When Americans pledge allegiance to “one nation, under God,” non-Christians often see an unwelcome imposition of Christian faith. For Kevin Seamus Hasson, founder of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, it’s a mistake to view “under God” as a divisive theological statement. In Believers, Thinkers, and Founders: How We Became One Nation Under God (Image), Hasson suggests an alternative reading of the pledge based on the concept of the “Philosophers’ God.” CT associate editor Matt Reynolds spoke with Hasson about how this God can serve to unite a religiously diverse people.
How is the Philosophers’ God distinct from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?
The Philosophers’ God and the biblical God are not different beings. The distinction is between faith and reason. Ever since Aristotle, philosophers have held that there is a limited amount we can know about God through reason alone—that he exists, that he is one, that he is good, that he is just. By contrast, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob reveals himself in a much fuller way.
What’s at stake in affirming that America is “under” this Philosophers’ God?
When government acknowledges that it is “under God,” it acknowledges that it is not the source of our rights and therefore cannot deny them to us. Our rights come from a source higher than and prior to the government—from the Creator himself. A government that declares this is humbler and safer than one that imagines itself to be the source of all our freedoms.
To edit “under God” out of the Pledge of Allegiance, or the Creator from the Declaration of Independence, would change far more than the wording ...1