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May 20 2012

Sarcastic?

Just to follow up on yesterday’s post, I’ve had some objections along the lines of the idea that theism is wrong and therefore we should not express (or seem to express) our support of it, even to make a point. But isn’t that what sarcasm is? Expressing an idea you do not support, in order to make a point?

Here’s the thing: one of the problems with the current pledge of allegiance is that it marginalizes those who are non-believers. The “just sit down and shut up” strategy doesn’t really work because it only reinforces this marginalization, not to mention reinforcing the stereotype of unbelievers as social outsiders and non-participants. The stand-and-be-silent approach is just as bad, though less immediately visible—no one is watching to see who does and does not move their lips, for the most part. At that point, it’s not even a protest. It’s just a silent abdication of our civil rights.

The best response is one that immediately draws attention to the problem itself. A pledge of allegiance to one nation under gods, even sarcastically, is going to create a social paradox. On the one hand, you can’t officially exclude other gods and still pretend to be abiding by the First Amendment. On the other hand, Christian nationalists won’t be able to abide a pledge that describes America as one nation under gods, and they’re the primary force behind the pledge in the first place.

This strategy is very similar to the strategy of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I’m sorry to have to say this, but it has come to my attention that there are people who profess belief in the FSM even though they don’t really believe in it. They’re just saying that to make a point about the evidence for the Christian God. And no offense to any True Believers out there who may have been genuinely touched by His noodly appendage.

So Jesus, Allah, Flying Spaghetti Monster, etc—we really are one nation under gods. And if saying so helps persuade the Christian nationalists to take the pledge and shove it, well, so much the better for America.

11 comments

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  1. 1
    blorf

    I suggested to my son that he try “gods,” but he told me something that made me smile instead. We live in a small rural town in Ohio, but the majority of his class mates refuse to say the pledge at all.

  2. 2
    LeftSidePositive

    The only trouble is, I don’t think that, phonetically, the difference between “under God” and “under gods” is noticeable. Many people wouldn’t even notice you’re making a statement. However, if you say “under the Flying Spaghetti Monster,” they’re *bound* to notice the extra 6 syllables, aren’t they?! (and the God Squad will get all nicely affronted!)

    1. 2.1
      Deacon Duncan

      That works too! :)

    2. 2.2
      jamesskaar

      under sauce.

  3. 3
    Sercee

    “Under Cthulhu”?

    No wait, sorry. Forgot to pick a God who represents the prosperity of the people.

    Oh wait, sorry again. Just remembered that doesn’t apply to the Abrahamic god, either.

  4. 4
    Mark

    How about:

    “…one nation, under gods and stuff, indivisible…”

  5. 5
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    How about “under the gods of Olympus” or “under the Goddess” or “under the gods of heaven and earth” or “under Hermes/Isis/Odin” or “under the United Federation of Planets”?

    (a Canadian who has no oath of allegiance to habitually swear, but who has sworn allegiance to the Queen in the past)

  6. 6
    Anymouse

    When I first moved to my new village in Nebraska, I found the village board meetings start with the Pledge.

    It has been my habit, when reciting the Pledge, to use the original version (not the McCarthy-ised version that adulterated it), as like the flag, all versions of the Pledge are acceptable.

    Francis Bellemy (a Baptist minister) wrote the original Pledge in 1892. It goes:

    ‘I pledge allegiance to my Flag and (to*) the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.’

    * (to) was added a few months later

    Jaws dropped in the village board meeting when I loudly proclaimed that pledge publicly. (At the time I was still a Wiccan, which they knew, though now I am an atheist, which the village also knows).

    I was directly asked by the board chairman at my first meeting why I would recite the pledge that way. I simply pointed out that as a disabled Navy veteran, the pledge has deep meaning for me. My father and one grandfather died in combat. My mother and sister served in the military. I have never recited it except in its original form, which is inclusive of all faiths and none.

    (Strange how Baptists used to be the frontrunners in the freedom of religion department, now they want to end it.)

    They were stuck. Throwing out a disabled veteran from a public government meeting would not be particularly savoury, (though they thought about it), so they chose to ignore me.

    Over the next few months, more and more villagers have turned to the original wording of the pledge. The uber-religious amongst us can bluster all they want about it, but there is no requirement to use a particular form of it, or recite it at all.

    1. 6.1
      dcortesi

      I like this: speak the original text, in pace and rhythm with everyone else, except when they are saying “under god” you are saying “indivisible” and from there you are a couple syllables out of sync and you finish early. Should be very noticeable.

      Whereas the Deac’s suggestion of adding the plural S could be taken by some as a kind of aural graffiti, hence a defacement of the text, this is inarguably correct and respectful.

    2. 6.2
      Samantha Vimes

      I very much like this. The original pledge is much better, and it sounds like once they got over their initial surprise and learned the words, inclusiveness is an appealing choice.

      When I was a child, we had to do the pledge, and I didn’t like it much because it seemed a bit hollow and brainwashy at the same time. But one of my classmates, a Jehovah’s Witness, was forbidden from saying the “under God” part because they take the business about not swearing in the Lord’s name seriously. So the “godly” version of the pledge is actually offensive to a broad-ish section of the population. The direct approach may earn unexpected allies.

  7. 7
    Mattir, Another One With Boltcutters

    I say the pledge, which I’m oddly fond of – not the flag part, but the idea that I want the country in which I live to have liberty and justice for all. I’m working really hard on learning not only to leave out the god words, which is easy, but to keep going, so that my voice is out of step with everyone around me, and not to mumble, so that it’s obvious that I left out those two words.

    Not so easy in practice, but really really obvious when done right.

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