The Raving Theist

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And Now for Something Completely Different (Updated)

October 5, 2005 | 45 Comments

Having reflected on the matter at length, I am deeply ashamed of myseries of posts last week attacking the religion of Jill of Feministe. My conduct was disrespectful, uncivil, and completely unworthy of this blog. Devotion to God is indeed a deeply personal matter — and regardless of its perceived inconsistencies, faith is something that no decent person should mock.

So from now on, Jill can jibber-jabber like a brain-fried, hopped-up, pop-eyed God-monkey on crack and I won

Comments

45 Responses to “And Now for Something Completely Different (Updated)”

  1. Mookie
    October 5th, 2005 @ 12:23 am

    I agree with Lauren on this one,

    “it is the coercion of saluting a symbol the children don

  2. graeme
    October 5th, 2005 @ 1:28 am

    It is scary thinking about people that blindly follow their religon or their country.

  3. Mijae
    October 5th, 2005 @ 4:59 am

    Lies and jingoism aren’t exactly mutually exclusive. I hate the Pledge for both reasons!

  4. Matt
    October 5th, 2005 @ 8:54 am

    Wow! This is exactly what I think. I think this is your best post ever, RA. This is because what I think is right.
    No, seriously, I do agree with you. I’m going to link to your post.

  5. ocmpoma
    October 5th, 2005 @ 8:56 am

    There is a very substantial difference between reciting poetry, for example, and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance – the latter is a pledge. Wether they understand it or not, wether they agree or not, when children in American schools recite the short senteces of the pledge, they are doing just what it says – pledging allegiance. It is not a memorization exercise, and it is not a lesson (unless one considers it a lesson in political science, but somehow I doubt that it is ever presented as such). So while you are correct, RA, about schools coercing children to learn, and while coercion itself is not the root problem, the pledge is not coerced learning – it is a coerced political indoctrination. No student is coerced to pledge allegiance to Euclidean geometry, no student is coerced to make a statement that Rome’s republic was a better political system than was its empire, and they aren’t made to adopt any particular view about the merits of Shakespeare. But they are coerced to stand and affirm loyalty to the US Government (but not specifically to the God that it is said to be under), as if they would be traitors otherwise. And there’s the rub.

  6. Lesley
    October 5th, 2005 @ 10:22 am

    Sigh. I had written an entire comment regarding how the phrase “under God” was not the “only issue” with the Pledge, until I went back and reread what you actually wrote. It went into the whole history of the Pledge, including the cases Minersville v. Gobitis and West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, to show how another issue with the Pledge is whether or not the state should coerce loyalty oaths as a means of achieving national unity. It then touched on the fact that the law in Indiana does not require teachers to inform students that recitation of the Pledge is voluntary, something I happen to also consider an issue, along the lines of what Mookie and ocmpoma said.

    However, then I realized that what you actually said was “Neither choice nor coercion has anything to do with the dispute.” Well, that’s true. Lauren’s concern is not related to the current Pledge dispute. Then again, I don’t see where she made a claim, either implied or iterated, that it was. What she did say was that she was more concerned about the loyalty oath aspects of the Pledge than with the phrase “under God”. She was making a statement about her priorities, that Issue A concerned her more than Issue B. That kind of prioritization does not require that Issue A be directly related to Issue B. So you may disagree with her priorities, but that’s a whole different argument than the one you made.

  7. AK
    October 5th, 2005 @ 12:04 pm

    The pledge is wrong for many reasons, and one of those reasons is the one that TRA just posted about here.

  8. Kooz
    October 5th, 2005 @ 12:46 pm

    Maybe an American here can answer a question for me. I’m a Canadian who might possibly work in the US one day. If we were to move to the States, would my daughter — a Canadian citizen — be required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance if she attended a public school?

  9. Daphne's mom
    October 5th, 2005 @ 1:04 pm

    Kooz, no she would not. Even when I was in grade school 30 years ago, no non-citizen (or citizen for that matter) was required to recite the pledge. The only thing that was expected and insisted on was rising (in order not to create a distraction) and silence while the pledge was being recited.

