Religion and the Pledge of Allegiance

2004-03-25 20:43

Okay, time for another hot button issue.

The Pledge of Allegiance. Most of you have heard this. I’m here to present the position that, if we are to accept the basic Christian principles that it supposedly upholds, we must conclude that the practice of making kids recite it is, in fact, essentially blasphemous.

I Pledge Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

First, a bit of history. The “one Nation under God” part was added, in the 1950s, as part of the McCarthy era witch hunt for communists. It also directly contradicts the word “indivisible”, by dividing us; by creating a barrier between “real” Americans, who of course believe in God, and “fake” Americans, who don’t.

However, that’s not the whole of what’s wrong with it. The problem is that this is pushed as a thing to say in schools. That opens up whole new cans of worms.

  • It is wrong to make children swear any oaths at all; they are incapable of giving informed assent to propositions or making meaningful committments. Our legal system recognizes this, and common sense tells us that 7 year old children cannot meaningfully offer their allegiance yet.
  • It creates divisions and ostracization for the children who are unsure or unwilling to say it. The great part of this is that we’re punishing them for being honest!
  • In practice, many schools actually attach penalties to refuse to say the pledge.
  • Most importantly, since children cannot give meaningful assent, whenever they say this, it’s false. That means we’re making them put God’s name in a false oath. That’s a kind of blasphemy. We normally frown on this, except in the circumstances where we require it.

So, the solution is simple. Don’t make kids say the pledge! Unfortunately, there’s more:

  • Note the conjunction in that first clause; and. It is not allegiance to the republic alone, but to the republic and the flag. This is swearing allegiance to a physical object; if this is coherent at all, it’s idolatry, but luckily, it probably just doesn’t mean anything, making it a false oath, but not necessarily an idolatrous one.
  • Of course, we aren’t supposed to be swearing oaths at all! Consider James 5:12, which says “But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.” That’s right; swearing itself is explicitly condemned in the Bible.
  • Furthermore, I don’t think Christians can offer unconditional allegiance (and the allegiance specified is hardly conditional) to any earthly authority.

So, Christians shouldn’t say it either.

In fact, no one should say it. If we took out the questionable language, including the “under God”, it would make a good thing for non-Christians to say if they wanted to sound patriotic. It’s not clear what good it would do. For myself, I will refrain from participating, and I hope the ritual is safely buried soon, because it’s disgusting and wrong. It is the antithesis of Christian teaching on the topics of oaths, the use of the word “God”, allegiance, idolatry, age of responsibility, and the seriousness of any kind of promise or committment. It’s just plain wrong.

Peter Seebach



  1. the act of saying the pledge is not disgusting, what's disgusting is this article. if you are an american how can you think of saying the pledge as disgusting? if you don't want to mention God's name that is your own business, but the pledge in general is an expression of our patriotism and citizenship in this amazing country. so if you don't want to say it, how about you move to a different country??

    — angry · 2004-10-14 21:23 · #

  2. Patriotism. Ahh, patriotism. "Deutschland, Deutschland, ueber alles". That's patriotism.

    Ironically, America's founding ideals reject the key concept of patriotism, which is that we're better than everyone else.

    Thanks, but no thanks. I am not a "patriot", and I will not gladly kill people who dress differently than I do.

    seebs · 2004-10-15 03:37 · #

  3. THe pledge is a form of patriotism, but the Establishment clause states that there is a seperation of chruch and state. Its not that it is "disgusting" its that it needs to be changed to a more patriotice statment.

    — Cori Malinky · 2006-01-05 11:21 · #

  4. Kudos, Kudos, Kudos,

    I really admire you for posting this. I thought that I was the only child that was persecuted in school for not saying the pledge of allegiance. My family was very strict when it came to our faith, in school they taught us that we have the freedom of belief yet they want to take away our right not to pledge to anything other than God.

    — Tika · 2007-08-26 11:44 · #