more on the nation's godhead

Dahlia Lithwick, who covers the US Supreme Court for Slate, suggested on NPR this morning that she thinks the 9th Court's decision is silly, yet she muses on Slate's own web site, "I must wonder why ... all the religious groups in the country are going apoplectic. My guess is that the words "under God" do promote monotheism, and of course the effect of that isn't just 'de minimus,' as they say." So, is it really silly for the Court to protect minorities and the Constitution?

A few additional notes on the subject which I predict [no stretch!] won't die:

1.) Yes, "under God" [proposed by the Catholic Knights of Columbus and pushed by the jingoistic Hearst newspapers of the time] was adopted during the McCarthy era to contrast our society specifically with that of atheistic communism [which incidently did not require an oath from its citizens, of any age].

2.) The Pledge itself has a quite modern history. It was the brainchild in 1892 of a radical leftist, Francis Bellamy.

The original pledge began "I pledge allegiance to my flag," but that was changed in the 1920s so immigrants would be clear on which flag they saluted [it's now "the" flag]. A stiff, one-armed salute that accompanied the pledge was dropped during World War II because it was deemed Nazi-like.
[Egaads! I remember the one-armed salute myself, long after WWII, but I suppose Catholic schools were slow to adopt the less fascist form.]

3.) Any Pledge, in any form, is authoritarian, stupid and counter-productive for the encouragement of an informed and flourishing citizenry.

4.) Our Founding Fathers were not Christians, but rather Deists, if they professed any relationship to an imaginary supreme friend.

5.) As a motto, "In God We Trust" replaced the particulary federalist and un-Republican [with a big "R"], "E Pluribus Unum" ["from many, one"], on our coins only during the Civil War, on our paper currency in the fifties, and, I believe, only then in our courts, this at the same time we put god in the Pledge and in our schools.

6.) "So Help Me God" are the final words of, I believe all, of our oaths of governmental office, and of the oath required in our courts of law [unless you want to make the kind of scene I look forward to each time I am there, whether as part of a jury or as a defendent in a civil disobedience action].

7.) Apparently somewhere around 90 percent of Americans believe in a personal god and in heaven and hell. The U.S. is the most religious of all the industrialized nations. Our current executive, legislative and judicial governmental branches are all increasingly acting as if we were officially, rather than just functionally, ruled as a theocracy.

The argument for total neutrality on god:

I do not believe there is one god or goddesses or many gods or godesses.
You [forgive me, my good readers, allow me the rhetorical "you"] believe there is or are gods or goddesses.

I do not want my government, its courts, its schools or any of its institutions to tell me there are gods or goddesses, nor to suggest that I am in agreement with that belief. You do not want your government, its courts, its schools or any of its institutions to tell you there are no gods or goddesses, nor to suggest that that you am in agreement with that belief.

The Constitution protects both of us, regardless of the actual numbers we can enlist in our ranks of disbelievers or believers.

One hope for the future:

The current hullabaloo over the Califonia-based Court's ruling is ironically sure proof against the only argument which the U.S. Supreme Court has used and could use going forward to retain "god" in our government's institutions and practices, that the phrases are protected from the Establishment Clause because their religious significance has been lost through rote repetition.

Apparently "god" still does have a religious significance. Good news for the religious, and, maybe, good news for those who are not.

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Published on June 27, 2002 1:36 PM.

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