Bring Back Our Motto! (Speech at Rally in Olympia, WA)

Bring Back Our Motto! (Speech at Rally in Olympia, WA) June 29, 2016

This is a speech that I will give in Olympia, Washington on the capitol grounds, along with other excellent speakers as part of a Bring Back Our Motto rally on June 29 at 11 am.

Patriotism US motto In God We TrustDo we really trust God?

In God We Trust: this motto has been imposed on us, but ask yourself if it’s really true. Do we really trust God?

One might pray to God for comfort when things are bad, but who would pray instead of using evidence? Who would trust God for safe passage across a busy street rather than looking and using good judgment? Or trust God for a good grade rather than studying? Or trust God for food rather than earning money to buy it?

And when someone does actually trust God—like reject medical treatment and instead pray for their child to be made well—the state rejects that. It steps in and insists on proper medical care. No, trusting in God might sound nice, but when it comes to something important, we take the approach that works.

Like government. We the people work together to build roads, educate our children, and defend our country. It’s not perfect, but we do a pretty good job. We have a trustworthy government, which is why it’s ridiculous to have that government declare that it’s actually God that we trust. Remember the words of the Declaration of Independence: “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” The buck stops with us.

What’s good about “In God We Trust”?

Let’s consider this from another angle. What’s the point of this motto? How is God supposed to react? Does it make him happy? Does it tell him anything new? Does it remind him that we care, just in case he’s sad? Is it a magic charm or a spell? Are we sweet-talking God so that he does nice things for America?

Now, let me apologize if I offended anyone, because that might’ve been a bit rude, but it’s not me who’s offensive—it’s this motto and those who are behind it. Naturally, Christians take very seriously their relationship with God, but how shallow do politicians think Christians’ faith is, when they put this motto on money, on buildings? If they must steal the prestige of the U.S. government to bolster Christians’ faith?

Maybe this motto has nothing to do with heaven but is firmly grounded here on earth. I say that it’s just a gift given by politicians to their Christian supporters, the solution to an invented problem and a subversion of the First Amendment.

Ceremonial deism

To see how shallow the motivation behind this motto is, consider a similar problem, the “under God” phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance. Think about how that part of the Pledge goes: “one nation, under God … indivisible!” Right before the word “indivisible” was inserted the very divisive phrase “under God.”

In court challenges, those in favor of these religious phrases have tipped their hand. “Oh, c’mon—this isn’t an imposition of Christianity! These tired phrases have been used so much that they amount to nothing more than ‘ceremonial deism.’” That’s the retreat that advocates for these godly phrases have taken—they dismiss them as merely “ceremonial deism.” They see the problem, so they say that “In God We Trust” is just something you say, without any real meaning, like “How do you do?”

What kind of world are we living in? Those who want “In God We Trust” say that it has only a ceremonial meaning, while others must point out the very obvious Christian claim in this divisive phrase. But if this is a relatively meaningless phrase with no Christian content, then drop it!

“In God We Trust” in Clark County

Along with others here, last year I attended a public meeting in Vancouver, Washington, the county seat of Clark County. The Clark County Board of Councilors had decided that, among their many pressing matters of business, they should spend most of a day deciding if “In God We Trust” should go up on the wall in their public hearing room.

For hours, the councilors heard comments, first in favor of the slogan and then against it. Each was given applause by partisans of that viewpoint. Anyone who thought this was not a divisive issue left that meeting with no doubt.

Since I live near Seattle, you might say that it wasn’t my business to challenge the wishes of the good people of Clark County, but that’s not who was pushing for this. There was no groundswell of public demand. Instead, an organization from California is pushing local governments nationwide to put “In God We Trust” on the walls in government buildings.

Imagine attending a council meeting as a non-Christian and seeing “In God We Trust” glaring down at you. How welcome would that citizen feel? Imagine instead it was a Muslim slogan in Arabic. Or a Hindu slogan in Sanskrit. Or a Satanic slogan or 666. If “Allahu Akbar” is offensive on the wall, if it violates the First Amendment, why is “In God We Trust” appropriate?

We’ve been here before

This should sound familiar, because we see this in our annual celebration of the War on Christmas. You’ll have a city hall that puts up a manger display every year. Then a freethought group says that this is fine on private property but not city property; please take it down. So the next year, the city allows all groups to have holiday displays, and you get Festivus poles, freethought slogans, and celebrations of Roman Saturnalia or Norse Yule. Predictably, Christian groups complain, and the next year you have nothing.

Why is this always so hard? Why not admit that the government elevating Christianity over other religions is against the rules and just stay out of religion? Can elected officials not just do the right thing the first time? And, to the point at hand, why is it not obvious that with “In God We Trust,” government is unfairly benefitting Christianity?