    I am at a disadvantage not having read the original thread or comments but I am interested in this whole topic. So, I wonder. Has anyone given any thought to or argued (for or against) the appropriateness of teaching children to be citizens? I have in mind not just the pledge but also civics classes and that sort of thing.

    It seems unduly optimistic to me to expect children to grow up to be good citizens without guidance, even though the line between guidance and brainwashing could be blurred. Of course, the concept of “good citizen” depends on a set of shared values that we may not have any more.

  10. Daphne's mom
    October 5th, 2005 @ 1:04 pm

    Kooz, no she would not. Even when I was in grade school 30 years ago, no non-citizen (or citizen for that matter) was required to recite the pledge. The only thing that was expected and insisted on was rising (in order not to create a distraction) and silence while the pledge was being recited.

    I am at a disadvantage not having read the original thread or comments but I am interested in this whole topic. So, I wonder. Has anyone given any thought to or argued (for or against) the appropriateness of teaching children to be citizens? I have in mind not just the pledge but also civics classes and that sort of thing.

    It seems unduly optimistic to me to expect children to grow up to be good citizens without guidance, even though the line between guidance and brainwashing could be blurred. Of course, the concept of “good citizen” depends on a set of shared values that we may not have any more.

  11. Daphne's mom
    October 5th, 2005 @ 1:04 pm

    Kooz, no she would not. Even when I was in grade school 30 years ago, no non-citizen (or citizen for that matter) was required to recite the pledge. The only thing that was expected and insisted on was rising (in order not to create a distraction) and silence while the pledge was being recited.

    I am at a disadvantage not having read the original thread or comments but I am interested in this whole topic. So, I wonder. Has anyone given any thought to or argued (for or against) the appropriateness of teaching children to be citizens? I have in mind not just the pledge but also civics classes and that sort of thing.

    It seems unduly optimistic to me to expect children to grow up to be good citizens without guidance, even though the line between guidance and brainwashing could be blurred. Of course, the concept of “good citizen” depends on a set of shared values that we may not have any more.

  12. Daphne's mom
    October 5th, 2005 @ 1:04 pm

    Kooz, no she would not. Even when I was in grade school 30 years ago, no non-citizen (or citizen for that matter) was required to recite the pledge. The only thing that was expected and insisted on was rising (in order not to create a distraction) and silence while the pledge was being recited.

    I am at a disadvantage not having read the original thread or comments but I am interested in this whole topic. So, I wonder. Has anyone given any thought to or argued (for or against) the appropriateness of teaching children to be citizens? I have in mind not just the pledge but also civics classes and that sort of thing.

    It seems unduly optimistic to me to expect children to grow up to be good citizens without guidance, even though the line between guidance and brainwashing could be blurred. Of course, the concept of “good citizen” depends on a set of shared values that we may not have any more.

  13. WJ
    October 5th, 2005 @ 3:01 pm

    Nothing says freedom like a forced loyalty oath!!!

  14. Dan
    October 5th, 2005 @ 3:27 pm

    Mookie compares saying the pledge to Nazism and the other comments illustrate the grave concerns with saying the pledge. Now I understand all the fuss about Nazism. Nazism must have been pretty horrible if the Nazis did things like have school teachers lead kids in saying the pledge of allegience.

  15. Jim
    October 5th, 2005 @ 3:44 pm

    Dan:

    Are you deliberately mis-representing Mookie’s point about the dangers of slavish nationalism, or are you simply too retarded to understand it?

  16. Lauren
    October 5th, 2005 @ 4:38 pm

    The schools have no choice. This is a state mandate. The pledge is announced every morning in every school statewide in addition to a required moment of silence.

    As it stands, parents are responsible for telling children of their right to not say the pledge — it isn’t the school’s responsibility, as they see it. Which is why I told my son.

