By Daniel B. Kline
When my son came home a few nights ago he began randomly reciting the "Pledge of Allegiance." He did a relatively good job managing to say "indivisible" instead of "invisible" but I winced a bit when he got to the "one nation, under god" part.
The inclusion of that line inadvertently, or perhaps explicitly, endorses the idea that the existence of god is an undeniable truth. For most Americans that is what they believe. For them, a casual reference to the almighty in the Pledge makes as much sense as the shout out to "amber waves of grain" in "America the Beautiful."
Belief in god, however, is not an undeniable fact. It is an act of faith. Acts of faith, now matter how societally ingrained have no place in the public school system. Schools, at least taxpayer-funded ones, should not take a position on questions of faith. That includes casual references that imply that the existence of god is a well-understood, unquestionable fact.
I understand that as a nation we were founded by people who clearly believed in the concept of god. These folks even had the foresight to realize that since they had fled from persecution relating to exactly how they worshipped, that they should build in protections for people of different religions.
Our founding fathers even went so far as to create a formal separation between
church and state to prevent any one religion from imposing its will upon the others. What they did not consider, however, was those with no faith and those who might believe in something that does not conform to the traditional idea of "god."
The vast majority of Americans believe in god and for most, that belief is as unshakably certain as the idea that the sky is up and the sun is yellow. Having faith and believing beyond any question of doubt makes it generally impossible to consider someone who does not believe.
For many Americans the idea of someone not believing in god is as absurd as someone not believing the moon was real or a person who refused to accept that ice is cold. Still, our lawmakers and those who interpret our laws should realize that one's faith and one's relationship to any sort of higher power has no place in our school systems.
Personally, I have a murky relationship with the concept of god. I believe that there must be something bigger than us, but I don't pretend to know what that is and hesitate to label it "god."
I do believe that whatever might be out there -- if it has a consciousness -- expects us to be generally decent people who treat others well. I can't imagine an almighty god that picks one religion over another and considers good people condemnable because they worship in the wrong way. If I have faith it's in the idea that whether there's a higher power sitting in judgment or this is truly all there is, all we have is how we behave towards each other.
I'd prefer money, courthouses and every other area of public life paid for in part by me not contain references to god. Faith should be something taught by parents to their children not something preordained as part of the morning ritual at school.
Have faith and believe. Advertise your faith verbally, on t-shirts, through jewelry and on bumper stickers if you like. Preach to the unconverted and believe that your religion or your god is the only correct one. Just keep your beliefs out of government-run institutions.
Daniel B. Kline's work appears in over 100 papers weekly. When he is not writing Kline serves as general manager of Time Machine Hobby New England's largest hobby and toy store, www.timemachinehobby.com. He can be reached at email@example.com or you can see his archive at dbkline.com or befriend him at facebook.com/dankline.