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In God We Trust . . . Really?

By WizenedSage (Galen Rose) ~

At this year’s Republican national convention, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) declared, “Our national motto is ‘In God we Trust,’ reminding us that faith in our Creator is the most important American value of all.” Sure, he was just trying to whip up the god believers behind the righteous cause of electing a god-fearing Republican as President. But he got me thinking. Is it true? Do we as a nation trust in god?

According to Rubio, belief in a god is a more important American value than freedom, honor, or anything else. Now that’s a strange notion, to my mind.

‘In God we Trust’ became the US motto in 1956 during the great communist scare whipped up by Senator Joseph McCarthy, apparently to differentiate us god-trusting Americans from those godless communists in the Soviet Union. In more recent times, in our religion-drenched Congress, the motto was reaffirmed (after brief debates) in 2002 and again last year. Apparently, it is absolutely vital that everyone understand that our nation trusts in god, so we have to be reminded again and again. In the House debate, Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) asked, “Is God God? Or is man God? In God do we trust, or in man do we trust?”

Good question, Representative Franks, let’s take a look at the evidence, shall we? When we say we trust in something or someone, we generally mean that we depend on that something or someone, and that appears to be what the originators of this motto meant. And clearly that’s what Rep. Franks meant.

So, do we depend on god to keep our country safe? Well, we have the biggest military in the world by far, accounting for nearly half of the whole world’s defense budget. We have 2,150 active nuclear warheads, and 11 aircraft carriers, with 3 more under construction, while no other country has more than 2 carriers. It doesn’t look like we are depending on god for our national defense.

We also have the Patriot Act, so named to ensure most Senators and Representatives would vote for it rather than be accused of being unpatriotic. This act allowed sweeping changes in our country’s intelligence gathering activities on our own citizens, most often in cases having nothing to do with terrorism. There’s not a lot of trust going on there.

Do we depend on god for winning our wars? Well, if we do, it hasn’t worked too well. Did we actually win in Korea or Viet Nam? Are we really “winning” in Iraq and Afghanistan? Actually, the size of our military budget already answers this question, but I wanted to show that if the believers are depending on god in any way to win our wars, then their faith is obviously misplaced.

So, we certainly aren’t depending on god for our national security. How about our health? There are almost 6,000 registered hospitals in the US, with nearly a million beds. In 2008, there were 661,400 physicians and surgeons in the US, and nearly 5 million other health care workers. So we aren’t depending on god for our health, either. We are depending on people and human institutions. Also, we have Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor.

How about the other emergencies of life? All states have unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation insurance, to provide some financial support if one loses a job or is injured on the job. And let’s not forget Food Stamps and municipal assistance for the needy. It doesn’t seem like we are depending on god in those areas either. Then, of course, we have rape and suicide hot lines and the 911 telephone system.

What do you think, if the average citizen is in trouble, does he pray or dial 911? Most people probably do both, but that’s exactly my point; he may or may not pray, but that average citizen ultimately puts his trust in man – despite what Rep. Franks says.

Jesus said (Matthew 6) that we shouldn’t worry about tomorrow, that god will take care of us. He said we should trust in god. Fortunately, we don’t, so we have Social Security, IRAs, 401k, and other retirement plans as well as health, dental, property, and life insurance. So who is trusting in god?

If you think about it, charities are solid proof that we count on people with means to help people with needs. If we really trusted in god, charities would be unnecessary. Of course, some believers would counter here that god is working THROUGH humans to help other humans, but that’s really beside the point. It’s still clearly the fact that we aren’t trusting in god to get the job done by himself. And what kind of third-rate god is it that needs our help to accomplish something?

So how can it be said that we are trusting in god? Can you name one thing that we actually leave in god’s hands? I can’t. And, if I’ve missed something, then it’s only the exception which proves the rule.

The motto, In God We Trust, disenfranchises atheists and agnostics since we don’t recognize gods. Does this mean we are unpatriotic? Apparently that’s what Bush the Elder thought when he said, "I don't know that atheists should be regarded as citizens, nor should they be regarded as patriotic. This is one nation under God."

Indeed, one of the worst things about religion is its divisiveness, separating people into them and us categories, which too easily translates into a them VERSUS us attitude, as shown in the recent riots in the Middle East over the Mohammed film. This is the danger inherent in mottoes like, “In God we trust.”

Perhaps the biggest reason it’s a lousy motto, though, and ought to be replaced, is not because it disenfranchises non-believers, but that it is simply not true; it ignores reality and promotes an illusion. The United States, as a country, doesn’t leave anything in the hands of god; we put everything in the hands of our people and our man-made institutions because we all know in our hearts, even the Christians, that we cannot really depend on god.