Ceremonial Deism

The Republican candidates have, of late, put me in mind of “ceremonial deism“.

Atheists are sometimes accused of making mountains out of molehills, of making a big deal out of the pledge of allegiance or “in god we trust” when there are bigger fish to fry. Really, though, it seems to me that it is the handful of god-bothering republican candidates who are keeping a trivial god in the public eye.

I am reminded of the following, from the old blog:

The motto is “In God We Trust”;
Display it everywhere, we must!
In doing so, recall, it’s just
A hollow little phrase.
It’s on our money, even though
It lost religion long ago—
Rote repetition made it so
It’s meaningless these days.

If you’re like me, you find it odd
That those who claim to love their god
Would fight to keep this cheap façade,
Especially on money!
But now, in congress, start the fight
To grow the phrase in public sight—
Replacing God with new “God lite”
You must admit, it’s funny

Remember Teddy Roosevelt
Opposed the motto, cos he felt
It sacrilege to put on gelt,
Insulting the creator
But that was then, and this is now;
We’ll push our god; we don’t care how,
With every method we allow.
And jobs? Well, maybe later.

According to CNN, the crazy season is upon us the House Judiciary Committee has scheduled a vote this thursday, reaffirming “In God We Trust” as our national motto. The Supreme Court has held that ceremonial use of religious language does not constitute a violation of the establishment clause, in cases where rote repetition has rendered the language meaningless.

That is, the phrase is legal if it is meaningless. If lawmakers wish to argue that “In God We Trust” actually refers to their particular choice of god, their usage would apparently violate the First Amendment.

Of course, the real motivation is likely to be considerably more secular; the brilliant legal mind of Michele Bachmann, with the tenacity and quickness of a barnacle, has latched onto President Obama’s use of E Pluribus Unum as more representative of our nation. It is, of course, more inclusive, and less pandering toward any particular religious view. Which makes it utterly unacceptable to Bachmann.

Plus, of course, it’s much easier to score points with one’s constituents this way, than to tackle the important issues.


  1. Paulino says

    “E Pluribus Unum” is such a cool motto, I wish my country had think of it. Alas, Brazil only declared independence 90 year later than the USA. Anyway, if I were religious money would be the last place I’d wish to see my deity’s name. In Brazil we have “God be praised” in our currency.

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