From atheists to polytheists, from Allah to Buddha, just whose God is it anyway? How realism and not mysticism can deliver us from a dark time in our history.
On the back of United States currency are the words, "In God We Trust." The U.S. Pledge of Allegiance states, "One nation, under God...with liberty and justice for all." Most people rarely think about these statements, their true meaning or examine their origins. It's time that we give these decrees a thorough dressing-down and not only discover their origins, but also answer the longstanding question, "Exactly whose God is it anyway?"
"In God We Trust" did not appear on American paper money until after the Second World War, sometime around 1957. Prior to that, "In God We Trust" appeared only on a few metal coins, shortly after the Civil War. This was done, circa 1865, by then Secretary of the Treasure, Salmon P. Chase, at the behest of a number of religious leaders that insisted that our money be "deified." In particular, a Rev. Watkinson of Pennsylvania, in a letter to Mr. Chase, asserted that by adding these dogmatic words would, "relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism." Rev. Watkinson's observable obsession with currency and his attempt to cleanse it with divine dictum begets the opinion that the dear reverend had never heard that "the love of money was the root of all evil."
Rev. George M. Docherty, while preaching a sermon in 1954, whose attendees included then President Dwight D. Eisenhower, became the impetus for the addition of the words, "under God" to the nation's Pledge of Allegiance. While weaving and invoking references to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, Rev. Docherty may have tipped his hat to his monotheist views by loathing in his lecture that "the pledge" did not make mention of "the deity." Nevertheless, "under God" was added to an already idolating, over-flowingly patriotic nation, fresh from its victory in World War II, at the hand of Congress on June 14, 1954.
To pledge an allegiance is the act of commuting one's loyalty; and therefore faithfulness, to a cause or a country. Certainly pledging your devotion to a state-based nation is a tangible, palpable idea of goodwill. Freedom and integrity for everyone is a concrete and reality-based creed that few would dispel. However, when avowing adherence to God, exactly which God would that be? A whole nation under Christ, Allah, Buddha, Zeus, Jupiter, Xenu, or Ra the sun god, how do we choose and who decides? Undoubtedly, these two men of faith, which brought us these two dubious phrases, were consigned to the Christian god, ostensibly abstaining from the adherence to the Establishment Clause and the freedom of religion in this country.
When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Danbury Baptists in 1802, penning the famous "Wall of Separation Letter", Jefferson's intent was to clarify that the Constitution as a whole, was a separation of church and state. Jefferson, then President, saw no need to curry favors towards any faith and carefully refrained from any statements that could be misconstrued as an establishment of a state-endorsed, government-recognized religion.
In a letter to Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin wrote, "There is no motive to worship a Deity, to fear his displeasure, or to pray for his protection. I will not enter into any discussion of your principles, though you seem to desire it." U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, a devout Christian man wrote, "No government can blatantly favor one faith or church over the others, or favor belief in God or the Supreme Being over non-believers."
These are hardly ringing endorsements for worshipping a single deity nor are they an invitation to provoke a celestial being into the governing of people; but that's just what we have done. The Constitution does not make one mention of the word "god" and the word "religion" is used once to make certain that "Congress shall make no laws respecting the establishment of religion."
The constructs of our tripartite form of government were keenly aware, and had witnessed first-hand the destructive nature of tyrannical government wrapped in the illusion of good faith namely the Church of England and King George the III. What the architects of the American democracy realized is that no matter how benign a person or group believes their religion to be, it is likely to be offensive or insulting to another person or another organized sect. These founders, many of which were vaguely deists, believed much more in the human spirit and not an arcane, heavenly spirit. They were convinced, brought on by years of persecution by the Church of England and its variant of Christianity, that religion divides, not unites.
This is neither in defense of any other religion nor an antagonist of Christianity. Religion in any form is based on faith over facts and not true, empirical certainty. Therefore, religion has the greatest propensity of all things to be used as weapon to segregate us, rather than integrate us. It also has a great penchant, when distorted among masses, the ability to bring about another tool of less than altruistic use, the exploitation of fear. Fear is, after all, the current administration's favorite weapon of deception and methodology to subjugate and govern compliance. Faith, when transmitted to religion always turns more fateful than faithful; more hate-filled than hope-filled.
People of this country our bound by many different covenants, but fundamentally, we must begin to agree on placing unreserved importance on the value of the human experience and the value of individual life. The divergent that must be made is where one religion is seen as superior, and therefore somehow more deserving of a following than another is, as the true burden of all organized religions.
When contenders for civil office begin malicious condemnation of whole other political parties proclaiming that a vote for the opposition is a vote for "legislation of sin" this castigation of candidates is a distance, twisted derivative of our secular country instituted by worldly men. Worldly men driven on the reliance of self-governance, not divine intervention.
Whether it is Islam, Christianity, Communism or imaginary alien invasions, human beings can always be brought to rally about a conflict-ridden cause with the simple tools of a symbolic flag, a book of faith, and one of the seven deadly sins, pride. Pride is by definition, "self-importance" and the antonym of "humility". Perhaps, in this time of immense blind nationalistic pride and hubris and belief that as Americans we have a monopoly on the truth we should all reach for a little dose of humility. There is always after all, the danger that when one protests so vehemently against which that they do not believe, they run the discourse, and therefore the danger, of adopting and transforming into the very thing they detest so wholly.
So whose God is it anyway? It's everyone's God and no one's God. Most of all its no one's business whose God it is; whether you are an atheist, a theist, a deist, or a polytheist. Faith of the divine and sublime must rest and exist in the minds of the individual spirit. It is the collective spirit of human courage and conviction that sometimes shows that realism, not mysticism, delivers us from a dark night and a dark time in our history.
Frank J. Ranelli is an independent scholar, skeptic and critic, author and essayist. His erudite and iconoclastic style of provocative writing has been extensively published in a variety of news outlets and across (more...)