With all the challenges facing the nation as Barack Obama prepares to take the oath of office I almost forgot the most important one of all—the oath of office itself! On January 20th Mr. Obama will take the oath and conclude it with these fateful words: “So help me God,” and with that the democracy in these somewhat United States crumbles.
Or at least that seems to be the concern of one group of atheists that is trying to have the phrase banned from the proceedings.
It is thought that George Washington added these four words to the oath in a moment of impromptu piety. Contemporary scholars argue that there is no eyewitness account of Washington saying this, and that the earliest eyewitness account of any president using this phrase is from the New York Time’s report on the 1881 inauguration of Chester Arthur. My own research into the matter suggests that Washington actually concluded his remarks with “Allah be praised”, but I think I found that on Al Jazeera, so you might want to corroborate it.
Anyway, I am all for the separation of church and state, and if saying “So help me God” is a problem let’s strike it from the proceedings. Besides, given the evils we have perpetrated on ourselves and others over the past eight years, it may be a bit presumptuous to ask God to do anything until we have proven ourselves to be on a new track.
But removing “So help me God” from the oath may not be enough to save the nation. The religious are a creative sort, and can often find hidden meanings and messages in texts. Even without “So help me God” they may still find God in the oath. To be safe, I suggest we strike the letters G, O, and D from the oath altogether, and in that way preclude anyone from finding God in it. Let the oath be amended to read as follows:
I slemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the ffice f President f the United States an will, t the best f my ability, preserve, prtect, and efen the Cnstitutin f the United States s help me.
This makes me feel safer, but it still might not be enough. After all “God” is generic and believers have their own favorite Gods such as El, YHVH, ALLAH, KRISHNA, BRAHMA, VISHNU, SHIVA, and KALI to name a few of the major Gods. So to be perfectly safe we should eliminate these letters as well. I say let’s amend the oath to read:
w tt w ftf xct t ffc f Pt f t t tt w, t t t f t, p, ptct, f t Ctt f t t tt p
While this would be more difficult for Mr. Obama to pronounce, it would shorten the ceremony some and allow more time for partying. And who would object to that?