Theists Successfully Herd the Unbelieving ‘Cats’

by Luke Muehlhauser on April 1, 2010 in Ethics,Guest Post

saying the pledge

The ethical theory I currently defend is desirism. But I mostly write about moraltheory, so I rarely discuss the implications of desirism for everyday moral questions about global warming, free speech, politics, and so on. Today’s guest post applies desirism to one such everyday moral question. It is written by desirism’s first defender, Alonzo Fyfe of Atheist Ethicist. (Keep in mind that questions of applied ethics are complicated and I do not necessarily agree with Fyfe’s moral calculations.)


I am amused by the conceit that says that organizing atheists is like herding cats.

It is a conceit because these qualities of a cat are qualities in which a person can choose to take pride. It can be said to represent a person who is independent and needs to be convinced of the merits of something before he or she will take part. Many atheists certainly want to think of themselves in those terms.

I call it a conceit because it simply is not true. The manipulation and ‘herding’ of atheists in America has been quite successful. However, the herding is not done by atheist leaders for the well-being of atheists. The herding is done by theists for the well-being of theism, with atheists playing the role assigned to them quite well.

If I were a cartoonist I would draw a herd of sheep watched over by a theist shepherd, with a thought bubble over each sheep’s head showing that he thinks of himself as a cat.

We saw this in the fact that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance and a national motto of “On God We Trust” with scarcely a word of protest from the atheist community. There wasn’t even a disorganized cacaphony of meowing protest of individual atheists each seeking to express displeasure in their own ways. There was the silence of the atheist herd doing exactly what the theistic atheist-herders want them to do.

A Desire Utilitarian Persepctive on the Motto and Pledge

Desirism (aka desire utilitarianism)has an explanation for the simple and extremely effective art of atheist-herding by the theist community.

I will start this explanation with a basic observation that presents a significant (and ignored) problem for many moral theories. People do not engage in a great deal of moral calculus when they are deciding what to do. We go with what ‘feels right’ at the moment the decision is made.

A good person finds a wallet sitting on the seat of a bus he has just boarded and decides to return it with the money inside. He does not perform a lengthy cost-benefit analysis of all of the possible outcomes and decide that returning the wallet produces the greatest good for the greatest number. He does not compute the terms of a social contract or imagine the deliberations of a group of people sitting behind a veil of ignorance. He opens the wallet, finds and address or telephone number, and makes an attempt to return the wallet.

Any theory that fills our moral lives with massive amounts of computations and calculations has gotten morality quite wrong.

Desirism admits that we act on our feelings at the moment of decision. It shuns the idea that this is the time and the place for moral calculation. At the moment of action, the person who finds the wallet will return it simply because he wants to return it more than he wants to keep the contents. The person will save the child from harm because he wants to, or refrain from harming the child because of his aversion to doing harm. He will visit his sick friend in the hospital because this is what friends do, and he will push the stranger’s car out of the snow bank because… well, the person with the car needs a push out of the snowbank.

When we engage in moral debate, desirism suggests that we look for reasons for action that exist for promoting some malleable desires and inhibiting others. And desires are the only reasons for action that exist. Therefore, it makes sense to look at whether a particular desire will tend to fulfill or thwart other desires. Here is where the calculations come into effect, where people enter into significant disagreement because of the difficulties in calculating the effects of certain desires.

That, and their debates are corrupted and contaminated by beliefs in dieties, intrinsic values, social contracts, categorical impeatives, impartial observers, committees behind a veil of ignorance, and all sorts of mythical inventions and superstitions, rather than focusing on reasons for action that exist.

The Pledge and Motto as Acts of Praise and Condemnation

Getting back to the issue of the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Motto – how are atheists so easily and successfully herded?

Because the idea was planted in our brains – at a deep and emotional level that is best reached through the indoctrination of young children – that ‘one Nation under God’ is a good thing, and that good Americans trust in God.

These national policies represent acts of praise and condemnation. By inserting the term ‘under God’ in the Pledge and making it a part of daily rituals in schools, children are exposed to the constant and unquestioned praising of those who endorse ‘under Nation under God’. Every time she looks at a coin she sees that she is in a society that says that ‘we’ – the accepted group of those who belong – trust in God.

