The Clare Spark Blog

October 13, 2013

The Pledge of Allegiance, revised?

pledgeofAllegiance[Garrison Keillor:] “It was on this day in 1892 that the Pledge of Allegiance was recited en masse for the first time, by more than 2 million students. It had been written just a month earlier by a Baptist minister named Francis Bellamy, who published it in Youth’s Companion and distributed it across the country. It was recited on this day to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s arrival in the Americas. It was slightly shorter in its 1892 version: “I pledge allegiance to my flag and the Republic for which it stands — one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

After that, it got revised twice, and both revisions made the Pledge wordier. The first was in 1923, when it was changed from “my flag” to “the flag of the United States of America.” This change was made to ensure that immigrants were pledging to the American flag and not the flags of their home countries. The second change was to add the words “under God.” A few determined preachers worked for years to get it changed, but it wasn’t until 1954 that it was amended. President Eisenhower attended a sermon by the Reverend George Docherty, who said: “Apart from the mention of the phrase, ‘the United States of America,’ this could be a pledge of any republic. In fact, I could hear little Muscovites repeat a similar pledge to their hammer-and-sickle flag in Moscow with equal solemnity.” Eisenhower was convinced and within a few months the Pledge was amended to include “under God” as a way to distinguish this country from the Soviet Union.” [end, Keillor quote]

If Keillor is correct, then Eisenhower’s deployment of “under God” was instrumental; he wanted to distinguish between American religiosity and Soviet godlessness and the amoral nomenklatura. He was not acting out of a belief that the Founding Father’s wished to exclude non-believers from the First Amendment. Such a stance is similar to Voltaire’s practice of anonymous publication of his heretical works contra Leibniz, while simultaneously Voltaire was supporting religion as the via media that would control what his class termed “the lower orders.”

Using “faith” pragmatically (i.e., instrumentally), as opposed to religious belief as deeply held conviction and practice, should offend every person of faith. It is more common than we think, and is a staple of tyranny that demands state-worship, or in the case of pantheists, in mystical Nature worship. The super-doctors at the David Geffen School of  Medicine at UCLA believe that “faith and healing” are the tickets to health: I wonder if that means faith in their skills and  in Nature writ large.

Pantheism symbols/spirals

Pantheism symbols/spirals

Current events and more:


  1. Well then what was it that Alexis de Tocqueville was observing?

    Comment by hrwolfe — November 18, 2020 @ 11:11 pm | Reply

  2. Found this via a Twitter feed: Hope it’s accessible.

    Comment by Claude Horvath — November 16, 2013 @ 3:57 am | Reply

  3. Good argument. It is for the exact same reason that I don’t care for the artwork of the “painter of light,” Thomas Kincaid. His work is technically sound, but sentimental, formulaic and definitely a use of religion as “instrumental.” People of faith should be dismayed.

    That said, I’ve long argued that the Founders’ use of “endowed by their Creator” in the Declaration of Independence was not simply an expression of deist cosmology, but rather a shrewd application of the idea that some rights are not under the jurisdiction of ANY human authority, and thus the phrase fuctions as a justification for the accusation of tyranny by the temporal authority that had usurped those rights.

    I see the addition of “under God” in the pledge to be a reiteration of that Founding sentiment. It may be true that Eisenhower’s support of the “under God” addition was instrumental rather than an expression of true belief. But doing the right thing for the wrong reason is still the right thing.

    Comment by Terbreugghen — October 15, 2013 @ 1:12 pm | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: