Column: Think Over ‘Under God’

Did you hear atheists are suing god? According to Fox News’ for-profit preacher Mike Huckabee they do it all the time! “Dear Lord!” he tweeted this week, “Atheists are suing God AGAIN!”

Never mind the spurious premise of a group of people suing the very thing they don’t believe in. That’d be like Republicans suing birth control, scientific evidence or a living wage. Or Democrats, respectively, suing winning.

Why is Huckabee (pronounced with an F if you’re Megyn Kelly) making such a hokey accusation about those darn atheists?

“The founders believed our inalienable rights derive from a power higher than government,” writes Huckabee. “’Under God’ is a reminder that elected officials did not grant us our rights, and have no power to rescind them.”

Apparently, American Humanist Association has sent a letter on behalf of a student in California who was punished by his high school for not saying “under god.” A practice which has been held unconstitutional. To clarify, it’s a school district, not a god and it’s a letter not a lawsuit.

Now I’m guessing Huckabee believes bearing false witness is breaking one of god’s commandments, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and just assume his reading comprehension isn’t all that strong. Which could also explain why he’s blissfully ignorant of American history.

The Pledge of Allegiance was written by noted Christian Socialist, Francis Bellamy in 1892 for a children’s magazine’s promotion of the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ sail “across the ocean blue.” School children recited the pledge while making the “Bellamy salute” which was an homage to an ancient Rome gesture of raising an arm in front of you with a flat palm with fingers closed. Later the Nazis and their fellow fascists adopted the salute and now it’s universally recognized as how you heil Hitler.

It wasn’t until the middle of WWII that Congress adopted it as the pledge, later dropping the Bellamy salute and opting for a right hand over the heart. Then it wasn’t until the Cold War that “under god” was added because our enemies were godless commies.

So the Pledge is a jingoistic chant created by a children’s publication to celebrate an explorer turned brutal torture-happy tyrant with a Hitler salute. It’s not the best tradition we have in this country.

And it’s not that “under god” reminds politicians they can’t take away our rights. “Under god” is a reminder that politicians invoke faith as a first refuge of scoundrels.

The Founding Fathers are our American religion complete with its own creation story (Paul Revere), wise Kings Solomon (Washington and Lincoln) and Garden of Eden (see: the 1950s). The Pledge of Allegiance, our Founders’ homily.

It’s very loosely based on a true story. We made most of it up. And it gets retold and resold (as in: click here to donate now!).

We didn’t rebel against the crown because of religion. The Founders were not the Pilgrims. The two groups were from different centuries. Think the telegraph in relation to the iPhone.

The passage Huckabee cites with the “unalienable rights endowed by our Creator” is the only sentence even remotely about religion in the Declaration of Independence. The list of grievances in the document have nothing to do with being able to practice religion. That came later in an Amendment to the Constitution. The list in the Declaration of Independence of what they call The Oppressions have to do with the King’s neglect of the basic functioning of government. (i.e., “For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments.”) The colonists found it arbitrary and deemed it despotic and tyrannical.

It’s more accurate to say the Founders loved the morass of government—so much they fought to the death to frame one. Saying the Founders were anti-government is like saying Mrs. Fields is anti-cookie.

Instead the Founders were pro-self-governance. The Founders were anti-monarchy. And wary of a state run religion. Religious Americans are unthinking if they want their religion to be the one their government encourages (see: every theocracy ever).

The question of whether we are a nation under god should be asked. Our current enemies are not godless but are religious extremists, venerating a flag as they worship their deity. Is a pledge to a flag and a god still something we should demand American school children do? Are we really still mandating our kids recite this?

Because we’re a nation that welcomes and protects all sorts of beliefs—even the completely mistaken, bordering-on-disingenuous claims about our origin story. Or a grade school pledge.


Photo by US Dept. of Agriculture