In a child’s mind, these attitudes are learned at a basic and emotional level.

It does not matter what new beliefs one acquires as an adult. The emotional attachments one learns as a child are very difficult to challenge and they will – of necessity – influence the actions as an adult.

If a child learns to enjoy cigarettes as a child, she will continue to enjoy cigarettes as an adult. No amount of new knowledge on the harms that cigarettes do will get rid of this desire. All that will happen is that the child will come to feel the anxiety of conflicting desires – the desire to smoke vs. the desires that would be thwarted by cancer and other smoking-related illnesses.

Whatever new beliefs the American atheist may acquire about the existence of God, this will not cause the desires and aversions planted in their brains at childhood to go away. At best, recognition of harms that are caused by promoting superstition, myth, and irrationalism in matters of public policy will generate conflict and anxiety – the way a smoker discovers that her desire is inconflict with the interests that are served by being in good health.

Childish Antics

The next step is the rationalizations and excuses that come with trying to ‘have one’s cake and eat it, too’. One stands and goes through the motions of saying the Pledge, while mumbling some substitute or simply leaving out the words ‘under God’, and then pats oneself on the back for being clever. In fact, this is a childish act whereby one fulfills one’s childhood interest in showing support – or at least not showing opposition – to ‘one Nation under God’ and ‘In God We Trust’ while pretending that one is also serving the interests of promoting realism and rationalism. Yet, not a hint of support for realism and rationalism leaks out into the public from this type of display.

Or one crosses out ‘in God we Trust’ on one’s bills. This at least has some opportunity to communicate with a few people, though the protester has the benefit of remaining anonymous for the most part. Yet, the very instant that bill crosses the hands of a bank teller it is marked for disposal and replaced with a new, unblemished bill. And bills quite quickly find themselves in the hands of tellers, usually – particularly when those who read it are insulted and wish to put it in the hands of bank tellars.

Take a serious look for a moment at these types of games. They are childish antics, the way a child in school might “get back at” another student he does not like through some sort of sneaky activity at which he hopes not to be discovered. How about simply standing up and stating one’s opinion?

That’s hard to do. It is supposed to be hard to do. The emotional manipulation engaged in by the Pledge and Motto themselves are designed to make that hard to do.

The Excuse of Insignificance

Another convenient excuse is to say that this issue simply is not important. This type of claim is simply incredible.

It is easier to believe that the Earth is 6,000 years old than to give credit to such a statement. We have a national motto printed on all currency and being hung in government buildings around the country that identifies trust in God as the defining characteristic that distinguishes “us” (true Americans) from “them”. There is an infinite list of qualities that can be put into a motto, but the one that this country says is the most important – the one that actually wins this election – is the quality of “trust in God.”

In adition, we have a national pledge repeated daily in schools that that equates lack of support for a nation under God with lack of support for union, liberty, justice.

Against these facts, the idea that having a motto and a pledge that explicitly identifies atheism as un-American is “not important.”

Emotionally, it may be comforting to believe that it is not important – particularly in light of the emotional manipulations caused by the Pledge and Motto themselves. However, objectively, belief in an afterlife is also comforting and has more credibility.

The very idea of a Motto is to identify what has the most significance. The very act of choosing a motto is to say, “Our group defines this as the most important quality or end.” And people do not Pledge Allegiance to the insignificant. If “under God” is insignificant, then why is it in the Pledge? And why isn’t it’s removal also insignificant? More importantly, if we are to believe that “under God” is insignificant, then is it not also the case that we must view union, liberty, and justice as insignificant as well?

Don’t Make Them Angry

Yet another excuse, and the excuse that comes with the most sour taste of irony, is, “We don’t want to make them mad.” This argument suggests that by challenging “under God” in the Pledge, and “In God We Trust”, we simply make a substantial portion of the theist community angry. And the last thing we want is to make them angry. We don’t want them to be mad at us.

Yes, we do not want to make them angry. The psychological effect on children of associating “under God” and “In God We Trust” with positive emotions and rejection of these with negative emotions is that, as adults, we do not want to make them angry. This is the attitude that the subordinate takes before the superior – the attitude that one must seek permission and guide one’s actions according to the principle, “Will it make them angry?”

