Ashley F. Miller

Ashley F. Miller
Columbia, South Carolina, USA
May 23
Ashley is currently getting her PhD in Mass Communication from USC, with a focus on social media and film. She’s also active in the skeptic and atheist communities and gives occasional speeches on the subject. She graduated cum laude from Emory University before getting her MFA at FSU’s Film Conservatory. She is a writer and film editor; she’s worked in feature development, reality TV, short films, web series, and writing online news & opinion pieces.


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NOVEMBER 2, 2011 12:56PM

Why “In God We Trust” is a Problem

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During the Spanish Inquisition, Catholics would find Jews by looking to see who ate pork.  They’d offer pork to people they suspected of being Jewish, and if they refused to eat it, they were arrested.  Because in the 1400s the only real Spaniard was a Catholic Spaniard.  There was a holy war aimed at getting rid of the unwanted.

There was a holy war in the United States, too, in the 1950s.  There was a man named Joe McCarthy and he waged a holy war against the atheists.  ”Today we are engaged in a final, all-out battle between communistic atheism and Christianity,” Joe McCarthy, 1950.

At the start, let me make clear that in my opinion no special credit is due those of us who are making an all-out fight against this Godless force-a force which seeks to destroy all the honesty and decency that every Protestant, Jew and Catholic has been taught at his mother’s knee. It is a task for which we can claim no special credit for doing. It is one which we are obligated to perform. It is one of the tasks for which we were brought into this world-for which we were born. If we fail to use all the powers of mind and body which God gave us, then I am sure our mothers, wherever they are tonight, may well sorrow for the day of our birth…

Jesus wants me to further my political career by being a jerk

Government officials were put on trial, torn apart for anything that seemed vaguely related to atheism, communism, homosexuality, or not quite being patriotic enough.  Many lost their careers and were unable to find work, some were wrongfully imprisoned on laws that were later overturned as unconstitutional — often on the basis of incredibly flimsy evidence and accusations from people with personal motives.

Perhaps you remember HUAC, the House Un-American Activities Committee, which created lists of people who weren’t considered American enough — American in this case meaning Christian Non-Commies.  Over 300 artists were boycotted by Hollywood after being put on HUAC’s blacklist and only 10% of them were able to rebuild careers.  HUAC did local witch-hunts to ferret out people they didn’t like, making sure communities could shun them as Un-American.  Arthur Miller’s play “The Crucible”, about the Salem Witch Trials, was inspired by the way HUAC treated people.  It was truly a witch-hunt and the offenders were Godless.

It is thanks to McCarthyism and HUAC that the phrase “Under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954 and the phrase “In God We Trust” was adopted as the national motto in 1956, over the previous, all-inclusive motto “E Pluribus Unum” — Out of Many, One.  Before the 1950s, the national motto said that the nation was stronger thanks to the many different kinds of people who made up the country; after the 1950s, the national motto said that the nation was stronger because of a Christian God.

To be clear, God was added to the Pledge and as a motto in the 1950s not because of a strong devotion to religion but out of a desire to find and punish atheists.

The House has just overwhelmingly reaffirmed the phrase “In God We Trust” as the national motto.  A completely unnecessary move as George W. Bush signed a law in 2002 reaffirming it as the national motto, along with reaffirming “under God” in the pledge.  Congress reaffirmed it as the national motto 5 years ago.  2 years ago, the phrase was added to the Capitol visitor center.  And this ridiculous vote in the middle of economic crisis that Congress has repeatedly failed to address effectively?  OK, so Congress likes God, now can they please get around to liking their constituents?

Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job

What drives me crazy is the refusal of the American people and the political establishment to recognize that the so-called tradition of God as part of these things only dates back to the 50s.  Everyone seems to think that they were established at the beginning of the country, not as part of a witch-hunt.  And they additionally refuse to recognize that not only is it conflating church and state, it is also endorsing the behavior of McCarthy and HUAC.  SCOTUS on this issue:

It is quite obvious that the national motto and the slogan on coinage and currency ‘In God We Trust’ has nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of religion. Its use is of patriotic or ceremonial character and bears no true resemblance to a governmental sponsorship of a religious exercise. – Aronow v. United States, 1970

It has everything to do with establishing atheists as a second-class group of citizens and tacitly endorsing McCarthy’s persecution of those he called “Godless”.  If the government is not embarrassed by the blatant disregard of the Establishment Clause, it could at least show the good sense to be embarrassed by Joseph McCarthy.

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Terrific post. Yeah, it drives me nuts too, that most people seem to think those phrases date back to the founding of our country. But, there's a whole lot of stupid going around right now.
So much truth...don't know if I can handle it....
Interesting! I had only recently learned "In God we trust" was NOT put on the money when it was no longer backed by gold. (I had just assumed thats where it originated)

I know what you mean about the founding fathers & religion. I'm not an atheist, but I really enjoyed Bill Mahers "religilous" movie.
Excellent post that I wish could be printed in every newspaper in the country to educate others. It is sad to know that the only people that seem to know this information typically already agree with the problems associated with the inclusion of "God" in our national discussion or that there is any link to God and American.

Thank you for sharing this message and I will share as far and wide as I can and hope others do as well.
You do realize that McCarthy had nothing to do with the HUAC don't you? So please unmix your facts that you are trying to use to make a point.
Well, the republicans have to hope the nation trusts God, because no one trusts the politicians.

