Thursday, October 12, 2006

One Nation Under Zeus

Last month my son started Kindergarten. As an atheist parent, I anticipated that the Pledge of Allegiance issue would come up. This was confirmed the second week of class, when the parents were invited to the Kindergarten Center to meet the principal and the teachers. In my son's class, the teacher explained to us the daily routine that was followed in the classroom, and that each morning the class would recite the Pledge, with a different student leading the Pledge each day. I knew this meant that my son would end up leading the recital of the Pledge at least once a month.

I had given some thought as to how I would handle this matter and decided that the best way was to simply have my son skip the "under God" portion when reciting the Pledge. Not wishing to bring attention to myself in front of the other parents, I waited until after the meeting was over and asked the teacher to speak to me in private. I explained the situation to her and told her that if my son skipped "under God" when reciting the Pledge, that it was deliberate. She thanked me for letting her know and did not seem phased by it.

Those of us who are atheists, agnostics, or even members of religious minorities, inevitably find ourselves in situations where we are confronted with the reality of living in a nation where the overwhelming majority of the population profess to being God believing Christians. In each situation, we have to decide based on our own principles and beliefs whether or not to be confrontational or accommodating. With respect to the Pledge of Allegiance, we all know that a parent named Michael Newdow filed a lawsuit to have "under God" removed from the Pledge and that he lost. While I agree with Newdow that "under God" should be removed, having only been added in the mid-1950's during a time of Cold War hysteria, I also personally believe that at least at this time it is not a battle worth fighting. I believe that there are far more important battles for atheists and agnostics to fight, such as the attempts to replace or complement the teaching of evolution with intelligent design, placing restrictions on birth control and reproductive freedom, and discrimination against gays because "the Babble" says that God doesn't like such things. Substance is more important to me than symbols.


thetruthword said...

I told you satan I am following you across the internet.

Satan's puppet, you need to pray and you need it soon.

God can free you, but you have to ask Him.

Satan has a hold on you and you are too weak to realize it!

Anonymous said...

*Laughs hysterically at youneedmercy's comment*

Oh boy.. I needed that laugh.. thanks, religious freak..

But back to it... I hope nobody tries to force him to say that line. I can't imagine what I'd do if someone bothered me for not saying it. Hopefully your son's teacher is as nice as she seems.

About the confrontational/accommodating thing... That's so annoying. It especially puts you on the spot whenever you tell someone something bad that happened, and they say "I'll pray for you/it/etc." I usually just walk away, a bit awkwardly, without saying anything.

shlemazl said...

Interesting. My kids are atheist; same as myself, but I wouldn't have told them to avoid "under god" expression.

It's just like reciting an old poem: traditional words, but not necessarily the meaning that you take literally.

If you take things to extreme, you may have to kids not to touch money to avoid being associated with "in God we trust".

Tommy said...

Thanks for visiting Shlemazl.

With respect to the Pledge, I would argue that Newdow is the extremist. Of course, since the only legal money in the United States contains "In God We Trust", I have no choice but use it and allow my kids to use it when they are old enough to start handling money.

Again, to reiterate, you confront, avoid or accommodate where you see fit. I try to be practical about these things.

And to youneedmercy, congratulations on being my first troll!

Stardust said...

Tommy...congratulations on attracting your first troll! That's a compliment! Seems like you hit a nerve. Satan's puppet. LOL! All I can do is laugh at that one.

I always wonder what this gawd is trying to free me from? Happiness? Contentment? Comfortable loving family? People who love and support me....hmmmm.

Tommy, I left you a link at my blog about the question you asked me. Here is what I wrote in case you didn't see it there:

Here is something from How do I edit my link list? that may help you. It's what I used.

Where you see the word >Links< in the line of code is where you put your list title.

Be careful with the coding. I lost my whole Random Writing blog for awhile and had to figure out what I did line, by line, by took hours!

sgo said...

Here s something I wrote I while back regarding the pledge.


Where to start,,,, how about our first political moment ,, that moment in school where we all stood up and placed our hands upon our hearts and said the Pledge.

and we said ,,, "One Nation, Under God......"

