Monday, October 23, 2017

The Insidious Indoctrination in our Pledge of Allegence

When it comes to “movement atheism” there are a few things that I regarded as pet issues that the movement would collectively try to take some action on that I considered superficial or silly.

One of those things is the inclusion of “under god” in the pledge of allegiance here in the US.

Our original pledge went: 

"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
It was amended in 1954 to interject some religion into it because of the Red Scare of godless communism:
"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
Of course they also changed our national motto from “E pluribus unum” (Latin for out of many, one) to “In God We Trust”, which is now printed on our currency.

When movements to remove reference to the imaginary deity from our supposedly secular government pledge or currency failed, I didn’t consider it to be that big a deal. I mean, who really cared, there are bigger fish to fry.

Then yesterday, while driving to a friend’s birthday party, my sweet little 4 year old daughter was telling us about how they say the pledge during circle time at her new Pre-Kindergarten class at our local public school. She started going there this school year, barely making it through a second round lottery to get a slot.

She then quickly went and recited the pledge and at first I was proud to see her memory at work and frankly, despite our flaws as a country, I’m still patriotic – so I was happy to hear it.

Then she got to the “under god” part, just going right on by as she was exerting effort to get every word right, and it just killed a lot of the good feelings in that moment.  That is when it hit me that little fights like this matter. 

I’m still proud of her, but I can’t help but feel a bit disgusted inside realizing that now it’s my sweet little 4 year old that is having belief in an imaginary god normalized through this routine of the pledge.

Now I get to setup some time with her to explain that part of the pledge is silly and wasn’t originally there, and that we don’t believe in anything like that. I’m not sure on this last part, but I’m tempted to encourage her to stay silent during that part of the pledge.  

Frankly this is a conversation I don’t want to have to have with my young child right now. I was hoping to save any discussion about religion until she was a bit older.  I will not be afforded that luxury.

This is how belief in something as absurd as a disembodied mind who sees and hears everything we say or do, or even think, all the time can be normalized.  That's is expressly the point of the words being added to the pledge.  It's also why the religious right get so upset about teachers and administrators in public schools no longer being able to lead or compel prayer. They've lost a way to further normalize religious belief as something "everyone does".

On reflection this all the more upsetting given that the phrase was added in the McCarthy era expressly to conflate a thinly veiled Christianity with being American, so as to differentiate ourselves from “godless Russians”. In the crossfire this discriminates against millions of American atheists and as such should be unconstitutional given our first amendment.  What's more galling is that technically Christians like to claim that their god is named "God" so as a proper name it should be capitalized. As such, the pledge isn't referencing a generic deity, it's really meant to reference the god of Christianity.

We atheists are patriotic Americans and when we express our love of country we shouldn’t have to pretend that entails believing in some imaginary being.

Because of this I decided that despite having a new baby and all the expenses that entails, I’m renewing my membership in American Atheists.  It’s important that we fight for our rights, and that's one thing American Atheists can be counted on to do for us. 

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