It was a cynical ploy. If anyone voted against, they could be tarred and feathered and if no one did, then still the republicans who forwarded the bill had added a bit of shine on their Right-wing credentials, which would hopefully shine bright enough to blind the voters trying to look at their record on the issues that count.
The phrase -- an almost identical version of it -- actually originated in 1814. It is in the last stanza of the song that was to become the national anthem:

O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their lov'd homes and the war's desolation;
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserv'd us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

There's nothing in the Constitution that says that every bit of religion has to be exiled from the public sphere.
Sorry, I'm a lot more concerned that most people don't know what communism (I tend to focus on Russia) did in, for example, that country. Those on the left who did not think that that was a horror and that, even to this day, are more concerned about anti-communism than they ever were about the killing fields of Russia have more apologizing to do than even the over-the-top McCarthy ever did. Millions upon millions upon millions of "Russians" were murdered and I think there are more tears shed for Julius Rosenberg than were ever shed for even one of the victims of the country for which he spied. Worry about "In God We Trust"? Nah. I think it more urgent that those on the left, many still revered for their politics (Pete Seeger anyone?) admit that they didn't give a fig about the dead of Russia or any of the other countries where communism ruined the lives of millions. And admit that on one of the great moral issues of the time, they were, no pun intended, dead wrong.
Quote: "There's nothing in the Constitution that says that every bit of religion has to be exiled from the public sphere."

mishima666, we are not talking about religion in the public sphere but specifically the context and reasons by which "In God we Trust" was added to our money and pledge. I find it enlightening to read about our history so we can learn from our past and avoid wandering headlong into it again.
The movie, Reds, (Warren Beaty's film) was about the actions of the HUAC against Hollywood. One of the characteristics of the far right is to create a confusion between our economic system, religion and patriotism. Since communism was overtly atheistic, communism became synonymous with 'godlessness'. So, religious preference - which you have correctly pointed out meant WASP - identified you as being both a capitalist and a patriot. There was a distinct anti-Semitic tone to the McCarthy witch hunt. Distinctly capitalistic members of the Hollywood film industry were suspected of being communists because they weren't protestant. Religious preference became a surrogate test for being a capitalist. R
The motto existed well before that, particularly in the Civil War.
Not, PA 125 Infantry had that motto at Antietam, so at least get your facts semi-right, as it appeared on U.S. coinage then too.
Hey Don, thanks for missing the point of the entire post and providing such a valuable point of discussion.
No time to read your article, but the motto is clearly silly and incorrect. If we really trusted in god, whatever that is, we could dispense with the courts altogether, and just trust to god to produce a just result.

On the other hand, given what Obama and his happy band of pseudo economists are doing to our currency, god may be our last resort.
For Warren, if typical of this place. My comment exactly addresses the point here:
"What drives me crazy is the refusal of the American people and the political establishment to recognize that the so-called tradition of God as part of these things only dates back to the 50s. Everyone seems to think that they were established at the beginning of the country, not as part of a witch-hunt. And they additionally refuse to recognize that not only is it conflating church and state, it is also endorsing the behavior of McCarthy and HUAC. SCOTUS on this issue:"
My comment exactly addresses a very specific point made Warren, that the motto isn't new.
Staying with that theme, since you wanted proof consider the lie of this assertion in the post and in the quote above as to something very specific:
"Everyone seems to think that they were established at the beginning of the country, not as part of a witch-hunt."
The country was founded by Puritans in MA, Quakers in PA, Catholics in MD, and Cavalier High Church in Virginia who had lost the English Civil War, see Albion's Seed as to its origins in no small measure in religion, like it or not. It is true over time, dating actually to the 1880s, that like in the rest of the West, the intelligentsia grew disenchanted with religion, and so therefore what used to be understood about religion became much more of a point of contention than used to be the case. But, to deny the role of religion in America is to deny its history, especially since Lincoln was most closely associated with the use of In God We Trust as a national motto, even if the House vote was dumb, which it was to bait people somewhat.
This is a great post, and I greatly appreciate the time and effort you put into writing it. I crafted a response of sorts, if you are interested.
@Don My point is that having these phrases as Government Endorsed Mottos/Pledges only dates to the 50s, not that no one ever mentioned God in this country before then. That would, of course, be a ridiculous assertion.
Ashley, you say this: "Government officials were put on trial, torn apart for anything that seemed vaguely related to atheism, communism, homosexuality, or not quite being patriotic enough."