What’s the solution?

Let me close by drawing your attention to the motto that we discarded, E Pluribus Unum, which means, “Out of Many, One.” This has been the motto on the Great Seal since 1782. America is composed of people who came from all over the world to pull in the same direction to make one great country. “Out of Many, One” was tailor-made for the United States, but we flushed it down the toilet in favor of “In God We Trust,” a baggy one-size-fits-all suit that could be worn by a hundred countries.

Politicians often seem deaf to reason, and this issue can seem like an uphill battle, but let me suggest one small bit of civil disobedience: cross out the “God” on your money. Let people see you do it. Tell them why if they ask.

“In God We Trust” is divisive, but that’s what some politicians live for. They invent problems that they can solve. “God will be annoyed unless we tell him how much we love him, so vote for me so I can support a godly motto!”

Or, we could respect the First Amendment, the friend of every citizen, Christian and non-Christian.

In this election year, we see up close the problems with divisive politics. “In God We Trust” is ceremonial and meaningless, and it’s divisive. It’s the solution to no problem.

Bring back our motto. Let’s return to E Pluribus Unum, a motto for all.

If you don’t have a seat at the table,
you are probably on the menu.
— Congressman Barney Frank

Image credit: Bob Shepard, flickr, CC

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  • Len

    … in favor of “In God We Trust,” a baggy one-size-fits-all suit that could be worn by a hundred countries.


  • MNb

    “Tell them why if they ask.”
    Tip: tell them you want “E Pluribus Unum” back. In daily life it always works better to give a positive answer.

    • Focus on what you want instead of what you’re trying to avoid? OK, good advice.

  • Myna A.

    Bring back our motto. Let’s return to E Pluribus Unum, a motto for all.

    I enjoyed reading your speech and heartily agree. It may be a crucial time in our history to return that motto to its rightful place.

    “In God We Trust” is just another way of saying: “In our Ego We Trust.” No wonder we have gone a bit crazy.

  • Andrea Fitzgerald

    Bring back our motto: E Pluribus Unum.

    • Cygnus

      E Plutonium Unum shall not be infringed

  • ickytheologist

    Beware, my brothers and sisters, for “e pluribus unum” is but an anagram of “bi mule run up us,” which no one wants to see. Satan is tricky. The Romans spoke Latin, and look what happened to them. Coincidence? Hardly. And another thing…wait, Murder She Wrote just came on…

    • Cygnus

      “The Romans spoke Latin, and look what happened to them.”
      They became Romano-Catlicks?

  • Ol’ Hippy

    It wasn’t until recently that I became aware of the addition of the In ‘God We Trust’ motto addition to the pledge and currency in the 50’s. A change back,(the motto), would indeed help with the separation of the state that the religious believes is their inherent place in government. Thanx, Bob, for the work done to help keep things separate.

    • Cygnus

      With the cash money being seen less and less (I have direct deposit, I buy only with credit cards and pay by transfer between accounts), the “in god we trust” remains as a remembrance of idiot Christians that wanted to brainwash people that US is a religious state. Didn’t work, won’t work. US is a secular state.

      • Greg G.

        I used to live paycheck to paycheck but thanks to my employer, I now live direct deposit to direct deposit.

        • Cygnus

          So you want to be paid in cash and live for one God we trust to another God we trust?

      • TheNuszAbides

        there was pressure from that camp, but supposedly the primary motivation at the time was paranoia over the [anti-]American Communist Menace–understanding (so to speak) that ‘Commies’ were ‘godless’, they wanted talismans against their sinister shadowy threatening anti-whatever influence (moneymoneymoney) and a verbal trap to catch out the zealots (the Pledge).

        • Cygnus

          Just what I said, but more simple: American religionists forced the US government to put “In Mammon we trust” on the money so Christian Americans to believe they are better than the Soviets.

          Mammon was often personified as a deity and sometimes included in the seven princes of Hell, Christian Americans put that God on the money where it belongs.

  • RichardSRussell

    Then there’s the Trinitarians’ variation: e tribus unum.

    • Aha–Trinitarianism goes from batshit crazy to wise if you just translate into Latin. I should’ve guessed.

  • Sheila Warner

    This is terrific, Bob!

  • mck9

    “In God We Trust” is not the solution to no problem. It’s simply a problem — with a solution.

  • Cygnus

    “In God we trust” is religious politicizing, an attempt of destroying the secular principle on which United States of America stands on and return to religious Christian states retard regime. English style.

  • Myna A.

    How did the rally go?