Hold On here,,, Under GOD,,,, wait a Sec,,,, Can we have that in there? A reference to God,, the Almighty Creator,, ya know that God that unPresident Bush consults for major decisions,,,,,,,,,,,

hmmmm,,,,,, let's take a look,,,,,,,

To me, being what Conservatives would call a Godless Liberal, it is clear there should be no debate on this issue. the answer is simple,,,

Hang on a sec before you make any judgements and get your panties all bunched up,,, this should surprise you.

This country was based on the principles of John Locke. In essence, that our rights are NOT given (allowed) to us by a King or particular form of government or political system. In this philosophical view, Rights are given by the Creator and no man nor group of men can take them away.

The bedrock of our system is based on this idea.

As such, The mention of God in the pledge is really only an affirmation of the origin of the rights our system allows us. In other words - we acknowledge the rights granted within our system do not come from the System nor the Government - but something greater. It is irrelevant whether or not you believe in the creator,,, as the right "not to believe" is built into the base idea- so what's the argument?

The mistake comes from the idea that the System is the where the rights come from - in less awkward language, the system grants the rights. But that is clearly wrong when we look at the philosophical base of John Locke. When this mistake in Origin is made, references to "God" within our system come into question, particularly in regards to separation of Church and State.

The "Origin mistake" creates a second in relation to Church and State by mistaking the affirmation of Origin with an affirmation of the existence of the Originator.What is interesting here is that Separation of Church and State in our system exists to protect the base principle and affirms the right of non-belief. Once the "Origin Mistake " is made we miss the point of the Separation clause.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"

The system is not to make any law that creates a religion of the System, nor is it to stop folks from believing as they will. This is a safeguard, a reminder if you will, that the System does not bestow our Rights, and no man can take the basic principle away. In essence, this protects both the believer and the non-believer alike.

So, In the USA our rights are Granted by the Creator, regardless of whether you believe in one or not.The Rights themselves are so broad that they even allow for NON-Belief of the originator of the said Rights. This is a very clever concept because it allows for a multitude of beliefs for the citizens within the system.

So,,, By acknowledging where our System believes our rights come from is in no way acknowledging that there is a creator.

So with that said,, what's the next issue,,, the pledge seems to be a non starter,,,

Stardust said...

I forgot to say to copy and past that line that says >Link< in it to above the list of links you want to add a title to in the sidebar and change the word Links to what you want to call that section. I hope I am not confusing you. arrrgghh!

Stardust said...

Tommy - In regards to this post, we have always taught our kids not to be afraid to be different and to stand up for what is right. It is their right not to use the words "under god" and they cannot be arrested or thrown in prison for not saying it. Our kids are in their 20s now and are not afraid to be the only ones, if need be, to not follow the crowd. Lots of parents, when their kids say "well so and so does such and such" the parent says "well if so and so jumped off a cliff, would you?" Just because other people may go along with something doesn't necessarily make it right, safe or the way it is supposed to be.

Tommy said...

Thanks Stardust. I will take a crack at it either tomorrow or this weekend. I can only take so much frustration in a short period of time!

Laine said...

I'm not sure if this story will entertain you or not Tommy, but here goes..

my youngest son was a devout christian and, well... pretty much a hell raiser. I was always being called to school for one thing andy did or another. He's my practical joker, always in trouble in school, gifted actor and musician. (not to mention my personal retirement plan... but thats another story...)
Anyway, I get called to school one day and there I sit in the principals office with his teacher and my son - who was 10 at the time and smiling with this grin that just screamed "I am so bad!". The principal, a fat man with no defining chin, snorts at me, "When the pledge is said, your son," He then points his fat finger at my poor Andy who now is wearing these 'doe eyes', "turnes his back on the flag."
I, being less organized christian and more spiritual, turn to my son (still showing the sad eyes) and say, "Why do you do this?"
He (supressing a smile) states, "athiests don't say 'one nation under God' and that's cool. But, why should I say it when the word God is not allowed? I'm no hypocrite."
The principal exploded, I laughed and took my darling boy out to dinner.

The moral?

We should all be who we are and free to be that. Seperation of church and state forever!

ps: nice blog, much luck to you!

