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The Atheist Academic X: Don’t you Dare Make Me Pledge!

Crossposted from School of Doubt! Go check us out! We’re good! I promise! 

Every day, I cringe a little bit when I hear it. The Pledge of Allegiance. My whole class of high school freshmen stand , hand over heart, and recite it. My 6-year old proudly recalls how he says the Pledge in his first grade classroom. And no one really seems to notice that little tiny, inserted phrase, “Under God”.

I’m as patriotic as the next bleeding-heart liberal, I suppose, and I’m proud to be an American and all of that. I don’t have any problem stating that, even if it is during an odd, mumbled chant. But we all know that not everyone is religious. Even if they are, they’re not the same kind of religious. How is it fair to make the little kid who prays to Allah admit that his country is “under God”? What about the Buddhist kid? The Hindu? We’re not a country of happy little Christian white folk anymore, people. My son has been raised atheist. Why does he have to pledge to a god? It’s just not right.

Apparently, once again, someone feels the same way. According to Kevin Conlon, CNN reporter, the ‘Under God’ part of the Pledge of Allegiance is under fire in Massachusetts. An unidentified family has filed a suit against the state of Massachusetts, stating that the Pledge discriminates against students under the Equal Rights Amendment. The article explains that the attorney for the state, ” Eric Rassbach of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty , says that, ‘they’re grasping at straws… they know they would lose again if they tried it under the First Amendment, so now they are trying a new tack.’”  Yes. The tack called honesty. Integrity. The tack in which people don’t feel ostracized because they live in a country in which the majority of the population believes in a God. Is it really that big a deal if we take the words “Under God” out of the Pledge? They weren’t even in the Pledge originally – Congress added them in 1954 because we were fighting against Russia, and people felt the need to differentiate between that awful, Godless country and our own. I would have disagreed with the addition back then, but I certainly disagree with it now.

Rassbach also mentions that students are allowed to opt out of the Pledge, so it should be allowed. I don’t see that as relevant. Atheists and non-Christian students already have a huge barrier to cross as minority Americans. Now they have to stand out by being the non-patriotic person in the class? Have these politicians ever been in a middle school classroom? Those kids are mean. They don’t need another reason to pick on someone.

The backlash from Christians, horrified that their perfect little world may be shattered, is kind of funny. Fox News’ Dana Perino stated that, “If these people [atheists] don’t really like it, then they don’t have to live here.” Her cohosts agreed. HOW IS THAT EVEN ALLOWED? What if I said that some ethnic group could leave the country if they got mad at me making fun of them? Do you think that would be okay? STOP DISCRIMINATING AGAINST ATHEISTS, PEOPLE. Holy shit. It’s fucking ridiculous.

Okay. I’ve calmed down. Anyway, as of right now, this issue is just that schools shouldn’t say the Pledge during school. That’s a good start, and I certainly agree with it. However, I think an even better solution would be to go back to the pre-1954 Pledge and leave religion out of it completely. Religion-free… just like our country is supposed to be.

Tori Parker

School of Doubt

Tori Parker

Tori is a high school English teacher from Ohio (insert cheerleader kick here)! She is emphatic! She is skeptical! She is nifty! Her boyfriend says that they can get a potbellied pig someday and name him Bacon. She has a little boy whose pseudonym is SC, although he has recently asked that his name be changed to Henry. When asked for a comment to add on this bio, he asked, "Why do we sound like a bad '70's cop show?" So there's that.

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  1. This also drives me nuts. And these same people (who think we should be saying “under god”) are the same who think everything should be done “as the founding fathers intended”. When I tell them “under god” wasn’t even in the pledge until the 50’s, they usually didn’t know that and don’t believe me. If they do believe it, they still think it needs to be in there, because for some reason they believe we were intended to be a Christian country. ughhhhh

  2. I really think it should be chucked entirely. As someone not from America, experiencing that when I came to America for a year back in the 80’s was pretty shocking. It seemed like an absurd and preposterous, weirdly jingoistic thing to have to do at all, let alone every day. It felt strangely militaristic as well.

    1. Contrast that to Australia, where in a room of a few hundred people watching the football on a big screen, only 4 Asians stood up for the National Anthem (and good on them, but the average Aussie doesn’t even know the words).. I agree that this sort of thing is an anachronism, it was different in the fifties. Jingoistic, militaristic? Yes, the change seemed to come in the early seventies in the post Vietnam protest era.

      1. There are words to the “stryn natl anthm”? Isn’t it “Australians all mumble mumble something mumble”?

        I still remember my cousin going to the US when he was about 13 (his parents worked in the embassy) and saying the he was forced to recite the pledge at school. Even though the teachers and kids knew he was from another country, and the school had lots of diplo kids, they still forced the kids to swear alleigance to a foreign nation. That’s Just Weird, dude.

  3. You don’t have to be an atheist to find “the pledge” objectionable.

    With or without the phrase “under God,” it’s part of a kind of religious cult. The usual phrase is “national idolatry,” i.e., making an idol (you know, those brass or stone images of a god?) of one’s country. Basically, imagine a typical “kill the unbelievers” cult, and replace the word “God” (or the equivalent) with “America.,” and you’ve got it. And “the pledge” is its creed.

    So any religious group that takes the commandment “thou shalt have no other gods before me” (or their equivalent) seriously is going to find it objectionable.

    Not to mention the tendency of national idolaters to demand that moral or religious scruples be abandoned if they conflict with whatever national hysteria is in vogue.

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