"In god we trust" has been the national motto of the United States since 1956. It appears on our currency, in our courthouses, and in several government buildings. Some consider it purely ceremonial, void of any religious meaning. Others believe it reflects our status as a "Christian nation." And among secular Americans, only a small minority seem to think it is worthy of our attention. I happen to disagree with this position.
Why Atheists Should Care About "In God We Trust"
There are many reasons atheists and other secular Americans should care about this motto. Here are a few:
- Roughly 16% of the U.S. population does not trust in any sort of god. The motto is not accurate.
- We had a perfectly good national motto before 1956 that served us well.
- Our government is not supposed to promote religious belief.
- The arguments advanced by those who want the "god" motto are seriously flawed.
- "In god we trust" is blatantly exclusionary, communicating to those of us who do not believe in any sort of god that we are somehow not a part of this country.
- "In god we trust" provides a context within which anti-atheist bigotry may be mistaken for patriotism
Those of us who bring up this issue from time-to-time can count on being met with the feedback that this should not be a high priority, that the atheist community has many more pressing issues. I'm not suggesting it should be our only priority or even our top priority, but I believe it should be relatively high on our list because of reasons #5 and #6 above.
Even if "in god we trust" can be considered a largely irrelevant trace of ceremonial deism by some, it is symbolism with significance for those of us who do not believe in gods. It casts us out of the mainstream, raises questions about our love of country, and serves as a constant barrier to our acceptance.
I'll be the first to agree that discrimination and bigotry should be given higher priority than what our currency says; however, I do not see them as separable. They are one in the same, and they must be addressed together. Changing our national motto and removing supernatural references from our currency should be part of our agenda.