Why Do We Insist on, “In God We Trust?”

If you look at the phrase rationally, it doesn’t make sense.  If it said, “We Worship the Christian God,” you could understand it.  Actually, nobody “trusts” God.

To begin with, we don’t know which “god” the phrase is referring to.  Sure, most people think it’s the Christian god, but that’s just their opinion.  There’s no proof.

Then, there’s the famous phrase ”Act of God”  written  int0 insurance policies.  That clause could be paraphrased, “We don’t trust God.”

I’m indebted to one of my favorite columnists, Donald Kaul, for this.  “The quintessential act of God is the tornado.  It comes swooping down, destroying one man’s house, leaving his neighbor’s untouched.  It tears off the wall of a house without disturbing the furnature.

“What makes God such an unlikely candidate for trust…is his sense of humor. He’s always playing jokes.

“…he’ll end a drought with a series of floods.  He’ll give people an earthquake and follow it with a tsunami.”

I’d like to ask the people in Congress, who recently reaffirmed the motto,  what is it we trust God to do?  Surely it’s not to improve the weather or the economy.

When you get right down to it, churches, ministers and members of Congress all buy insurance because they don’t trust God.  There is only one reason to put this phrase on our money and toss it about at every opportunity.

Congress trusts ”In God We Trust” to get them reelected.

Avatar of Jon Lindgren

About Jon Lindgren

I am a former President of the Red River Freethinkers in Fargo, ND, a retired NDSU economics professor and was Mayor of Fargo for 16 years. There is more about me at Wikipedia.com.
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41 Responses to Why Do We Insist on, “In God We Trust?”

  1. Wanna B Sure says:

    Jon; Just a question: Who is the “we”?

    • Wanna B Sure says:

      (as in “We insist”). This could possibly include the “Under God” in the Pledge of Alegence?

      • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

        Wanna 1:46 “We…” Good question. Certainly the “we” does not include me. I recall you, also, are not fond of public endorsements of religion. I meant it to mean, perhaps carelessly, what appears to be the majority. I think almost every member of the House of Representative voted for the reaffermation of the motto.

  2. Bob says:

    You nailed it Jon. Bravo!

  3. Santa says:

    maybe they should replace, “In God We Trust”, with, “We’ll Just Print More”. :-)

  4. Steve says:

    Even though almost everyone in Congress claims to be a Christian mainly to be reelected, it would be interesting to know how many are actually full faith believing Christians. My bet is it is much lower than most would expect, although with half the stuff that goes on there that shouldn’t surprise us either.

  5. entech says:

    Trust in all the gods and goddesses you like. But be very wary of the servants, the priests, shamans, priestesses, popes and pastors, they are the ones who will tell you what the relevant entity has told them are the requirements for love and trust to be reciprocal, they will tell you that it was your breach of trust that causes the tsunamis and catastrophes – you didn’t do what I told you to do (in the name of enter entity of choice here , of course) and you brought it on yourselves, so be obedient and surrender yourself to the goodness of my pastoral care.

    So trust in god all you like but beware of the shepherd and pity the flock.

    • entech says:

      oops forgot to warn about the prophets and apostles, no need to specify the false prophets – they all are.

    • Wanna B Sure says:

      Sounds like you listened to the President’s State of the Union Address tonight.
      Hail to the Chief.

      • entech says:

        Actually it was on the box when I was at the gym, to busy torturing my poor old arthritic muscles to pay attention, as I always say “no right of commentary, but” the but in this case being I would imagine if you reversed things, that is if you had a president from the opposition, the speech would have been little different and if the presidents party were the opposition the reply would have been the same, bit convoluted but I hope it makes sense. (Bit different most places, the “President” is the leader of the party with the most seats, they form the “Government” the other major party is the “opposition”, so if the number of seats held were reversed and the opposition were the government etc. you would noticed little difference in the speeches and replies.
        From what I see it is the same as here, you have large numbers of people who will tell you the Conservatives can do no wrong and the liberals can do no right, and vice versa.

        There is an old and cynical wisecrack, which I think is pretty accurate, “It doesn’t matter who you vote for, the politicians always win”

        • Wanna B Sure says:

          As a comentator said recently of the current pres.; “Pay little attention to what he says, but watch what he does”. This probably goes for all in an election year, but this first speach for his bid to the office was not so much a “state of the Union”as a “How Great I Art”.

    • Wanna B Sure says:

      Entech; Just a note to your broad brush accusation; “…your breach of trust that causes…..you didn’t do what I told you to do….and you brought it on yourselves, so be obedient and surrender yourself to the goodness of my pastoral care”. NOT SO !!! In fifty years of being instructed, instructing, and associating with theologians and clergy up to the highest rank in my particular denomination have I EVER heard of or intimattion of such an approach, or demanded obedience. Yes, there are a few groups that may attempt to exercise such authority out there, but I have NEVER seen it here.

