Would you prefer “justice” in the place of “G-d” on coins and in the Pledge of Allegiance?

Brandon, responding to Jason Kuznicki, argues that mention of G-d in political discourse does not in and of itself constitute an endorsement of religion (and that a more objective definition of endorsement is necessary).

I often worry that the purpose to reference’s to G-d in government slogans have nothing to do with endorsement: surrounding American values in an aura of absolute truth and goodness. What we “trust” is that what we do is sanctioned by G-d.

The more challenging notion–that we strive to follow the precepts and desires of a divine entity–is not in operation. No judgemental eye will be cast upon the nation. G-d is a passive witness to American exceptionalism.

More often than not, G-d is subordinate to nationalism when used in public life. In Nationalization of the Masses, George Mosse argued that nationalists appropriated the symbols and rituals of religion–both Christian and pagan–to create a “secular religion”: nation as the ultimate object of faith and worship. The origin of those symbols was superfluous; their meanings were distorted beyond recognition.

From this perspective, mention of G-d does not entail endorsement. It raises new concerns about the use of religious symbols in government, and is a more powerful argument for disentangling symbols and government (for both “believers” and “atheists”). But it is a god that is subordinate, devalued, subject to the exigencies of nationalism and the national spirit.

Should a concept like justice substitute for G-d? As much as I would like “justice” to be a leading principle in public life, it might fare no better than G-d. “In Justice We Trust” would not provide anything more objective or substantive, nothing that would generate more consensus or require less of a leap of faith. It would do nothing more than say, uncritically, “we are just.”

Advertisements