The important fact to note here is that, because these attitudes are planted at emotional level – because we are talking about the manipulation of emotions rather than beliefs – no set of facts in this post or elsewhere is going to change those feelings. You cannot read about the hazards of overeating or of smoking and suddenly lose the desire for chocolate cake or tobacco. Desires-as-ends are immune to facts and reason. What they are vulnerable to are praise and condmnation.

Right now, all of the praise is associated with support for “under God” and “In God We Trust”, and these get no condemnation. Indeed, the decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently simply verifies this fact.

They will remain facts until some measure of condemnation starts visibly and publicly flowing in the opposite direction.

We – those who do not trust in God – are beeing singled out in the Motto as the least American of all groups that exist. In the Pledge of Allegiance, we are lumped in with secssionists, tyrants, and the unjust. In light of these types of claims, their anger is not the anger that people should be concerned about.

- Alonzo Fyfe

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Alex April 1, 2010 at 6:39 am

We saw this in the fact that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance and a national motto of “On God We Trust” with scarcely a word of protest from the atheist community. There wasn’t even a disorganized cacaphony of meowing protest of individual atheists each seeking to express displeasure in their own ways. There was the silence of the atheist herd doing exactly what the theistic atheist-herders want them to do.

Which might have something to do with that particular case being pretty much inconsequential. Nobody had heard of it, so it wasn’t exactly a great catalyst for meowing protest. But as soon as you bring it up:

First comment:

The decision by the Ninth Circuit is completely indefensible. Even a 10 year old can see how the Pledge violates the Establishment Clause…

No shortage of disorganized grumbling in that thread.


Alex April 1, 2010 at 7:04 am

Oh and then there’s this from Pharyngula less than a fortnight ago. Here’s one (pretty sizable) subsection of the atheist community having a good old bitching session.

While I’m at it I’m going to go ahead and say that, Luke, I think these Fyfe posts detract from the quality of your blog. As a writer you are simply in another league.


RA April 1, 2010 at 7:15 am

I’m not smart enough to be a philosopher. It’s just too boring for me to pay attention long enough to figure out what the heck the definitions are all about. But I am curious to know in which category I fall into.

My view on “morals” are that there are no intrinsic morals. We simply have come up with a set of rules based on our best way to have a civilized society which helps us live longer and have an overall better and peaceful life through cooperation. Everything comes from human intelligence and is completely subjective and primarily based on empathy.

We make rules against killing each other, stealing each others stuff and sleeping with each other’s women because those things make us feel bad when they happen to us and also get the other guy really POd and then he comes looking to kill you or kick your behind. And that’s not good for at least one of us and is a lot more trouble that it is worth in the end.

Those are the Big Three and everything else kind of naturally follows.

What category do I fit into if someone doesn’t mind making an assessment?


Hermes April 1, 2010 at 7:34 am

Alonzo Fyfe, I fully accept this post as a response to my question from yesterday in the Newdow thread. I could ask for nothing better. As has been said elsewhere, ‘I gratefully accept the rebuke.’


lukeprog April 1, 2010 at 7:40 am


Really? I think this post is particularly good. Perhaps you just don’t like the content? Or perhaps I like the content too much…


Tony Hoffman April 1, 2010 at 8:13 am

Fyfe: “Getting back to the issue of the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Motto – how are atheists so easily and successfully herded?

“Because the idea was planted in our brains – at a deep and emotional level that is best reached through the indoctrination of young children – that ‘one Nation under God’ is a good thing, and that good Americans trust in God.”

And your evidence for this being the reason is…?

I’d say most atheists who knew about the decision chose to stay quiet because it appears the publication of the decision is built like a trap; if you wanted to invent a scenario designed to create the impression that the godless are anti-patriotic, and by opposing the decision appearing opposed to the rule of law, I can think of few more obvious scenarios built for ambush.

If supplanting theism with rationality is a war, part of winning that war is not walking up to every ambush the opposition lays for you. Bad decision, yup. But public outcry, I think, just presents the opposition a perfect pulpit with which to misinform. And I think that kind of calculation, made by several million cats, is further proof that we prefer to approach decisions rationally.


