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What’s God Got to Do With It?

by Michael Shermer, Nov 15 2011

He may be invoked in the national motto, but God has nothing to do with why Americans are free and secure

This op-ed was originally published in the Los Angeles Times, Friday November 4, 2011.

The House of Representatives voted last week by a margin of 396–9 to reaffirm as the national motto the phrase “In God We Trust,” and encouraged its pronouncement on public buildings and continued printing on the coin of the realm. The motto was made official in 1956 during the height of Cold War hysteria over godless communism and—in the words of Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper in Stanley Kubrick’s and Peter Sellers’ 1964 classic antiwar film Dr. Strangelove—“Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.”

As risible a reason as this was for knocking out a few bricks in the wall separating state and church, it was at least understandable in the context of the times. But today, with no communist threats and belief in God or a universal spirit among Americans still holding strong at about 90%, according to a 2011 Gallup Poll, what is the point of having this motto? The answer is in the wording of the resolution voted on: “Whereas if religion and morality are taken out of the marketplace of ideas, the very freedom on which the United States was founded cannot be secured.”

What is troubling—and should trouble any enlightened citizen of a modern nation such as ours — is the implication that in this age of science and technology, computers and cyberspace, and liberal democracies securing rights and freedoms for oppressed peoples all over the globe, that anyone could still hold to the belief that religion has a monopoly on morality and that the foundation of trust is based on engraving four words on brick and paper.

If you think that God is watching over the United States, please ask yourself why he glanced away during 9/11 (why not divert those planes and save those innocent people?), or why he chose to abandon the good folks of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina (surely an omnipotent deity could hold back the flood waters as surely as he unleashed them on Noah’s generation), and why he continues to allow earthquakes and cancers to strike down even blameless children. The problem of evil—why bad things happen to good people if an all powerful and all good god is in control of things—has haunted the faithful since it was first articulated millennia ago with nigh a solution on the horizon.

It’s time to drop the god talk and face reality with a steely-eyed visage of the modern understanding of the origin of freedom on which the United States was founded and continues to be secured. God has nothing to do with it. If you want freedom and security you need the following:

The rule of law; property rights; a secure and trustworthy banking and monetary system; economic stability; a reliable infrastructure and the freedom to move about the country; freedom of the press; freedom of association; education for the masses; protection of civil liberties; a clean and safe environment; a robust military for protection of our liberties from attacks by other states; a potent police force for protection of our freedoms from attacks by people within the state; a viable legislative system for establishing fair and just laws; and an effective judicial system for the equitable enforcement of those fair and just laws.

With these in place the citizens of a nation feel free and secure. Why? The answer is in the final word of the motto: Trust. Claremont Graduate University economist Paul Zak has studied trust between nations and found that the more of these components that are in place, the more citizens trust one another. Zak even computed the differences in living standards that trust can affect, demonstrating that a 15% increase in the proportion of people in a country who think others are trustworthy raises income per person by 1% per year for every year thereafter. For example, increasing levels of trust in the U.S. from its current 36% to 51% would raise the average income for every man, woman and child in the country by $400 per year or $30,000 lifetime. Trust pays.

Trust has fiscal benefits that are derived through specific political and economic policies that have nothing whatsoever to do with religion or belief in God. Despite a strong belief in God, the percentage of Americans who believe that “religion can answer all or most of today’s problems” has plummeted from 82% to 58%, while those who believe that “religion is old-fashioned and out of date” leaped from 7% to 28%, according to a 2010 Gallup Poll. Thus it would seem that Americans are more aware today than a half century ago that it’s up to us to secure our freedom through enlightened secular policies with practical social applications rather than faith-based hope in empty mottos reflecting an era gone by. 

153 Responses to “What’s God Got to Do With It?”

  1. Max says:

    The motto’s reaffirmation makes me feel a lot more free and secure.

    • Alan says:

      It scares the living sh*t out of me.

    • Interestingly, alleged skeptics Penn/Teller have put libertarianism ahead of all other values of theirs, and have cut a video for Ron Paul, who’s just as much a fundy as Bachmann is.

      • libertarian_adi says:

        And you have put Marxism as the only value of yours, for you never had any others.

      • Adi again shows his cluelessness in general, as well as his specific cluelessness about my political stances.

        A simple click on the link to my blog, combined with openmindedness on your part, would disabuse you of your ignorance.

        However, I’m not holding a single millimole of my breath on you doing that.

      • Beyond that, you probably think Ronald Reagan was a Marxist.

        “In the land of libertarians wearing two eyepatches, the one-eyepatch man is king.”

      • libertarian_adi says:

        Gadfly the Marxist troll shows his ignorance of Libertarianism and his own stance apparently.

        “Libertarian socialism” or “anarcho-syndicalism”: it is just Marxism without the state. You are still an anti-capitalist, labor-worshiping clown, who is dumb enough to ignore the evolutionary fact that human beings are self-interested animals. There is no place for *common good* in reality. Drop your creation stories and try reading evolutionary psychology and behavioral economics.

      • And, Adi proves me right, like a clock. Actually, behavioral economics proves how irrational humans, are, which undercuts libertarian underpinnings, you buffoon. Obviously, you need to start reading off your own reading list before critiquing anybody else.

      • libertarian_adi says:

        LoL After my previous comment, there is no viable comeback on your part. Your epic fails consistently demonstrate that you are as mentally incompetent, confused, and deluded as any right-wing nutjob creationist. Get lost, troll.

      • Markx says:

        Adi, it doesn’t HAVE to be either Marxism or capitalism. (and it can’t be)

        The absolute ideals of unregulated capitalism are as wrong as the flawed concepts of idealistic socialism.

        We need some sort of government in the middle to make the whole thing work, or you will end up with a perpetual cycle of increasing exploitation followed by bloody uprising.

        The worry today is that with today’s weapons and surveillance technology, it is easier for a powerful few to suppress an unhappy majority.

        And modern communications and the understanding of indoctrination (advertising) further complicate the issue. We end up with an indoctrinated underclass (that may be you!) fighting for “rights” which are only benefitting an elite group of capitalist business owners.

  2. Max says:

    All those Islamic, African, and Latin American countries with “Traditional Values” at the bottom of the World Values Map ought to be even more free and secure.

    • Max says:

      Nicaragua has the same motto.

      • MadScientist says:

        I’m sure the Islamic nations will be proud of Congress affirming the US motto “Insallah”.

      • Max says:

        Iran and Iraq have the same motto: Allahu Akbar.
        If I had to choose between “Superman is the Greatest” and “In Superman We Trust”, I’d probably go with “Superman is the Greatest” because at least it doesn’t purport to speak for everyone.

      • Kelly says:

        Yes, but Superman IS the greatest!

      • Wrong says:

        No, BATMAN.
        But seriously, unless they can say that everyone in the nation worships a God and believes that faith and worship are enough to keep us safe, secure, and content (What I’d call the necessary elements of trusting in a protector), they shouldn’t be trying to make a religous statement the motto. In the case of some of the islamic nations it makes a little more sense: If you judge based on Shariah Law, then you’ve got the makings of a nation which could be described as religious. America is not meant to be stoning adulterers and chopping of hands, is it?

  3. If you think that God is watching over the United States, please ask yourself why he glanced away during 9/11 (why not divert those planes and save those innocent people?), or why he chose to abandon the good folks of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina (surely an omnipotent deity could hold back the flood waters as surely as he unleashed them on Noah’s generation), and why he continues to allow earthquakes and cancers to strike down even blameless children.

    Puts on fundytard hat. Because of the godless atheists in the building, the rest died according to gods plan. Because of the gays in New Orleans. Because god loves them so much he wants them next to him now. Takes off fundytard hat.

    Okay, I feel dirty just writing that. Someone please hold me. But the worst part is that I have actually heard those phrases from fundies… They do indeed say the darnedest things.