You are playing into the tendency of gays to assume that all Republicans are against them. In fact, McCarthy's top congressional aides, Roy Cohn and G. David Schine,
(finishing my aborted comment)
...extremely conservative Republicans, both were well-known to be homosexuals. Cohn died of AIDS in 1986.
Standing and applauding. Great read. Spot. On.
I fail to see how In God We Trust establishes atheists as second class citizens. While it's true the motto is, in my opinion, inferior to E Pluribus Unum as a unifying statement, the idea it works its way into otherwise undecided minds to disparage atheists is a monumental stretch.
The SC ruling you cite does more to counter your assertion than buttress it. A motto is not a personally enforceable law, nor is it a violation of Est Clause restrictions. There is no true coercion that can be drawn from making a statement that has no legal force upon people. If you can show an instance where it has, then there's an argument. You have a right to not be coerced by religious beliefs, but no right to not be offended by them. Unelected government employees cannot legally proselytize in the performance of their jobs, but elected politicians are free to be wholly holy rollers if that's what they wish to be.
I think the House Repubs are silly, self-anointing clowns wasting time during a period of crisis, but it's not an Establishment Clause violation. It's a violation of duty, not law.
Response function:"What drives me crazy is the refusal of the American people and the political establishment to recognize that the so-called tradition of God as part of these things only dates back to the 50s. " Note, the motto was on all coins after 1938, not that having that vote did anything other than antagonize people, which was the point of the exercise in the House, more or less. Then again, it's sort of like PJ said, Mom, Apple Pie, and Chevrolet. It won't kill the atheists to touch money with that slogan, although curiously, Theodore Roosevelt didn't want that on the money, because he thought it wasn't good for Christians, as money and that motto to his mind didn't mix well.
Mom, apple pie and Chevrolet actually EXIST. It IS an establishment of religion - god IS religion. I'm an atheist and I'm offended because the idea of god is a laughable, made-up, ridiculous, totally unprovable fantasy. We should not put anything with the word "god" on any government money, monuments, etc, etc. Why don't we put "In Science We Trust" or " In People We Trust" - i want everyone to believe whatever they want to believe (as ALL atheists do) - but the government shouldn't establish religion. God IS religion. Period.
@Catnlion, You realize the article does not say that McCarthy had anything to do with HUAC, right? Your comment and advice is pointless.
If I said "amen" to your post, would that be ironic? To me, the reasons for keeping church and state separate, i.e., keeping religion away from governance, is a no-brainer. Apparently, it isn't. Sad.
God is not an Establishment of Religion. An establishment is an organized religion with a set of beliefs. I'll grant that "In God We Trust" does imply religion, but the question of which religion remains. In the idea of our civil religion there's a statement of religious tolerance as well as one of tolerance towards non-believers. In the Constitution, by making no law respecting (deferential to) an Establishment of Religion (particular organized religious belief ), the desired separation is accomplished and freedom of consciousness is preserved. If you'll look into the history of that clause you'll see how Congress had to word it carefully to accomplish the intent without upsetting the religious. It upset them anyway, but there it is.

Though there's a case to be made that "God" is a religion, the fact "God" encompasses the Big 3 makes it a religion of such wide and different interpretation as to be indefinable beyond the general and Deist.

Then, the complaint has to have a victim. Merely being upset because you're offended without tangible consequence isn't something that can be litigated to an effective outcome. The other point is that a majority would claim to approve of the motto and, lacking any true coercion beyond what's constitutionally permissible, the power belongs to the majority.

Still, it's one of those gray areas, but one that is of such inconsequential result it's not really worth arguing over either way.

What she does it tie the two together with statements like "It is thanks to McCarthyism and HUAC that the phrase...". What she didn't do once is refer to McCarthy as Senator which would have drawn a clear line that Senator McCarthy was not part of HUAC.

They were tied together by reference and not kept apart by simple things like the use of the term Senator.
A. Atheists (of which I am also one) are 2nd class citizens. They got a 4:1 advantage over us.

B. A, above means you, nor I, as an Atheist, will ever be president, which is especially frustrating for me because I read the bible often and know it better than nearly every Christian I've ever met.

C. Who the hell cares? Church attentance is WAY down even though most people call themselves christians, and Jews don't seem to mind us too much. There are many bigger fish to fry in this world than Jesus, if ya catch my drift.

D. If people understood the nature of God and what it is good for and what it isn't, as well as the kind of believers in God that our forefathers were (Deists), I don't think the motto is so bad. God is good for kids like Santa is good for kids...since the overwhelming majority believe in God and we live in a democracy and it's only the friggin motto, seriously...all that research (it was well written and researched) for what? A bitch and moan session? Get over it. Your less likely to go to jail and more likely to have a successful career as an Atheist. Your grandkid can be president or something...the numbers are trending in our favor, but it takes time. And, how do you teach morality to children without Superman or something?

We still need God in this society, for better or worse, and if he gets to have the motto, I can live with that. I still get the NFL.
@Arthur Louis - Where do I mention Republicans?

@Catnlion - If I thought McCarthy and HUAC were the same, I wouldn't have bothered to define them differently and use both of the terms.

@Don Rich My problem isn't just that it's on the money, it's that it's The Official National Motto.

@ Paul J. O'Rourke It is not inclusive of the big three, and it's very dismissive of the other big two for Christians to claim that it is -- it is a statement clearly written by a Christian for other Christians. If it was Muslim it would say Allah, if it was Jewish it would say G-d. The term "God" capitalized, singular is exclusive of many people. If it wasn't something people cared about, there wouldn't be so many comments here and your responses belie your assertion that you don't think it worth arguing over.

There is no good reason to have it as an official motto and there are plenty of good reasons not to, including the way it is necessarily exclusive and that it has a dark history for a minority group in this country. And besides all that, it is completely absurd that Congress is wasting its time reaffirming it.
Ashley, Maybe you don't know it, but McCarthy was a Republican. Anyway, you have steered clear of my point, which is that McCarthy would hardly be out to ruin homosexuals. He was a vile bastard, perhaps the worst menace in American history, but that wasn't one of his targets. From your photo I would guess that you didn't live through the McCarthy period. Sometimes it is easier to get your facts straight if you witness them, rather than reading about them or fantasizing about them.
Then your course is clear. File the lawsuit, make the claim of undue harm and let the courts decide.
I didn't make the claim it's a violation of the Establishment Clause, you did. I was explaining why it isn't. I add that it's a pretty pointless argument because I think it is, and that your complaint of minority oppression is difficult to quantify beyond your perception of harm that hasn't been expressed or experienced outside of how it makes you feel. I'm not religious and I think it's an unwarranted crock of political silliness, but I don't become enmeshed in issues that don't actively cause me harm or loss of rights. If I did, I'd consider myself on the same level as those who claim gay marriage harms them, even though they have to actively be seeking that harm and can only express it in feelings or contrivances that attempt to apply secular logic to a religious complaint.
Either produce the oppressed or admit it's not the oppression you say it is.
Paul J. O'Rourke - why is it that everyone thinks that lawsuits are the only approach to address an issue? I don't see where in the post there is any mention of harm or that she wants to file a lawsuit.

