Patricia Nell Warren

Over-reacting to "Under God"

Filed By Patricia Nell Warren | December 07, 2007 3:50 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Media
Tags: American history, fundamentalists, Goddess Liberty, Pledge of Allegiance, religion

Now that Christmas is upon us, the fundamentalists are upping their efforts to keep God in the headlines, along with their fight to keep the word "God" in the Pledge of Allegiance and on U.S. currency. I'm always fascinated by their wilful ignorance about our history. The fact is the word "God" was not there in 1776, either on our money or in the Pledge. It got added later, thanks to a whole lot of fundamentalist politicking. Clearly some of our founders were not the textbook Christians that the fundies say.

In recent years, a number of organizations and individuals have gone to court seeking to remove the words "God" from our pledge and our money. Right now, Michael Newdow, a Sacramento doctor and lawyer, is in the headlines for suing his school district, saying it is unconstitutional for children to be forced to recite the godded-up pledge. In 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Newdow, so he has filed a new lawsuit.

Years ago, my mother, who collected early American coins, got me interested in the question of which deity's name is on our money. When the 13 colonies first became the United States of America, the first gold and silver dollars that our government minted had the image of the Goddess of Liberty all over them, along with her name, which was also the nation's new motto -- "Liberty." My mother, who was a devout Presbyterian, thought it was intriguing that an allegedly Christian and Bible-loving nation would put a pagan Goddess on their money. How could that happen?

Eventually I wrote a historical article about this fascinating story. For a while I submitted this article around to some indie and academic publishers, touting it as a proposal for a possible mind-blowing nonfic title. But they wouldn't touch it with a 10 foot pole. Nobody, it seems, wants to be reminded that Liberty is a pagan. So I published the article myself.

It's an amazing and hair-raising historical drama about how the conservative religious folks of this country screamed and lobbied for a long time against Liberty. After the Civil War they finally got the motto "Liberty" wiped off our coins, replaced by "in God we trust." Getting the actual picture of the Goddess off our money was a bigger fight, because so many Americans loved Her. It took the fundies till around 1930 to get the hatchet job done. Incidentally, this is the same Liberty who stands in New York Harbor -- the fundies would like to get rid of the Statue of Liberty, too. Trust me, She isn't found in the Holy Bible.

There's a similar story about the Pledge of Allegiance and how it was godified after World War II. Read it and weep. These people who lie about American history are the same people who lie about gays being "immoral."

Copyright (c) 2007 by Patricia Nell Warren. All rights reserved.


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Trust me, She isn't found in the Holy Bible.

True, the goddess Liberty didn't make it into the Bible per se.

But I believe that the Apocrypha, the collection of books that cover roughly the Jewish Macabeean era that falls between the Old and New Testament and which appears in some versions of today's Bible, includes a book called "Wisdom" --- and although the book itself is not about the Goddess of Wisdom, its name is derived from said goddess, who was more a part of early and medieval Jewish mystic folklore, a non-threatening pseudo-pagan deity more poetic than serious. Wisdom, or Sophia, can be traced back all the way to the Gnostics movement of the early Christian centuries, and probably even earlier than that --- King David alludes to her even in the Psalms and Proverbs.

The point being that if Judaism could tolerate the goddess Wisdom without harm, then why couldn't Christianity tolerate a similar poetic neo-Grecian goddess called Liberty?

It is not surprising, though, that dogmatic fundies would campaign, century after century, against both "Liberty" and "Wisdom" --- after all, both concepts open the door to requiring tolerance of atheism, secularism, paganism, and other forms of freethinking.

It is also historically unquestionable that the Founding Fathers specifically avoided any move that would politically oppress either Judaism or Islam --- Jewish-European immigrants date back to the early colonies, and Colonial America conducted maritime trade with the North African nation of the Barbary Coast, which was pre-dominantly Moslem.

Thanks, Patricia, for this interesting post, and for your efforts to save the history of early religious (or a-religious) America from the fundamentalist revisionists.

Dear A. J. Lopp,

Thanks for your insightful comment. The Goddess of Wisdom is definitely a powerful entity in Judaic tradition, and Sophia did indeed slip into the earliest Christian tradition through the Gnostics. One of the greatest churches, Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, was built to celebrate Her.

Unfortunately for Christians today, the decision was made, by a faction that took over the Christian movement in the early centuries, to ditch any and all traditions relating to female equality and power, no matter where they came from -- Greek, Roman, Jewish, Egyptian. Which is why we're stuck with the situation we have today.

Patricia

I'm glad I'm north of the border. So multicultural here the idea of mentioning God in anything official is a bit silly!

www.loving-awareness.org - A Journey to Wholeness

Unfortunately for Christians today, the decision was made, by a faction that took over the Christian movement in the early centuries, to ditch any and all traditions relating to female equality and power, no matter where they came from -- Greek, Roman, Jewish, Egyptian. Which is why we're stuck with the situation we have today.

There's a book in that paragraph somewhere. I wonder what the world would look like now if that faction hadn't risen to power? What if Peter hadn't been the 1st Pope? What if it was someone else? What would the world look like now with influences from several other societies that didn't devalue women?

Maybe I've read too much science fiction, but I think that would be a fascinating story line to follow. How advanced would our culture be if we'd always allowed women to be as creative/productive/inventive/political as men?

Bil,

And that book has already been written...several books, in fact. In my opinion, the best scholar on the subject of "what happened to screw up early Christianity" is Scottish historian Laurence Gardner. He makes the most sense, and digs the deepest, and gives the most telling detail, on that take-over faction I mention. The faction was galvanized by a persistent question that has dogged official Christianity for 2000 years -- namely, what if Jesus was 100 percent human, and had a wife and children?

