Today, the inauguration, was an incredibly moving day. However, as these things always are, there were portions that were uncomfortable for me, an atheist.
Even more so when one of my children texted me: ‘Irritates me that God is part of government. What happened to separation of church and state?’
This is the same child who was called to the principal’s office in junior high for refusing to say the pledge of allegiance (ok, his sister had the identical experience). When queried as to why, he responded that he could not recite something he did not believe in–that being the the segment ‘one nation under God.’ When I too was called to school, I defended my son’s right to hold fast to his own belief system, with the one caveat being that out of respect, he should stand. But that he should never have to repeat something that he did not feel to be true.
My own early experience with the Pledge of Allegiance was confusing. I would have been a kindergartner, in the early sixties. The first time we recited the pledge at school I loudly said Amen at the end, certain this was a prayer. I still recall the uncomfortable laughter of my classmates.
So why do we not have actual separation of church and state? That is a very good question. We are not, in fact, a Christian nation. The Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 by a socialist minister named Francis Bellamy and it contain no reference to religion. ‘One nation under God’ was added to the pledge by president Eisenhower in 1954, out of paranoia per communism and the association with atheism.
However, according to a report from the Pew Research Center, in 2019 26% of the US population identified as atheist, agnostic, or having belief in ‘nothing in particular’. And then are all those Americans of faiths other than Christianity.
So yeah. If you ask me, I would like to see all functions of state devoid of references to God. I tolerate these references because I am tolerant. Extraordinarily so. Please never forget nor disrespect that fact. Just as I do not disrespect you.
But my children? They may not be so understanding.