Saturday, January 31, 2009
Ceremonial Deism: The National Religion
Ever wonder why, when we pledge allegiance, we say "under God"? Ever wonder why our money says "in God we trust"? Do you ever wonder why these phrases, which seem to endorse and establish some sort of religious belief, i.e. god, are sanctioned by the US government? Even when the constitution explicitly forbids the establishment of religion? You are not alone.
Many people have wondered and complained, some through the courts. The US Supreme Court, in its infinite wisdom, settled on an explanation termed "Ceremonial Deism", a phrase coined by the former dean of Yale Law School, Eugene Rostow. Ceremonial Deism is a legal term used in the United States for nominally religious statements and practices deemed to be merely ritual and non-religious through long customary usage.
Ceremonial deism is offensive to everyone. The non believer is offended for obvious reasons. But the serious believer is also offended. The supreme court is allowing "in God we trust" on our money and "under God" in the pledge of allegiance because these phrases are deemed to be "merely ritual" and "non-religious". Hence the Supreme Court is telling the devout believer that when they say "under God" in the Pledge or read "in God we trust" on our money there is nothing of religious significance going on, merely some meaningless ritual.
Hence the Supreme Court offends everyone while pleasing no one. More than this, by allowing these religious phrases to be sanctioned by the US government, the Supreme Court is violating the first amendment to the constitution. The US Supreme Court, by embracing the explanatory force of Ceremonial Deism, is, in deed and word, establishing a national religion. This defacto national religion is, paradoxically, empty of any true religious faith or conviction; a religion that is shallow, superficial and without consequence.
And that is where we now stand. A little known phrase, Ceremonial Deism, stands as the official national religion, a religion that is by definition, merely empty ritual devoid of any religious depth or significance. Is this what we want for the USA?