Call me a Pantheist or a Naturalist, that is, if you must rely on labels. And, call me disenfranchised. I know the feeling.

Having grown up in a Catholic family—though not a staunch one—as I moved into adulthood I found that, deep in my heart, I no longer believed what for so many years the nuns and priests had taught me about God. I could no longer subscribe to what I saw as His male facade, His anthropomorphic qualities, His kingdom of heaven, His static rule, His judgement, His bias. Moreover, I discovered a world wracked with war, disease, famine, poverty and exploitation which lead me to believe God as neither a referee nor an active participant because, I thought, why do the people of the world continue to suffer when millions of them go to bed every night and wake up every morning beseeching Him to make things right?

I soon came to a place where I realized that the only thing I could believe in, rely on, find solace in, was nature. My father had taught me as much, though through actions, not through words. My eyes finally opened to the beautiful interconnectedness of all things—the trees, rivers, rocks, animals, stars, planets, people—and everything made sense, fell into its cosmic place. I see the universe as one big living organism and I see my part in it, and it in me. In doing so I realize that nature itself is divine, and it gives and it takes but—most sublimely—without judgement. And I’ve met many people with similar beliefs—good people, moral people, kind people, compassionate people, honest people, generous people—and I realize that belief in God isn't the bedrock of virtue. I understand, too, that belief is personal and intimate and begs respect.

But what I don't understand or appreciate is others' desire to impose their belief systems on me, or to imply—whether consciously or not—that only the devout are moral, which is why I feel somewhat disenfranchised when religious dogma, blessings and prayer fly into political rhetoric, into social doctrine, into our public schools and text books, into our Pledge of Allegiance. When I said as much by sharing a very thoughtful Huffington Post video on Facebook, I got a response from a friend who couldn’t fathom why anyone would want to change the Pledge back to its original form, thus omitting the “under God” part (which was added in 1954 as a reaction to Communism.) When I asked her to explain her logic she replied:

No I can not explain. As in so much in life there is not an explanation. God is in it and that is it. With great love and trust. & God has never hurt anyone so I do not see the problem.

And while her sincere and passionate comment made me smile and even relate on some level, I still couldn't help but think that if she'd been an Atheist, Hedonist, Pagan, Agnostic, Bright, Humanist, Freethinker, Naturalist or Universist, she might've felt differently. But she had already told me:

I can not imagine feeling different.

I opted to end the thread with her comments, and ponder them for a while.

In pondering I realized that, to some, what I believe doesn’t matter, and that within parts of society there exists a certain lack of creative capacity in imagining, embracing, respecting and upholding alternative tenets that don’t endorse belief in a God and/or believe those opinions don't count. 

So until people look broadly and decide that they want to work toward living in an inclusive, egalitarian society, I imagine I’ll continue to feel disenfranchised. I’ll feel disenfranchised because my belief system is consciously disregarded by others. Disenfranchised, too, because of my disabled child, Calvin, and the lack of programs for children like him, disenfranchised because of Calvin’s epilepsy and its egregious societal neglect, and disenfranchised on behalf of my friends who are gay or black—or any other minority—or elderly or female or migrant or poor or perhaps some worthy, virtuous individuals who don't happen to believe in God.

"I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
—Francis Julius Bellamy, 1892


  1. I had no idea that there was another, original version of the pledge! I respect your right to believe or not believe in God and have no intention of trying to convince you that He exists. But for me, I need to believe that there will be a better life in heaven for my daughter after her death. A life without seizures, brain injuries, developmental delays, and aggression. I couldn't get through one minute believing otherwise!

    1. i understand sylvia. either way, when our little ones die, when we all die, there will be no more suffering. xo