Atheism – E Pluribus Unum

Posted by on May 11, 2012 in Featured, Thoughts | 9 comments

“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.

“It is worth noting that no one ever needs to identify himself as a non-astrologer or a non-alchemist. Consequently, we do not have words for people who deny the validity of these pseudo-disciplines. Likewise, atheism is a term that should not even exist. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make when in the presence of religious dogma.”

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

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9 Comments

  1. I love this so much, Marty.  It is odd to hear an Aussie articulate the problem with “In God We Trust” in the United States so well, but we need support from the international community in order to overcome this, as well.My only problem with the “Atheist Community” as a social construct, rather than just all atheists, is that it really needs to stop being a “white boys club” to attract more women and people of color.  The rampant misogyny is something scaring off so many atheist women, and I’m always happy to see you supporting equal rights and non-oppression on your blog.  :) *A MILLION INTERNET HUGZZZZZ*  haha
     

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  2. I long for the day when E. Pluribus Unum will be the only motto of the United States. It is ironic that a beloved Australian needs to point this out to us. Australia has an atheist, albeit anti-equality, prime minister ns is way ahead and is way ahead of us, even though they have Xtianity taught in public schools. Oficially they are secular. Ironically, it was our freedom of religion clause that stimulated the competition among Christian denominations that helped America become the most religious of the industrialized nations. At least I am in California where we are not as persecuted for being atheist as in the South.

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  3. I long for the day when E. Pluribus Unum will be the only motto of the United States. It is ironic that a beloved Australian needs to point this out to us. Australia has an atheist, albeit anti-equality, prime minister and is way ahead of us, even though they have Xtianity taught in public schools. Officially they are secular. Ironically, it was our freedom of religion clause that stimulated the competition among Christian denominations that helped America become the most religious of the industrialized nations. At least I am in California where we are not as persecuted for being atheist as in the South.

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  4. https://www.facebook.com/rudy.ruddell/posts/101877533283662?ref=notif&notif_t=share_comment

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    •  @druddell98 In the spirit of humility, as Aussies we must cop to also retrograding in the 1950s when we introduced into our government schools Special Religious Instruction — volunteer-led biblical storytime inside school hours that principals cannot legally prohibit. An embrassment of underhanded evanglism beyond “in prophets we trust” and “a nation indivisible under religiosity”.

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  5. Excellent post Martin.  As an American, I have found myself embarrassed by the rise of the religious right and some of the actions of the Republican Party as a result.  Many of the laws that have passed or have been proposed or are being proposed reflect a genuine lack of knowledge…a lack of knowledge that stems from Christianity.
     
    The debate over whether or not the US is a Christian nation is certainly raging here.  It’s flames are fanned by two things.  First, there are many people who are lacking a knowledge of our history and can be swayed easily.  Second, there is no shortage of religious leaders willing to lie and mislead those people…after all, there is a large sum of money and power involved in this…
     
    It is funny how us atheists can unify so well around a non-belief.  As you point out, while we do not all agree on many issues, one thing we seem to agree on in is the idea of being free from religion, particularly from our governments.  It is my hope that more and more join us.  I truly feel that religion has to be on the losing side of this debate.  When the very religious baby boomers die off (I am 37, so may be around to see it) it will be interesting to see how things change.  It seems to me that the younger generations are not as religious…we shall see.

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  6. So I’m guess Marti is reading Russell Blackford on Secularism… ;)

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  7. Out of many, one. Christ said the same thing, when he called all people to him, and then asked our heavenly father to bring us to unity of spirit. This was actually written by “christian” forefathers. Don’t be afraid of true christians. Their father is love, and they are love. And all are welcome.

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    • I too am tired of politicians using religion to appear “religious” so that they can get the “christian” vote. I am a Christian, which means I follow the message of “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love others as you love yourself.” Do this, believe that Jesus is God’s son and that he saves us, let God wash you clean through baptism, and talk to him daily, praying for others, and for what we all need. Praying daily, we walk with him. And, SERVE. Why do Christians have to be so dreadfully portrayed in the media? In my town, christians are the servants that bring good things.  Like school gardens, softball games, Sundays off from a job, hospital volunteers, singing to and visiting the older folks at nursing homes, putting wells in 3rd world communities.
      Yes, politicians and televangelists do it for the money, Jesus warns about their behavior in his teachings in Matthew Mark Luke and John of the New Testament in the Bible. Read those 4 books, then judge.  But, Jesus says, “Judge not, lest you be judged.”

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