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The Pledge: Flaws in Our Daily Vow of Dedication And Why I Choose to Reject Them

March 30, 2015 | Claire Hazbun

I was insanely busy this past week, if you couldn't tell from my delayed posts, because I'm working on a second website for a special project of mine as well as gearing up for some exciting project launches soon. But because I didn't quite have the time to invest into a full-fledged post, I decided to share with you a particularly stellar essay from a friend of mine about an aspect of many of our daily lives we may be passively thoughtless about, and its implications. I wanted to share it not only because I agree with some parts of it while disagreeing with other parts, but also because it's a thoughtful discussion about something we don't necessarily give much though to. And of course, my thanks go out to Claire who wanted to share her writing with me.

One thing that makes the United States great is that we are so diverse: ethnically, politically, and religiously. However, the Pledge of Allegiance’s clause stating that we are “one nation under God” implies the contrary: that all Americans believe in God, that patriotism equals religion, and that those who dissent are not true Americans.

I am a true American. I was born here, I will probably live here my entire life, and I am more politically active than the average adult. I also, along with 16% of Americans, do not identify with a religion. I, Claire Hazbun, am an atheist: I don’t believe in God. To assert that I should acknowledge the existence of one in order to not be disrespectful is wrong. In fact, it is disrespectful to tell me that I should conform to religious beliefs that I clearly disagree with. If we truly are a country worthy of boasting our religious tolerance, our pledge should be inclusive of all Americans, not just the religious majority.

If we truly are a country worthy of boasting our religious tolerance, our pledge should be inclusive of all Americans, not just the religious majority.

More importantly, I, along with the founding fathers, wholeheartedly believe in the separation of church and state. As an advocate of separation of church and state, I therefore believe that an endorsement of God does not belong in an official national pledge. The central idea of this notion is that this view is independent of my religious faith or lack thereof. I sit out the pledge not only because I simply do not believe in God, but because even if I did, I still would not believe that an affirmation of a God belongs in our government.

I have no major problem with people who choose to stand for the pledge; I simply ask that those who criticize my choice to sit it out understand that their criticism is misplaced. Some say I am disrespecting those who fought for our freedom. My response is that remaining seated doesn’t mean I am ungrateful. I am expressing a belief that is intrinsic to who I am – something that takes precedent over all else. Others remind us that in some countries, people are killed for their beliefs – but just because I am afforded more liberties than are afforded to other people doesn’t mean I possess all the liberties I should actually be granted. Refusing to acknowledge the existence of God or the incorporation thereof into our government is not unpatriotic. Considering my relatively developed knowledge of American government and my eagerness to fully participate in it, it is quite the opposite. My advocacy for something I truly believe improves our country is patriotism in its finest form.

The “patriotism” my critics unconditionally adhere to is not patriotism; it is brash nationalism that plagues our country to its core – a mentality that I not only discourage, but fear. John F. Kennedy once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” When I ask myself that question, the answer is simple. By expressing my perspective on separation of church and state, I contribute to a constructive discourse centering on how our country functions – ultimately leading to a better United States of America.