Bellamy did not believe in the separation of Church and State. The original Pledge program by Bellamy was replete with religious references, including the phrase “under God” (even though the original short Pledge part of that larger program did not contain today’s explicit deification). Bellamy was a Christian socialist.

    The early Pledge salute did not merely look like the German socialist salute, it WAS THE ORIGIN of the stiff-arm salute. The Pledge of Allegiance was the origin of the stiff-armed salute adopted later by the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nazis). For more information visit RexCurry.net, the site that archives the discoveries of the noted historian Dr. Rex Curry, author of the book “Pledge of Allegiance Secrets.”

    A new documentary video movie exposes the shocking facts on youtube

    and here http://rexcurry.net/pledge-of-allegiance-rexcurrydotnet.wmv
    and on google video

    The original Pledge began with a military salute that was then extended out toward the flag. In practice the second gesture was performed palm down. Thus, the Nazi salute is actually the “American salute” and evolved from the military salute extended.

    The Pledge was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy. Francis was cousin to Edward Bellamy, author of an international bestseller in 1888 that launched the nationalism movement. Edward’s book was translated into every major language, including German. Francis and Edward were both self-proclaimed socialists in the Nationalism movement and they promoted military socialism.

    The Bellamys wanted government to take over all schools. When the government granted their wish, the government’s schools imposed segregation by law and taught racism as official policy. Government schools also forced robotic chanting to flags. All of that behavior even outlasted German National Socialism (or Nazism).

  11. Tinny,

    Sorry that it took so long for your comment to be approved. I was asleep.

    Comments with numerous links are held for moderation before being published.

    Thanks for your corrections to my article.

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