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  a recent letter
about atheism
and the pledge of allegiance


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April 29, 2004

Representative Pete Sessions
United States House Of Representatives
via email: PeteS@mail.house.gov


Dear Representative Sessions:

I recently read an article on cnn.com about Representative Jim McDermott's omission of the phrase "Under God" from his recent reading of the Pledge of Allegiance in Congress, and I was frightened by your comments regarding the incident.

You are quoted as follows:

"Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, accused McDermott of '...disparaging the majority of Americans who share the values expressed in the pledge.' "

First of all, I am an American, and I am also an atheist. There are millions of atheists just like me in America.

So, I am offended that your comment segregates my choice of religion into a minority, and that such minorities are thus not worthy of your representation in your defense of the majority. Specifically, you are defending the majority against being disparaged, but you therefore make anyone who is outside of the majority into second class citizens. That is religious discrimination.

Secondly, by lumping the "Under God" line in with the other myriad "values expressed in the pledge," you are suggesting that one cannot hold the non-religious values of the pledge without holding the "Under God" one. Do you actually believe that someone who doesn't say "Under God" is therefore negating his/her ability to pledge allegiance to any of the other facets of the pledge? Is atheism incompatible with the political, social, and civic values of our nation? Of course that is not so.

While I might not worship your God, or any other deity (whether it be Allah or Jesus or Buddha or Satan or Zeus) for that matter, that does not preclude me from pledging allegiance to our country's flag, or to the republic for which it stands, or to an indivisible one nation. Nor is an atheist incapable of espousing and upholding the values of liberty and justice for all.

The point that many atheists in our minority are trying to make about the "Under God" issue is very fundamental: we can be Americans without being religious. We are Americans whether we worship a particular lord or don't. And no American should be made to feel that a failure to recognize "God" or religion disqualifies that American from the equal rights of liberty.

Since the United States was founded on the principle of religious freedom, it is therefore chilling to hear a representative in the congress drawing a line between those who believe in God and those who don't.

Considering that the "Under God" part of the pledge was added only as a political reaction to the perceived threat of communism in the 1950's, over 50 years ago, it is outrageous to continue forcing a religious text on to a free America that is now made up of so many different belief systems, such as atheism, which is practiced by millions of Americans like me. If one cannot practice atheism without fear of persecution in America, the very country where religious freedom was born, then what message do we send to the victims of fanatical religious persecutions in other countries?

When an atheist like me hears a representative of the U.S. Government dismissing my religious choice because it is not in the majority, I am reminded of Germany and the state persecution of people just because they were Jewish. Shall we further amend the pledge to say "One Nation Under God, unless that is, you don't believe in God, and therefore you are not part of our one nation"? What about those Americans who believe in Allah? Or those who align themselves with Taoism? How can we have freedom of religion if the U.S. Govermnment demands that everyone worship "God" or be ostracized and oppressed?

I hope that you will consider expanding your representative scope to include equally those Americans who may be atheist, and those who may not consider themselves or their nation "under God," and those who nonetheless have every right to the liberty of freedom of religion.

When I recite the pledge, I pledge allegiance to the whole nation. Including the atheists.
You should, too.

---MJD, revolutioncentral.com

 


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