The question of Jesus's humanity, and his wife Mary Magdalene, is the central one in church history, and it reveals to us why the Church did away with everything related to female power, whether it was female clergy or Goddesses. The power-hungry elite who run the Catholic Church have been trying to make this question go away for many centuries. So have the main-line Protestants. Why? Because both religions have accepted the belief that "Christ is God" as the basis for their authority and everything they teach. It's their position that a divine Christ gave them that authority. He supposedly gives it to Catholics through the line of Popes, and he supposedly gives it to Protestants directly through Scripture.

If Jesus was just a human being (albeit a wise and powerful one), then all these Churches have no podium to stand on. They have none of the absolute authority that they claim to have over people's lives and minds.

Gardner has written a whole cycle of books documenting how this all came about, and why. BLOODLINE OF THE HOLY GRAIL and the others are all available on Amazon in paperback. I've read them all, and found that I got a clearer understanding of Western and American history than before...and the question of why the ultraconservative American Protestants want to plaster the word "God" everywhere in our public life.

Patricia

......it reveals to us why the Church did away with everything related to female power, whether it was female clergy or Goddesses......

Reading this, I'm reminded of many Catholics I know who are involved in the reverence of Mary, the mother of Christ. I thought the Catholic Church tolerates, and even encourages, this. So how does this relate to the Church doing away with anything related to female power?

Mary is actually the prime example of how the Church did away with female power.

When Catholicism created itself in its early centuries, it borrowed heavily from pagan Roman institutions -- the Roman priesthood, Roman temples, Roman law and government. These churchmen were trying to convert large populations of pagan people who had been accustomed for centuries to pray to pantheons of gods and goddesses, where the goddesses enjoyed equality of power with their divine mates -- like Juno with Jupiter. So the church was smart enough to know that their own "pantheon" had to throw the people a female bone. There had to be some female Christian figure for them to love, emphathize with and go to for help, the way they had gone to the pagan goddesses.

So the figure of Mary Queen of Heaven that they created is actually a watered-down version of various goddesses -- Isis and others -- who were actually portrayed holding their own child in the ancient pagan arts, just as Mary is portrayed in church art. BUT there was a catch. Even as the Church surrounded Mary with all the ancient goddess windowdressing that had appealed so heavily to peoples of the Western world for long centuries, they emphasized that "Mary is only a human being, albeit a very special human being."

By ripping the divine aspect out of Mary's nature, the Church effectively struck a blow at equality issues for all human females. From there to saying that women should have no role in the Catholic priesthood and church governance was just the next step.

This move was consistent with the Church's monotheistic belief, that there is only one deity, and that deity is male. Here, too, the Church was bent on doing away with all religions and spiritual ways where the supreme deity was seen as being both male and female, or where a god-goddess pair ruled.

Patricia

I took this quote from About.Com: Judaism:

"In Judaism, God has no body, God is non-physical. Any mention of God's body is considered to be metaphorical. Any physical representation of God, such as the Golden Calf, is considered to be idolatry. As God has no body, He has no gender. While God is referred to in masculine terms and the Shechinah (Divine presence that fills the universe) is referred to in feminine terms, God is actually neither male nor female." I believe God does have male AND female traits though.

Reconstructionist prayerbooks speak of God beyond the gender concepts of male/female, and beyond the traditional metaphor of "king of the universe." For example, in their prayerbooks God is addressed as, among other things, "The Healer," "The Teacher," "The Comforter," and "The Presence." They are engaged in the spiritual adventure of discovering the many attributes of the one God. So the prayerbooks have deleted the words He, His, etc.

I am sorry if this might have gotten off-track, but I thought it was interesting.

Yes, humans can't avoid nibbling all around this question. Basically we wonder how living things -- which mostly have two genders, male and female -- reflect the nature of the Deity, since we figure the Creator wouldn't create anything that isn't already contained in the divine nature in some vaster way.

It's also interesting that the root of the word "deity" is the word two, or duo. Check it out in American Heritage Dictionary of the English language. Traditional Christianity has insisted that "monotheism" (meaning there is only one God, not many gods) is the right way to look at creation.

But anciently the concept of "deity" meant two, meaning female and male. Isis-Osiris, Hera-Zeus, Juno-Jupiter, Freya-Thor, Lakhshmi-Vishnu, etc. The real history of evolution of "monotheism" in the West was the effort by patriarchal institutions (not all of them Christian) to impose the idea that God's nature is "one" (and they meant the male part), not "two." I.e. the female part of deity was no longer recognized. It's pretty clear that both Judaism and Islam went this route along with Christianity.

Patricia Nell Warren

Along with Annette's comment, I can also remark that I have seen evidence of "gender reform" in certain modern-thinking American Muslims. For example, a few years ago I attended a recovery group where the facilitator was a follower of Sufism --- the mystical arm of Islam. He routinely referred to God (Allah) as both the "Almighty Father" or "Almighty Creator" (masculine, designer/builder) and the "Divine Mother" (feminine, nurturer/maintainer/caregiver).

So it appears that a re-introduction of feminine divinity is occurring to some extent or other among progressives in all three of the Abrahamic religions.

I think when Judaism refers to One God, they are talking about praying to One Creator (as opposed to many gods). I don't think it refers to the supposed gender or genders of God. Although it is true that some of the Jewish denominations still refer to God as "Father" - but as I said, the Reconstructions are trying to de-sexify God. There are also those who believe that God has 2 aspects - the male and the female. I tried to find info on the Internet about this but couldn't seem to find it yesterday. I may keep on trying. I was at a lecture some years ago where a rabbi spoke about the female and male sides of God. I can't remember his name.