When advocating for the abolishment of In God We Trust or, at the least, calling for its subordination to the more secular E Pluribus Unum, it is common to hear vigorous defense of IGWT. This defense comes in many forms, some of which can be difficult to answer at times – especially in heat of an argument or debate. So, to help out, I have compiled a little guide to dealing with IGWT defenses. These are not all ready-made answers. Some of these responses involve simply asking questions, but all of them are useful for disarming or frustrating an opponent. Without further ado, I present, in no particular order, my Seven Common Arguments in favor of In God We Trust.
- It is the National Motto; or It Represents America
Obviously, this is true to an extent. Legally, In God We Trust is the motto and it is meant to represent the United States. Asking those who pose this defense some simple questions can lead to a chasing of this topic down the proverbial rabbit-hole, or simply end the conversation in frustration.
So what if it is the National motto? In what way does In God We Trust represent the whole of the United States (often, this question will begin the rabbit-hole chase)? The motto has only been in place for about 60 of our nation’s 239-year history, so why should it be favored over a more time-honored phrase? Perhaps the most disarmingly frustrating question to ask one who poses this defense: why does the United States need a motto?
- It Acknowledges the Religious Heritage of our county.
It would be false to claim that religion played no part in shaping our nation’s history and development. However, this defense raises an interesting question: why does the religious heritage of the United States need to be acknowledged? Better yet, why does acknowledging the religious heritage deserve precedence over our secular heritage; our heritage of immigration; of scientific achievement; of industrial achievement?
What about our greatest heritage – our history of compromise? The United States was built on compromise and negotiation. Perhaps a better motto would be In Compromise We Trust.
- Your unalienable rights come from God – or a belief in God – and you benefit from that, whether you believe or not.
This is probably the most condescending and patronizing defense of In God We Trust. It comes from the phrase in the Declaration of Independence that says we are endowed by our Creator with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. However, it patently ignores the next clause in that sentence, which reads, “to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
So your rights – even if you believe they are established by God – are secured by the government – a government that has repeatedly, though not perfectly, upheld the separation of state and religious belief as a fundamental guiding principle for the prevention of tyranny and oppression. Perhaps a more accurate motto would be In Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness We Trust.
- It’s On The Money
This is quite possibly the stupidest defense imaginable, though it is probably the one I hear the most often. But then again, I live in a place that identifies as “culturally southern.” Take from that what you will.
Of course, it is true that IGWT is on our money. It is equally true that E Pluribus Unum appears on our currency. So why does one get preference over the other?
- This is a Christian Nation.
Is it? It is true that we a country where the majority of people are Christian, but there is a difference between a country for Christians and a country of Christians; Saudi Arabia, for example, is not a nation of Muslims, it is a nation for Muslims. Turkey, by stark contrast, is a country of Muslims, not for Muslims. Ask a Christian which of those countries they would like to live in; however, they probably won’t get the point.
And even if it is a Christian Nation in the sense of being for Christians – which version of Christianity? Catholic, Mormon, Baptist, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Coptic, Non-denominational, Anglican, Apostolic, Episcopalian – all are distinct versions of Christianity. And those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head! So which is it? How can a nation for Christians be for both Catholics and Protestants? Is the uniting factor a belief in Jesus? Well Muslims believe in Jesus – virgin birth and all! They just don’t think he is divine – neither do some sects of Christianity.
- E Pluribus Unum means many from one, and that one is God.
This is atrociously stupid. I have heard E Pluribus Unum mistranslated in this way many times. If it is purposely mistranslated or accidentally due to wishful thinking, I’m not sure; it is probably both. E Pluribus Unum means, unequivocally, From Many, One or One From Many (Latin is funny like that). It is a unifying phrase, referencing how the parts make a whole, and has nothing to do with a deity of any kind.
- The Supreme Court Has Affirmed The Motto
This is true. But it begs the questions: has the Supreme Court never been wrong? The Supreme Court ruled in the Dred Scott decision that black people cannot be citizens of the United States – should we still abide by that decision? Plessy v. Ferguson established the “separate but equal” apartheid system in the United States – should we go back to whites only bathrooms? The Supreme Court can be wrong, has been wrong, and is wrong about In God We Trust.
So, there are my Seven! Did I miss any? Do you have better arguments against these? If so, leave them in the comments section. I’ll leave you with some immortal words from Thomas Paine while pondering this issue:
“Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages are not yet sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favor; a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.”
– From Common Sense, 1776