Elisabeth Sifton on “The Battle Over the Pledge.”

There’s a good article titled The Battle Over the Pledge by Elisabeth Sifton over at The Nation.com that I thought was a pretty good read.

Overall I think she did a pretty good job of highlighting the issues and the distortions on both sides of the Pledge debate, though I was a little annoyed at the rather large brush she painted atheists with. For example at one point she offers up the following comment:

True, the Founders believed that all humanity lived “under God,” but, as Jackson knew and evidently Douglas did not, as people of faith know and evidently atheists do not, this abstract deism in no way resembles the belief that God created the United States and speaks through its institutions. As good eighteenth-century deists the Founders respected the concept of an Almighty Being under whose aegis and according to whose laws the world turns, but they risked their lives for the principle of government created not by divine powers but by ordinary people using their human intelligence and reason. The US Constitution and Bill of Rights, which never mention God, are the great and crowning glories of the secular Enlightenment.

I would argue she has her groups mixed up. In general, atheists are more likely than most people of faith to be familiar with what the Founding Fathers said and wrote about the concepts of God and government. Indeed, I’ve put forth the same argument she provides above here on SEB many times before. I suspect she’s allowing her image of atheists in general to be tainted by the Michael Newdows amongst us. That said, I also agree with her opinion that “the Pledge deserves to be shorn of its quasi-sacrosanct status as well as of the ‘under God’ phrase” rather than banning it outright from use in public schools.

I’ve said before that Michael Newdow wouldn’t be my first choice to argue an issue such as the Pledge to the Supreme Court in part because he’s in many ways as much a Fundamentalist in his atheism as any Christian Fundy I know, but he’s been the first to get the issue this far and I suppose I’ll just have to live with it. In principle I agree with what he’s challenging, but I don’t necessarily agree with all of his arguments and I worry on the outcome of the trial as a result.

12 thoughts on “Elisabeth Sifton on “The Battle Over the Pledge.”

  1. Great article.  It provides the insight to exactly what I’m afraid of in this upcoming Supreme Court decision.  Heh heh, I can’t wait to see the comments for THIS article…

  2. Nothing bothered me more than one of the last paragraphs:

    “Many of these same political activists turned up in November to celebrate President Bush’s signing of the “partial birth” abortion ban. About this happy moment, Jerry Falwell, in a burst of characteristic hogwash, wrote:

    After having a wonderful time of fellowship with President Bush, the president asked if we could all join hands and pray that God will bless our efforts to preserve life in our land. What an astounding moment this was for me personally. Standing there in the Oval Office I felt suddenly humbled to be in the presence of a man—our president—who takes his faith very seriously and who seeks the prayers of his friends as he leads our nation. Following the prayer, I told President Bush the people in the room represent about 200,000 pastors and 80 million believers nationwide, who consider him not only to be our president but also a man of God. He humbly turned to me and replied, “I’ll try to live up to it.””

  3. after reading the above post on the quote by falwell i was hoping a few free thinkers would sum up in a word of two how you feel after reading it.

  4. Jerry Falwell said - I told President Bush the people in the room represent about 200,000 pastors and 80 million believers nationwide, who consider him not only to be our president but also a man of God.

    Isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black?

  5. Hey, I consider Bush to be my president and a “man of God” too.  Not that I’m particularly happy about either state of affairs …

  6. Paul_H: No. The glaring hypocripsy in the case of that particular perp is that he either took leave of his commandments when he molested the boys or - in the words of the State Attorney - uses God as a cover.

  7. GeekMom, that’s OK. We still love you even if you did vote for Bush.

    Elwedriddshe, thanks for saying what I was about to.

    Paul_H, as E just said my intent in those posts isn’t to paint all Christians with the same brush. I have not, nor will not, state or imply that all Christians are bad people because of their belief system. In fact I think most Christians are decent enough people overall, but then I think that’s because most people want to be decent and not because they’re Christian.

    My intent in these posts is the point out that a belief system that likes to regularly claim to make people into better and more moral individuals doesn’t seem to be doing such a good job of it. In fact, I think most Christians are decent people in spite of being Christians rather than because they are Christians. There’s a lot in the Bible that can (and often is) used to justify being a total prick, so it’s pretty impressive that most Christians are decent people in spite of what they could be like under the rules they are trying to live by.

    My argument is basically that as a means of getting people to be more moral Christianity is often ineffective at best and detrimental at worst. As a means of making people feel better about the big unknowns (why are we here, what’s next, etc.) it does an OK job, but I’d be happier if folks could just accept the big unknowns without worrying so much about it. Folks like Randall who keep telling us to ignore Christianity the religion and focus on the basic message (Jesus is love, etc.) are actually the kind I like best as they are the most reasonable about rejecting some of the more negative aspects of the Bible.

    So, yes, I have a problem with the religion called Christianity, but then I have problems with all religions. I don’t, however, have a problem with all Christians.

  8. Les, you sure know how to hurt a girl.  Vote for him, indeed.  Wash your mouth out with soap. 

  9. Paul_H,

    you will find that there are several people that post on this site that do not clump all believers/Christians together.  You will also find some that do.  But guess what, some of them have a good reason to do so.

    Those that do, dont do so because they are atheist or un-Christian they do it because they are human, and have a bad day everyonce in a while.

    It should come to no surprise to a Christian that there are a lot of people in our world/society that not only disagree with Christianity, but totally despise it.  Here are a few words that may help you realize this….

    John 15:18 “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.-Jesus The Christ

    We should really stop crying about the fact that people dont like us. We have way too much hypocrisy.  Why should we be surprised that there are people in this world that wont accept a faith in which most that profess christianity do not know, much less follow!

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