A United States for nonbelievers?

At Monday’s moving inauguration ceremony, President Barack Obama repeated the constitutionally prescribed oath to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Like most but not all presidents before him, he also placed his hand on a Bible and recited the words “So help me God,” which is not constitutionally required. This atheist was, of course, disappointed but not surprised at the addition.

To understand how many atheists feel about this, consider substituting “Zeus” or “Shiva” or “Allah” for “God.” Like the other approximately twenty million non-religious Americans, I wish President Obama had taken his oath on the Constitution under which our nation is governed, rather than on a divisive sectarian book under which we are not governed-thanks be to Thor.

Inauguration festivities often send symbolic messages to the country, and I give two cheers to President Obama because he talked about treating people equally regardless of race, creed, gender, national origin, or sexual orientation. I liked his message, but not the justification for it-which was God. What would we think if our president had said “Freedom is a gift from Odin” or we must preserve our planet because it is “commanded by Gaia, the goddess of the Earth?”

And despite the relative inclusiveness of this inaugural, Obama took a step back from his first inaugural address, during which he gave a token nod to atheists: “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus-and non-believers.” At Monday’s inaugural, atheists and their millions of non-religious friends were as invisible as deities.


Continue reading at Washington Post's On Faith >>

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