As America morphs from one nation under one Christian god to an amalgam nation under many gods, more scholars are asking whether the phrase “one nation under God” in our Pledge of Allegiance still applies.
Most recently, historian Molly Worthen posed the question in The New York Times and never really gave an answer. She referred to the increase of what she called “Chreasters — Americans who attend church only on Christmas and Easter,” making their rare appearances in church this time of year. She also pointed to a Pew Research Center poll released in October showing that Americans who have no religious affiliation account for 20 percent of the population, up from 16 percent in 2008.
Certainly, four decades of massive immigration have changed not only the complexion of America’s skin, turning us browner, but also the panoply of our faiths. The ballooning population of Asian-Americans includes large numbers of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and all manner of non-Christian faiths with solid followings on U.S. soil.
As our non-affiliated population increases, so does our non-Christian population. That has huge implications for us as we move forward. Speaking as one of the non-affiliated, I must say it is liberating to know there are more of us and more non-Christians as well. Sometimes, pop and political culture give one the idea we are a decidedly, oppressively Christian nation that does not take it lightly when we deviate from church dogma.
One such episode was the 2012 political season’s fixation on reproductive rights. This was prompted by three bizarre statements made by white male candidates about the intersection of church doctrine and pregnancy. Another was the Catholic overreaction to the Obama health care plan. “Obamacare” requires employers to cover contraception in their employees’ health plans. The church hierarchy turned around and sued the administration, claiming its health care law violates the First Amendment guarantee of religious liberty.