    • Other Paul says:

      You don’t actually have to go that far. The ‘problem of evil’ is already covered by the phrase ‘God moves in mysterious ways [etc]‘.

      It’s somewhat unpalatable – especially when you’re talking about the death of innocents – but the religious are forced to accept that their God knows the future and is allowing pre-emptive strikes against those who, in that future, may not be innocent and may do really terrible things.

      Fortunately, the non-religious aren’t under a similar obligation to accept such drivel.

      • Wrong says:

        True, but if God works in mysterious ways, and those ways are evil, then god does evil. If god regularly does great evil, or, as an omnipotent and loving entity, allows them to happen, then god is evil. An evil god is not worthy of worship. I just wish I could convince some of the faithful of this.

      • Max says:

        God is good by definition because God says so.

      • StephenM says:

        God is good. Thus, if God does evil, then evil is good, and good is evil. QED. :-)

      • tmac57 says:

        God is just short of ‘good’.

      • Other Paul says:

        Your response indicates that I’ve not made my point clearly enough. Which is that the faithful are bound to accept that God allows the death of present innocents because he knows that in the future these innocents will do even more terrible evil things. In other words he’s not “allowing evil” but is actually engineering (future) good.

        It’s such a horrible thing to imagine, which is why I suspect you missed my point. Naturally the non-religious aren’t saddled with such justifications of the very horrible. But I don’t see how the religious have any choice but to accept that the slaughter of innocents is just God doing his mysterious thing.

      • LovleAnjel says:

        Other Paul – I had not yet encountered that rationale for evil. It’s beyond cold comfort to say, “It’s too bad little Billy was eaten by that pack of wolves. But it’s okay, he probably would have been the next Hitler.”

      • Max says:

        LovleAnjel, it’s given as a rationale for God-sanctioned genocides in the Bible. Either God punishes children for the sins of their evil parents, or God spares the children from being raised in an evil culture.

      • Ed Seedhouse says:

        “7I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.”

        Isaiah 45, Verse 7.

        If God sez it, it must be true, what?

      • Karolus says:

        I never understood that. If he strikes “preemptively”, why does “He” allow them to be born in the first place ? Or, being almighty and all that, simply make them good ?

      • Wrong says:

        I see. It does make a certain sort of sense, and would work as an untestable argument, and you’re right, it’s definitely horrible to imagine. It’s like the concept of killing baby Hitler, Stalin, or Martin Bryant (Local psychopath, mass murderer, you can look him up, it’s not really relevant, but whatever). From hindsight, we can see the good, but since we can’t see the temporal effects, it doesn’t make sense to someone living in the time (Minority Report [Yes, crazy Tom Cruise] had an interesting commentary of systems like this).

        But even if you could be convinced of such rationale (Not suggesting you are), then it would be a rather gullible belief, and one not open to transparency. If you could convince yourself that several thousand people, and several self sacrificing rescue workers, were actually the greater evil, then you’d be completely lost to reason.

      • Applying reason to matters of faith is like trying to nail jell-o to the wall.

        The religionists can simply assert (without proof, as is their way) that the things we see as evil are, in fact, not. We have a limited temporal perspective which makes these things look like bigger deals than they are (in the eternal perspective). These things are unpleasant but not evil. I have heard analogies between childhood deaths and making kids eat their spinach. To the child suffering through it it may *seem* evil but from a more eternal perspective we see that these thing are small stuff.

        Anyone who believes in an eternal afterlife can easily write off all temporal pain as a mere bump in the road. No matter how many people suffer in this life, it is but a trifle. Once you swallow that, everything else is easy to digest: genocide, human sacrifice, and even TV evangelists.

        This is the grave danger of religion and morality: True Believers can rationalize away their own conscience by obeying a higher morality. If you read up on the Mountain Meadows Massacre, you will see that many of the Mormon men were unwilling to join in on slaughtering unarmed men, women and children (unarmed after they talked them into laying down their arms). How did they overcome their reluctance? Through fasting and praying!

        I guess what I am getting at here is: I trust an atheist more than a follower of god, because the atheistic cannot excuse evil done in this life with some ‘good’ in the next life.

      • Phea says:

        The scariest thing by far that I’ve learned and come to accept as an adult isn’t the the foul, evil things man has done. No, the really scary thing is every indecent thing man has done, every one, we actually believed we were doing the RIGHT thing, the correct thing. From human sacrifice, to the Inquisition, to the holocaust and all other genocide… all of it was done because it was firmly believed to be the right thing to do. Religion has always been a major player in justifying the horrible actions of man. That’s what’s scary.

  4. MaikU says:

    I don’t know which exactly people The House of Representatives represent? What about those that don’t want any representation by strangers who even don’t know their “people’s” names they supposed to “represent”? Government is a huge scam. Time to wake up.

    • Wrong says:

      Society has its advantages, and a governing body is necessary for an effective society. Government isn’t perfect, but that doesn’t mean it is a scam. The House of Representatives is made up of elected individuals: They represent you. If you want to have a say: Vote. When you vote, you choose someone to do what you would to change your country. Of course the government doesn’t know every individual. That’s insane. That doesn’t mean they can’t effectively represent the majority. If you don’t like your lack of a say: Vote.

      • Hittman says:

        >>The House of Representatives is made up of elected individuals: They represent you. If you want to have a say: Vote. When you vote, you choose someone to do what you would to change your country.<<

        No, they don't. They haven't for a very, very long time. They represent the corporations and special interests who have bought and paid for them, and no one else. They will occasionally put on some theater and pretend they're interested in us, but no more than is necessary for our votes.

        Voting for someone else is a scam as well. "Both" parties, owned by the same people, present a fake choice – we can vote for this corrupt weasel or that other corrupt weasel. Anyone who would represent a real change is pretty much barred from the race. Gerrymandering, ballot restrictions, and a mountain of other nonsense insures that someone from the "two" parties will win, and continue to do the bidding of their masters, who are not you, or me, or anyone else without the six figure check required to sit down at their table.

      • Wrong says:

        You do know it isn’t a binary system right? You can vote for any number of people: It isn’t a two party ONLY system. Sure, two parties have the majority. But there are plenty of other parties you can vote for.

        Assuming corruption all around is slanderous, and kind of crazy. It doesn’t make any sense. Once you do that, you can’t accept any view, since your unproven claim makes any part of the system wrong. You could run for a place in government, but now, the second you do, by your reasoning, you’d be corrupt.

        True, politicians are heavily influenced by lobbyists, special interest groups, and corporations. There are plenty of corrupt ones. That’s your fault. You’ve elected corrupt people, and are complicit in their decisions. That’s democracy. If you don’t like the Democrats and Republicans, don’t bloody vote for them.

        Check out the other parties, or even some independants. Heck, if you’re too slack to google it, click Socratic Gadfly’s username, he supports the Green party, and his point of view (Which I don’t entirely agree with, but that’s got nothing to do with it) is infinitely more informed and rational than yours. And if you truly believe all the government is corrupt, then you have the moral obligation to revolt: To rise up and change the government. You’re unlikely to find too much support in this, because the system is not beyond saving.

        You CAN vote for someone not of a major party, I’d urge you to do so. The two party dichotomy engenders a system where you can end up voting for the lesser of two evils.

        I’m going to leave it at this: If you don’t believe your vote can count, and you wish to remain in the country, and have it run in a way that is satisfactory to you, you have the obligation to revolt (Peacefully, I should hope.) Saying “Corruption” does not excuse you from making intelligent decisions and choosing something you believe in. If you can honestly say that you’ve been electing corrupt individuals willingly, then you’re complicit. If you haven’t voted, you’re complicit in the end result. If you voted for what you believe the country needs, you’re doing good.