At what point did the people in the US lose the ability to debate an issue openly without everything having to end in a "you hurt me and I'm going to sue"?

This post brings up a set of historical facts in light of a silly waste of time by Congress around a motto that has no place in a country that advocates complete freedom. I don't think that every post on a topic needs to lead to lawsuits, but I do hope they open up honest debates and dialog that leads to more knowledge exchanged. That seems like a better outcome.
(If it's "usually..." why are they invading our privacy and interfering with our internal affairs in the first place?!)

"During the Spanish Inquisition, Catholics would find Jews by looking to see who ate pork. They’d offer pork to people they suspected of being Jewish, and if they refused to eat it, they were arrested... There was a holy war aimed at getting rid of the unwanted."


In these times of Islamaphobia, non-Muslims (e.g., Hindus, Sikhs, etc.) are often mistaken for Muslims, and persons are identified as "Muslims" merely by their physical appearance, if they look like they're from the Middle East.

On the other hand, in the secular West, how do you tell a Jew from a gentile? The Nazis required Jews to wear a yellow Star of David to designate them according to their religious identity.

Why is it necessary to designate certain groups of people according to their religious identity, except to discriminate against them?

Or, perhaps to exempt others from what are perceived to be only minority religion concerns?

If an ethic is absolute, is has to apply to everyone, including atheists and agnostics.

Pro-life Christians, for example, are quick to dismiss animal rights and vegetarianism as solely "Jewish" concerns (which is kind of like saying, "It's only wrong to own a slave if you're a Quaker), but we rarely hear pro-lifers say along these lines...

"Members of the United Church of Christ or the Unitarian Church don't have to be pro-life -- that's just a 'born again' thing!"

When Roe v. Wade was handed down, pro-life Christians were facing religious discrimination from mainline Christians and secular American society. You'd think they'd realize, "We can't similarly discriminate against animal activists on the basis of their religious identity."

The game of "your religion says its wrong, mine doesn't..." inevitably leads to this kind of sectarian thinking.

You believe in God and believe "abortion is murder" ?

If you cease to believe in God, does abortion cease to be murder?

Again: if an ethic is absolute, it has to apply to everyone.

It's unclear to me how abolishing Affirmative Action will lead to a color-blind society, but it's clear seeing the world in sectarian terms is not going to bring about a "religion-blind" society!
Insightful post. I see with the comments you may be building in audience. Did you know that Benjamin Franklin diodn’t want the eagle to be our national bird because it was a predator? He wanted the turkey. Did you know the original flag had six pointed stars until Betsy Ross suggested they have five points? Some ideas are good ideas, even though they don’t date back to the beginning. E pluribus Unum is a much better motto for America, and I say that as a Christian. God loves our diversity and always wants us to find truth!! By the way, McCarthy wasn’t a jerk- he was a mentally ill person who tried to build his political career by invoking fear. He is an example of how we should learn from our history.
How to respond to sectarian thinking?

Two approaches come to mind.

If someone from the United Church of Christ, a pro-choice Protestant denomination were to argue with a pro-lifer, "Your religion says it's wrong to kill the unborn: mind doesn't.

1. Show that the other side is wrong on religious grounds.

They've mistranslated or misinterpreted Scripture. Or the history of their denomination shows otherwise. Or some of the most distinguished figures in the history of their denomination took a differing view.

In his 1987 book, Food for the Spirit: Vegetarianism and the World Religions, writer Steven Rosen attempts to show that the world religions all support the vegetarian way of life.

Additional books on animal rights include:

Judaism and Vegetarianism; Christianity and the Rights of Animals; Replenish the Earth; Is God a Vegetarian?; God's Covenant with Animals; Good News for All Creation; They Shall Not Hurt or Destroy; The Dominion of Love: Animal Rights According to the Bible; The Lost Religion of Jesus; Of God and Dogs; Good Eating; Every Creature a Word of God.

John Lennon's remark in 1966 about the Beatles being bigger than Jesus were misunderstood. Lennon said in the course of his apology:

"I'm not anti-God, anti-Christ, or anti-religion. I was not saying we are greater or better. I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky.

"I believe that what people call God is something in all of us. I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha and all the rest said was right. It's just that the translations have gone wrong.

"I wasn't saying the Beatles are better than God or Jesus. I used Beatles because it's easier for me to talk about Beatles. I could have said TV or the cinema or anything popular and I would have gotten away with it."

2. Avoid religion entirely by insisting that if an ethic is absolute, it has to apply to everyone, including atheists and agnostics, and only a bigot would see an absolute ethic as sectarian.

Adolf Hitler thought Albert Einstein's scientific discoveries were mere "Jewish science" and thus not applicable to gentiles. Pro-lifers have faced similar discrimination on the basis of religious identity at the hands of mainline Christian denominations since the 1970s.