Briang April 1, 2010 at 8:21 am

Alonzo could have done without the suggestion that theists are being manipulative in their support to the pledge and the motto. Is that a plausible explanation? I think that most theists haven’t put much thought or consideration into atheism. So I think it’s fairly unlikely that the goal is to “herd” atheists into conformity.


lukeprog April 1, 2010 at 8:44 am


I’m not sure where you think Alonzo said that theists are consciously herding atheists. He just said theists are successfully herding atheists.


Josh April 1, 2010 at 9:04 am

For some reason this pledge decision really got on Alonzo’s bad side. While I agree that it’s an absurd and stupid decision, there seem to be more important issues in the world.

At least someone is fighting this fight.


Tony Hoffman April 1, 2010 at 9:22 am

I pretty much agree with everything Alonzo’s said on this topic, and I’m grateful that he’s brought it up and has uncovered so many worms behind the decision. It’s amazing to me how many bad legal decisions there are, and it’s deflating trying to figure out how to respond to them.

In a broader context as well I think that Alonzo is right that a rallying event (think Stonewall Riots) will likely be the matchstick that coalesces the force of non-theism. If not this, what? If not now, when? kind of questions. They’re good questions, I think.


Alonzo Fyfe April 1, 2010 at 10:15 am


Compare the incidents you reference to the reaction received when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decided against “under God” in 2002.

It should be considered obvious, since I am complaining about the decision, that I am not arguing that it is not the case that any atheist is complaining about the decision. That would be an ultimate straw man. I am writing about the overwhelming, not the universal, silence among American atheists.

Part of this post is descriptive. It is attempting to offer an explanation for this difference. It finds that explanation in the effects of the Pledge and the Motto themselves, in the context of desirism. By giving praise to those who support “under God” and “In God We Trust” it makes those who support these practices much more vocal than objecting to them. Furthermore, this is planted in us on the level of desire, not on the level of belief, though it has an effect on people’s beliefs.

If I were to offer a hypothesis as to why the vast majority (say, 85%) of the marbles in a bag are red, then pointing to a small set of blue marbles in a bag of hundreds of thousands does not disprove that hypothesis. However, the relative silence of atheists to the 2010 decision compared to the noise level raised against the 2002 decision has to have an explanation somewhere.

If you have a better theory – a better explanation – then I would be pleased to hear it.

As for the quality of my writing, I agree that, recently, I have not given it the attention I should. On the other hand, I have found that the quality of one’s writing is not relevant either to the truth or the popularity of what one writes.


In the same way that evolution creates complex beings that have the appearance of a design without a designer, I am arguing here that social customs are having the effect of herding atheists without a conspiracy of herders.

Those who value the pledge do so, in part, because they value planting devotion to God in the brains of young children and they see these practices as accomplishing that end. The silence of atheists is not an intended side effect, but it is an obvious and predictable side-effect


other eric April 1, 2010 at 10:20 am

i’m normally a fan of alanzo fyfe’s posts, even though i am, as yet, unconvinced by desirism as a whole, because i usually agree with his sentiment. but i can start to see his detractors’ point when i read this post. fyfe delivers his rant like a sermon from a pulpit, wholly convinced of the truth of his statements even when he presents no evidence to back them up, and even when they are as wrong-headed as some of the notions he is presenting here.

fyfe seems to have never met an atheist, theist, or cat, and instead has heard these words and decided to conjure creatures from his imagination to serve as definitions.

he creates atheists as brainwashed zombies, theists as machiavellian evil-geniuses, and cats as thoughtful creatures who need to be convinced by reasonable arguments in order to be led. these are all fantasies, either paranoid or demented.

the cats metaphor does not imply the conceit that the atheist is “a person who is independent and needs to be convinced of the merits of something before he or she will take part.” it implies that atheists scatter and refuse to move as one towards any common goal because they follow their own self interest, or even directly move away from any commonality simply to preserve the appearance of their own independence.

and there is no indication that theists desire a brainwashed atheist population who only subvert the majority’s beliefs in “childish” ways. there is every indication that if theists were able to brainwash atheists, they would convert them to theists, as this is what they openly attempt to do as a daily process. theists are by no means pleased with the state of things, including the incessant challenging of god in the government by these pest cats, who represent a clear minority.

