By Rob Roman
America is a melting pot of religious persuasions. People who are agnostic (the question of God is not relevant to living a moral life) and people who are atheists (do not believe in God) have been around throughout the existence of the United States.
Let’s look at the official definition of God. From the Merriam Webster dictionary:
1 capitalized: the supreme or ultimate reality: as
a : the Being perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness who is worshipped as creator and ruler of the universe
b Christian Science : the incorporeal divine Principle ruling over all as eternal Spirit : infinite Mind
2: a being or object believed to have more than natural attributes and powers and to require human worship; specifically: one controlling a particular aspect or part of reality
3: a person or thing of supreme value
4: a powerful ruler
More and more, agnostics and atheists are asserting their rights and feel excluded by the government as God appears in our pledge of allegiance, on our money, and in many other places. They invoke the “separation of church and state” and our notion of equal rights to try to persuade the government to remove all references to God.
People who are against this cite the fact that our nation was founded mainly by deeply religious people who fled Europe due to religious persecution. They cite our strong history of a Judeo– Christian ethic and structure of laws. They will say that America is by and large a Christian Nation, and has always been so.
We hear the perennial argument that it’s not inclusive of everyone to say “Merry Christmas” or to suggest that Christmas is only a Christian celebration. People point out that there are many other holidays around this time of year, including Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.
Being inclusive does not mean that others should give up their rights or that we should neglect our history. How does having the word “God” stricken from everything serve the public interest? Isn’t it just as divisive to exclude the word “God” as it is to embrace it?
Then what is “God”? How many people use the same definition? Many Christians see God as an all powerful creator in the same image as man. But divinity students may not agree, and they talk about a trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Muslims speak of “Allah”. This is their word for God, but is it the same as the God the Christians believe in? Buddhist are thought not to believe in a separate, personal God, but in the “Buddha Dharma”, which permeates everything, including all space and time. All three of these interpretations of God are creative and sustaining forces.
Atheists say they don’t believe in God. Then what do they believe in? What is most important to them? What is their driving force? What do they base their lives on and put their trust in? Many would say they put their trust in Humanity.
Being atheist or agnostic has moral implications. That doesn’t mean that they are amoral or immoral. True agnostics and atheists must have some sort of moral code.
Then we have the science vs. God argument. The truth is they are not mutually exclusive and can’t be. Some people believe that science is imperfect and attempts to deny the existence of God. Many people believe in both God and science and some trust neither.
Some people say they do not believe in God, but they say they do believe in a “higher power”, even if this comes from within themselves.
What would be a more universal interpretation of God? Maybe it’s a higher power, a higher consciousness, or a higher responsibility. Maybe everyone, including agnostics and atheists, can agree to at least one of these three interpretations.
There are three things we all want to do, if we are caring sentient beings. We all want to move in a direction. We want to move away form the darkness of ignorance and towards the light of understanding. We want to moves away from hatred and depression, and towards love and joy. We want to move away from selfishness and towards generosity.
Within the idea of a higher power, a higher consciousness, or a higher responsibility, I think we all can agree that we all adhere to at least one of these as a driving force. Within the three directions, I think we can all agree that we embrace at least one of these.
So, instead of believing we need to remove the word God from everything, maybe everyone can define it for themselves within the parameters of these three interpretations and these three directions? This would be more inclusive than shutting out so many of our citizens and so much of our Nation’s history.
Now, this way, even Agnostics and Atheists (and Buddhists) can comfortably say “In God we trust” and “God bless America”.