Should “Under God” be in the Pledge?
October 26, 2017
It’s second hour. The teachers turn on the announcements and encourage students to stand and recite the words that have caused so much controversy in recent years. Some stay seated and some begrudgingly rise from their seats, yet only a few actually say the Pledge of Allegiance. Every Monday, this process repeats itself. It seems to be two words out of the 26 words that causes some people to refuse to participate.
The phrase “Under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to combat communist ideals of the time. Communists believe religion steers the minds of people away from the authority of those in charge. In societies such as the USSR religion was prohibited. So I am grateful that in the United States, I am able to freely practice my religion and follow the God I know.
But who is this God we are talking about? For me, God is a creator, a father, a friend. Growing up in a Christian home, God has been a part of my daily life since I was young. I attended a Lutheran grade school, I go to church every Sunday, and I have read the Bible from cover to cover. The words “Under God” speak to me and my religion. However, according to Pew Research Center, 22.8 percent of people in the United States today do not acknowledge the presence of a god in their everyday lives. But ‘God’ is a term that encompasses much. To some it may literally mean ‘God,’ or the deity they follow in their religion, and to others it may mean something entirely different.
Today, 89 percent of Americans do believe in a god or a universal spirit. Whether this God is Christian, Muslim or otherwise, the majority of people in the United States recognize the possibility of a god. I think it is safe to say that “Under God” should remain a part of the Pledge of Allegiance. Our culture has evolved so much over the past 200 years that certain U.S. documents have become open for interpretation. People have changed the initial meaning to many things written in the past. When the U.S. Constitution was written, it gave rights to only the free, white men. Now, the phrase “all men are created equal” extends to all people. Certainly, we can leave “under God” open to interpretation as well.
People might argue the god referred to in the Pledge of Allegiance is the Christian God because the founders of the United States as well as those who wrote the pledge. The fact that the creators of this country were Christian has nothing to do with the phrase being included. This expression is paying homage to our freedom of religion. It does not mean we are a Christian nation and when you say the pledge, you are conforming to the Christian identity. The phrase was included to show that we were, and still are, a nation that protects individuals’ rights to freely practice whatever religion they see fit.
Whether you are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist or otherwise, you have the freedom to practice as you please. Even if you don’t practice a religion, the government is giving you the right to do so. The Pledge of Allegiance was not written to force anyone into believing anything. It was written to show the freedoms we share as American citizens, and we should stand and say the pledge to a country that allows us these liberties.
Adonai. Brahma. Atman. Higher Power. Holy Spirit. Yahweh. All of these words mean one thing: god. Yet, in the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance, when that one, simple word is put into a three-syllable phrase, it suddenly poses questions as to what “Under God” really means.
That phrase has deep ties to American history yet it prevents us from progressing. It is recreating our daily stating of the Pledge in elementary school, our tiny right hands over our hearts. That phrase forms a connection to the 18th century when religions other than Christianity in the U.S. were condemned.
That phrase questions America’s given freedom of religion. Other religions have different gods: Hindus, ancient Greeks and Romans, Egyptians. Some have none. Everyone in America has the right to a freedom of religion, yet those two words take that away.
The initial Pledge was short and sweet, stating, “I Pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” This version did not include the religious reference. Due to communist threats and concern of American identity, President Dwight D. Eisenhower added “Under God” in 1954.
Today, seeing neo-nazis and KKK members use religion as “reason” to persecute others and refuse to accept the removal of a confederate statue is truly sick and horrendous; not just because I am a Jew by heritage. I am an American, and seeing political officials almost condoning these acts backed up by religion is just more evidence leading to the conclusion that has been proved throughout history correct again. Due to the recent events in Charlottesville, I think this makes the subject of the separation of church and state even more relevant. Many protesters have tied their actions to “god’s mission” and executing hatred toward races and religions as if that is really an American value. Even having just one religious reference in one nation’s pledge adds fuel to the fire.
If the government was open to altering history, they should be open to changing it back into the original print. It is only reasonable that our politicians fight for the people. Government foundations are not set in stone, as the Articles of Confederation were created in order to be altered to protect American liberties. The whole principle of U.S. government is that things can be changed to make our society truly democratic and a world-wide exemplar of what democracy truly looks like.
As an atheist, I do have an extra sentiment against forcing the word “god” upon Americans in a national pledge. I would still believe church and state must be separated even if I were not an atheist. Americans need to learn to be conscious and aware of different faiths and beliefs not only in our country but in the world. Lately, it seems as if political figures are leaning more toward incorporating words of the church into those of the state in which the Pledge aids. It is important that Americans are able to exercise their freedom of religion and not feel the need to have the state adopt religious diction as “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”