most atheists have already rejected the desired effects of the chants they engaged with in childhood. to reject their rejection is to reject their very atheism. fyfe’s suggestion of a successful brainwashing through childhood indoctrination is self-refuted in the next paragraph where he points out small atheistic rebellions against, and mockeries of, this notion that he only previously told us we all hold dear in our hearts, even though we deny it.
why would we mock what we desire?

why are we so irrational? why does fyfe paint his fellow atheists as ridiculous? and is this not just what a cat might do?

could it not be, instead, that atheists have successfully rejected the notion of “one nation under god” in their hearts, but cannot successfully attack it politically because they are indeed disorganized cats, as their critics claim?
and could it not be that the reality of globalization has made the imaginary notion of unified populations, united under oaths and flags and currency, seem silly and inconsequential to the skeptic?
and could it not also be that the apathy of a media-satiated populace prevents activism against issues which do not seem in any way to interfere with their general quality of life (as this leaked CIA document [] might imply had i read it, instead of looking up torrents to download… sigh…)???
and could it also also not be that the atheist american, like the theist american, simply holds no faith in their government (as this CNN poll indicates []) and feels an aversion to participating in its politics?

apologies for the length and tone of this counter-rant. i greatly appreciate the work of luke and alonzo in trying to herd us cats, i just feel that this post has mis-characterized the players involved in this struggle and their motivations. the problems that i see are not childhood indoctrination and fear of offense, but apathy, a changing relationship between citizens and nations, and the ugly reality of an long uphill struggle for a marginalized minority.


Charles April 1, 2010 at 12:07 pm

I have found that the quality of one’s writing is not relevant either to the truth or the popularity of what one writes.

It has been my experience that if you want to get published then you must learn to write well. The only people who need not apply are the Paris Hilton types.


Hermes April 1, 2010 at 12:33 pm

Tony Hoffman: “I pretty much agree with everything Alonzo’s said on this topic”



lukeprog April 1, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Thanks, guys, it’s good to know somebody agrees. :)


Hermes April 1, 2010 at 1:00 pm

Charles, I’m going to emphatically agree with Alonzo here.

Content over quality seems to get more attention, and that is a good thing as it is much more useful in the long run.

Personally, I am happy to be misunderstood and criticized by others — reasonably and unreasonably — if the alternative is to be stuck with only my thoughts and a grinding pressure to reach my own unreachable standard of perfection.

I say this as someone who has spent months on a short poem and failed to complete it, as well as someone who has spent a semester looping through Heidegger’s Being and Time (Sein und Zeit). I consider myself cured of the perfection affliction, and am now quite happy to speak early knowing that I will annoy even myself.


Hermes April 1, 2010 at 1:03 pm

…besides, outside of this blog, there are things and people called editors that can assist with shaving off the lumps.


Alonzo Fyfe April 1, 2010 at 1:21 pm

…and could it not also be that the apathy of a media-satiated populace prevents activism against issues which do not seem in any way to interfere with their general quality of life . . .

And where does this ‘belief’ come from?

It is a filter that is 99.99% effective at keeping atheists out of public office and positions of public trust.

Polls show that Atheists are viewed as the group that ‘least shares our values’.

A substantial majority of parents say that an atheist is somebody they would least like their child to marry.

Atheism, when revealed, often because a reason for harrassment and abuse – particularly in schools and in the military.

In custody disputes between atheist and theist parents, atheism itself is often cited as a reason to view the non-custodial parent as unfit or less fit than the theist parent.

Belief in a God is often seen as an indicator of morality and responsibility that grants the believer extra points with respect to promotions and appointments.

If one wishes to generate public opposition to a view or a plan in the public one only needs to link it to atheism in order to discredit that view in the minds of a substantial portion of the population, such as evolution and the teaching of evolution.