      • There is one “real issue.” The U.S. is now at 310 million people and counting, and governed by a constitution written for a nation 1/100 that size and which is without a doubt the most anachronistic article of governance of any advanced western democracy today.

      • MaikU says:

        I am not against society. Why you got the impression that I am? Your rest of the post seems to be a delusion I am talking about, you believe, that people who don’t know you are somehow representing you. And if you don’t like the truth, go to vote booth yourself and pretend that you making a difference, when in fact, you are just participating in massive circus. What if I don’t wanna vote? It’s like saying to a rape victim, “if you don’t like that this man is raping you, go vote!” This is insane.

      • Wrong says:

        I could start with the logical fallacy: Yes, you are against organised governed society. If you reject government, then you accept and anarchistic viewpoint of some sort, which would likely tend towards corruption of strength, and all kinds of nasty stuff.

        People who don’t know you have to represent you. I know well around, what, 200 people at most. Then those who I understand the views on politics, corporations, economics, rights etc? Probably around 12. If I tried, maybe 30, but I’d be hard pressed to remember their views. Imagine what a stupid system that would be: You’d need an enormous government, not including it’s actual actionable arms, and then you’d have to PAY THEM. That’s absurd. Instead, you have people who hold views, which you vote for. If you agree with their views, and want them represented, vote.

        Don’t give me some crazy victimization rubbish. If you don’t want to vote, don’t. But don’t bitch about the people who are elected by people who give a shit. You’re doing nothing, for no-one. The rape analogy is a stupid argument, designed to associate me with an unpalatable view, and is completely wrong.

        If I should want, I could vote for Libertarians, Greens, Neo-Nazi’s, Communists, Socialists, Liberals, Republicans, all manner of people. You’ve got choice. And yes, the people who get the most votes, by and large, get elected, barring some exceptions. You’re an idiot if you think otherwise. Your vote counts. That’s why making sure that voters know what they’re talking about is important. People voting out of simple ideals, or for the affable man who looks good in a suit, or for someone who looks like he could be part of their congregation, aren’t helping. Armchair Anarchists who cry “Corruption” without doing anything about it, aren’t helping. Only by understanding who it is you’re voting for, and voting for them, are you doing anything. A small part is better than no part (Perfect solution fallacy. Seems pretty common with you.)

    • LovleAnjel says:

      My representative does know my name. I have sent him emails expressing my opinion on several topics under consideration in the house. He has responded to me, by name, with specific replies to my queries/statements (ie not a form email). They’re not psychic, you know.

      • MaikU says:

        fair enough, but what about the millions other people? Now you see your example is just a childish cop-out from the real problem. No one has a right to represent anyone without individual consent or/and contract. I hadn’t given the consent, my family and my friends haven’t given either, so why the hell this scam, called “representative government” is still running? It’s not a rethoric question, but the answer to that is too long to fit in a small post on a blog.

        The thing is, no contract = no government.

      • Wrong says:

        Well, that’s bullshit. You know who makes those regulations you’d like to call on (Without citing, I’d note)? Government.

        If you dislike the government, good. Change it. Talk to representatives, elect the ones you agree with, and actually educate yourself to the alternative to government. The alternative to represenatative government is either so huge it’s inactionable, or nonexistant. So, it’s either ineffective, or not there. Those are both pretty bad solutions.

        Government is not a scam. And if you think it is, then you’re a scammer. Democracy’s a bitch, ain’t it? If you don’t like it, go somewhere without effective government. That should be a solution for an anarchic viewpoint.

        Either way, it’s a fringe, extremist, childish point of view you’ve espoused, and could be quite simply fixed: Go somewhere without adequate governance, or convince people to destroy the government. I know which one is easier.

    • Beelzebud says:

      Government is a scam? Really? Is that what passes for skepticism in some circles?

      Your paradise awaits, in beautiful Somalia.

      • libertarian_adi says:

        And your paradise awaits, in Congo (ranked 172 in economic freedom index)

      • MaikU says:

        Somalia? Really? That’s the best self-proclaimed skeptic can pull of? Heh, you must first educate yourself on Somalia (that’s one thing) and second thing you need to educate yourself of what market anarchism is.

        But you won’t do that, because you are not a skeptic at all, you just go with the flow. Whatever is is meant to be that way. You can’t imagine things that can be different. You grew up under the State, so you accept it. Just like most christians grow up in christian enviroment and accept religion as truth.

    • Markx says:

      “Government is a huge scam. Time to wake up.”

      Hmmm, I wonder what the alternative is?

      • libertarian_adi says:

        A market-produced, efficient, polylegal system of government–as opposed to a government with a centrally planned legal system.

        I know you are one economically illiterate nut, but there is still hope. David Friedman, an economist who, using economic analysis, scientifically studies legal systems and their complexity, has concluded that designing a legal system is more complex than designing automobiles (think of state-owned industries vs Japanese manufacturers) and that centrally planned legal systems are no less worse than centrally planned, state-owned enterprises.

      • Ahh, this coming from a generally illiterate nut who refuses to make the effort to better educate himself.

      • MaikU says:

        I could talk about alternatives all night, but your question is still kinda misses the point… Imagine I tell a christian “religion is a scam”, he then says “hey, what’s the alternative?? Then there would be no morality and no science either!”

        Hope you get my example. If not, the alternative to forced association (government, school, prison etc) is voluntary human interaction aka free market. It could mean this, I don’t force you to live under my rules on your property and you don’t force me. Now the question arises in your head: if you don’t like State rules, just leave the state… but the short answer is – it DOESN”T legitimately own anything at all. Just like a king didn’t own the Britain, government doesn’t own the land.

      • Wrong says:

        That’s crazy. It’s not about the alternative question. If you don’t have government, you don’t have government. That means, you don’t have centrally, community sponsored electricity, law enforcement, water, sanitation, or anything.

        Those are big enough problems for me. It’s not a question of the alternative thing: If you’re against government, then the question is, what are you for? Unlike say, atheism (Since you brought it up), there are obvious, dramatic deficits to no government. What would you suggest replace it? I’d suggest that all solutions to the problem are unfeasible, fitting in with the theme of no representation without express say. You’re suggesting a hetero-orthodox idea: So you are obliged to support it. Democracy has been seen to work, in most nations, as one of the freeest (Definitely not a word) options available. If you have a better one: A Nobel Prize awaits you!

      • Markx says:


        “…. that centrally planned legal systems are NO … WORSE than centrally planned, state-owned enterprises. ”

        That is hardly a ringing endorsement of the alternative.

        Government could streamline the legal process quite easily, except for the prominent role lawyers hold in our society, and the great predominance of that profession in politics.

        They hold an almost religious reverence to “the law” stemming from generational indoctrination in these beliefs.

        Fascinatingly, the original concept of precedence (WHY is that concept so ingrained!) goes back to the time of Constantine. In his demands to streamline the laws of the time one expert (and a team) was appointed to codify the decisions of three prominent ‘judges’ into on a logical structure.

        He did a mighty job and completed it rapidly. BUT, modern research shows he solved the problem of myriad contradictions by simply falsifying the decisions of the three wherever it was necessary.

        SO the whole basic tenet of precedence is based on falsehood.

    • strumpfhosen says:

      This all about Human created barrier.

  5. Somite says:

    I am simply filtering out any articles that pander freedom and security. This is just dog-whistling for guns and militarism. I’d rather we emphasized humanism. Asimov, Clarke and Sagan would not approve.

    We also need to emphasize this was an entirely wasteful exercise by the GOP, and the GOP only. They will demure and dither until the country is in ruins just because the GOP thinks people will blame Obama. I hope people will be smarter than that on the next election.

    • Max says:

      Humanism doesn’t equal pacifism.

    • Somite says:

      I agree. Not necessarily. But humanist authors would emphasize that “violence is the last resort for the incompetent”.

