Atheism – E Pluribus Unum
“E Pluribus Unum” – Latin for “Out of Many, One”
This was the motto of the United States Of America from the time the Seal of the United States was first created in 1776, right up until the 1950’s, where during the height of the Cold War and the McCarthy communist fear, under the Eisenhower government, the term “In God We Trust” was added to all coins and bills from the United States. This show of “Christian unity” was in reaction to the fear of the largely atheistic Russians, who were apparently everywhere, hence the McCarthy witch-hunt style communist hunts. Also during this period, the American “Pledge Of Allegiance” had the words “Under God” included in it;
“One nation, Under God, Indivisible, With liberty and Justice for All.”
It is interesting that many Americans think that “In God We Trust” has always been included on their money. For many, 1956 is long before they were born, so for them the money always included the phrase. Likewise, many people use the fact that this phrase is included on the money to back their position that America is in fact a “Christian nation”, and that all doings and goings-on in the name of the USA are also done under the watchful eye of the all powerful creator (Christian) god.
What is most tragic about this is that the term “E Pluribus Unum” has all but been overshadowed by the newer monotheistic motto. The original motto was chosen to show a unity of the people that went beyond religion, beyond origins, beyond race and colour. It showed a unity of people, in a strong nationalistic way, a secular way, that transcended the traditional and historical social boundaries prevalent in the Europe from which the country emerged. “Out of Many, One”. It also seems odd that the country, which was populated largely by people fleeing religious persecution at the hands of governments and societies in Europe, and whose constitution implicitly calls for a separation of church and state, should resort to becoming one of the most theocratic societies on earth. The Divided Theocracy of America.
To me the same motto, “E Pluribus Unum”, could just as easily be used to describe the growing atheist movement worldwide. Atheism knows no political, geographical or societal boundaries, no language barriers, no gender divide, and no boundaries of sexual orientation. Atheists come from all walks of life, and when combined as a movement, is as diverse and varied as possible. The people who call themselves “atheist” all share one fundamental principle only; the disbelief in a god or gods. From all corners of the globe, from all walks of life, from all nations and creeds, atheists emerge as a single solitary voice; “Out of Many, One.”
It is odd, given the only thing that binds atheists being the disbelief in a god or gods, should be a strong enough position to foster this kind of unity. As Sam Harris pointed out in his 2005 essay “An Atheist Manifesto“, atheism is a term that should not even exist. It should be the default state for all people of earth.
We are all born free from the idea of God or gods. As Professor Richard Dawkins points out in his book “The God Delusion”, “A child is not a Christian child, not a Muslim child, but a child of Christian parents or a child of Muslim parents.” We are all taught to believe in god, the belief in a god or gods is not present in us as as an innate human feature, but is instilled in us by our cultures and religions.
But given the amount of intrusion into all walks of life that religion presents us with, it is no wonder that those bound under the banner of disbelief should be so passionate about it. We see religion in both peace-time and war-time governments, in our policy and decision making, in our schools, in our daily routines, and in the case of the USA, on their money. We are united against these intrusions based on our disbelief, and are hounded for it.
In the 21st century, where cures for diseases seem only an arms length away, where technologies that could deliver us from poverty and ecological disaster, where communities form in virtual spaces online, where commerce and trade is done on a worldwide basis, I find it sad that the main reason for much of our unity is still being centred around whether or not one or another version of an all powerful deity exists. Yet here we are, still debating the “god issue”. I hope to see a day where atheism, as a movement, is unnecessary, and where we can all exist under the edict of “E Pluribus Unum”, an United Countries of Earth, if you will. Until that time, we will continue to gather under the banner of atheism