As the American Humanist Association represents a Massachusetts couple challenging the inclusion of the phrase “under God” in the pledge of allegiance, Mary Elizabeth Williams argues at Alternet that we should eliminate the reciting of the pledge completely. I couldn’t agree more.
Growing up in Catholic schools, my weekday classroom routine consisted of facing the front of the room, hand over heart, and reciting the Pledge. I then turned around to the crucifix on the back wall and recited the Our Father. I was a patriotic Christian kid then and I’m a patriotic Christian adult now and I have never stopped finding the practice strange and pointless and time-wasting.
Rote recitation, day in and day out, is ultimately meaningless. Ask any second-grader if she knows the meaning of “indivisible.” Ask a random adult, while you’re at it. The question shouldn’t be whether the phrase “under God” belongs in the Pledge; it should be whether the Pledge itself belongs. Does it really speak to or reassure the numerous non-believer kids out there, or the immigrant or dual citizenship kids? Does it teach any of them anything about loyalty or duty?
I am trying every day to raise my children to practice their faith and to respect their country. But love and loyalty don’t spring from standing up and dully parroting a creed because the state says the teacher has to get up and do it.
I do not recite the pledge, ever, for any reason. I don’t think anyone else should either, whether it includes “under God” or not. First of all, the idea of pledging allegiance to a flag has always struck me as bizarre. The pledge does nothing to inculcate real patriotism, which I define as a commitment to helping your nation become more free, just and equal. In this country, that means living up to those ideals we so loudly proclaim and so rarely put into action. Rather, it inculcates the kind of shallow, mindless nationalism that should be anathema to any free society.
It isn’t enough to make the pledge slightly less religious; the whole thing needs to go.