      • Wrong says:

        I’d argue from a different view: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” – John F. Kennedy. Calling the use of violence incompetent is a pointless exercise: Sometimes violence is necessary. It’s a last resort, but one that people should never shirk from. All politics asside. I don’t see how this is calling for guns and militarism. I’m very anti-military and anti-gun, and I see no problem. He’s explaining what trust is, why its a good thing, and why it has nothing to do with God. Which links back to why God has nothing to do with enforcing the security and freedom of a country, and to trust in him doesn’t make anyone more free.

        I’d go one step further, and say that God denies freedom. Since religion usually enforces rules on pain of eternal damnation, it takes away freedom without giving anything concrete in return.

        Furthermore, why is it that people tend to think that ignoring a point of view makes it invalid? It doesn’t. Moreover, why is it that anything political is always stomped on. This seems like the most pointless and arbitrary barrier to place on your skepticism.
        I’m going to take a leap, and assume that this is about Shermer’s Libertarian background. Sure, whatever. But this post has nothing to do with economic Libertarianism, or the like, and much more in common with a more Social form of Libertarianism, which most skeptics and humanists have a lot of similarities with, as opposed to Authoritarianism (Which, I’m sure, considering the Church’s past Authoritarian stance towards science, most of us reject).

        Just because a view does not agree with yours does not make it something to ignore: Politics is not a zero sum game, someone could come to one conclusion using skeptical principles, someone could come to another. With no absolute correct answer, agreeing to disagree is the only option. That said, by analyzing an opposing position, you learn more than you do by burying your head in the sand.

      • A.K Bean says:

        What’s the benefit of anti-gun? If we had been anti-nuclear in the cold war, undoubtedly we would have lost. Disarming yourself of a weapon because you don’t want to use it doesn’t ensure that your enemies won’t.

        Disarming citizens of guns only ensures that our police and military have the power to enforce unjust seizure of freedoms.

        That being said though, I probably feel the same way about religion as you may feel about guns, and if I could disarm the world of gods I would do so. For such an act I wouldn’t mind being called a villain.

        But the bottom line is such a thing is unethical, discriminatory and encroaches on peoples freedoms. They should be treated similarly on a legal scale.

      • tmac57 says:

        Do you honestly think that our citzenry could defend itself from our military effectively,if it came to that?That is a pipe dream. I hasten to add that I think that it is unlikely in the extreme that it would ever come to that.

      • MadScientist says:

        Religions don’t kill people – people do.

      • Interesting question – I’ve never heard it phrased that way: What’s the benefit of (being) anti-gun?

        [Full disclosure: I guess you'd call me 'pro-gun' since I oppose taking things away from everybody just because a tiny minority mis-uses them. But I do support some gun restrictions and regulations: I don't feel secure if my neighbor gets to keep a 155mm Howitzer loaded and aimed at my garage.]

        I guess we could ask “What is the benefit of being opposed to a side of any controversial issue.”

      • Wrong says:

        I’d agree with tmac here: I like the idea of government being afraid of their people, and the ability to rebel against an unfair regime: But the citizenry are armed with sports rifles and 4wds. The military are armed with M16’s, M40’s, M1 Abrams MBT’s, F/A-18 fighter planes, C-130 transport and attack planes, warships, nuclear missiles, and an actively trained, properly marshalled military. Unless the citizenry could arm themselves to the same extent (Which, by the way, is very illegal, and the government would stomp you out), then you can’t rebel effectively.

        Don’t get me wrong, I like the point of view, and I see the positives and negatives of gun ownership. But the negatives seem to outweigh the positives without the armed citizenry angle.

        More to the point: If no-one had weapons, no-one would be able to use them. I’m in favour of universal disarmment, or at the very least, a reduction in weaponry.

        And the Cold War example: Who won that again? How did their nukes help them: (Hint: The USSR had more nukes. They didn’t lose through military might. One or two nukes, rather than hundreds, would have been sufficient to secure freedom. Instead, you crazy people scared the entire planet that you’d manage to wipe out humanity. In fact, the constant military expenditure likely contributed to the downfall of the USSR).

      • Interesting bit of trivia: JFK’s was the only inaugural address that was 100 percent devoted to foreign policy.

    • Ed Forth says:

      “an entirely wasteful exercise by the GOP, and the GOP only.”


  6. Like it or not, the Courts have determined that for legal purposes, atheism is a religion, at least in regards to protection from religious discrimination.

    Given that, I don’t see how the motto “In God we trust” does not officially and legally “establish” mono-theistic religions that refer to a deity by the name “God” and expressly exclude any and all other religions, such as those that use the names Allah, Krishna, Zeus, Xenu, etc, those that are poly-theistic and would use a word like “gods”, and those that are essentially atheistic or agnostic and would not express trust in any deity, such as atheists, Buddhists, non-interventional deists, etc.

    Also, as a side note, by using ecumenical, Judeo-Christian friendly terms, the Christians that are convinced that the US is a Christian nation have hood-winked many members of the Jewish religion into supporting their evangelical Christian agenda.

    It is my considered opinion that the biggest supporters (numerically) of the Secular Coalition should probably be religiously Jewish persons and not atheists.

    I wonder how many members of Congress that voted in favor of this really supported it rather than just acted out of fear to not be seen as someone who voted against it.

  7. DeLong says:

    With the way things have gone lately, Congress should change the motto to be: “In PROFIT We Trust.” Since the motto is most often seen on money, and the economic trends favor the rich, this is more in tune with reality. Most members of Congress seem to favor the rich and do more for campaign contributions than anything else they do.

    • Wrong says:

      The Right to Endeavour and Enterprise: I like it!
      And we get all sorts of irony points when we spend the money with the word profit on it.

      • DeLong says:

        After thinking about this some more and coming back to this article, the word “GREED” should be substituted for “PROFIT” in my earlier post. However, most of those who have exhbited the most greed probably never see actual printed or coined money. They just use plastic.

    • MadScientist says:

      I don’t know if it’s true, but there’s an old story of a short run at a US mint which produced pennies that read “In Gold We Trust”. Personally I find the story hard to believe because it’s difficult to miss “Gold” when proofing the dies.

    • Cynically, I agree. Realistically, I’d like some non-GOPer to propose E Pluribus Unum, with the statement that “It was good enough for the founders.”

  8. CountryGirl says:

    Like it or not a large segment of the population believes in god. This may rub you the wrong way and reinforce your belief that only you are right and everyone else is a dunce. I don’t understand the inability to live and let live. It’s not as though the people who are religious are asking you to stop using energy while China and other countries are allowed to freely do so. They aren’t asking you to cap and trade anything. They aren’t asking you to turn food into alcohol. It’s not as though they are trying to destroy the economy and make a massive transfer of your wealth to 3rd world countries…

    • CJG says:

      I think if BOTH sides had the ability to ‘live and let live’ we’d all be better off.

    • Kim says:

      Why do we need to paste GOD on everything just because a population of people belive in god? That makes no sense. The govt. should be neutral.

    • mycount4 says:

      Of course someone of faith could ask me to:
      1) stop using energy while China and other countries are allowed to freely do so.
      2) cap and trade
      3) turn food into alcohol
      4) destroy the economy and make a massive transfer of your wealth to 3rd world countries

      Those are economic political stands not statements of faith.

      The two are not related.

  9. Trimegistus says:

    Kind of amusing that you have to quote Gen. Ripper — who is, you know, an imaginary made-up fictional character — to find a proper strawman for this blog post. But I guess it’s sciencey and intellectually rigorous to use fictional characters to bash religion.

    It’s also fun to see all the commenters patting themselves on the back for how enlightened and smart they are because they don’t happen to believe in God. To me it looks like cargo-cult thinking: “If I don’t believe in the same stuff that smart people don’t believe in, that makes me smart, too! Yay!”

