God and Government

Part of our heritage in the United States is that some of the country’s founders were religious zealots who came here seeking freedom from oppression. But even though groups like the pilgrims had suffered under intolerance, they themselves were intolerant, apparently immune to the very history they had lived.

Today, over 300  years later, Americans still live with the heritage of forced Christian dogma, though officially there is supposed to be a separation of church and state, Christian ideas still have an impact in our everyday lives.

The government is supposed to represent all Americans, but if you’re atheist, agnostic, Moslem, Buddhist, Hindu, Shinto, Wicca, or a bunch of other beliefs, the government is still in your face with Christian doctrine.

It’s right there on our money: In God We Trust. I thought we were supposed to be a nation that celebrated diversity. Can you imagine the furor that would rage if the Treasury Department decided to celebrate diversity by putting on some coins and bills In No God We Trust, for the 5 percent of Americans who says they are atheists? Maybe it could say In Yahweh We Trust for our five million Jewish citizens, or In Allah We Trust for our seven million Moslem citizens.

In Allah We Trust? Can you imagine the uproar? Only Christianity gets to propagandize with government backing. Isn’t that favoritism, plain and simple? Why not just eliminate all references to God on all our money?

Some states offer a license plate that bears the motto In God We Trust. There are no license plates offered for non-Christian faiths.

Christians might want to argue that God is a reference to a supreme being across all faiths. But that argument doesn’t hold up. Different faiths have different names for their deities. God is the name of the deity of Christians. The gods (notice even our capitalization rules are prejudiced) of other faiths go by many names, The Great Spirit, Zeus, Thor, Buddha, Satan, and many, many more, none of which appear on American money. There are 12,000 non-Christian congregations in the United States. None of them use the name God.

Atheists, of course, believe in no God. They’re citizens too. Why should their money bear this deist credo? Agnostics just aren’t sure. Why should they be forced to face the assertion that they trust in the Christian divinity? I mean who is this “We” in In God We Trust.

School children, no matter what their faith, are asked to recite the pledge of allegiance, including the phrase “one nation under God.” Our elected officials, from the President down, never make a speech  without mentioning God.

Where I live, you can’t buy beer, wine or liquor on Sunday. Why? Because it’s the Christian Sabbath, codified into local ordinances.

The phrase In God We Trust wasn’t on our money until 1864, and the “under God” in the pledge only dates back to 1955.

I’d like to make one thing clear. I’m not condemning Christians for their beliefs. One of the great things about our country is that everyone has the right to their own religious ideas. It was one of the rights that was established by the founding fathers in the Constitution.

But if you’re a Christian, shouldn’t you be embarrassed to have your beliefs thrust constantly into the face of non-believers? Didn’t Jesus say something about loving even your enemies? If Christians believe in compassion, why not show tolerance for all Americans by taking their God out of the equation?

Some readers will see this issue as silly, unimportant, and think anyone who objects to these God references could just ignore them. But if this issue is so trivial, why not just resolve it by eliminating these references?

The United States is rapidly becoming a rainbow of cultures. There was a time in our history when we were overwhelmingly a Christian nation. It’s just not that way anymore. Only 20 percent of Americans attend church on any given Sunday. Do the math. Four times as many abstain from religious services every week.

It’s time our government got out of the religion business, not part way, not most of the way, not 99 percent of the way. It’s time for a true division between religion and government.