The Ridger, FCD said...

Ummmmm .... didn't youneedmercy tell us over at Evangelical Atheist that we could feel Satan?

But on to more serious things: substance may indeed be more important than symbols, and the pledge may not be an issue worth fighting at the moment, but symbols are incredibly important. There's a reason people die for them. Having your son skip the offensive phrase is good, but what if they put up a picture of Jesus or a crucifix?

Tommy said...

Thanks for your comments Ridger.

Well, the way the "under God" in the Pledge supporters get away with it is that they claim it is not sectarian. If public schools did have crucifixes, it would violate the establishment clause, as it would offend not only atheists and agnostics, but Jews, Muslims and Hindus as well.

BaconEating AtheistJew said...

Instead of God, would the kids get in trouble if they said "under where" ?

BaconEating AtheistJew said...

And Tommy, will you join the Atheist blogroll already?????

Tommy said...

Hi Bacon.

I went to the link you provided, for which I thank you.

I was reading the guy's instructions and he has all of these hoops that he wants people to jump through. He mentions something about him e-mailing the requester a code. Because I am new at this, I got a little frustrated. When I get some more free time, I will take a crack at it. But hey, at least I do appear to be getting some traffic anyways!

Stardust said...

tommy - you are getting a lot more traffic than I did when I first got started!

Anonymous said...

I was just wondering about the whole atheist thing. It seems like the only people I know who take the time to procalim atheism are from judeo-christian backgrounds. Hindus and Buddhists don't (far as I've seen), see the need to choose a polar opposite, since there isn't such fire and brimstone dogma to polarize in the first place. The definition of God is "more flexible" if you will. In some sense, it is a position of humility, with respsect to the unknown and admittance to the endless pursuit of knowledge, revelation and intuition, because there will always be that which remains unkown to the limited capacity of human mind, without admitting defeat, like those assholes from intelligent design. From what I can tell, atheism is an inherently rationalist position. It is clear, however, that humans are a combo of irrational, rational, impulsive, instinctual and intuitive...some of those meld together. In fact the best science is not inspired by reason, it is arguably by revelation, reason is only the glue that can hold it together to make it palatable, accessible and useful for humans in general. You might admit that science is seen as a triumph of reason, but its mehcanistic progress is not wholly rational. I can see that it is worthwile to have atheism, since it makes a community of people who are thoroughly disechanted with the majority of people who use religion to justify their behavior without understanding it. I would argue that Jesus would probably be branded an atheist today by the religious right (given all assumptions about Jesus being ~ right). The problem I see with atheism per se (without knowing much about the details of it, like atheist weddings, etc.) is the way it is presented to the general public. Without further investigation (which you can expect that no average non-atheist will undertake), it seems pessimistic, nihilistic with no core and no biased vision of humanity's goals and therefore, sort of bankrupt. I recommend that you change your name to Anonism. This word can symbolize the fact that you have a set of ideals, yet this set of ideals remains anonymous and is open to discovery. It can also serve to postulate that there is a sort of Platonic ideal state of humanity, yet the rules of which are not even known. I think that this sort of an approach can be one where you eventually fortify reason with appeal to other aspects of humanity that are currently missing in its perception by other people. I think that reason and religion need another revolution and if you're up to leading a movement, this is probably worthwhile. Basically, it might put some supply and demand pressure on existing relgious movements to shed some of their extreme perversions of realilty that fuck things up like an easy justifation for the expendability of foreign life, "sinner's life", killing adults and not killing only domestic babies. Sorry, I got carried away with some things that I have thought about. I will post this to the atheists website in case the community in general cares to hear my 2 sense. PS I think sgo made a good essay and his ref. to Locke is important for the US. What inspired Locke? That is important to remember. Look at some of Nietzshe too, we need and Ubberman now.

-Yours Truly

Tommy said...

Thanks anonymous.

You are right that polytheistic religions have a tendency to be more flexible, whereas ex-Christians and Jews are turned off by a dogmatic my way or the highway monotheistic deity.

As for scientific discoveries, there are moments when discoveries happen when a person has what can be called a "eureka" moment. But often that moment only comes to fruition if a person's mental universe allows for the possibility of it.