    “Under God” or not, my son shouldn’t be required by the state to pledge an oath to a concept he cannot understand. Just because I am an atheist doesn’t mean I can’t have priorities that don’t include religion. Worshipping a state (which does exist) is, to me, more troublesome than worshipping a god that doesn’t exist at all.

  17. Kate B.
    October 5th, 2005 @ 4:56 pm

    I have to say, I’ve never had a problem with the pledge. For one thing, as I’ve heard it, its original intent was to be an alternative to prayer–I didn’t realize anyone had problems with that. For another, assuming the kids in questions are citizens, why shouldn’t they be taught citizenship, as Daphne’s mom suggested above? There are rights and attendant responsibilities that have to be learned. And pledging allegience is not necessarily pledging obedience–patriotism is about keeping the country from going down the tubes, no matter how hard it wants to go. I also have no problem teaching kids plenty early about that whole “liberty and justice for all” thing.

  18. Dan
    October 5th, 2005 @ 5:16 pm

    Jim, the last time I was called “retarded” (actually I think the claim was that I was “a retard”) was in, I think, the 4th grade. Not coincidentally, the comments of Mookie and the others above are at about the 4th grade level. Personally, the pledge doesn’t bother me in the least. But if you don’t like it, then elect people who don’t require it. If you don’t have the votes to do it, it’s called democracy not Nazism.

  19. Erik
    October 5th, 2005 @ 6:26 pm

    The recent issue with the Pledge isn’t whether children can be coerced into saying a pledge of allegiance; it’s whether they can be coerced to saying the “under God” part of it. This is a Constitutional issue; specifically, whether Congress violated the First Amendment by adding the phrase. Therefore, it’s not a matter that is subject to elections.

  20. Dan
    October 5th, 2005 @ 6:53 pm

    Mookie’s and Lauren’s concern is with the entire pledge, not just the “under God” phrase. Lauren says her concern is with “the coercion of saluting a symbol the children don

  21. Mookie
    October 5th, 2005 @ 7:28 pm

    Dan,

    “Not coincidentally, the comments of Mookie and the others above are at about the 4th grade level.”

    I would like to believe I was capable of writing such a post when I was in 4th grade. Since you seem to have misunderstood what I was trying to say, I will clarify it for you.

    My main point was that nationalism and religion are similar in that they both require the person to suspend rational thought. I used the Nazi example to illustrate that it and our pledge both stem from the same thing: nationalism. I then went on to say that this glorification of the state prevents some folks from viewing their nation with anything but blind admiration, regardless of what it does in their name. I then cited evidence for this with poll results. I did not say that nationalism necessarily promotes or causes folks to perform genocide, I just said that it leads people to ignore or discount it as being all that bad. It happened in Nazi Germany, and it is happening here, and the underlying cause is nationalism.

    Do you understand now? Is it clear to you what I am trying to get across? It is very important for me to know that you understand, not so that we can argue, but so that you are made aware of the dangers of mindless glorification of the state (or of anything). I would like you to see that this is dangerous. If you are still confused or can’t seem to assimilate my point, I would be happy to repeat it in simpler terms. Or, maybe some of the other posters that do understand what I’m saying can have a shot at helping you.

    Kooz,

    When I was in high school, I refused to stand or recite the pledge and was sent to the principal’s office. I didn’t get in trouble, but they told me that if I did not recite the pledge, I would be. Sometimes public schools are more about indoctrinating children for integration into the corporate state than about teaching them valuable skills (like how to think, not what to think) and knowledge.

    WZ,

    “Nothing says freedom like a forced loyalty oath!!!”

    Really does get to the heart of the matter.

  22. Erik
    October 5th, 2005 @ 7:44 pm

    The pledge iself doesn’t bother me all that much, except that I think it’s about as useful as tits on a bull. My memory of this from childhood is that the pledge is about as good at inculcating patriotism as getting your tonsils removed is.