      Hyperbole of the first order to claim such inclusiveness.

      • Wanna B Sure says:

        PS; If ever they had even brushed upon or intimidated such an approach, I would have been very vocal in correcting them. I have never seen the need to do such a thing thankfully. They know me, and I am always up to a good battle with such foolishness.

      • Wanna B Sure says:

        PPS; Our confessional documents contain wording to prevent such abuse, which every called and ordained person signs, as does every particular church contain in their individual constitutions. Your accusations are patently false or misinformed.

      • entech says:

        Broad brush accusations is probably a bit hyperbolic in itself, bit dramatic. But if you say I am overgeneralising and that generalisations need to be used with extreme care then I agree. In general there is a good chance of being wrong, in general.
        I wonder if specialisation carries the same problems as generalisation?, ” … I have Never seen it here”, is your “here” the only place in the universe? Is it the epitome of correctness? Are all others in error? I would hazard a guess, based on a far less intimate, but probably wider, range of religious groups that obedience is a prime requisite in more than half of them. Further there are few, if any, that do not say that the there is only one route to heaven and I have the road map.
        There are so many views out there, many contradictory etc., they can’t all be true; I offer for your consideration – just as it is possible that my views are not correct, neither are yours.

        • Wanna B Sure says:

          Entech; As I said;…”yes, there are a few groups that may attempt to exercise…” I can give you just a couple examples; Within the” prosperity theology” community, there are those that have taken “reciprocal” (your word), and applied “law of reciprocity,” and “If you send in your “seed”, God will reciprocate with a hundred fold return. Yes indeed, it is out there, but NOT here. I could go on, but I won’t.
          As for the “others” out there, I have no controll over them, and will not admit that they may be correct. I know why and how other groups conduct themselves and their doctrine, and I reject them. No apologies.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            Oops, I forgot the dark side of “reciprocity, and that is if you don’t obey, bad things are gonner happen. Both personally in family, finances, etc. locally, and nationally. For example take out the “in God we trust, or under God” in the pledge, the commies will run us over. Now, it would be the muslims probably. This I/we also reject. In their mind, the reciprocity starts with the “me”., which is bass ackwards. (If I will, God will).

          • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

            Wanna 11:25 “….the commies will run us over. Now, it would be the muslims probably.”

            I’m hurt. Aren’t we Freethinkers a threat? :)

          • entech says:

            “reciprocal” interesting that you picked up on that word, a bit careless of me to use it as I had forgotten all about the “love god and he will love you back, and if he loves you he will make you rich” crowd. I had to look up “law of reciprocity”, a lot of specious nonsense – I do remember hearing an Islamic teacher trying his best to equate the “law of equivalence” with turn the other cheek and say that they were not incompatible (law of equivalence = eye for an eye etc.). The mob you describe as prosperity theology seem to be the sought of people that were thrown out of the temple, turn the other cheek and they will pick your pocket while you are not looking.

            So for reciprocal perhaps I should have said something like ‘mutual’

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            Jon; I just have to say it, and I do with a smilie face; “Aren’t we Freethinkers a threat?”—answer—-Only in the mind of a Freethinker.

      • entech says:

        Wanna 11:09 and 11:25
        Interesting that you can say you know the how and why of the actions and doctrines of other groups and that you deny the possibly that they could have any validity. That you have no control, does that imply that you would like control? or perhaps a little careless phrasing such as I am prone to, did you mean that you can have no responsibility for the mistakes of others? It must be nice to have access to perfect truth and knowledge. You are very circumspect about your own group, and there is no reason why this should not be respected it would nice to know the basis of your critiques, but not necessary. Having said that I will do a little speculation based on what you have said, I could be totally wrong and do not expect a confirmation or denial, it is just a bit of background to the point I want to make about the “dark side” of reciprocity and by extension all the others that are wrong.

        You seem to reject the idea that ‘good works’ have any merit at judgement time.
        Not entirely sure if ‘faith alone’ covers your group, but it does seem to be of importance.
        You have said that I (Jon and others) have been given the truth, you have told us what to read etc. and that we choose to stubbornly maintain non belief, on the other hand you say that you did not choose but were chosen, pre-destination? The part that seems to be common to all groups or denominations is that you accept the truth of the trinity and accept Jesus as your saviour.

        As I said not necessarily complete or accurate, but certainly a position held by some. The “Dark Side” is that if you are not part of the in group then you are destined for eternal damnation, even though my “broad brush” was a bit of flowery hyperbole that is what I intended by “be obedient and surrender” – be a true believer and go to heaven or go to hell (forever).

