“McCarthyism” gave us “Under God” in the Pledge

photo of Senator Joseph McCarthy
Senator Joseph McCarthy (1908-1957)

Probably a waste of time but an article on the conservative website MichNews caught my eye this morning.

Wednesday night a talk show on the Fox network hosted by loud mouth Bill O’Reilly, called the “O’Reilly Factor”, had as a guest the first paid lobbyist for those of us who support a secular government. Lori Lipman Brown, who works for the Secular Coalition For America, and the issues discussed included the latest Pledge of Allegiance case now in Federal Court.

Writer Michael J. Gaynor was not happy with how the interview turned out. It seems that his buddy O’Reilly failed to get the history of the Pledge correct and “allowed” Brown to gain an upper hand in the “debate”.

Gaynor writes:

“Bill erroneously stated that “under God” had historically been part of “The Pledge.” His ignorance of the history of “The Pledge” played into Brown’s skillful and manipulative hands. First, Brown pointed out, rightly, that Bill was wrong; then, she attributed, ridiculously, the inclusion of the words in the 1950’s to McCarthyism.

The late Republican Senator from Wisconsin probably would be delighted to take credit, but his was but one vote for that inclusion. CONGRESS WAS UNANIMOUSLY IN FAVOR!

And the impetus for the inclusion came from the Knights of Columbus, not Senator McCarthy.”

Bill O’reilly Helps The Secular Coalition For America

This isn’t the first time that Gaynor has his conclusions wrong. In July, I posted an entry about another Gaynor article where he makes the ridiculous claim that “the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution each recognized God” – see : Government Acknowledging God Is All About Power

Senator Joe McCarthy didn’t introduce the words “under God” into the pledge but then again “McCarthyism” isn’t specifically referring to him. “McCarthyism” is a term describing the witch hunts that went on for many years looking for communists in all areas of the US political and public life. Senator McCarthy was the most famous of these hunters and so his name is used to describe the hunts.

The search for communists had begun just after World War II when the Cold War with the USSR had started. People were forced to reveal their political affiliations and to name “names” of people they thought were communists. It was an effort to make us “safe” from the Red Horde trying to take over the world. While recently declassified documents prove that a number of the most known cases of communist spying turned out to be true, many others had their lives ruined based merely on an accusation from another person who feared being labeled a communist.

McCarthyism also gave us the “Black List” in which people were classified based on if they named names or were accused of being in league with Communists. The Black List wasn’t so much an actual list but if you were on it, you might have been fired from a job, kept from getting a job, or watched by government agents.

That is why “McCarthyism” is a dirty word with negative implications. It was a hysterical fear of communism. It was totally against the principles of rights we are suppose to enjoy in this country – like the freedom to associate – and is now seen as a black mark in the history of this country.

Another aspect of “McCarthyism” was draping oneself in God and religion. The Soviet Union was officially a secular government and restricted or prohibited religious worship. It was based on Soviet dictator Stalin’s mistaken belief that the people should only worship “The State” and the “The State” should be the only church. This was a perversion – like many other perversions by Stalin – of the communist system. Karl Marx, the father of communism, is said to have written “Religion is the opium of the people”, but in fact Marx wrote:

“Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people.

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions.”

Austin Cline, author of the article containing the full quote above wrote in conclusion:

“[Marx is saying] economic realities prevent them from finding true happiness in this life, so religion tells them this is OK because they will find true happiness in the next life. The problem is that opiates fail to fix a physical injury — you only forget your pain and suffering. This can be fine, but only if you are also trying to solve the underlying causes of the pain. Similarly, religion does not fix the underlying causes of people’s pain and suffering — instead, it helps them forget why they are suffering and causes them to look forward to an imaginary future when the pain will cease instead of working to change circumstances now. Even worse, this “drug” is being administered by the oppressors who are responsible for the pain and suffering.”

Karl Marx’s Analysis of Religion

Marx, and hence Communism, didn’t consider religion the real enemy of the people but was used by the real enemy – the Capitalists – to manipulate the masses.

In a sense you can see that happening in this country back in the 1950’s. There was the hysterical fear of communism which lead many to drape themselves in God and religion for solace but that also lead to political leaders, ever the opportunists, to use God as a political statement of their own loyalty. The USSR, at least on paper claimed to be a democratic republic and with a secular form of government, so many political leaders needed something to contrast the “good” USA with the “evil” USSR.

The religious fervor that enveloped the country in the 1950’s was a direct result of the fear of communism and politicians used that religious revival to pass the law that changed the pledge in 1954. They then could go back to their districts and “prove” how loyal they were by keeping that “godless” communism out of the schools.

So, Mr. Gaynor is not correct. The addition of the words “under God” was a result of “McCarthyism”. And that hysterical fear has not gone away only now the “enemy” is secular humanism or Islam instead of communism and politicians are still playing the religion card to “prove” their loyalty.


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  1. Dylon M.
    October 1, 2005

    Interesting to observe conservative faults in their story and facts. I view it would be good for you to get a laugh at this really absured site (www.kinneys-views.blogspot.com). Oh, I also began blog (socialdemocract.blogspot.com, yes, I did not misspell democract) as well as secularcanada.blogspot.com.

  2. October 6, 2005

    Thank you Doug – I’ve read others explaining how McCarthyism was (mainly)responsible for “God” in the pledge. But I think this is the best I’ve seen.


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