Rather than focus on externals -

(right-Vs-left-hand; worshipping in a church Vs a temple; referring to the fallen as "dogs" or half a dozen different animal words with reincarnation in mind; Trinitarian Vs non-Trinitarian; "grace" Vs "good works"; differing views on the divinity of Jesus, etc.)

- rather than focus on the religious identity of the person making the case, focus instead on the case itself!

This approach is absolutely necessary in secular politics!

No one is crying "God!" in disbelief at the idea of pro-life Christians reaching out to pro-choice Christians or even non-Christians -- encouraging them through friendly moral persuasion to include the unborn in their ethics.

Regardless of your view on gun control, for example, does it really matter which church Jim & Sarah Brady worship at?

Again: this approach is absolutely necessary in secular politics!
We pay taxes so Congress can pass "In God We Trust" resolutions? I'm using a black magic marker and marking out these silly words and making a cash donation to OWS. I want an accountable Congress, one that can accept responsibility and consequences. "In God We Trust" sounds like what a "frivolous" lawsuit might sound like.

"In God We Trust" does not mean "Jesus Christ" - it does not mean Nixon, Reagan, or Bush were great presidents - nor does it mean Palin or Perry are presidentially worthy - now or ever.

"In God We Trust" means Congress has not been attending to the business of reality - and they want to know what OWS wants ?
"Under God" carries the same implication and inference. The "under" means a deity above us who lords over our country; a capitalized "god" implies that there can be only one.

You can believe in a deity without being religious, per se, and even vice versa. That doesn't change the intent of any religious reference in U.S. Government. I don't believe in either, but I certainly believe in my allegiance to this country. Why must I refer to something that isn't part of my process? It is a label, and it is given strength by our responses to it. Still, like other divisive words, it is a pointless addition. However, referring to an intangible idea that has a history of inciting the worst violence in this world, compared to the symbolic gesture of placing our right hands over our hearts, have different consequences. I may contradict myself, but this topic needs a dialectic. Why? Because bringing in a nebulous and unproven concept to governance that should be driving by defining the difference between right and wrong, as well as apply ethical pragmatism, i.e., for the greater good, to our society, is counter-productive.
Doesn't "three times..." justify choice?

Let's keep religion and politics separate!

Abortion, the most divisive political and moral issue of the day, is an example of the necessity of church-state separation.

I really have a problem with pro-life Christians who adhere to a double-standard: i.e., they insist their stand against abortion be applied to everyone, including others outside of their faith, but then they embrace moral relativism when it suits them:

Your religion says it’s wrong to kill animals for food, clothing or sport; mine doesn’t.”

There ARE Christian vegetarians and vegans, of whom I have the deepest respect. I don't take it seriously when meat-eaters say, "The Bible permits us to eat meat," because the Bible was cited in past centuries to uphold human slavery. The Bible is cited by pro-choice denominations today to justify abortion:

Genesis 38:24. Tamar's pregnancy was discovered three months after conception, presumably because it was visible at the time.

This was proof that she was sexually active. Because she was a widow, without a husband, she was assumed to be a prostitute. Her father-in-law, Judah, ordered that she be burned alive for her crime.

If Tamar's fetuses had been considered to have any value whatsoever, her execution would have been delayed until after their birth.

There was no condemnation on Judah for deciding to take this action.

Exodus 21:22-24. If two men are fighting and one injures a pregnant woman and the fetus is killed, he shall repay her according to the degree of injury inflicted upon her, and not the fetus.

Author Brian McKinley, a born-again Christian, sums up the passage as:

"Thus we can see that if the baby is lost, it does not require a death sentence-it is not considered murder. But if the woman is lost, it is considered murder and is punished by death."

Halacha (Jewish Law) does define when a fetus becomes a nephesh (person), a full-fledged human being, when the head emerges from the womb. Before then, the fetus is considered a "partial-life"; it gains full human status after birth only.

Judaism supports abortion access for women. Each case must be decided individually by a rabbi well-versed in Jewish law.

The Babylonian Talmud (Yevamot 69b) states that: "the embryo is considered to be mere water until the fortieth day." Afterward, it is considered subhuman until it is born.

Rashi, the great 12th century commentator on the Bible and the Talmud, states clearly of the fetus 'lav nephesh hu -- it is not a person.'

The Talmud contains the expression, "the thigh of its mother," i.e., the fetus is deemed to be part and parcel of the pregnant woman's body.

This is grounded in Exodus 21:22. That biblical passage outlines the Mosaic Law in a case where a man is responsible for causing a woman's miscarriage, which kills the fetus.

If the woman survives, then the perpetrator has to pay a fine to the woman's husband. If the woman is killed, the perpetrator is also killed. This indicates that the fetus has value, but does not have the status of a person.

There are two additional passages in the Talmud which shed some light on abortion. They imply that the fetus is considered part of its mother:

One section states that if a man purchases a cow that is found to be pregnant, then he is owner of both the cow and the fetus.

Another section states that if a pregnant woman converts to Judaism, that her conversion also applies to her fetus.

Some Jewish authorities have ruled in specific cases. one case involved a woman who becomes pregnant while nursing a child. Her milk supply would dry up. If the child is allergic to all other forms of nutrition except mother's milk, then it would starve.

An abortion would be permitted in this case, a potential person, would be justified to save the life of the child, an actual person.

Polls show 90% of American Jews supporting abortion rights.

