“One Nation Under God”

“We are all Americans, we stand together. I think it is absolutely important now for majority of Americans to hang onto that thing that is best in us: a belief in religious tolerance. We have to make sure we don’t start turning on each other. We are one nation under God. We may call that God different names, but we are one nation.”
President Barack Obama, September 10, 2010

I’ve always thought it more than odd
To say “One nation, under God”—
It’s laughable; it’s risible:
One thing it’s not is “indivisible”.
My president just cut me out:
My welcome here is now in doubt.
“Home of the brave”; “Land of the free”
But not the godless, can’t you see?

If common values bind us close—
Ideas, small or grandiose—
Those notions, if we care to look,
Will not be found in Holy Book
But in the Constitution’s lines,
The founders’ words, their grand designs,
Where weak or strong may both speak free,
Including godless folks like me.

Curious thing, after the jump:

This is, of course, another in my Religious Freedom Day series.

The source I got the quote from (which I cannot find now–if you know it, let me know) had posted it as I do above. One cannot see the context in a quote that stands alone like that. What is more, one cannot see the editing. The original transcript shows that this was not part of the initial speech, but a response to a question by Anne Kornblut.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Nine years after the September 11th attacks, why do you think it is that we are now seeing such an increase in suspicion and outright resentment of Islam, especially given that it has been one of your priorities to increase — to improve relations with the Muslim world?

THE PRESIDENT: I think that at a time when the country is anxious generally and going through a tough time, then fears can surface, suspicions, divisions can surface in a society. And so I think that plays a role in it.

One of the things that I most admired about President Bush was after 9/11, him being crystal-clear about the fact that we were not at war with Islam. We were at war with terrorists and murderers who had perverted Islam, had stolen its banner to carry out their outrageous acts. And I was so proud of the country rallying around that idea, that notion that we are not going to be divided by religion; we’re not going to be divided by ethnicity. We are all Americans. We stand together against those who would try to do us harm.

And that’s what we’ve done over the last nine years. And we should take great pride in that. And I think it is absolutely important now for the overwhelming majority of the American people to hang on to that thing that is best in us, a belief in religious tolerance, clarity about who our enemies are — our enemies are al Qaeda and their allies who are trying to kill us, but have killed more Muslims than just about anybody on Earth. We have to make sure that we don’t start turning on each other.

And I will do everything that I can as long as I am President of the United States to remind the American people that we are one nation under God, and we may call that God different names but we remain one nation. And as somebody who relies heavily on my Christian faith in my job, I understand the passions that religious faith can raise. But I’m also respectful that people of different faiths can practice their religion, even if they don’t subscribe to the exact same notions that I do, and that they are still good people, and they are my neighbors and they are my friends, and they are fighting alongside us in our battles.

And I want to make sure that this country retains that sense of purpose. And I think tomorrow is a wonderful day for us to remind ourselves of that.

Both the edits and the context turn a fairly specific statement into a broader one; as an atheist, I am both pleased to see that the original context was not intended to address me, and displeased that once more those of us without faith are not even an afterthought.

It’s also a reminder to all of us (I’m speaking mostly to myself here) to check and double-check quotes.


  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    … al Qaeda and their allies who are trying to kill us, but have killed more Muslims than just about anybody on Earth.

    Probably the single event which killed the most Muslims was the Iraq-Iran war, in which Al Qaeda was not a known participant. But, if you view Dubya Daddy’s war against Iraq, the subsequent lethal sanctions vigorously enforced by Clinton, and Dubya’s crusade as one consistent phenomenon, then it’s the US which gets to claim another blood-soaked Number One pennant, hooray.

    Of course, as funding fathers of AQ, followed up by the Shrub’s unparalleled work as the top recruiting leader for mujahideen in general, perhaps we’re entitled to share our body count with our renegade subsidiary – but that’s the sort of context you won’t ever find in an Obama spiel.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *