Flogging God

November 2, 2011

The U.S. House of Representatives yesterday passed overwhelmingly a resolution “reaffirming” the phrase “In God We Trust” as our national motto.  The vote was 396 to 9. The need for reaffirming of this motto was not clearly stated in the resolution, but the real motivation for this resolution is both too obvious and too unseemly to warrant acknowledgment: most politicians in this God-intoxicated country want to milk God for all the votes they can get. And, from a political standpoint, who can blame them? It’s proven to be a very successful tactic.

The “whereas” clauses of the resolution—which presumably set forth the rationale for the resolution—consist principally of a few quotes from various historical figures that show that other politicians have invoked God and cites to other historical God references, e.g., in the Declaration of Independence. OK, we knew all this already. What’s that have to do with the need to “reaffirm” the motto?

There is this statement in the resolution: “Whereas if religion and morality are taken out of the marketplace of ideas, the very freedom on which the United States was founded cannot be secured.” There are so many fallacies in this statement that I have lost count, including, of course, the obligatory coupling of religion and morality. But what’s ironic about this assertion is that it’s the theists who want to insulate religion from the “marketplace of ideas.”  We nonbelievers are in favor of a vigorous, critical examination of the various absurdities on which most religious doctrines are grounded. Of course, when we point out these absurdities, we are accused of being angry atheists who want to mock believers. The truth is the religious don’t want religion to compete in “the marketplace of ideas.” They want religion to be immune from criticism and to enjoy an unquestionable monopoly on morality and virtue.

This resolution does succeed in reaffirming one sad truth: it’s still politically prudent to treat atheists as trash. They are people who, because they don’t believe in God, can’t be trusted and who aren’t really Americans. Atheists sometimes wonder what will be the sign that they truly are accepted as equals in this country. That’s an easy question. It will be when despicable resolutions such as this one don’t even come up for a vote.

By the way, here’s a word of thanks to the nine representatives who had the courage to vote against the resolution. You may want to send them a message of appreciation: Ackerman, Amash, Chu, Cleaver, Honda, Johnson (GA), Nadler, Scott (VA), and Stark.

Final thought: if this resolution causes you to feel righteous indignation, do something about it. Come to the Reason Rally in DC on March 24.