    And if “under God” isn’t a big deal, why did Congess bother with it? Did Congress not have anything better to do than add the phrase?

    Like it or not, to atheists, the phrase includes the notion that god exists. Therefore, forcing atheist children to say it is a violation of the First Amendment. It may not be a big deal to you, but it is to atheists. The First Amendment has come a long way since 1789, and the great weight of Supreme Court precedent is on the side of the Ninth Circuit.

  23. simbol
    October 5th, 2005 @ 7:44 pm

    Dan

    “But if you don’t like it, then elect people who don’t require it. If you don’t have the votes to do it, it’s called democracy not Nazism.”

    Problem is that sometimes democracy leads to nazism. There are some examples.

  24. Paul
    October 5th, 2005 @ 8:38 pm

    For the record, my dictionary says

    “ALLEGIANCE applies particularly to a citizen’s duty to his country. . . .”

  25. PG
    October 5th, 2005 @ 8:40 pm

    “The only issue is the phrase

  26. Lauren
    October 5th, 2005 @ 9:22 pm

    I think it’s about as useful as tits on a bull. My memory of this from childhood is that the pledge is about as good at inculcating patriotism as getting your tonsils removed is.

    Agreed. That’s essentially what my post (and the original the it references) states.

    If you read both posts in their entirety, it’s apparent that I have two separate issues with the pledge. One, “under god” is extraneous and unnecessary. Two, the whole thing is unnecessary. Indiana lawmakers saw it fit to force every school to take time from learning to recite a pledge and set aside a moment of silence (i.e. time to pray) in order to make a statement about the war.

    Problem? I think so.

  27. Lauren
    October 5th, 2005 @ 9:25 pm

    Also, an American flag of a particular size is to be hung in every classroom for the purpose of pledge recital. Non-regulation sizes are not allowed.

  28. Jim
    October 6th, 2005 @ 12:22 am

    Dan:

    Aww, I’m sorry, does teasing and juvenilism get under your skin?

    Well I’ll tell you what gets under my skin: fucking mindless nationalism that teaches people to not question what their elected officials do. Throughout history, tremendous evils have been done by societies, including our own, because of just this shit, and as long as we stand back and allow it we are fully culpable.

    And it’s equally juvenile to ignore the fact that the Nazis were originally brought into power democratically, and the people enthusiastically supported their abuses of power, and their nationalistic, murdering bullshit.

    But all that sort of thing is far safer and better than saying “pee pee, poo poo, retard”, isn’t it?

  29. Forrest Cavalier
    October 6th, 2005 @ 12:38 am

    TRA writes:

    The purpose of the schools is to teach children truth, not lies.
    Education is about nothing but coercing truths into children

  30. Jim
    October 6th, 2005 @ 1:43 am

    Forrest:

    Please spare us your tiresome rants about the selfishness of secular culture.

    Fundamentalists are more than happy to strip down the entire societal safety net, pretending that people have no obligations to their nation or to one another (other than fascist salutes, chanting, and agreements to never disagree with his Supreme Leader), hoarding as much wealth and power as possible while making sure that there’s not a scrap left for anyone else, pretending that societal ties simply don’t exist, and hypocritically ignoring their own “sins”, pecadillos, and transgressions because they chose to be “born again”. In the meantime, in their name and because of their policies, people both in this country and all over the world die.

    But because this is all based on religion, this isn’t *selfish*, right?

  31. Reluctant Atheist
    October 6th, 2005 @ 4:34 am

    Forrest:
    I assume that “teaching and insisting that all choices are equally “good,” all behaviors are worthy of respect and tolerance“, you are of course referring to specific behaviors that you don’t approve of, am I correct?
    Until secular humanists start approving of rape, murder, pedophilia, genocide, & any other reprehensible actions I can think of, I’d have to say you’re a quart low.
    I think you’ll need a bigger brush. You may have missed a spot.
    Really, sweeping generalizations are just, I dunno, un-Christian . You may have missed the bible class about “Judge not lest ye be judged”.

