When nonreligious Americans object to the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, or to “In God We Trust” as the national motto, we often hear opponents claim that the wording is harmless, secular in purpose, and that nobody interprets the words as being a religious affirmation of any kind. Sometimes the excuse given is that such wording merely “acknowledges the nation’s religious heritage.”
Of course, just about every society has some kind of religious heritage, but even if we find it desirable to “acknowledge” America’s religious heritage one could question why we must do so by affirmatively stating that God actually exists. After all, America also has a strong secular heritage – many of our founders were quite anti-clerical, some rejected Christianity and supernatural religion outright, and certainly many of them were far outside the framework of traditional religion. Thus, would we “acknowledge” that secular heritage by affirming in our national Pledge and motto that there is no God?
Here’s a series of articles on Psychology Today where a couple of experts end up debating one another at the same web site.
Atheism is a luxury of the well-to-do and the comfortable.
This shouldn’t earn the author any hate mail.
…Raghunathan’s article provides his personal opinions without going through the pesky exercise of providing supporting evidence. He declares that atheism is “a luxury” that results from having a “comfortable life.” Because atheism seems most prominent in the developed world where people rarely have to worry about their next meal, Raghunathan speculates, we can conclude that material comfort gives rise to atheism.
Gasp! Sick’em, David Niose.
My recent post has attracted considerably more attention than I expected–over 150 comments (at last count) and even a repartee by David Niose. Although I am sorry that my post was offensive to some atheists (and I apologize for that), I am happy that we are at least having this debate. If it is at all conceivable, believe me when I say that my intention is not to insult anyone.
Before I address some of the objections to my thesis–that even hardcore atheists will start praying to God under a sufficiently high level of stress–I would like to state that I am not really a believer in God. More precisely, I do not believe in the kind of God that is typically depicted in most religions, as a somewhat egotistical and even vengeful entity. I should also state that, like most atheists, I believe that religion has overall been a more divisive and harmful force than it has been a unifying and beneficial one. If forced to pick a category to which I belong, I would pick agnostic rather than “believer.” In other words, I am really more closely aligned to atheists than I am to the religious.
That said, I would like to now offer my responses to the five major categories of comments/criticisms that my post generated:
You’ll have to go to the link to see the rest of his response. A similar exchange on Psychology Today can be found here.
P.S. … Today my wife and I celebrate our wedding anniversary. An atheist and a Jehovah’s Witness, and we’ve been married sixteen years. Not too crappy.