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Does God still belong on our money? [Most commented]

November 4, 2011 | 12:51 pm

In his Friday Op-Ed, Michael Shermer highlighted his displeasure at  the House’s recent 396-9 vote to continue printing "In God We Trust" on public buildings and U.S. currency.  The law was originally passed in 1956, as a Cold War morale boost.  But Shermer argues the motto no long serves the public and is even problematic:

What is troubling -- and should trouble any enlightened citizen of a modern nation such as ours -- is the implication that in this age of science and technology, computers and cyberspace, and liberal democracies securing rights and freedoms for oppressed peoples all over the globe, that anyone could still hold to the belief that religion has a monopoly on morality and that the foundation of trust is based on engraving four words on brick and paper.

Instead, Shermer contends that our freedom is unrelated to God, suggesting our faith be put in the following ideas:

The rule of law; property rights; a secure and trustworthy banking and monetary system; economic stability; a reliable infrastructure and the freedom to move about the country; freedom of the press; freedom of association; education for the masses; protection of civil liberties; a clean and safe environment; a robust military for protection of our liberties from attacks by other states; a potent police force for protection of our freedoms from attacks by people within the state; a viable legislative system for establishing fair and just laws; and an effective judicial system for the equitable enforcement of those fair and just laws.

Commenters tackled all sides of the issue, but here is a selection from our discussion board:

"In God We Trust" is just a nod to history

One need not believe in God to recognize that the phrase "In God We Trust" is simply part of our SECULAR American history. 

I suppose Shermer would have our constitution rewritten in a more "modern" sounding language as well? Why not remove mentions of slavery from the constitution, because they don't reflect our modern values?

It's one thing to support secular government; it's quite another to try to rewrite our government's history while looking through a modern lens.

-- disbelief

What about those who don't trust in any God?

How sad is it that we've gone from the truly INCLUSIVE motto of the Founders -- "E pluribus unum" -- to the truly DIVISIVE motto of the Christians -- "In god we trust."

Let's be honest here -- that "god" mentioned in that motto is the Christian god. People can candy coat it and say it's the Judeo-Xian god, but it isn't, any more than it's Anubis or Zeus. By definition, the motto, "In god we trust" can NOT be inclusive, as it insults the intelligence of the 20% of Americans who don't put any stock in such fairy tales, while at the same time setting up conflict between the religions, who all have their own gods, none of which are shared among them. That rather destroys the idea of the "we" contained in the motto, does it not?

How pathetic that a country that supposedly values individual freedom, democracy and the right to vote has as a national motto that references a god who  DETESTS the idea of human democracy. Last I looked, the heaven of the Bible isn't a democracy, it's a kingdom...which is a euphemism for a dictatorship. There are no votes in heaven, nor is there free thought, at least if we're to believe the Bible.

The only thing this stupid and sorry "reaffirmation" of our lousy national motto proves is that the Congressional representatives of we the "pluribus" are as gutless as are the words of our god-sullied motto meaningless.

-- Mr Mark

The effect of those words is negligible 

I have no problem with the "In God We Trust: slogan.  At worst, it's harmless, and, really, it has a nice ring to it.  But should we be spending even one dime of our limited financial resources on determining if that motto should appear on our money and public buildings?  Do those words make us better Christians or Jews or Muslims?  Questions of religion are raised by bottom-dwelling politicians as a manipulative device to keep us from focusing on the failure of our lawmakers to achieve consensus through compromise on the truly important issues facing this country.  Mr. Shermer allows himself to fall [into] the trap these hucksters set when he starts worrying about showing that God has nothing to do with the freedoms we enjoy rather than explaining the elements of freedom and security.  Debating religion is an impossible task since it is a matter of faith, not rationality.  

-- ItheJury

Let's get more money into circulation, not worry about what's printed on it

It's moronic to be voting on things like this in 2011, when we have a serious economic crisis. And that goes for both sides. I don't endorse wasting time to reaffirm this motto, and I don't endorse removing it. 

It seems like this debate has shifted to a debate about God, which is a waste of time and energy. The debate here is whether or not our currency should be changed at the whim of a political group or other interest group. 

In 2003, congressional Republicans put forth an effort to change the face on the dime from FDR's likeness to Reagan's. I suspect that most of the people here who are against the "In God We Trust" motto would find that laughable, as I do. I also suspect that removing references to God from public buildings and the Declaration of Independence would be viewed as laughable also. And how about pagan symbols that appear on our money? Should those be voted off because they offend some people?

Shermer's critique is solely an academic analysis of whether or not the context of the creation of the "In God We Trust" motto is still valid today, and it isn't. But unless Shermer is willing to concede that all national symbols be put to a vote because of their potential to offend, I can't take his argument too seriously.

-- disbelief

*For clarity purposes, spelling errors in the above comments have been corrected.


Campaign 2012's religion card

America: With God on our side

Politics and the bugnut Christians

Science and religion: A false divide

--Julia Gabrick

Photo: Bundles of $20 bills.  Credit: You Sung-Ho / Reuters

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