How an Atheist Recites the Pledge

Mulan started kindergarten at our local public school. And as part of her day at school, she said the “Pledge of Allegiance.” She proudly repeated it to me, and the “under God” part made me flinch. “You don’t have to say ‘under God’ you know,” I said—and her eyes widened with fear. “What do you mean?” I said, “You can just keep your mouth closed during that part. I don’t believe in God. These people in the government allowed that to get stuck in there much later. I wouldn’t say it if I were you.”

A few days later she came home and said, “I have to say it. Because it’s nice, it’s being nice to say it. You have to be nice and so you say it.” I don’t think I have ever heard a more heartbreaking sentence from my child. I am probably more sensitive to this, for many more reasons than religion. I have tried to stop doing things automatically because they are “nice” for years and years because I find myself drowning in doing a million things for people because it’s “nice.” On the other hand, it’s expedient to pressure children to conform. It makes sense. It encourages community and all the behaviors that we are trying to instill in them. I understood her dilemma.

Fortunately a friend of mine suggested a solution. “How about telling her to say, ‘under laws’ instead of ‘under God?”’ Brilliant! I told my daughter the idea. She looked at me like I was from Mars. It was her first, truly, “I’ve-got-an-insane-mother” look. But now when she comes home from school, as the year has worn on, she’ll tell me. Today I said, “under God.” Another day she will report that she said, “under laws.” And I figure she will find her own rhythm.


They say "Under Laws" instead of "Under God".

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 Navigating Around the Dinner Table
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book Chapter:  Sweeney, Julia (2007-04-25), Navigating Around the Dinner Table, Retrieved on 2012-03-28
Folksonomies: parenting atheism