    • Other Paul says:

      Golly. That’s put us in our place then.

    • tmac57 says:

      “But I guess it’s sciencey and intellectually rigorous to use fictional characters to bash religion”
      Yeah,you would never see a religious person using a ‘fictional character’ to bash the non-religious,now would you?

      • MadScientist says:

        Hey, Jesus, god, and the Virgin Mary aren’t fictional! They are too real! God said so hisself in the Bable.

    • @Trimegistus. Your complaint is off base. First he did not *have* to quote that work of fiction. Second, Dr Schermer used this technique are many other academics have: to introduce a pithy sound bite to charcaterize an idea or an attitude – you can see that this is how it was done by the wording used to introduce the quote.

      BTW: If he had quoted a character written by Shakespeare or Twain would you have felt that it is inappropriate, too?

      • Wow. That needed some additional editing:

        Schermer used a quote form a work of fiction in the same way that many academics do: to introduce a pithy sound bite to characterize an idea or attitude.

        That quote captures the red scare as well as any… but it is also amusing!

    • I don’t believe in the cargo cult of libertarianism! Hah.

    • Wrong says:

      I don’t think we need a Strawman: The bill passed. That’s probably enough. And whether you believe in God, is irrelevant to whether you believe that it needs to be the motto. I’d suggest that a motto that inspires the everyman, inspires the populace, and is noble enough to be respected internationally, would be what you’d look for.

      “I’m Gullible.”-Really doesn’t have the same ring.

  10. Beelzebud says:

    To me our national motto will always be E Pluribus Unum.

    It’s hard to divide people with a motto like that, though. Better to have a national motto that purposely excludes people.

  11. Max says:

    The motto not only “knocks out a few bricks in the wall separating state and church,” but it’s also just really annoying how it purports to speaks for everyone. In God WE trust?! Speak for yourself, buddy!
    And that’s still not as bad as forcing or pressuring individuals to say “so help me God” in an oath. It’s supposed to make the oath more serious, but instead makes a mockery of it.

    • George Stearns says:

      If you do not want to say “so help me god” there is an alternative oath you can say (probably better and more truthful), under penalty of prosecution or something like that. I refused to say the first when I was enrolled to vote and found that there is that contingency, at least in CT.

    • Well, in the U.S. Constitution, at least, it is NOT part of the official presidential oath of office, of course. And, at lesser levels of government, that’s the simple, proper rejoinder.

  12. MadScientist says:

    What I find extremely offensive is the religious claim to morality. Religion is no sensible nor secure foundation for morality and yet the liars like to parrot claims that if religion disappeared we’d lose all morality.

    • spectator says:

      We’re discussing the national motto. Not morality or whether we can trust individuals who don’t share the same values.
      But since you brought it up, shared values aka. morals are what allows a group to function cohesively. This how we are able to trust each other to do no harm.
      I would argue that Judeo-Christian values have been the most coherent and beneficial influence in shaping Western society. Atheists love to refer to the oldest books in the Old Testament. But the moral philosophy espoused by Jesus Christ is essentially flawless.
      Trust is not something you can demand. It must be earned. Bottom line-the majority of the US doesn’t trust atheist ideology. Sure, Communism is no longer much of threat. But the atrocities of the 20th century were committed in the name of eliminating religion. In every atheist blog combox and forum the ideological battle cry to eradicate religion from society is a reoccurring theme. That’s a dangerous ideology and completely contrary to the 1st amendment. Exterminating the word “God” is perceived as the beginning of a slippery slope. I know that’s considered a fallacious argument. But instead of providing a sound argument to counter it, we see ideological-based rebuttals. “Where was your God on 9/11?” is as offensive as “There are no atheists in foxholes.” Ridicule rarely convinces a change of hearts and minds. But it certainly makes people even more polarized and entrenched in their conclusions. Just look at the arguments in this thread. They’re fairly typical too. If atheists want to be respected and included, it’s never going to happen using insults and ideology.

      • George Stearns says:

        Does that mean that the rich are damned? Jesus of Nazareth’s teachings would fit communism better than capitalism.
        Do you believe in the laying on of hands as the proper method to heal people?
        I really do not care if you choose to believe in myths, as long as you do not try to make me do the same.

      • MadScientist says:

        What utter nonsense. First of all, I mentioned the religious lies about being the foundation for morality because that was one of the excuses put forth in the lead up to the voting. The Jesus morality is a hoax, nor is it even flawless. It’s even much older than the mythical Jesus and by extension older than the first written Jesus fables which are still in existence.

        “… the atrocities of the 20th century were committed in the name of eliminating religion” Absolute rubbish. The hideous acts committed in the name of suppressing religion are an almost insignificant minority compared to the hideous acts committed for other purposes. The Nazis didn’t murder the Jews to suppress religion. The Catholic church doesn’t condone and even promote the rape of children in the name of suppressing religion. The majority of mass murders done under the command of Stalin and Mao had nothing to do with suppressing religion. Pol Pot’s murderous rampage had nothing to do with suppressing religion. You’ve got Battista, Franco, Mussolini, Idi Amin, Kadaffi – the list goes on. The significance of the desire to repress religion only exists in your imagination. Religious repression exists primarily where one religious sect has control of a government; the notable exceptions were with the Stalinist USSR, pre-1990 Cuba, and to some much smaller degree China.

      • spectator says:

        Re-writing history to suit your narrative is neither skeptical or trustworthy.

        Good luck with winning people over to support your crusade.!

      • Wrong says:

        Well, if you’d look it up, I think you’d find that “Faith” and religion, are the ones who are losing out to rationality, and atheism/agnosticism. We’re still the minority, but we’re growing.

      • Zeke says:

        “But the moral philosophy espoused by Jesus Christ is essentially flawless.”

        You mean the moral philosophy created by man, written down, and attributed to Jesus?

        Humanity has evolved to a solid understand of right and wrong. No need to attribute that to a supernatural being.

      • tmac57 says:

        “I would argue that Judeo-Christian values have been the most coherent and beneficial influence in shaping Western society. Atheists love to refer to the oldest books in the Old Testament. But the moral philosophy espoused by Jesus Christ is essentially flawless.”
        This might make some sort of sense if in reality all Judeo-Christians turned out to be moral people. But the obvious fact,is that they are at least as immoral as atheists and adherents of other religions on average. So it is comforting lie that they tell each other to try to get some sort of an edge on the rest of humanity regarding getting into the mind of the individual,and thinking that they can somehow ‘know’ what is in another persons true nature.History has shown this to be a false hope.

      • Wrong says:

        Jesus of Nazareth: The crazy guy who made a whip and chased some Jewish Bankers out of a disused temple. He’s definitely got the claim to a moral high ground.

        If you don’t accept the old Testament, fine. Then screw the Ten Commandments. Though shalt not kill, etc, all gone. If you only want to follow the works of Jesus, fine. That’s certainly a more nice view. But again, you’re doing what your told, rather than thinking it through. Moral Philosophy has progressed far beyond christianity, and is better for it. If we have to start from dogma, why not Buddhism? It’s pretty nice, potentially atheist, and has some good values.

        Religion doesn’t need to claim morality, because that morality is based on the morality of an amoral higher power: Only we can assess morality based on the harms and goods we see and do. Religion has certainly added to that. It’s also detracted from it. And in the end, it reaches no conclusions that can’t be reached without it.

  13. Kenneth Polit says:

    In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash.

  14. pitbull says:

    Ol’ Shermer nails it again, and his libertarian roots show through with his reliance on “trust” as an economic motivator. He is dead-on correct, to be sure. Now it’s time to kill “under god” from the Pledge of Allegiance.