Bill Maher April 1, 2010 at 4:33 pm

keep up the good work Mr. Fyfe. I have really enjoyed your last several posts.


othereric April 1, 2010 at 5:55 pm

And where does this ‘belief’ come from?

i’m not sure what ‘belief’ you’re referring to. the quote is a suggestion that apathy on the part of atheists might be more to blame for their lack of response on this issue than some deep-seated desire for “one nation under god.”

if you have proof that most atheists desire “one nation under god” because they were indoctrinated with the message when they were young, please share it. until then i am going to assume that they don’t want “one nation under god” because they don’t believe in god, despite their likeliness of having been indoctrinated into believing in god at an early age.

i can give myself as an example of an atheist who, in my youth, engaged in both chanting prayers to god in church and the pledge of allegiance to the USA in school, but who now, as an adult, rejects the supernatural content of both. yet i have done nothing to act out in opposition to the recent ruling, and i feel i have nothing to blame but my own apathy.

i am most definitely against the ruling. and against all the injustices you mention. and i think we need more atheist rabble-rousers like yourself out there. but your claim that atheist inactivity in these matters should be blamed on indoctrination and a fear of offending doesn’t jive with my reality. the atheists i know would punch your lights out for suggesting they were indoctrinated, and they usually delight in offending theists. unfortunately they’re usually too busy getting soused to do either, and i with them.

apologies for the proliferation of old-timey colloquialisms in that last paragraph.

please continue your work, as it is much-appreciated, but consider, perhaps, abandoning the notion that atheists have an unconscious desire for “one nation under god”, and consider, instead, that they’re kind of lazy.


Alonzo Fyfe April 1, 2010 at 8:15 pm

…. consider, perhaps, abandoning the notion that atheists have an unconscious desire for “one nation under god”, and consider, instead, that they’re kind of lazy.

Is this an unusual form of laziness not found in other parts of the population.

I assure you that, “one White nation” or even “one Straight nation” would not be met with the same kind of ‘laziness’. Populations that are much smaller in percentage terms than atheists would not take kindly at all to a Pledge or a Motto that singled them out as the very definition of “un-American.”

If you think that laziness better explains this phenomena, then perhaps you can explain the source of this laziness?


Charles April 1, 2010 at 9:32 pm

Alonzo, I haven’t heard the Pledge since middle school. If I didn’t have a son, it wouldn’t even enter my consciousness.


othereric April 2, 2010 at 1:59 am

I assure you that, “one White nation” or even “one Straight nation” would not be met with the same kind of ‘laziness’.

a very valid point. and i can only grasp at straws to suggest, perhaps, this laziness comes from a feeling of superiority. we pompous atheists might scoff and say, “let them have their pledge, if it gives them light in their darkness.” or perhaps it comes from a feeling of inferiority compared to the struggles you reference, namely those of african americans and queers. even though irreligious americans may outnumber both of those groups, our struggle doesn’t hold the same dramatic and combustive… um… zazz?

i’ve never been a closeted atheist, nor have i met anyone who ever was (to my knowledge). and i’ve never felt personally chastised or ostracized for my atheism. i feel like the majority, even though the polls tell me i’m not (to be fair, i’m a united states-ian expat living in a canadian city… so…).
there are other ways that i feel like our struggle doesn’t compare apples-to-apples to the civil+queer rights movements, namely the fact that we desire (honestly) total victory. a civil rights-esque victory in this case would maybe change the pledge to read, “one nation, some under god, some not.” which might be an improvement, but it’s not what we’re going for.

i’d honestly love to see you train your views on locating the source of atheist laziness and un-herd-ability. because i feel like we’re failing ourselves. if theists had actually herded us we’d be over the cliff by now. though some commenters agree that they have a deep-seated desire for “one nation under god”, so perhaps i’m in another minority. hell, i was incensed that you preached at me. how can i expect to be roused to action if i can’t stand to be preached at?

if it turns out that i’m totally off base, and indoctrination works, i suppose we just have to start pulling kids into alleys and forcing them to repeat, “there is no god. there is no god.”


Alonzo Fyfe April 2, 2010 at 4:01 am

i’d honestly love to see you train your views on locating the source of atheist laziness and un-herd-ability. because i feel like we’re failing ourselves.

That is exactly what I have done in this post.