  32. a different tim
    October 6th, 2005 @ 5:25 am

    I have argued in the past that atheism requires not just a recognition of truth but a personal decision to accept it. It is therefore a personal moral as well as an ontological choice. To say it has “no values” is ludicrous.

    Personally, I like to big up the enlightenment – this implies a clear set of moral values (tolerance, a disinterested search for truth etc). It is also primarily a secular movement.

    I do share forrest’s concerns about postmodernism but it is not secular humanists who believe in relativity of truth. It is Karl Rove and GWB who criticised their opponents as “relity based” and it is they who seem to believe that scientific evidence is malleable and can be used and distorted by politicians with impunity. For other examples of how poetmodern justifications are used by the religious right I recommend francis Wheen’s excellent “how mumbo jumbo conquered the world”. To stop the rot contribute to the Kitzmiller v Dover case as outlined in my post above…..

  33. a different tim
    October 6th, 2005 @ 6:43 am

    typos! arse.

  34. Forrest Cavalier
    October 6th, 2005 @ 9:50 am

    Reluctant Atheist:

    Your examples of rape, murder, etc lack the “consent” that secular humanists hold as the standard for morality. Let’s not veer off into arguments about consent, and informed consent, and whether minors can consent to statutory rape and such, or if babies in the womb feel pain, and if we should all eat vegan. Its really hard to have a consistent position.

    Getting back to the point. We all agree that actions have consequences.

    The question raised by my “under God” rant is whether individual actions decided without consideration of higher purpose and meaning, are able to affirm and preserve the culture and society (the developmental environment) needed by this and future generations.

    What do you think? I think that the universe applies its laws consistently, and there are natural consequences, and that sometimes those consequences are hard to forsee unless you look at the big picture. That’s quite at odds with the secular “ultimate” of “Mind your own business. Don’t judge.”

    I have no authority to be judgemental in the manner you accuse. That would imply some authority to reward and punish. But those who have eyes, can read.

  35. a different tim
    October 6th, 2005 @ 11:10 am

    I too think that you ignore natural law at your peril. The point I was trying to make is that making light of it is not the province of secularism, but on thier current record the province of the religious right, and the secular “ultimate” that you mention is only an ultimate of one strand of secularism. Secular science, for example, is predicated on the idea that some stuff is true and some isn’t. Even the “don’t judge” injunction has its limits – Voltaire said we should tolerate everything except intolerance.

  36. Forrest Cavalier
    October 6th, 2005 @ 12:23 pm

    a different tim:

    I too think that you ignore natural law at your own peril.

    OK, but can the individual’s ignorance of natural law imperil the group? And are there natural consequences to a larger environment that are hard to predict based on local observations?

    I can’t imagine any disagreements. The questions are how the promotion of the phrase “under God” differs from “Think Globally, Act Locally.” And if there is virtue in coercing a loyalty oath which includes any ideals of higher purpose and meaning.

    I picked out “under God” as a falsehood, but “justice for all” certainly doesn’t describe the actual real-world “republic for which it stands” either.

    What is the pledge? A pledge of allegiance to an imperfect republic or a pledge to the ideals of a republic imperfectly implemented by the current goverments and society?

    What I mean is that if you throw out the “under God” because you object to utopian ideals and/or mythical falsehoods, then I can’t see consistency in arguing that you can keep the “liberty and justice for all” part.

    Would there be objections to a rephrasing as “….one nation, guided by higher ideals and principles, indivisible….”?

  37. a different tim
    October 6th, 2005 @ 5:50 pm

    I think the problem is what you think your society ought to stand for. Do you want your children to advocate theocracy every day in school? If I’m reading you right, your justification for keeping the “under God” bit – even if it is a falsehood – is close to Leo Strauss’s philosophy that you need a national myth fool the masses into virtue . Hello Plato yourself.

    (I should point out at this stage that it doesn’t affect me as I’m a Brit. I’m required to be the subject (not citizen) of a bunch of parasitic feudalist scumbags.)