    • George Stearns says:

      I agree, the words make less sense than one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
      As a substitute teacher and an atheist, I could not in good conscience explain the pledge word by word so students understood what they were saying.

  15. Cathy says:

    I asked a man who is a Jehovah’s Witness, “If the Lord is so great, why does He permit so much suffering?
    He replied, “Oh, that’s all due to Satan!” So which of them is the more trustworthy?

    • Zeke says:

      Does that mean that Satan is more powerful than God, or does God simply not care? Strange behavior from a being which loves its creations, eh?

    • Phea says:

      I’ve had more than one J.W. leave by explaining how I thought the whole tree thing in Genesis was was a set up, by an unfit parent, and if somehow I ever came to truly believe in such a wicked, cowardly god, I would align myself against him and do what I could to bring him down. They don’t bother me so much anymore…

  16. Doug says:

    When the Confederates wrote their constitution, they made a point of including the phrase, “invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God.” They were sure that this would cause Him to favor them over them damyankees with their “Godless” constitution.
    It didn’t help.
    The Byzantine Empire didn’t just put God’s name on money–they put Jesus’ face on their coins. For some reason, God allowed them to be destroyed by the Turks, and the church of Hagia Sophia–the largest Christian church in Europe–turned into a mosque.
    Trusting in God didn’t stop ancient Israel from being wiped off the map by the Assyrians, or Judea by the Romans.
    And so on.

  17. Dredge101 says:

    I found the article and the comments very interesting. As an outsider (from Australia) and a committed athiest, I have long been concerned by the growing religeous right in the US (and it’s starting to happen here too). From my perspective all religions are just another form of “in group”. They help to identify friend from foe, something that was a life and death matter 50K years ago. Unfortunately, some people still need to believe that they are some how different (superior?) to others. The current Australian Prime Minister is an anthiest. She doesn’t denounce religion, but is prepared to state what her personal beliefs are. I fear that no person who expects to rise to the presidency in the US will ever be able to make such a statement, regardless of how they really feel. Religion is also a “control framework”, and has been for millenia. Who benefits? those in control. As Shermer says, you don’t need a god to have a successful society, you need trust and I would suggest, a more equitable distribution of benefits.

  18. Zeke says:

    396 deluded and/or cowardly miscreants, 9 heroes.

  19. Halidom says:

    You say belief in God or a higher being is still running strong at 90%.
    The polls and the census may say that but when did you last drive by a church on a Sunday? I think most people put religion on a form just out of habit. When was the last time you dined with someone who said grace.
    Most churches are almost empty and I don’t know any children that go to Sunday school. I’m sure these people don’t consider them selves as atheist but I doubt they read the bible very often either.

    • mycount4 says:

      sheeple logic…

      I don’t recall the quote but… if 90% of people “believe” something you can probably be sure they are wrong.

      If 90% of the world beleives in a deity of some type you can be sure they are wrong.

      The vote for keeping “in god we trust” was over 90% you can be sure they were were wrong.

  20. Gan Drak says:

    Variation on the title theme…
    What God Got To Do With It?

  21. tim says:

    Paraphrasing George Carlin. “If this is the best God can do, I’m not impressed.”

  22. Lyn Miner says:

    The same problem arises in the Salute to the Flag, wherein it now reads “one nation, under God, indivisible…”

    It wasn’t written that way, and it wasn’t intended to be that way, so every time I salute the flag, I just leave those two words out, and say it the way I learned it and the way I said it all through school, as a child.

    People have a write to believe whatever religion they want; they do NOT have a right to foist it on other people who may not believe the same things they do.

  23. Phea says:

    Just hope the religious right never gets in bed with prisons for profit, or we’ll all, (most of us anyway), be in real trouble.

    • libertarian_adi says:

      Your implicit assertion that profit-seeking, profit-maximizing firms, competing to run prisons efficiently (or lose to a better competitor and face extinction) will put most of us in trouble is a little bit disingenuous. I take it that your thought process is similar to the following: “greedy corporations runnin’ our prisons will lead to more and more people gettin’ caught coz corporations are evil and will lock people up… and da government is der to protect us.”

      Going with that “logic” we shouldn’t have privately produced firearms–by Beretta, Springfield, or Mossberg–because that will lead to more cops killing us than under a system of firearms supplied by state-owned enterprises.

      • Phea says:

        You sure do like to put words in peoples mouths. Since you seem to be an expert on prisons for profit though, I guess you believe the corrupt judges in Pennsylvania, (Conahan and Ciavarella), were just capitalists doing business as usual.

        Even where I live we had a deal called ComCor, which was owned by judges wives, (so there didn’t appear to be any corruption). ComCor consisted of shoddy motels which they packed full of offenders, mostly on work release and charged them quite a bit per day to stay there. The judges made sure they stayed full. It’s not in business anymore though.

        You are beyond delusional if you actually believe unregulated free enterprise capitalism is a viable solution that will fix everything wrong in our society. Sorry, didn’t mean to put words in your mouth so correct me if I’ve misinterpreted the garbage you’ve been spouting.

      • libertarian_adi says:

        “I guess you believe the corrupt judges in Pennsylvania, (Conahan and Ciavarella), were just capitalists doing business as usual.”

        Judges aren’t exactly employees of the private sector–unless you are deluded enough to think that we have a Pareto efficient market system of a large number of private courts. You just expressed your frustration with employees of a socialist court system. I agree with you.

        “Even where I live we had a deal called ComCor, which was owned by judges wives, (so there didn’t appear to be any corruption)… The judges made sure they stayed full. It’s not in business anymore though.”

        Free market capitalism is not *one* corporation getting deals with the government–it’s a system with large number of firms competing for the customers by increasing quality and efficiency of what they do. The situation you have described is a corporate-state nexus: a symptom of too much government intervention. And your local branch not being in business anymore is a sign of progress: bad firms fail.

        You are one of the myriad brainwashed clowns, masquerading as a skeptic and freethinker, who has no clue about economic science. Your government regulated utopia would be something like Zimbabwe or Senegal or North Korea even. The libertarian free market utopia would be Hong Kong (ranked no.1) and Singapore (ranked no. 2) the freest markets in the world, which were third world countries just three decades ago.

      • Adi, this is Nurse Ratched. Time for your thorazine.

      • Markx says:

        Hmmm. Adi is back.

        Still thinking one big corporation running everything will work out better than having a government.

        The concept needs a little more work.

      • Phea says:

        Please correct me if I’m wrong, I certainly wouldn’t want to make you look more foolish than you already go. Here’s some of what you actually believe:
        All of the following should be privately owned and controlled with NO government interference or regulations.
        All police and fire departments.
        All roads, bridges, dams… all infrastructure.
        All banks and financial institutions.
        All jails and prisons.

        Real simple, yes/no question, is what I just stated what you believe?

      • Markx says:

        A lot in Singapore is ‘government owned’..

        Temasek Holdings is an investment company owned by the government of Singapore. With an international staff of 380 people, it manages a portfolio of about US$157 billion….. it owns stakes in many large foreign companies….. as well as many of Singapore’s largest companies, such as SingTel, DBS Bank, Singapore Airlines, PSA International, SMRT Corporation, Singapore Power, Neptune Orient Lines and Mediacorp……..

      • Markx says:

        ….. and, the Singapore governement runs those coorporations.

        Now, all that aside, I think Singapore is a wonderful place and a great success story.

        But it is very much a story of ‘government managed capitalism’.

      • Markx says:

        ….. and, the Singapore government runs those coorporations.

        Now, all that aside, I think Singapore is a wonderful place and a great success story.

        But it is very much a story of ‘government managed capitalism’.

      • Markx says:

        @ Adi 99% privately owned? … perhaps, but..

        “…At the time of this report, the various Temasek holdings linked companies held one-third of Singapore’s stock market capitalization between them…”

      • They don’t run prisons efficiently. Whatever gave you that idea? I, as a newspaper reporter and editor, have actually done reporting on the private prison industry.

