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ostracism

From the third edition of the American Heritage College Dictionary:

ostracism n. 1.a. the act of banishment or excluding. b. banishment or exclusion from a group; disgrace. 2. In Ancient Greece, the temporary banishment by popular vote of one deemed a threat to the state.

ostracize tr.v. 1. to exclude from a group. 2. to banish by ostracism.

I've had debates with English majors about the meaning of this word--they seemed to think that osctracism today, like in Ancient Greece, required a formal vote or command from an authority figure, but I think you can see from the definition that this is by no means necessary. People are excluded from social groups by their peers all the time, and all it requires is a lack of acknowledgement.

But however you look at the definition of ostracism, one has to acknowledge that atheists have indeed been ostracized because we have been excluded from a group. That is the insidiousness of "public deism" in the guise of official statements of belief in god by government.

When American recite the Pledge of Allegiance and come to the phrase "one Nation under God", it sends the message that those who believe in god are part of this nation, and that those who don't are not. It's this kind of prejudice that leads to statements like George H.W. Bush's statement to reporters in 1992 (?) that he did not believe that atheists were real patriots.

Supporters of the phrase "under God" constantly invoke religion and spirituality in defense of the phrase, at least until they are faced with a legal challenge. Consider Eisenhower's remarks when he signed the bill adding these words:

In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America's heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country's most powerful resource in peace and war.

Are "spiritual weapons" really things that godless Americans can expect to weild in a war or in peace? How then are we being included??

"In God We Trust" does little better when held up against this light. Do Atheists trust in a god they don't believe in? If they don't, how then are they being included? It's more than that this statement is on the money, but that it was made the national motto. Should not the national motto represent all the people, not just 86% of them? What is it that Christians say? "Love it or leave it"? Sound like ostracism to you?

True enough, these are just words, but one of the defining characteristics of humans is that we use words and language to convey meaning. And the message being sent by these words is that we don't belong, that we are not real Americans. That is the insidious message being sent in Ohio these days by forcing school children to stare at these statements that deliberately exclude them.

How good were you at standing up to peer pressure when you were ten-years-old? If you had been raised in a faith/as an atheist that prevented you from saying the Pledge in good conscience, how long do you think it would take for your classmates to make your life miserable for being different? I venture to guess that most people would not have been able to stand it for even a day, and yet we are expected to send our children to school like this for more than 2000 days before the age of 18. And then Christians wonder why atheists are angry.

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