    However, as an atheist I would not be prepared to swear to “under God” whereas I’d be quite happy to subscribe to “liberty and justice”. One is a statement of aspiration that as an advocate of the enlightenment I agree with, the other is asking me to state an alleged fact about the universe that I don’t think is true, and am prepared to argue my case on. If I have the option to remain silent on that bit, it is the duty of my guardian (and children are under the legal guardianship of teachers while in their care) to inform me of it. There’s also some constitutional amendment or other….(I know the supreme court ruled “under God” constitutional, I just don’t see how).

    If it is “one nation guided etc…..” I would like those principles specified, please. Everyone claims to be guided by higher principles, even those we reckon are bad guys.

  38. Lauren
    October 6th, 2005 @ 9:49 pm

    Just curious to see what the host thinks of this. (See the comments especially. One in particular had me rolling. Horrible placement.)

  39. Jennifer
    October 6th, 2005 @ 9:57 pm

    From Lauren’s Find

    That so much of this suffering can be directly attributed to religion — to religious hatreds, religious wars, religious delusions, and religious diversions of scarce resources — is what makes atheism a moral and intellectual necessity. It is a necessity, however, that places the atheist at the margins of society. The atheist, by merely being in touch with reality, appears shamefully out of touch with the fantasy life of his neighbors.

  40. The Raving Atheist
    October 6th, 2005 @ 10:25 pm

    I did a post a couple of years ago on the murdered little girl issue (at a time when I was attacking a different fundamentalist Christian named Dawn):

    Where do little girls go when they die?

    If they fly rainbow-striped ponies over the lollipop forest with Jesus, we should rejoice at their death. And if they are murdered, we should reward their killers

  41. steve
    October 6th, 2005 @ 11:33 pm

    “faith is something that no decent person should mock.”

    WHAT??? Faith, as far as I have been able to tell, and despite the wriggly worming equivoations of its defenders, is nothing more then believing something to a degree of certainty unwarranted by the available evidence. Faith is most definitely NOT a virtue, nor should it be respected by anyone. Fatih should be reviled. Promoting faith is, so far as I can tell, exactly as bad as promoting illiteracy, as bad as actively preventing people from being able to learn to read. Faith is not worthy of respect, not even close.

  42. mycroftdavis
    October 8th, 2005 @ 10:21 pm

    “faith is something that no decent person should mock”

    Someone known as the raving atheist shouldn’t be saying such silly things. What warrant supports this odd principle. The fact that someone believes a claim that is supported by no evidence, refuses to acknowledge evidence to the contrary, and demands respect for such a position,is definitley something that should be mocked. The idea that we have to be nice to such people becuase their superstitions have long traditions is part of why the religio-nutters have gotten ‘Under God’ into the pledge, ID into the courts, and a moron who hears imaginary people telling him to take democracy to Iraq into the White House.

  43. mycroftdavis
    October 8th, 2005 @ 10:26 pm

    OOps. Should’ve previewed and edited. For the record, I can correctly spell, if not type, definitely and because, and do know that questions should be punctuated with question marks. Unlike people of faith, I can evaluate my intellectual output, recognize flaws, and act on them.

  44. The Raving Atheist
    October 8th, 2005 @ 10:50 pm

    Mycroftdavis,

    I had completely overlooked your point. For some reason I had never considered mocking religious people at this site, but perhaps it is time for me to evaluate my intellectual output and take a slightly harsher line. However, one thing you forgot to add is that religious people are humorless and often lack a sense of irony, so much mockery might simply be lost on them.

    Thanks for your suggestion; at this blog, nothing is more important than the opinion of readers like you.

  45. mycroftdavis
    October 9th, 2005 @ 1:50 pm

    Methinks there might be some mocking in the air. Smells a bit mockish to me. Perhaps I was wrapped up in writing seriously about this topic, and my hair-trigger went off.
    So yes, go on mocking (just a little.)

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