Star Crossed Omits “Under God” from the Pledge—in 2024

On September 7, 2014, a spaceship full of alien refugees fleeing their dying planet crash-lands on the surface of the Earth. What’s supposed to be a day of liberation and refuge becomes the day of the Atrian invasion—from the perspective of the xenophobic human inhabitants of our extra-special, God-given planet. At least that’s what should happen a few months from now, if the new CW sci-fi show Star Crossed has prophetic power.

Unfortunately, the chances of that happening are slim, especially considering the fact that the aliens look pretty much exactly like we do. While this is obviously a troubling detail to any serious expert in science fiction, this isn’t what bothered the religious conservatives who watched the show with great expectations. What drove them to moral outrage was that the Pledge of Allegiance was recited (ten years later in 2024) as follows: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” No longer included were the words “under God.” In response to this apparent travesty, conservatives lashed out all over social media against so-called Hollywood liberals.

My question to them is simple: Why so grumpy? If they could time-travel back to the early 1950s, or just do a little bit of research, they’d find that the Pledge of Allegiance recited in this future 2024 world is exactly the same as it’s been for most of its history. The pledge was written in 1892 and formally adopted by Congress fifty years later. The words “under God” were added in 1954; they aren’t original to the Pledge of Allegiance, which should be no surprise considering that this nation was founded on the principle of the separation of church and state. What ever happened to protecting that tried and true tradition of pre-Christian America?

As President Obama has asserted time and time again, we are not just a nation of believers but also a nation of nonbelievers. The pledge is as much a source of pride for nonbelievers as it is for believers. To quote Roy Speckhardt, the executive director of the American Humanist Association, “The Pledge of Allegiance should be something that all Americans can be proud to recite. But by making it a god-based declaration of patriotism and citizenship, only certain Americans are being told they matter—and that’s about as un-American as it can get, making a mockery of the claim that we care about religious freedom.”

I can’t say that I’m a fan of the show, especially considering its appropriation of teenage fantasy drama and romance. Unfortunately, these dilute some otherwise promising themes in the show that could be developed further. To the dismay of my religious conservative friends, though, I do hope the show turns out to have those serious prophetic powers I mentioned before and engender some nuanced discussion amongst teenagers. More reasonably, secular Americans should take pleasure in the suggestion that efforts to remove “under God” from the pledge (most recently in Massachusetts where the Supreme Judicial Court is now weighing a case brought by the AHA’s Appignani Legal Center) are being noticed (at least by Hollywood liberals!) and are making their way into popular culture.

America is now a nation in which the denial of the existence of God has become commonplace. As all the polls suggest, the number of atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, and humanists is rising rapidly. Are religious conservatives really trying to say that these Americans who do not believe in God are second-class citizens? I hope not. We respect your right to practice your religion in private, so why not respect our right to live without religion in our public lives?