I saw a movie once called "Rosencrantz and Gildenstein Are Dead", which starred Gary Oldman and Tim Roth and was a sort of spoofy take on Hamlet from the perspective of these two minor characters from the play. Oldman's character keeps stumbling across these scientific insights (e.g., in one scene he inadvertently makes a paper airplane and discovers the possibility of manmade flight, in another scene he is sitting in a tub, and he notices how the water level rises when he lowers himself into the water, and how it falls when he gets out, that is the displacement of water). But every time Oldman's character has a eureka moment, Roth's character of someone else or something else distracts him and he forgets all about it. It makes you wonder how over the centuries different people made scientific discoveries but it never circulated to others and went nowhere.

One benefit that atheists and skeptics bring to a society that is highly religious is that you have a segment of the population that is unfettered by religious dogma and can think outside of the box.

Anonymous said...

Amen, let diversity prosper. I am a scientist actually and I am of the persuasion that there is a religious type experience that goes through when pondering deep truths. Not that I've contributed anything profound. In fact anything theoretical I've come up with has been totally rational as far as I can recollect, but there is a very strong non-rational component to all human endeavor. Think about it, anything you "enjoy" doing, can't necessarily be rationally justified. You can check biographies and ruminations of people like Francis Bacon, Spinoza, Newton, Da Vinci, Einstein, Tolstoy who have some flavor of religiosity, yet not the typical. You might find this interesting. Also Hinduism and Buddhism are not polytheistic, they are monotheistic. For people that understand Hinduism, the different "gods" are anthropomorphic characterizations used as crutches for human understanding to learn about what is referred to as "Maya" or the ultimate reality, which usually remains nebulous, strategically so. Anyways, I agree with the fact that atheists provide a unique point of view in society, so I retract my recommendations to change the name and turn into something else, perhaps I should start my own religion.

-Same anonymous as before.

Theerasak Photha said...

Interesting points, but I humbly submit that maya is an abstraction layer over reality, as opposed to the ultimate reality which is beneath it.

Like the Matrix, essentially.

Newton lucidly espoused the concept of nirguna (that God is without form) in his own writings.

What you said about monotheism in Eastern religion is basically true.

I still don't believe any of that shit, of course. However, I saw an L. Ron Hubbard scholarship for excellent sci-fi writing earlier (LOL), and thought that maybe if I found my own religion, I can get John Travolta to pay all my tuition.

Theerasak Photha said...

Militant Christians need to find new names for days of the week.

Because Mona's Day, Tyr's Day, Woden's Day, Thor's Day, Frigga's Day, Saturn's Day, and Sun's Day aren't cutting it anymore. (Compare Somvari, of course, among others.)

Militant Christians should no longer be allowed to use the word 'man' either. Compare Hindi 'admi' (descendant of Adam), a loan word from Muslim Arabs, with the original Sanskrit term 'manav' (descendent of Manu).

Maybe you guys should go around calling each other 'admi' instead of using a filthy pagan Germanic word from the pastoral old days when it was OK to believe in multiple gods and hug a tree.

Anonymous said...

I use to question gods existence also. I questioned everything and believed Darwin's theory. Boy was I ever so wrong!!!!! I lived in a house that I did not know had two suicides in it in the early 50's. Well wierd things started to happen, being a psych major in college I had scientific excuses for everything until myself and my boyfriend and a friend of actually started to see demons. They are horrible and evil. I praise god on my own every day now. No I am not some religious freak but I know that there is truth in the bible, and more so in the lost scrolls that the Catholics suppressed from the public out of fear of there innacurate doctrine. (including the Illuminati, the Free Masons, Money Changers....) Read The Lost Book Of Enoch..

Anonymous said...

Demons. Oh bull crap.

Personally, I'm going to use "One Nation Under FSM." Or "One Nation Under Quetzalcoatl."

pmcollectorboy said...

Thank you, thetruthword. Thank you for being one of many who are solely responsible for the drive away from religion as people realize how utterly pathetic, stupid, and destructive it all is when the only face they can use to place on religion are you and your arrogant, delusional ilk.