Phrase Matters: “Good Without God,” “Under God,” and “In God We Trust”

Humanists, as noted by the American Humanist Association (AHA), believe in the principle of “Good without God” (AHA, 2012). In this, we can derive the philosophy of secularism, as in secular humanism, which strives for a secular government with the separation of church and state. The United States has violated this separation on occasion, and so has violated principles inherent in humanism.

This is important because millions of American citizens do not adhere to a faith or a religion (Pew Research Center, 2016; Newport, 2016). They remain unaffiliated with religion. Faiths with preference in the legal system make the law unequal for Americans in general.

Take, for examples, the uses of the phrases “Under God” and “In God we Trust” (IHEU, 2016). Of course, these are explicit theistic terms, of which millions of American citizens will disagree (Alper & Sandstrom, 2016).

It has a history too. Since the Cold War, there was paranoia about atheism because of association with communism (Ibid.). The phrase “Under God” was interpolated to the Pledge of Allegiance by “The Knights of Columbus.” What is the issue here?

The implication is those without belief in a God, or gods, cannot take the Pledge of Allegiance with total legitimacy. “In God we Trust” was established in 1956 as the motto of the US. It is a recent addition to the public discourse around religion in the American canon.

As the Freedom of Thought Report notes, the secular and minority religious groups have worked to establish the separation between church and state. This is for the betterment of all, including the attempts to make the Pledge of Allegiance and the motto secular. The most recent attempts, among many prior, to the supreme court and appeals court cases being in April of 2014.

For another example, there was an AHA campaign in 2015 to remove the mandatory statement of the Pledge of Allegiance with the encroached religious phraseology and language by students, in academic settings. This is an ongoing issue of concern and needed deliberation, and subsequent activism. Many American citizens don’t want theological verbiage in public statements — including mandatory ones — such as the pledge, especially the irreligious members of society.


Alper, B.A. & Sandstrom, A. (2016, November 14). If the U.S. had 100 people: Charting Americans’ religious affiliations

Retrieved from

American Humanist Association. (2012). American Humanist Association’s Key Issues. Retrieved from

IHEU. (2016). Freedom of Thought Report: United States of America. Retrieved from

Newport, F. (2016, December 23). Five Key Findings on Religion in the US. Retrieved from

Original Publication in Humanist Voices.

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