      • libertarian_adi says:

        @ SocraticGadfly

        “Efficiency” is a technical term in neoclassical economics. Being a newspaper reporter and editor, you have not even posted a link to your reportage. Methinks your reportage is fiction, just like every assertion of yours.


        Singapore is not a government-managed economy. 99% of the firms are privately owned. If you think state-owned companies lead to economic growth, then I suggest you to take a look at modern day, state-controlled economies like North Korea. Singapore, along with Hong Kong, is one of the historically laissez faire, free market capitalistic economies. All correlation is against your hypothesis that the more government regulated economies are the better they perform. Take a look:

        And I don’t think a single corporation running things is better than a government. I said the exact opposite. Go and read it. Government has many functions only it can perform (there are no economic arguments for privatizing national defense). A competitive market of private firms can better perform myriad other functions in society.


        My conditions for a private solution:

        The market should have lots of firms.
        The market should not have information asymmetries.
        The market should have perfect or at least monopolistic competition. (

        Under these circumstances, it is a demonstrated fact that free markets lead to the most efficient allocation of resources.

        Judicial services, law enforcement, fire insurance, prisons, roads and infrastructure, should all be done by competing firms–not a state monopoly, which is a system of bad incentives.

        You can’t define your statist position as something that leads to pareto efficient outcomes. You can’t. Yours is a *conservative* solution, which depends on your inability to go past your indoctrination. What makes you think the state is a better candidate to run things?

      • Phea says:

        “The market should have lots of firms.”

        Should have? So, what happens when it doesn’t? Are you totally oblivious to the fact that history has shown that unregulated, pure capitalism time and time again has led to monopolies. If you agree with that, then how are “lots of firms” supposed to be maintained without any interference from a higher authority, (government). Are the people just supposed to rise up in revolt and overthrow the monopolies as the inevitably crop up?
        If you don’t believe monopolies will never arise from the “lots of firms”, then you are woefully ignorant of history and common sense about how the REAL world works. I truly wish I too could believe in the world you fantasize about, and I’m truly sorry to be one of the people to tell you the world just doesn’t work that way.

      • Phea says:

        One more question, adi. Are patents something you believe are a good thing? If so, who should be in charge of granting and enforcing them?

      • libertarian_adi says:


        It is part of mainstream microeconomics that monopolies are formed by a) regulatory agencies preventing new firms from entry into a market; b) excessive patenting by the government which ends up giving monopoly statuses to even trivial inventions; c) tariffs and quotas to prevent international competition.

        Had you known anything about the effects of tariffs, quotas, regulatory agencies like the now-extinct Civil Aeronautics Board and Interstate Commerce Commission (which regulated airline and trucking industries), you would have known that the state is the biggest creator of monopolies.

        Here’s a research paper from George Stigler, an economist who won the Noble prize in economics for his work in analyzing industrial structures and organization, including monopolies. He established that free markets are the effective solution to monopolies.

        What’s amusing is that you are so completely, pathetically clueless about economics; and you have convinced yourself that your illiteracy is superior to science. You are what I call an “economic creationist.” You live in your own deluded worldview just like all religious wingnuts do.

      • Adi, for the BS you spout, you sure do know a lot about fiction, or could … by self-examination. Hey, Nurse Ratched is back; you need another shot of thorazine. Unfortunately, while you’re a figment of stupidity, you’re not a figment of intelligent people’s imagination.

      • libertarian_adi says:

        Yup, that’s what I thought. You are no newspaper reporter. You are mentally incompetent and deluded enough to think that writing your blog, which only three people have read so far over the years, makes you a news expert. You are just an online troll and a Marxist pervert. And the only news story you will make it into is the one which reports your arrest in an online sting operation targeting pedophiles.

      • Markx says:

        @ Adi 99% privately owned? … perhaps, but..

        “…At the time of this report, the various Temasek holdings linked companies held one-third of Singapore’s stock market capitalization between them…”

      • Markx says:

        Adi, thanks for conceding that there is hope for me.

        May I respectfully point out that it does not add to your argument by proclaiming that others are ignorant of ‘the art’.

        It is common for young acolytes to absorb absolutely the dogma of their mentors, but you would serve yourself far better to do a little more observing, a little more of your own thinking and partake in more civil discussion.

        I note in a previous discussion you never did respond to information on Paul Krugman’s changed stance on free trade (surely a concept similar to unregulated capitalism).

        He WAS an absolute champion of free trade in the 1996 article you quoted, convinced absolutely of the theory, and dismissing critics as “creationist thinkers”.

        But, by 2007, he had to write that it had not quite panned out as his theory had predicted.

        (And, although he couched it in very careful terms, I do respect him for doing so).

      • Phea says:

        Interesting paper. Of course the “state”, politicians who are sufficiently lobbied, the owner of a company, (if you happen to be looking for work), the people who belong to the same club, church, fraternity, old high school or army buddies, personal friends, relatives, the list goes on and on. In my day it was called JUICE. If you had it, you were a leg up on any and all competition who didn’t. Or to put it another way, it’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know.

        You are so naive about how the world works. You must be a young man, so full of ideals and woefully ignorant of history and basic human nature. Take away the influence and power of the state and let things run “free” with no regulations and everything will be hunky dory. I hate to break it to you, but juice is juice, and what will replace the state will not be the pretty picture you fantasize about.

        I really don’t need another kid to raise, if you don’t understand how the world works, go talk to your Dad, as I am tired of arguing with you.

      • libertarian_adi says:


        Think before you blindly post anything from wikipedia.

        “Temasek holdings linked companies held one-third of Singapore’s stock market capitalization between them…”

        The companies *linked* to Temasek aren’t state owned. Temasek might invest and own shares in many private firms, which collectively hold one-third of the stock market capitalization. Your ignorance just proves my point even further: free market capitalism is much better than a regulated market system.

        As for Paul Krugman:

        He changed his views for political reasons. Here’s a scientific study of the views of economists over the years. Krugman ranked no.1 for partisanship.

        The economics of free trade was worked out by David Ricardo in 1817. Since then the evidence for free trade has grown more stronger. This evidence includes the work for which Krugman won the Nobel prize. More than 95% of economists support free trade. The mainstream view is in support of free markets and free trade. It will do yourself a great favor to peruse through texts on price theory and macroeconomics before you inadvertently expose yourself as an economic illiterate to the entire world on the net.

        It is one thing to be a left-wing nut and an entire another to be a brainwashed fool. There is nothing wrong with being ignorant. However, to be in such a state of ignorance despite all evidence against your views, is the pinnacle of stupidity.


        “Of course the “state”, politicians who are sufficiently lobbied, the owner of a company, (if you happen to be looking for work), the people who belong to the same club, church, fraternity, old high school or army buddies, personal friends, relatives, the list goes on and on. In my day it was called JUICE. If you had it, you were a leg up on any and all competition who didn’t. Or to put it another way, it’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know.”

        The–what? Are you retarded? Did reading through George Stigler’s rigorous research paper deprive you of the rest of your 65 IQ?

        “I really don’t need another kid to raise…”

        Oh lord, I feel sorry for your kid. I hope the 23 chromosomes he got from the woman you accidentally impregnated gave him a relatively higher IQ–high enough to learn economics. People like you make me reconsider my libertarian position against state-sanctioned eugenics.

      • Markx says:

        Adi says “Paul Krugman changed his views for political reasons. …. Evidence includes the work for which Krugman won the Nobel prize….”

        An absolutely remarkable situation, don’t you think. A Noble prize winner changing his view on the very thing that he was awarded that prize?

        “.. More than 95% of economists support free trade….” and I presume you think none of them would be influenced by politics?