The New Testament is more permissive than the Old!

Jesus (himself a rabbi) repeatedly upheld Mosaic Law (Matthew 5:17-19; Mark 10:17-22; Luke 16:17) as did his apostles (see chapters 10, 15, and 21 of Acts).

Paul, however, not only claimed Mosaic Law is abolished, but claimed the risen Jesus said to him three times, "my grace is sufficient for thee" (II Corinthians 12:8-9).

Some Christians misinterpret this verse to mean they're free to do as they please--ignoring the rest of the New Testament altogether!

The late Reverend Janet Regina Hyland (1933-2007), raised Catholic but went on to become an evangelical minister, a vegan, and author of God's Covenant with Animals (it's available through People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA), told me they're quoting Paul out of context.

Paul, she observed, was very strict with himself:

"But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." (I Corinthians 9:27)

Regina Hyland said this verse indicates it's possible for one to lose one's salvation (a serious point of contention among born agains!).

The traditional interpretation of II Corinthians 12:8-9, is that Paul had a "thorn" in his side, and asked the risen Jesus what to do about it. The response was simple: " grace is sufficient for thee."

This was a direct response to a specific situation, not a license to do as one pleases, otherwise, why would Paul himself have given so many moral instructions throughout his epistles?

Reverend Frank Hoffman, raised Jewish, now a retired vegan Methodist pastor and owner of the Christian vegan website, agrees with the traditional interpretation of II Corinthians 12:8-9.

Christians focusing solely on II Corinthians 12:8-9 therefore MUST be quoting Paul out of context, because otherwise it doesn't make any sense:


Paul repeatedly attacked sexual immorality.

"This is God's will—your sanctification, that you keep yourselves from sexual immorality, that each of you learn how to take his own wife in purity and honor, not in lustful passion like the gentiles who have no knowledge of God." (I Thessalonians 4:3-5)

"Make no mistake," warned Paul, "no fornicator or idolater, none who are guilty either of adultery or of homosexual perversion, no thieves or grabbers or drunkards or slanderers or swindlers, will possess the kingdom of God." (I Corinthians 6:9-10 [NEB])

Paul told the gentiles to train themselves for godliness, to practice self-control and lead upright, godly lives (Galatians 5:23; I Timothy 4:7; II Timothy 1:7; Titus 2:11-12).

Like Jesus instructing his own disciples in Luke 21:36, the apostle Paul similarly instructed the gentiles to ALWAYS pray constantly. (I Thessalonians 5:17)

Paul wrote further that women should cover their heads while worshiping, and that long hair on males is dishonorable. (I Corinthians 11:5-14)

According to Paul, Christian women are to dress modestly and prudently, and are not to be adorned with braided hair, gold or pearls or expensive clothes. (I Timothy 2:9)


On the one hand, Paul gives moral instructions throughout his epistles, often warning that those who fail to observe them will not inherit the kingdom of God.

And on the other hand, "three times...'my grace is sufficient for thee'..." implies you can do whatever you want?!

Why did Paul give moral instructions in the first place?

Can you imagine 18th century Christians telling abolitionists:

"We don't need to free our slaves...Abolition is 'so much garbage'’s 'good works’…we don’t have to ‘work’ for our salvation...All we have to do is accept Jesus...Paul said Jesus told him three times, ‘my grace is sufficient for thee,’ ...we don't need to free our slaves..." ?

Or an 18th century Christian who tells his followers:

You don’t have to free your slaves…All you have to do is accept Jesus...” ?

None of the religious arguments pro-life Christians make to justify the status quo with regards to animals would make any sense if this were three hundred years ago, and we were discussing the abolition of human slavery instead of animal slavery, and I think the same holds true with regards to abortion.

I'm surprised pro-choice Christians aren't denying rights to the unborn citing the identical religious arguments and sound bites pro-life Christians cite to deny rights to animals!

We really live in a secular society. Secular arguments are religion-neutral and are thus applicable to everyone, including atheists and agnostics.

The pro-life movement ALREADY HAS the support of organized religion. Instead of preaching to the choir, i.e., wasting time with religion, pro-lifers should focus on prenatal development, genetics, DNA, RNA, etc. to make their case to mainstream secular society.

Pro-life Republicans are quick to demonize the animal rights movement for not being officially pro-life, while allowing their own political party to remain a "big tent" on abortion in order not to lose votes. This is hypocrisy!

It doesn't occur to them animal rights activists face the same political reality?

Christians have found themselves unable to agree upon many pressing moral issues—including abortion.

Exodus 21:22-24 says if two men are fighting and one injures a pregnant woman and the child is killed, he shall repay her according to the degree of injury inflicted upon her, and not the fetus. On the other hand, the Didache (Apostolic Church teaching) forbade abortion.

"There has to be a frank recognition that the Christian church is divided on every moral issue under the sun: nuclear weapons, divorce, homosexuality, capital punishment, animals, etc.," says Reverend Andrew Linzey, an Anglican clergyman and the foremost theologian in the field of animal-human relations.

"I don’t think it’s desirable or possible for Christians to agree upon every moral issue. And, therefore, I think within the church we have no alternative but to work within diversity."

Christians in the West have embraced the past five hundred years of secular social progress, all of which contradicts the Bible:

...democracy and representative government in place of monarchy and belief in the divine right of kings; the separation of church and state; the abolition of (human) slavery; the emancipation of women; birth control; the sexual revolution; LGBT rights, etc...

