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County Hall Corner: God is Dead

Throughout Lycoming County, there are a number of local municipalities and county government entities that hold regular public meetings. One thing they all have in common is that they start their meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, UNDER GOD, with liberty, and justice, for all.”

I emphasize the ‘under God’ clause because it appears that this has become an outdated belief in our country. While we are at it, we might as well agree with those who wish to get rid of “In God We Trust” on our currency as well. How else to decipher the recent Gallup poll in June of this year, which showed that belief in God is at its lowest level since Gallup began polling the topic 78 years ago. It appears that, for all intents and purposes, the majority of people in America consider that God is dead.

God has been on life-support for centuries now. The German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel deeply regretted his discovery of God’s death in his work, Phenomenology of Spirit, published in 1807. Later in the 19th century, another German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, celebrated the idea of eliminating the possibility of God because it freed man to new possibilities. But it was not until 1966 that the great British philosopher and rock musician John Lennon announced on the cover of Time magazine that The Beatles were more popular than God. He was simply confirming what Time magazine had already proclaimed on the cover of their Easter edition that same year — GOD IS DEAD in bold red letters on a black field, and that was it — for the first time in the magazine’s history, there was no accompanying illustration. That April 8, 1966, Time magazine issue sold more copies than any other in the previous two decades, which is quite remarkable considering that this included events such as the first space flights and JFK’s assassination. Obviously, God’s obituary was very big news.

But for some reason, there were a few stubborn people who kept thinking that God was still hanging around. These numbers kept getting smaller, however. The Gallup poll referenced earlier specifically noted that belief in God has fallen the most in recent years among young adults, progressives, and Democrats. This is not particularly surprising given that this particular demographic is the one that highly values and emphasizes individual identity. If a person wishes to recognize themselves as something different from their biological formation, they are certainly free to do so. However, it negates the declaration in the first chapter of the Bible, which states, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth,” and later, “he made man in his image, male and female, he made them.”

This is the angst of our times — we need God, but we don’t believe in God. We honor God because it was this belief that provided the cohesiveness that forged our nation among disparate people groups. Yet, it now stands in the way of personal identity that is at the heart of individual freedom that is so much treasured in today’s world.

Logic was Abraham Lincoln’s strength; when asked if a horse’s tail is considered a leg, how many legs does a horse have, Lincoln replied, “four.” Because he noted that no matter what you call a tail, it is still a tail; in the same way, we can avoid God, deny his existence, and insist that belief in God is an antiquated concept that inhibits full human potentiality. But, ironically, this is also a belief.

Are we better off writing God off? Where does that leave us, not just as individuals but as a nation? What holds us together? It seems we should scrap the Pledge of Allegiance altogether because, as a Republic, we are no longer “under God.” Should we denounce the Little League Pledge that begins, “I trust in God…” Why stop there? Should we ban the song “God Bless America?” Should we ’cancel’ public officials who end their speeches with the standard “And may God bless America?”

Or perhaps this majority that Gallup is identifying is sticking their collective head in the sand to avoid the obvious — God isn’t dead. Call me a Dead God Denier, but I agree with the Psalmist who wrote in Psalm 14:1, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”