        David Ricardo’s theories rely on some remarkably simplistic concepts, one of which is “two goods, two countries, perfect competition.(…. really? Where is this world?) The other is the absolute ‘flexibility of labour’ (hence the need for the incredible contortion of abolishing qualifications and regulating bodies).

        Thanks for our advice on texts to peruse. May I suggest you do a little of your own thinking as you peruse, please don’t just take the concepts as ‘facts’. A good place to start would be to read Krugman’s “Ricardo’s Difficult Idea” essay, ignore it’s scathing tone on the many who ‘cannot see the obvious’, see the many provisos which Krugman feels he successfully explained at that point, and then consider Krugman’s slightly humble changed stance on the matter, given the evidence of 10 years of economic data.

        Ah, re Singapore. I suspect I have done more business in Singapore than you have. I have sat in boardrooms with CEOs and CFOs of Temasak owned companies. It is astonishing when one discovers recently retired Brigadier Generals (38 years old!) filling such positions. Retired politicians, retired military, family and associates of ‘important people’ fill so many executive positions in these companies in Singapore.

        Singapore is truly a fine example o f guided, tightly controlled capitalism, and I must observe, the system works brilliantly for that state.

        BUT, rules and regulations make it work, boyo. Did you know, that while Singapore does not have a mainstream ‘social support’ system as such, it does have laws governing who can run food court stalls at the lower level, (no big companies, limited number of stalls, and requirements to be below a certain income level to qualify) – Damn clever stuff, it provides lower level employment AND keeps food very cheap for the poorer citizens… anyone can get a good meal for 2 or 3 dollars. Likewise, only Singaporean citizens over a certain age are licensed to drive taxis, again providing a certain level of basic employments.

        I’m not sure any of this would work so well in a ‘free for all’.

  24. Dr. Strangelove says:

    Dr. Shermer,

    You’re thinking like a scientist when you asked what’s the point of having this motto. Think like a politician. After all, the Representatives are politicians. It’s obvious. You said 90% of Americans believe in god. That’s it. They are just affirming the sentiment of the people.

    It is not an affront to the separation of church and state. It is not promoting any particular religion. God has different meanings to different people. It could be nature or goodness or a universal principle or whatever. The motto is just a sign of spirituality. Not really threatening. Loosen up and be more tolerant. You’re beginning to sound like a militant atheist.

    • Max says:

      It promotes monotheism and offends many Americans.

      • Dr. Strangelove says:

        It offends 10% of Americans and pleases 90%. It’s democracy. Majority wins. You can’t please everybody.

      • Max says:

        Promoting monotheism is an affront to the separation of church and state.

        The public display of the motto offends some devout Christians like the Republican who voted against it, because it implies that their faith in God is so weak that they need frequent reminders.

        Would you have no problem with the motto “We have faith in Jesus Christ” if it pleases the majority?

        And as Shermer explained, it’s not trust in God that makes America special.

      • Dr. Strangelove says:

        If the motto violates the separation of church and state, challenge it in the Supreme Court. It is a legal matter. Faith in Christ promotes Christianity. That violates the Constitution. If atheism is a religion, promoting god may also be a violation.

      • Wrong says:

        Majority wins: No. That’s part of what rights are for.

        “In God We Trust” Is a lie. If any one person in America does not trust in God, then the motto is a lie. That makes your entire country look silly, ineffectual, and backwards.

        Finally: You could have many better mottos, which are less offensive. You could have one that speaks to your freedom, your liberty, your pride in yourselves. Instead, you have one that speaks to your gullibility.
        *clap* *clap*.

    • Dave Husted says:

      Thank goodness (godness?) that the founders understood history and were reasonable enough to ensure the separation of church and state (but not little symbolic victories). Joseph Campbell studied the motifs and archetypes of the human psyche. Fear is a great motivator for many regardless of belief- slippery slopes indeed. Tolerance takes on the form of dualism- your highest good is evil to someone else. One wonders if Jesus when he prayed to “father” in his dire hour was speaking to God or his Dad. Whose God, whose (his)story. The evolution of the explanations of history is profound as time moves on. Like the experiment in class of telling a story and a few people later counting the omissions and additions. Not to mention what politics would do to the story.

  25. Michael Runyan says:

    If the Bible was proven to be absolutely true, I would still not become a Christian. How could I worship a god whose ethics and morality were inferior to my own?

  26. Dr. Strangelove says:

    While I’m not violently against the motto, I disagree with the stated reason for it.

    “Whereas if religion and morality are taken out of the marketplace of ideas, the very freedom on which the United States was founded cannot be secured.”

    Religion, no. Morality, probably.

    The U.S. Constitution was based on the liberal philosophy of Locke and the Enlightenment philosophers of the 18th century. Certainly not from religion. Ethics had an influence in it but the Enlightenment philosophers were not particularly religious except for Kant. Many of them were deist, pantheist and atheist. Their god was not the personal god of religions. Some of them were anti-religion.

    In short, American freedom as enshrined in the U.S. Constitution was not founded on religion. It was founded on the humanism and secularism of liberal philosophy. The Representatives should study their American history.

    • Max says:

      That’s why the resolution doesn’t mention the Constitution, but mentions the Declaration of Independence that credited God with endowing us with unalienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, which don’t come from the Bible but would make a good motto.

      • Dr. Strangelove says:

        When the Founding Fathers wrote God, it was in the spirit of liberal philosophy of the 18th century. Their God was not a supernatural being. It was a metaphor for universal principle, something akin to divine law or law of nature. They wanted their liberal principles to be more than just the laws of man or invented by them.

        When the 20th century U.S. presidents wrote God, it may be to gain favor from the religious voters.

  27. Thomas Conway says:

    Many years ago I recall being in a catechism class and listening to the story of Noah and the ark. My curiosity was piqued, and I was compelled to ask how Noah kept those animals from fighting on the ark. A nun gave me a look of disdain (disdain may not be strong enough) and remarked that God has his ways. Thusly a skeptic was born. Amen.

    • Wrong says:

      I asked about dinosaurs. They sat a brachiosaur on their model of the ark. An apologist started towards becoming an atheist.

  28. Wayne K. says:

    Belief in gods is total absurdity. But the TB’s (true believers), reject reason, common sense, and lack of evidence. They have a need to believe and was told never to question their beliefs that was instilled in them since birth. It’s a waste of time to talk to them, but unfortunately we have to or they would pass even more of their stupid religious dogma into law.

  29. Appreciate Dr. Shermer’s thoughts, but ‘the problem of evil’ does not in one fell swoop mean God or god does not exist, deep questions are never quite so simple.

  30. Max says:

    I don’t see much correlation between a nation’s motto and its freedom and prosperity.

    As I mentioned above, Nicaragua’s motto is “In God We Trust.”
    North Korea’s is “Prosperous and great country.”
    The only motto that mentions secularism is that of Bangladesh, where the population is 90% Muslim and 9% Hindu.

  31. Ingemar says:

    Might this be the time to start a campaing to protests this, by striking out the words “In God” on bills that pass through our hands.

    It’s simple, no need to write in anything else and the words “we trust” don’t have to be stricken, they are innocuous.

    • Wrong says:

      I like this. It’s a nice little idea. One problem: In Australia, defacing currency can be an offence, is there a similar regulation in America? Because it would suck to punish yourself like that.

    • Max says:

      The White House responded to petitions about removing “In God We Trust” and “Under God”.!/response/religion-public-square

      “That’s why President Obama supports the use of the words ‘under God’ in our Pledge of Allegiance and ‘In God we Trust’ on our currency. These phrases represent the important role religion plays in American public life, while we continue to recognize and protect the rights of secular Americans.”

      Would they support the motto, “We have faith in Jesus Christ” because it represents the important role that faith in Jesus plays in American public life? Where do they draw the line?