    • By a quirk of fate (or the wise hand of a stern but loving father), Franklin Graham and his Decision America tour came to Olympia, and our events overlapped. We were assigned stairs overlooking a lawn and they got the area next to the capitol building. We had a pretty modest crowd (less than 50–we shouldn’t have planned this for a weekday), while they were estimated to have had several thousand.

      So that was a little humbling, but the audio setup worked fine, the weather cooperated, and everyone said what they came to say. We had Shelley Segal with music, Travis Simmons (“The Big Funny“) with comedy, Sam and Becky from the Ask an Atheist podcast, a speaker from the Satanic Temple (Seattle chapter), yours truly, and a few others.

      The “bring back our motto” thing is planned to be a nationwide movement, and I think ours was the first. If anyone wants to get involved with efforts in their state, contact Robert Ray, the national director.

      • Myna A.

        A lovely voice has Shelley Segal, and the video was really well done, I thought. Kind of a bohemian flair as well. I always like that.

        Franklin Graham is one disturbing son of a preacher man. It’s even more disturbing that thousands came to hear him, because he says some creepy things, but sadly not surprising that he drew a crowd. I don’t remember his dad being so crazy…or maybe he was and I just never paid that much attention.

        Remember this, though, grass root movements of good cause have been known to affect great change and thank you for the Robert Ray link. If those 50 good people tell even 5 good people each, it will grow.

  • Greg G.

    E Pluribus Unum” makes as much sense as “In God We Trust”, unless you know a little Latin, then it makes a lot more sense.

  • Jaime Ospina

    With the addition of a single letter, the present motto becomes more inclusive: “In Gods We Trust”. To be true for everybody, it could read “In Gods Some Of Us Trust”.

    • “In God(s) We Trust. Or Not.”

    • Cygnus

      Even with an “s” on the butt of God, this inane motto doesn’t make sense in a secular state. The motto disrespects and infringes on the rights of freedom from religion.

  • Cygnus

    I’d fight for “In Metric We Trust”, and send the fucking imperial inch to garbage where it belongs. Only the US and a backward country still use imperial retard measuring.

    • Greg G.

      We lost a Martian rover because of confusion over the system of measurement to use.

      • Cygnus

        Yea, it was like in bible when god mixed languages so people cannot get the babel tower to reach his almighty asshole.

    • martin_exp(pi*sqrt(163))

      the US has a rather interesting history with the metric system, even before it existed thanks to jefferson and his report in 1790.

      • Cygnus

        At that time Americans were still retarded by the British rule, even after Americans got their Independence from the British.

        It is amazing how politicians took advantage of the ignorant Americans to keep them under imperialist inch, instead of bringing what was good for Americans, a Metric system. Yet, when America started to became more intelligent politicians made morons out of Americans by inserting the stupid “in god we trust” on money that Christian say have nothing to do with God.

        • martin_exp(pi*sqrt(163))

          well, since 1959 is the international yard defined in terms of the meter: 1 yd = 0.9144 m. baby steps.

        • Cygnus

          Well, our minds were still under british rule, making idiotic baby steps instead of going fully independent.
          Not even the Independence from under British rule is totally, it is still in “baby steps”. Ask Americans what we observe at 4th July, and the idiots will say: “Fireworks, baby!!”
          British are so idiots that they break the union with Europe because they still control colonial US and is more powerful than Europe. Royal morons those Brits.

        • martin_exp(pi*sqrt(163))

          i don’t think the votes for a brexit had much to do with the “metrication in the united kingdom”, which is going on since the 1970s, then with EEC directives apparently. at least i didn’t read anything about that specifically.

        • Cygnus

          Well I think it still has to do with birtish stubbornness to be kept in some kind of “traditional rule” or “traditional identification”, or some kind of childish imbecility even if it serves only to the monarchy that was chosen by God as some religious leaders there want to make people believe

        • martin_exp(pi*sqrt(163))

          or one talks about some loss of “british sovereignty” to the EU or to brussels, being subject to *their* rules and regulations. UKIP, for example, means “UK independence party”, and one of the headlines after the referendum was “Farage declares ‘independence day'”, unsurprisingly.

        • Cygnus

          UKIP are a bunch of idiots trying to idiotize the Brits into thinking that they are under the “oppression” of European Union.

          UKIP says that it is a wonderful idea: A strong and independent Britain that is part of the USA would permit France to once more pursue its historic policy of starting European wars and asking Britain for help when it invariably goes tits up. With a strong independent Britain being part of the USA, there would be no need for Britain to ask the USA for help when the war inevitably goes tits up for Britain.

  • Ingersollman

    I mark out “god”, write in “US” above it, and write E PLURIBUS UNUM, across the top of any US currency that I come in contact with. Have been doing it for years. I am hoping to see one of my altered bills come back to me one day.