The ‘laziness’ that afflicts atheists is the same type of ‘laziness’ that kept blacks walking peacefully to the back of the bus for nearly 100 years after the Civil War ended, and still, in some parts of the world, keep women severely restricted in what they can do and who they can talk to.

The praise and condemnation we hear as children affects our sentiments. In the case of the United States, it sets in the mind feelings of pride associated with support for ‘one nation under God’ and trust in God, while it condemns opposition to these. As a result, adults who support these policies are self-confident and active, while those who stand oppose are made submissive.

The Pledge and the Motto themselves are a key source of atheist submissiveness in the United States, and a key reason why atheists are unable to accomplish 1/10 as much as other groups with far smaller numbers.


othereric April 2, 2010 at 9:09 am

The Pledge and the Motto themselves are a key source of atheist submissiveness in the United States

i would be interested to see evidence for this, even just a few testimonials from US atheists who feel ashamed of their wish to have these words removed from the pledge and their currency. it would shock me because it contradicts my experience of atheists, being that they generally dismiss or mock nationalistic pledges and mottoes as much as they do prayer.
there is a fear, i believe, but not the fear of offending our superior theists patriot brethren, rather it is the fear of appearing anything like them. the fear of looking like idiotic tea partiers. and the extrapolated fear of looking like, or being, nazis.

still, if we were to agree that atheists hold deep-seated shame and feelings of inferiority because their views run counter to their deeply indoctrinated and unconscious desires for a proud godly nation, what are they to do about these desires? if the tools of praise and condemnation are as powerful as you seem to believe, isn’t this a lost battle? certainly there are tools of equal or greater power that can destroy what praise and condemnation have tried to build up? and haven’t we already proven adept at using these tools to rid ourselves of the various superstitions instilled in us at an early age?

it’s like you’re telling me i love god, even though i don’t know it. and i just can’t accept that.


Hermes April 2, 2010 at 9:39 am

Othereric, I think you’re missing the point. I’d add more comments to Alonzo has written, but I think that may not help at this point.


othereric April 2, 2010 at 10:50 am

i may indeed be missing the point, seeing as how i’ve enjoyed and agreed with much that alonzo has written for this site. and if you can offer another perspective on where i’ve gone off track, i’d happily welcome it.

i’m sure that i’ll be back to agreeing by the next post, so perhaps it matters little.


Jeff H April 2, 2010 at 6:56 pm

I enjoyed most of this. More ruckus definitely needs to be raised about issues such as this pledge thing. However, keep in mind that protests and rants aren’t always the best strategy – when a group of people are demonized as being hateful, spiteful, and immoral, perhaps playing into that stereotype isn’t the best way to deal with things. But definitely more voices need to be raised in some way or another.

However, if I may make one suggestion, Alonzo – lose the psychoanalysis. You seem to say that atheists aren’t making a big deal about this because of some deep-seated indoctrination as children. All you really need in there is some good ol’ Oedipus complex and you can sit back on Freud’s couch and do some word association and dream analysis.

While I have no doubt that socialization plays some part, what is likely a larger factor is that, if I had to guess, most atheists are not vocal, outspoken, and die-hard atheists. They’re just people that faded out of religion and no longer associate themselves with it anymore. They don’t care about the “in God we trust” because they don’t see religion as a big deal at all. So they shake their head at a dumb court decision and move on.


Thomas April 4, 2010 at 6:24 am

Good work, Alonzo! :D


cynicjohn April 4, 2010 at 10:15 am

The whole pledge to a flag is a violation of human decency and taking ‘Under God’ out of it will not improve upon it. As a matter of fact, the easy inclusion of such a sick phrase inside the pledge exposes the pledge for the demented oath that it is.


Hermes April 4, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Related from FactVsReligion;

Highway to Hell & Crackergate

Why she’s frustrated: See ~1:00-2:00 for context, and the main reasons at ~3:30-4:05, plus ~4:20-5:55.

PatCondell’s similar comments (a classic);

Why debate dogma?

Very quotable end-to-end. On topic here at ~0:20-0:55, ~2:15-3:00, ~4:10-4:45, 4:45-5:00, and ~5:20-5:45, ~6:10+.


lukeprog April 4, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Ah, good to see that Pat Condell video again.


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