It's odd they would suddenly become an obstacle when it comes to animal rights.

The secular progressives within the pro-life movement might find it a successful secular political strategy to argue on secular grounds for the inclusion of the rights of the unborn along with these past five centuries of secular social progress, including animal rights!

Again, the pro-life movement desperately needs religious diversity. It's already stereotyped as being predominantly Christian (Catholic, fundamentalist, born again, etc.) and will need to become completely secular as it attempts to convince the courts, legislatures, universities, philosophers, ethicists, etc. that human zygotes and embryos should be regarded as legal persons.

And again, abortion, the most divisive political and moral issue of the day, is an example of the necessity of church-state separation... in order to resolve moral and theological disputes, without discriminating against people of other faiths or no faith at all.
I am not trying to be rude, but Reds is NOT the movie about the HUAC - it was about John Reed and the Russian Revolution. It, for the most part, both glorified the man, Reed, and the revolution. Reed, by the way, who is hated by every Russian I've ever met, supported a movement that led to mass murder - although he didn't know that would be so, but would we cut a break for a NAZI that supported Hitler before the Holocaust (?) - and the Russian revolution led to the deaths of millions upon millions upon millions of people. I'd suggest that a Warren Beatty ( a nice, but naive man) would not have been lauded for producing the exact same type of film about a young, naive Nazi. The film's reception and actual production show, to me, that most liberals and leftists don't' give a fig about the deaths of millions in the Soviet Union - and elsewhere - because their murderers were of the left. I'll repeat: the sins of the left and most "liberals" in supporting the Soviet Union and communism, or turning a blind eye and thinking McCarthy, of whom I'm no fan - WORSE, is really a black eye on them. One of the two great moral international questions of the 20th century and they had it, again, dead wrong.
"The House has just overwhelmingly reaffirmed the phrase “In God We Trust” as the national motto."

This, to me, is the biggest problem of the phrase "In God We Trust."

As you said, it was a completely UNNECESSARY move!

"And this ridiculous vote in the middle of economic crisis that Congress has repeatedly failed to address effectively?" Would someone please shoot me now.
Thomas Paine, wrote in The Age of Reason (1794):

"The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries that have afflicted the human race have their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion.

"Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is none more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifying to man, more repugnant to itself, than this thing called Christianity...My mind is my own church."

The early American feminist and vegetarian Elizabeth Cady Stanton said, "the Bible does not exalt and dignify women."

Husbands are to rule over wives (Genesis 3:16), young girls are to be stoned (and not with marijuana, either!) for losing their virginity (Deuteronomy 22:20-21), women are subordinate to men (Ephesians 5:22-24), women must remain silent in the churches (I Corinthians 14:34-35), women are not allowed to teach or hold authority over men (I Timothy 2:11-14).

St. Augustine said, "Any woman who acts in such a way that she cannot give birth to as many children as she is capable of, makes herself guilty of that many murders."

Martin Luther similarly wrote:

"God created Adam lord of all living creatures, but Eve spoiled it all. Women should remain at home, sit still, keep house and bear children. And if a woman grows weary and, at last, dies from childbearing, it matters not. Let her die from bearing; she is there to do it."

Even Pope John Paul II instructed women to go back to their traditional roles as "obedient and serving companions to their husbands," and refused to have an audience with anyone advocating the ordination of women in the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Encyclopedia still declares that women are inferior to the male sex, "both as regards body and soul."

The church of the past never considered human slavery to be a moral evil. The Protestant churches of Virginia, South Carolina, and other southern states, actually passed resolutions in favor of the human slave traffic.

Human slavery was called "by Divine Appointment," "a Divine institution," "a moral relation," "God's institution," "not immoral," but "founded in right." The slave trade was called "legal," "licit," "in accordance with humane principles" and "the laws of revealed religion."

New Testament verses calling for obedience and subservience on the part of slaves (Titus 2:9-10, Ephesians 6:5-9, Colossians 3:22-25, I Peter 2:18-25) and respect for the master (I Timothy 6:1-2, Ephesians 6:5-9) were often cited in order to justify human slavery. Some of Jesus' parables refer to human slaves. Paul's epistle to Philemon concerns a runaway slave returned to his master.

"Paul's outright endorsement of slavery should be an undying embarrassment to Christianity as long as they hold the entire New Testament to be the word of God," wrote Quaker physician Dr. Charles P. Vaclavik in his 1986 book, The Vegetarianism of Jesus Christ: The Pacifism, Communalism and Vegetarianism of Primitive Christianity.

"Without a doubt, the American slaveholders quoted Paul again and again to substantiate their right to hold slaves.

"The moralist movement to abolish slavery had to go to non-biblical sources to demonstrate the immoral nature of slavery. The abolitionists could not turn to Christian sources to condemn slavery, for Christianity had become the bastion of the evil practice through its endorsement by the Apostle Paul.

"Only the Old Testament gave the abolitionist any biblical support in his effort to free the slaves. 'You shall not surrender to his master a slave who has taken refuge with you.' (Deuteronomy 23-15) What a pittance of material opposing slavery from a book supposedly representing the word of God."

In 1852 Josiah Priest wrote Bible Defense of Slavery. Others claimed blacks were subhuman. Buckner H. Payne, calling himself "Ariel," wrote in 1867, "the tempter in the Garden of Eden...was a beast, a talking beast . . . the negro."

