Thursday, May 17, 2007

Childish Whining Over Two Measly Words

On cupid, aformershadow posts the following tidbit in his journal, in response to the question, "Is separation of church and state important to you?"

"Not in the sense that we should be anal and whine like little children about "under god", but in the sense that the state has no business siding or being influenced by religion or religious leaders." --aformershadow

The discussion follows.

My comment #1, May 16th, 2007

Why characterize discontent over "under God" in the pledge, etc. as "childish whining?" It may not be as deep a concern as religion influencing government policy, but putting God where it doesn't belong, in national mottoes and pledges is something worth getting upset about, because it has an alienating affect on those who do not believe in God. It allows people like George Bush Sr. to make bigoted comments like "Atheists can't be true citizens or patriots." It's used as ammunition by the religious nut-jobs who ignorantly cite it as evidence that this is a Christian nation, or was founded on one (never mind the fact that "under God" was not originally in the pledge.)

aformershadow's comment, May 16th, 2007

Ok, I'll clarify. Having discontent over the phrase isn't childish whining. It's the fewer, very vocal people who feel the need to incessantly complain and obsess over it, despite all of the other issues that need to be addressed that are whining like children over spilled milk. Seriously, It's two words in a pledge that most people never say or even think of. To be honest, I really don't understand how it's so alienating. Hell, they could change the pledge to "under no god whatsoever" and I really wouldn't care. I'd be a little confused as to why, and I may not care for the change, but again, I really wouldn't care; there are too many important issues to worry about first. Two words in a school child's pledge have nothing to do with Bush Sr. publicly stating personal opinion. Ironically, the same amendment that guarantees your freedom to choose to believe or not to believe in any deity, is the same one that guarantees his freedom to be a giant prick about it. Believe me, I hate the nut-jobs who cite it to support their belief that is a Christian nation, but the fact remains that these crazies will find anything they can to twist for their cause. Hell, they do it to their own bibles. I've got nothing against atheists. I've got a problem with people who obsesively feel the need to let relatively insignificant things get under their skin.

My comment #2, May 17th, 2007
Two words in a school child's pledge have nothing to do with Bush Sr. publicly stating personal opinion.

Sorry, the full, precise quote might shed some light on why it's relevant in this context: "No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God."

Pretty clearly he was citing the Pledge of Allegiance here to support his statement against atheists.

Granted, those two words are not a "big deal" in the grand scheme of things, but as you point out, religious meddling in politics is a problem. Rest assured, the individuals and organizations that rally against having God in national mottoes and pledges, or display of the Ten Commandments outside courthouses, etc. also generally apply equal if not greater pressure to the more serious problems presented by the encroachment of religion in the public sphere.

I think it's important to fight the small fights as well, to not give an inch. One way to challenge the assumptions and the sense of entitlement of theists and Christians who want more influence in government is to constantly remind them that the pledges and mottoes they love to cite so much are offensive and disturbing to some of us, and not representative of the principles that America was truly founded on, and if possible, to change them to better reflect the ideals we as Americans should all hold dear.

Of course, they will always find something, or failing that, make something up to use in the public debate (apocryphal quotes of the founding fathers abound), but I don't think that conciliation and complacency even where these relatively minor matters are concerned is the right way to go about effecting social change. Maybe if you're a politician and you simply have to make compromises to get things done, that approach makes sense, but if you're just an interest group, lobbyist or private citizen, the best way to push your agenda is to be relentless about it.