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.
For a number of years debate has raged in the United States about including the words “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. Emotions run high on both sides of the argument. According to Gallup, over 90% of people surveyed in the United States believe in God (http://www.gallup.com/poll/147887/americans-continue-believe-god.aspx), therefore one can assume that most people are not opposed to saying the words “under God.”
This is the way I see it, if a person doesn’t believe in God, that person doesn’t need to say those words. They can simply remain silent while those of us who do believe in God say them. The words “under God” take about one second to say and I realize this is asking for a bit of indulgence from the less than 10% of the population who oppose saying them. Therefore, I have attempted to quantify the amount of time I am asking them to give the majority of us who wish to say the words “under God.”
When do we say the Pledge? I said it most often when I was a student in public school, so I did a rough calculation of the number of times a school student says the pledge of allegiance from Kindergarten to 12th grade. Assuming they say it every weekday for approximately 9 months of the year that would be 195 times a year. This estimate may be high because I have not taken into account holidays, sick day or any other missed days. Therefore most students say the Pledge about 2535 during their school years. For those choosing not to say “under God” that would be about 43 silent minutes in 13 years.
Now, as an adult, I am rarely called upon to say the pledge, maybe only once a year or so. However, for the sake of argument, I will assume that after the age of 18 a person says the Pledge of Allegiance ten times a year. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the current life expectancy from birth in the United States is 78 years (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr61/nvsr61_03.pdf). Therefore that would add 700 seconds, or slightly less than 12 minutes to the total time spent silently not saying “under God” in the average person’s life.
I realize that there are some adults whose jobs require that they say the pledge much more often than 10 times a year. I suspect that teachers say it more than anyone else. Again, using 195 days in a school year and assuming a 30 year career that would mean a teacher who chooses not to say “under God” would spend an additional 98 silent minutes.
So, according to my calculations, the less than 10% of Americans who might chose not to say the words “under God” might spend between 55 and 153 quiet minutes in their life indulging the rest of us (give or take a few minutes). Considering that so far in the debate, this minority has been a very vocal group, I figure that I have already spent countless hours listening to them so I think we are even. However, I have come up with a short list of things they might want to do during that quiet second.
- Scratch their heads, or for that matter any body part.
- Rub the sleep out of their eyes, the pledge is often said first thing in the morning.
- Brush a bit of lint off their left shoulder, the right hand should be close if they are holding it over their heart. Of course if they aren’t holding it over their heart they could brush lint from anywhere really.
- Practice arching one eyebrow. I think I worked on this for hours when I was a teenager; they might just be able to accomplish it over a lifetime.
- Imagine their inner child with its fingers stuck in its ears loudly saying “I CAN’T HEAR YOU.”
- Count the number of times they can blink their eyes during that second. It might be fun to keep track of their personal best.
- Try to think of all the words that can be made from the letters “G-O-D.” I realize that a second isn’t much time, but I think there are only 4 anyway.
- Think of something else that they can substitute in their head for the word “God.” For example, “One nation under…the sun” or “One nation under…appreciated” or “One nation under…something I don’t believe in.” They would have to think that last one really fast to fit it in.
- Perform an isometric exercise, such as clenching their butt cheeks. No wait, they may want to unclench them first.
- Remind themselves that freedom of speech applies to everyone, not just those with whom they agree.
It’s not exactly true that 90% of all US citizens believe in God (as in, the one and only). It would be more accurate to say that 90% believe in one more gods and/or goddesses, which is a crucial difference. For a polytheist, such as a Hindu or Pagan, the words “under God” might actually be a bigger problem than for an atheist, seeing as this phrase forces a monotheistic view upon a nation that prides itself on religious freedom. And for a person who believes in a goddess, such as Wicca or Gaia, the phrase may be problematic or downright blasphemous because of its paternalistic character.
So while I (as an atheist) completely agree with you that these words shouldn’t be a problem for us godless heathens, they ought to be rephrased in a way that is more inclusive and respectful of polytheists and goddess worshippers. How do you feel about “one nation under the gods”, “in the gods we trust” and “the gods bless America”? If atheists are expected to pay lip service to a god that we don’t believe in, surely Christians can be asked to do the same. Especially since this is a great opportunity to prove that you’re as respectful of other religions as you expect others to be of yours.
The poll data that I quoted does actually suggest that 90% of Americans believe in God. Although I accept that polls vary, all of those I have found indicate that the majority of Americans (between 69 and 91%) believe in God. For the record, that does not mean that 69 to 91 percent of Americans identify as Christian. A singular God is revered by Christians, Jews and Muslims.
I do not propose that anyone “pay lip service” to a deity in which they don’t believe. In fact quite the opposite. I have suggested that people who do not believe in any god simply remain silent for one second. Frankly, I don’t care if people say “one nation under the gods” or “one nation under the Goddess” if that is what is in their hearts.
I also don’t care if someone chooses not to say the pledge at all. Standing silently through the entire recitation or stepping out of the room is perfectly acceptable in my opinion.
It is right of each individual to decide where their loyalties lie. However if one refuse to support this country, in which they live, they should also be required to sign a waiver relinquishing any and all rights to any government services. If they won’t pledge their support then they have no right to the benefits.
Regarding leaving God out of the pledge, that is also your prerogative. This is America and blood was and still is being shed to give you that very right. Patriots who love and believe in this country DIE so you will have the option of NOT pledging your allegiance to this country and the option of altering the pledge to suit yourself. Tell me…what other country would allow you such freedom.
Jengee, I agree. I won’t force someone to say something they can’t believe, but I hold my hand over my heart and pledge my allegiance to this country, under God. The fact that this is an issue is BECAUSE of the freedoms we have been afforded by those who have sacrificed before us.