When I learned that the Ninth Circuit had declared the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional, my initial reaction was well, it's about freakin' time.
When I was in Jr. High, we had to recite the Pledge of Allegiance every day at the beginning of class. And so we'd all stand up and say the pledge. Well, all except for me, 'cause I'd usually skip the "under God" bit.
Well, I've never really been a religious fellow. In fact, you could say that I'm fairly areligious (or secular, if you want to put it that way). I don't believe in God; I don't believe that there's any particularly good reason to believe in God. On the flip side, I don't believe that God doesn't exist -- if there really is a omnipotent supernatural being, his/her/their existence will not be provable, nor will it be disprovable, at least in this universe. In short, you can't really ever know. So I didn't believe, and so I skipped over it.
That was then.
Today, I still skip over those words. And I still don't believe. But that's not the only reason I skip them. I skip them because I don't believe that they are really American.
We are not one nation under God.
Amendment I to the Constitution of the United States: (in part)
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
Who is an American? Being American means that you believe that all men are created equal; that you believe all men have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Being American means that you have the right to worship whomever or whatever you want. And you have the right not to worship if you don't want. And you have the right to worship without fear.
A little history. The original pledge was adopted by an act of Congress in 1942, and it was pretty much identical to the one we have today, with one teeny-weeny exception: the words "under God" were nowhere to be found. In 1954, Congress added those two words.
Well, we were fighting Godless Communism.
Or, as President Eisenhower put it,
From this day forward, the millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural schoolhouse, the dedication of our Nation and our people to the Almighty.
Nice sentiment, except for two little problems. The first, of course, is that pesky little First Amendment.
The second problem is the vexing issue of which Almighty? If you're Christian, it's obviously God as embodied by the Holy Trinity (though who gets to talk to them and how depends on which branch of Christianity you belong to). Unless, of course, you're Unitarian. Or Mormon. If you're Jewish, it's the same God -- Yaweh -- as the Christian one, but he's in one piece, not three. If you're Muslim, then it's the same God (once again) but you call him Allah instead. Buddhists don't have gods in the Judeo-Christian sense of the word; Daoists have gods for just about everything, including the kitchen; and the Hindu have got plenty of gods, but they're all subservient to the Wheel of Life. I'm not even going to get into voodoo, the cargo cults, and the heretics who are skeptical about this whole God thing to begin with.
The very idea that the government should explicitly promote religion is fundamentally un-American. The Pilgrims, after all, were on the run from a repressive theocracy. Every man (and woman) should be free to worship in his (and her) own way, and the government should have nothing to do with it.
Being American means believing that all men are created equal; that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are unalienable rights; that government comes from the consent of the governed. It means believing that we all have the rights of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of assembly; we have the right to a fair trial, and to be judged by a jury of our peers. It means that we will fight for these rights and beliefs. These are the beliefs and the ideas that tie us together as Americans; these are the ideas and beliefs that make America a great nation. In those few times that America has been attacked, we Americans of all races, colors, and creeds have come together in strength, bonded by neither religion nor a common heritage but by the simple fact that we are Americans, and we are America.
We are one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.