Dirty Money: Transactional Pagan Writings
Exploring Pagans and their relationship with that earthiest of earth symbols, money.
In God We Trust, but only as a secular symbol
On this day of remembrance of those fallen in war, it seems appropriate to ponder one of the ways in which war has impacted our money, the addition of the motto, "In God We Trust." The phrase was first included on US coins in 1864, perhaps to show that God sided with the North in the Civil War. Paper currency was given the message in 1957, after Congress made it the official motto of the country, to set us apart from godless Communism.
In short, the motto was born of, and fed by, war.
What's perhaps more interesting are the battles which have been fought over the phrase since. These have been in the courts of law and public opinion, and put followers of this deity in a peculiar position: to keep God on money, God must be secular.
Teddy Roosevelt was the first person of influence to have a problem with the motto, which he felt "comes dangerously close to sacrilege" by taking the name of God in vain. TR's misgivings appear to come from the growing belief that "God" is actually a particular deity's name, but some disagree. Faced with an uproar, the motto became standard on coins.
In more recent years, numerous courts have been asked to consider if the practice offends the United States Constitution, if not the Ten Commandments of Abraham. Unlike Mr Roosevelt, judges have been concerned not in the slightest, considering the phrase to be "ceremonial Deism" and perfectly appropriate for such secular purposes.
So the phrase, first proposed by a minister to give the USA a sense of unified purpose under a single deity's beneficent guidance, is now legally considered to be as religious as saying "bless you" after a sneeze or "safe home" to a departing guest.
How is that a good idea? To devout Abrahamics, it dismisses an all-powerful and central deity as a secular symbol. To secularists, it panders to concerns about intermixing government and religion by saying that God has nothing to do with religion. To Pagans and many others, it either presents the same problems Christians and Jews face (your deities are empty, secular shells) if you believe "God" to be a generic term, or it sidelines your belief system entirely. And it certainly doesn't serve atheists whatsoever.
Born of war and preserved by politics, this odd phrase will not be removed from our money, much less our nation, without a coalition of thoughtful people articulating why it is a detriment, not a benefit. A coalition including thoughtful Abrahamic and atheist leaders, polytheists and spiritualists, people who may or may not believe in something unseen, but have read the constitution and don't like mixing the two. People who realize that any god being associated with money dilutes both, at least in a country that embraces freedom of religion. Strong people who understand that our faiths, and our nation, are best kept strong by keeping them just a little bit more apart.
Please login first in order for you to submit comments