Ariel argued that since the negro was not part of Noah's family, he must have been a beast. Eight souls were saved on the ark, therefore, the negro must be a beast, and "consequently he has no soul to be saved."

All social progress since the end of the Dark Ages and the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment thus appears to contradict the Bible.

May secularism prevail on earth.
the reason the renaissance is called the renaissance is that it was the second time people in the west got a bit smarter. there are ups and downs in smartness.

i think america is well into a 'dumber' period.
Great post but this comment thread has officially devolved into the typical ranting that are not related to the topic, and in this case mostly incoherent. Just glad we got a few good exchanges before the inevitable.

Ashley, nice work. I am a fan and new follower.
God, if he exists, doesn't maintain an open line of communication with the majority in any manner that can be understood clearly; therefore any trust he obtains is earned by refusing to communicate, at least in part.

The result is that we wind up either trusting or distrusting those that claim they represent God's will not God him/her/itself.
@Arthur Lewis:

Roy Cohn may have been gay, but he was a notorious homophobe and he and McCarthy actively targeted gays.

"In God we Trust" expresses a belief in the existence of God, which is definitely a religious belief. It hints at the character of God as well. For example, I don't think the ancient Romans would have said, "In Zeus we trust."

And for what purpose? Please explain the purpose of the motto, preferably relying on religion.

Can you do it without resorting to the idea that Judeo-Christianity, with a nod at Islam is sufficiently bland and universal to not count as religion?
The purpose of the motto is politics. Politics involves people and many people are religious. The Right habitually exploits religion, but that isn't a crime, it's a distracting proclivity.

That aside, "God" isn't a religion. God is religious and the object of the Big 3 religions, but isn't "a" religion. God is not an Establishment of Religion.
So, you ask me to explain it within the bounds of a standard that doesn't apply. The question isn't in what way can one extrapolate a religious intent from the mention of God, the question is whether In God We Trust is constitutional. Like I said above, it's a bit of a gray area, but what it isn't is a clear violation of the Constitution. In Jesus We Trust would be and that's probably why we're not discussing that motto.

"Establishment" is a key word here. This is the 1828 Webster's definition:,establishment

A belief is not an Establishment.

"God" is not an organized set of beliefs or a church or religious organization.

If the statement that there is a God and that "we" trust in him isn't a profoundly religious statement, you and I have very different ideas of religion.
It is obviously and profoundly religious, Malusinka. It's also not a violation of the Establishment Clause, which is the point I have made and am making, again, here. I don't understand your point, as I have been profoundly clear about the difference between religious and the intent of the clause.
Ashley, "amen" to your essay and the (mostly) intelligent and necessary debate it has unleashed.

I'd like to pick up on what Gordon said above, namely that the motto "In God We Trust" is not only idiotic and exclusionary, but above all it's simply false. No one in Washington trusts in "God," and you'll never see any of them "let go and let God," as the fundamentalists say. Have you ever seen anyone in government place matters in the hands of a so-called higher power? No, they are much more likely to place their fate and their trust funds in the hands of think tanks, lobbyists, armies, armed drones, hedgefund managers, fundraisers, voters, CIA assassins, outsourced torture facilities, Fox News, the IRS, the Drug Enforcement Agency, David Petraeus, Hillary Clinton, Hamid Karzai etc. etc. No, I think the idea is that WE ORDINARY CITIZENS are supposed to place our trust in our supposedly elected leaders while they go ahead and pursue business as usual. In any case, if we did trust in "God," we could instantly do without the Congress, the courts, or anything besides a theocratic dictator with a direct line to the Almighty himself. Or is this what they're really after...? As long as we claim to be a democracy our motto can only be "In People We Trust," but I'd settle for "E Pluribus Unum."

The Germans have always taken a lot of grief for printing the words "Gott mit uns" (God with us) on the belt buckles of their soldiers in the two World Wars, whereas we print "In God We Trust" on our effing money, of all things. It seems to me that if we really trusted in "God" we wouldn't need to worry about money in the first place (as Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount). So tell me: Who is crazier: the Germans in the two world wars or us...?
As a practicing non-anti-Darwinist (I hate the word atheist, it starts by giving the argument away and then tries to negate it with a little 'a'), I suppose I should sign onto this fight, at least in principle. But I'm with P.J. (dawkins help me) that the Court was right to stay out of what is essentially a political battle. I'm with Gordon, too: the issue (and the fight) is silly. We'd lose important battles as a byproduct of this struggle, and it's just not worth it. Similarly, I haven't given much of my energy to the marriage equality fight, although there's more at stake there; whatever freedoms it may ultimately yield pale in comparison to the big stuff the fight led to: re-electing Bush and making Gavin Newsom look like a progressive. I really wish there was an amendment like "Congress shall make no law giving away our money to their rich friends." Now THAT I'd defend to my death.
I equate the dumbing down of America with the recrudescence of religious nuttiness.
I still prefer the Latin motto to represent the American essence.
While I would agree the I prefer the Latin motto, again, the use of this phrase as a motto actually originates in the Star Spangled Banner, penned in 1814:

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

It was shortened to "In God we trust" in 1864 and put on a coin for the first time.

I'm just pointing out that neither the phrase as a motto nor it's use on money was originally nor solely due to McCarthy and the wackiness of that witch hunt.

And there's no doubt that the use of God and the true tenets of Christianity have often been twisted to justify some horrific behavior throughout the ages, not just by McCarthy in the 50s. Great discussion on a lot of these topics.