…under gods, indivisible

…Kids are mystified by most everything in the pledge. But “one nation under God” has the distinction of being a phrase that not even grown-ups are clear on. Congress inserted the words at the height of the Cold War in 1954 to underscore the difference between American values and those of the atheistic Communists. But its actual meaning is up for grabs. Does it affirm our faith in God or assert that we have his special protection? Is it a ceremonial deist formula with no especial religious character? Or is it merely a historical nod to the beliefs of the founders, as the 9th Circuit majority said?

…That ambiguity has certain advantages. But it actually came about because of a linguistic misunderstanding. The words were taken from the Gettysburg Address, where Lincoln asked his listeners to resolve that “this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.” Except that in the Gettysburg Address, “under God” didn’t modify “this nation” but the following phrase, “have a new birth of freedom.” In Lincoln’s time, “under God” was a common idiom that meant “with God’s help” or “the Lord willing.” People used it to qualify a bald prediction or promise, mindful of the admonition against vainglory in the book of James.

Actually, my guess is that Lincoln would have inserted the words “under God” if he had written the Pledge of Allegiance, too, although he probably would have put them at the end. He would have been uncomfortable about describing the country as indivisible, just and free without adding a “God willing” somewhere.
from NPR

the original flag salute…

By all accounts, inspired by a sermon he attended, President Eisenhower encouraged Congress to change the words of the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954.  It was the height of the Cold War, and damn what the original author (ironically a Socialist) would have thought, we had to stick it to those godless Commies! And besides, it wasn’t the first time the thing had been changed.

Its been controversial ever since.  Fodder for both left and right.  Especially the Religious Right.

Source of annoying memes on social media.

like this one...

like this one…


Other than the irony I find in from people that repost this usually being offended about the idea of not saying the Pledge,  I don’t know what this person is talking about.   Sharkbait and Chickadee say the Pledge of Allegiance daily.

On one hand, I don’t care about the phrase “under god” because we (as a polytheistic pantheist family) have what is probably the most expansive possible idea of deity*.   But on the other hand, it pisses me off that we cater to the uber-Connies and the Fundies in this country and every time someone points that out, there’s some nutty “how dare you take my rights away, back in the good old days…” reaction.  At the risk of offending someone with my cursing (though if they are the sort of person offended by cursing, this entire post is likely to make them explode), Fuck ‘Em.

I’m sick of pandering.

Back in “the good old days”:

  • people owned other people as property
  • women could be beaten without recourse and sure as heck couldn’t vote
  • rape was something that happened but was almost never talked about or prosecuted (and there was a good chance she’d be married off to the bastard)
  • the government endorsed and participated in nothing short of genocide against the original inhabitants of this land
  • something like one in four or one in five pregnancies were aborted because there was no birth control
  • thousands of people died of preventable diseases (including STDs)
  • 5 year olds worked in factories and mines for pennies a day, 7 days a week, 12 hour work days instead of going to school
  • fingers and rats and sawdust regularly got ground up into your hamburgers
  • mothers drugged their children with opiates so they could be “seen and not heard”

So yes, the phrase “under God” offends me.  It offends me because I am offended by the people that would look back at our history as “the good old days”–something worthy of going back to or attempting to emulate in this epoch of our history.  Despite what these small minded people think, it doesn’t offend me because of the word “god”.  Unlike them, my faith and my identity is not threatened by the inclusion (or lack thereof) of a three letter word* in an oath that most kids can’t pronounce and don’t know the meaning of anyhow.

If anything, (linguistic incorrectness aside) the inclusion of the words “under God”, and the idea that every school child should be reciting it, should offend them.

Because when our family says it, we ain’t talkin’ ’bout YHWH.

Honestly, they should be considering the blasphemy that they are participating in as a result of kids like mine say the Pledge as it is written along side their children.  If they really believed in it as anything other than a (poorly phrased and overly conceited) political statement**, they would be worried about the wrath of their deity at being invoked as one of many, many gods–about this country being perceived as being under gods, not under God.

My daughter would be aiming for Poseidon…

And I really pity the fools should they ever manage to bring back school-led prayer to public schools.



*Just because this phrase doesn’t bother me theologically, does not mean that I am not troubled by the lack of regard for the diversity that this phrase causes.  We live in a country that is supposed to support freedom of religion and not believe in special tests of such…the recitation of the Pledge, whether it is legislated or not, serves as a social test of religion that children are forced into to satisfy the political and religious inclinations of some parents.  I just happen to be more troubled by the vile hatred that is spewed forth by those claiming special ownership over this country and what it means to be American (and Christian).

**If nothing else, these uber-Connie Fundie types should also be offended at the mere notion of a state-sponsored anything as antithetical to their vision of small government and whatever brand of True Freedom™ they are sniffing for the week and…you know, particularly the notion that this nation is indivisible.  Heck, one would think, in the interests of intellectual consistency, more of them would rally to abolish the thing in its entirety!

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About thalassa

Occasionally doting wife, damn proud momma of two adorable children, veteran of the United States Navy, semi-steampunk bohemian beach addict from middle America, Civil War reenactor and Victorian natural history aficionado, canoeing and kayaking and paddleboarding fanatic, Unitarian Universalist and pantheistic Pagan, devotee of various aquatic deities, and practitioner of bioregional witchery View all posts by thalassa

2 responses to “…under gods, indivisible

  • Invisible Mikey

    As I’m old enough to have been in elementary school when each day in every school began with recitation of the pledge, I’ll offer this remembrance.
    Not a single one of us between the ages of five and eleven paid any serious attention to the words of the pledge. Because it was done every day, in the same monotonous rhythm, as a rote exercise accompanied by no discussion, it had no impact at all. It was just a thing you had to memorize, like the multiplication tables, except the tables had a practical application.
    I can also safely guarantee that in our earlier grades we all uniformly misunderstood the meaning of “indivisible” to mean “invisible”, since we knew nobody sane could see God. I believe we regarded “under God” as a professional rank, like God, then President, then Dad’s boss, then your teacher.
    Now that I’m aware of the meanings of the words, if given a choice I would rather pledge allegiance to the Constitution. It’s got less negative history attached to its misuse by power groups.

    • thalassa

      I have to agree with this from my own experience as well..I thought about how to bring it up in the post, but couldn’t think of a good way to segue… I remember watching something where kids recited what they thought the pledge was, and what they thought it meant, and I went looking for it in hopes of including it, but couldn’t find the piece I remembered.

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