So, my daughter was complaining yesterday that she hates being compelled to acknowledge God all the time. She said that she didn't really believe in God, and that she was forced daily to say "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, and to implicitly endorse the sentiment "In God We Trust" on all our coins, and "other stuff like that all the time".
I told her she was born more than fifty years too late. "Under God" was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954, in a spate of anti-Communist bombast. "In God We Trust" wasn't the national motto until 1956, and it's been on and off coins since the Civil War.
While none of that was very helpful, it seemed to give her some solace that the only word on every US coin ever produced is "Liberty", not "God". However, I still had to provide her some guidance.
Of course, she doesn't have to say "Under God" if she doesn't want to; she doesn't even have to stand and recite the Pledge. But she would certainly feel pressured to conform, with all those others around her doing it. I even told her that if it bothers her, and she gets in trouble, I'd come get her and make sure it never happened again. Still, that didn't seem to compensate for an entire nation (in the guise of her public school) pressuring her to state she believes in God.
She went on to say she couldn't believe that every single other person in the country was Christian. She asked me why we even live in a country founded on Christianity, especially when the current population didn't seem to want us here.
That stopped me for a few minutes. How could I explain to a little girl that the Founding Fathers were trying to create a place where men were religiously indebted only to their own consciences -- not to any governmental restriction -- when that government was forcing religious observation on her, and every other voice was expounding that it was "a Christian nation" and "founded on Christianity"?
I started by explaining that we're not a Christian nation, by any reasonable definition of the phrase. I had to explain that the majority doesn't define the character of a civilization; its laws and actions do. I had to explain that although the Pilgrims were a Christian sect, they hadn't come here to found a nation; they came to start a colony of England. The founders were the ones who fought to make a new nation, in particular the people who created the government for that nation, as written in the Constitution; and many of them weren't Christian. I explained that the Constitution -- the law that should define the character of the country -- wasn't Christian, but solely rational.
But I was just one voice. In order to stop the insanity, I would have to stop all the voices trying to claim America as God's Nation (when they know full well that's really Israel). And then it struck me: they wouldn't want to claim the USA if they just realized that democracy is ungodly.
Despite the obvious rhetoric -- I could think of at least three less offensive ways to say the same thing -- it's equally obvious that democracy can't be God's government. The angels don't vote. The government of Heaven is probably best considered a monarchy, because I'd really piss people off if I called it a dictatorship. God's government of Earth is probably best considered anarchy: He just leaves us alone. Neither could be classified as a democracy, or even a republic.
Worse yet, most people would say that democracy was invented by the Greeks. And everybody knows they were a bunch of polytheistic pagans. Even if you want to classify us as a republic, you're talking about a form of government invented by the Romans (polytheistic, and considered highly immoral by most Christians) or Indians (also polytheistic). That's right, no matter how you slice it, our form of government was invented by pagans! Does that seem like a basis for a Christian nation to you?
So, all you "Christian nation" people: stop bothering my daughter. You don't want this country anyway. Go make one of your own.
 Newdow vs. US Congress contains a reprinting of H.R. Rep. No. 83-1693, the House of Representatives report with the actual language used to justify adding "Under God" to the Pledge. The conclusion that this is bombast is my own, based on the inclusion of the indefensible proposition that "the human person is important because he was created by God". (In rebuttal, every human is important. Period. Not because he was created by God, but simply by the feat of existence.) That it is anti-Communist I deduce from the assertion that the law "would serve to deny the atheistic and materialistic concepts of communism". Therefore, I conclude that the entire reference was anti-Communist bombast.
 According to The Numismatic Bibliomania Society's March 2007 newletter, the word "LIBERTY" is not on every US coin; it does not appear on the flying eagle cent, the two-cent piece, the silver trime, or the shield nickel. Another comforting evidence of rationalism debunked.
 The Christianity of the Founding Fathers is contested. Here's what a theology school as to say on the subject, although Google can find dozens of similar arguments. When presented with these arguments, the "founded on Christian principles" is often stripped down to "founded by people with a Christian background". In that case, I contend that the nature of a nation is not determined by the background of its founders, but by the attributes they chose to include in its founding. Of course, trying to divine the intent of the Founders often degenerates into a quote war.
 My favorite example in support of this statement is how Article XI of The Treaty of Tripoli states that "the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion". (The Wikipedia article on the Treaty of Tripoli changes too much to be considered useful.) It's possible that this passed unanimously -- for only the third time in 339 recorded votes -- because it was a fait accompli. It's possible there was no outcry when it was printed in the papers because the public recognized how valuable the Tripoli trade was to the country. Or perhaps the Treaty of Tripoli indicates the government of America always was conceived as secular.
Either way, I think a close reading of the Constitution, with agreed-upon definitions of "founded in Christianity", "Christian nation", or any other such phrase, will support the premise that the founders wanted a government separated from religion.
Using the lessons learned in his tutorials (note the plural), I had a few insights and made a few improvements. For instance, the rating bar can vary in color or shape from one end to another. It can even be animated! Finally, I made the current rating parameter easier to generate for blogs and such.
Last Christmas Eve, I took on the part of Santa for a friend's homeowners association. They invited me back this year, and naturally I accepted. This year's gig was very similar to last year's.
The most unique part is riding on the fire truck! Santa rides in the rescue basket with a fireman and tosses out candy to all the waiting kids. Luckily, they leave the basket down. It's still quite a thrill! After all, how many people do you know who got to ride on a fire truck?
This year I ran out of candy to toss, I'm afraid. But that's not so bad, because the kids at the last stop get to come inside and meet Santa. My friend hosts the Santa Court, where she sets out milk and cookies, eggnog, and candy. The kids all get to sit on Santa's knee and tell me what they want.
I can't wait for next year!
But at least we don't have to worry about it. Eri's biopsy came back negative; she's perfectly healthy.
We went out to celebrate at Sho Gun, a Japanese steak house down the street. A good time was had by all.
Okay, so it's coming up on Christmas. That alone is stressful, because you can't find any time to shop. The schedule gets so mad, you can barely find time to sleep! In fact, my average is down to about 6 hours a night. And then we try to squeeze in making fudge for gifts, and holiday cards and letters. But it gets worse!
Eri had her first mammogram, and they found microcalcifications -- that meant a biopsy was necessary. We had to make a choice between a "needle biopsy" and a "full biopsy". (Money and medical choices. Now, that's stress!) And of course, our youngest daughter was sick when the appointment came around, so we felt guilty letting our friends watch her. Review season is here, and I've taken so much time off work I don't know how I'm going to be rated.
Now we're all sick. And I'm playing Santa on Christmas Eve! "Here, kid, have a nice cold. Merry Christmas!"
Maybe it'll wind down by the end of next week. Until then, ugh.