Maybe you’ve seen this, or even participated in it: the occasion is a public meeting of the local PTA, school board, town council, or what have you, and someone gets up and leads everyone in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Everyone, that is, except the local atheist/agnostic, who stands there quietly but visibly NOT reciting the pledge, in silent protest over the addition of the words “under God.” He or she might also object to the whole idea of a loyalty oath on general principles, but let me skip over that for the moment, because I want to zero in on the words “under God,” and suggest a way we can make a huge improvement.
The solution is simple: pledge allegiance, loudly and proudly, to one nation under gods, plural. After all, you’re not saying you believe in any of them. You’re not pledging allegiance to the gods, you’re pledging allegiance to a country, a republic, made up of people with all the flaws any large group of humans will have. You’re not saying they’re right, or that our country should be under the dominion of any gods, you’re just saying that you’re willing to band together with other citizens and to support the republic for the common good.
Thus, it doesn’t really compromise your principles to acknowledge the sad state of affairs which allow our country to be unduly influenced by superstitious beliefs. But think of the impact your pledge will have on those around you. It’s traditional to follow the word “God” with a brief pause before saying “indivisible,” and in that brief moment of silence, the plural “s” will ring out like a bell. No more standing in silence hoping to passively influence the culture by inaction alone! If 99 people pledge allegiance to “one nation under God,” and one person pledges “under gods,” all 100 will hear “one nation under gods.”
That’s the right pledge, because now the community is acknowledging that no one God is uniquely sovereign over our land. We are a nation of many gods, rightly or wrongly, and one of our chief First Amendment freedoms is that you can be both a citizen and a worshipper of Jehovah, or Allah, or Krishna, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. We are, in fact and by design, one nation under many gods. But more than that, by pledging allegiance to one nation under gods, we’re reminding our community of the reason why it’s important to maintain a separation of church and state. Christians in particular believe that all other gods are false gods, and who wants to have the government forcing them to worship false gods?
Christian supremacists want to use the pledge to reinforce the idea that their God is sovereign over everyone else, believer or not. By pledging allegiance to one nation under gods, we use their own strategy against them, and keep the gods in their proper place.
PS — if you happen to have to opportunity to use the plural pledge in public, write to me and let me know how it goes, will you? High school graduation is coming up, so that would be the perfect time to take it for a public outing.