        • Wanna B Sure says:

          Ah ha; “predestination; You sound as though you take the term to be of the strain containing “double election”, aka double predestination. An approach starting small with Calvin, and expanded through Beza in “TULIP”. A philisophical working out that if some were predestined to be saved, and knowing that all were not saved, the remainder evidently had to be predestined to “not saved”. A common mistake. (error). Scripture clearly states that it is God’s desire that ALL be saved. (I leave out the references) No one can CHOOSE to be saved, (that would be “decision theology, based on works). If one rejects Him who saves, yes that could be considered to be the dark side, but that is his choice. You and Jon would fall into that category unfortunately, but again, that is out of my controll. All I can do is show you my point. The Law shows everyone our need, the Gospel shows us the need has been fulfilled.

          • entech says:

            As you are aware my main interest was always the early church and how it reached the position in say 500 CE. So when I say things like predestination I am not sure of all the ins and outs, not terribly sure of the difference between Methodist and Baptist without going to my note books. If God wants us all to be saved why were we condemned in the first place, choice is not an option as the omniscient would have known, even so an innocent child doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong, if it is just do what you are told or else – tyranny.

            The question of evil and suffering I answer briefly at 5:00. I must regretfully say that most of the arguments are to me counter to belief.

            I sometimes wonder who is in the most invidious position the one who believes at any cost and accepts any argument or explanation, or, the one who wants to believe but can’t accept any of the arguments or explanation.

            What makes “The Law” and “The Gospel” so guaranteed to be right, apart from longevity, there are older systems still extant.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            Oh, I think the majority of”the law ” is pretty much universal in all isms, with the exeception of the first table. (We’re not talking about ceremonial , dietary, eccleastical etc law). The first table is pretty clear in the Hebrew and Christian tradition, yet also in a different manner in Islam.

            Regarding the Methodists and Baptists, and later manifestations, Armenius was so repulsed by Calvin’s ensuing double predestination that he started a movement of doctrinal reform to correct it, and it became Armenianism. Long story short, that morphed into the umbrella term of “decision theology”, most evident in the Billy Grahm typology. Taking that one step farther, “prosperity” came later. All of this places man himself at the center and initiator of his own salvation, with essentially God” going along for the ride”. The trend now among most Calvinists (Presbyterians here) are leaning strongly towards Armenius rather than Calvin/Beza in this area. Indeed in some communities Presbyterians and Methodists are sharing churches, services, and pastors. There is a small pocket of anti armenian Presbyterians still holding out with the declerations of Dort, but few. The field is changing in this area as we speak. Even the ELCA has pulpit fellowship with all these entities now.

            Re. “If God wants all to be saved why were we condemned in the first place…”; My understanding is that condemnation is the final result of refusal to see our sin and repent. Being a sinner isn’t being condemned. We all sin, some see their sin by the Law, then the Gospel shows us the solution. Resulting in no condemnation.

            Like you, I too have a problem with using suffering as a stick to bring one to the faith. Yes, suffering for some may cause them to become aware of a lack of controll in their destiny, but that is the result, not the cause. That is more of a prid vs. humility situation. It just could in some instances be a way of getting our attention, consider Job. Right now, as I type, my chronic back pain problems are just barely managable. I don’t attribute that to getting my attention. It does have something with my individual aging process. (This is why I am up at 2;00 AM trying to work it out so I can again lay down.

            As far as the “can’t accept arguments or explanation”; may I simply add “yet”.
            Well I feel the Vicodin kicking in, and maybe I can get some sleep. G’nite.

  6. Gail says:

    I trust God

  7. entech says:

    Wanna you just prompted a line of thought on gods and governments. No matter what the main religious sentiment is in a country, the leaders of that group (usually non elected) will always try and influence the leaders of the elected government – either directly when they are in ‘power’ or by actions that could affect whether they are even elected to ‘power’. To all the fine Christian folk in Australia and America who think this is only right and proper and would be a good thing, imagine if the majorities were different you wouldn’t get “almost the same” as I thought you would get from the Presidential Address, imagine being a Christian in, say, Afghanistan. You may say it couldn’t happen, but look at history, and consider it is only a matter of degree and opportunity.

    As the theme from many a cowboy song goes, beware of dreams that come true, your dream could be dreaming you.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      entech 7:00 “You may say it couldn’t happen, but look at history, and consider it is only a matter of degree and opportunity.”

      Great sentence. No matter how many followers there are of Christianity and Islam, history tells us they are but passing fads. Opportunities will open. The new shamans and politicians will move in.

  8. Bob says:

    Lets just hope the new shamans and priests are not agaisnt science and knowledge advancing.

  9. Matt Slocomb says:

    Essentially you are bringing up arguments about the problem of pain, death, suffering, etc… Again, I have a worldview which is very different from yours (Jon) in this regard. In my view, God is eternally focused. Suffering in this world ultimately is meant to serve an eternal purpose. Thankfully, we have a savior that knows that first hand…

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Matt 4:27 “…are bringing up argument about …pain, death, suffering, etc”

      I trying to follow you thinking here, Matt. Is it that God causes suffering and death, then, helps you deal with it? Thus, we can trust God?

  10. entech says:

    I am very much the doubter. Talk of imposing suffering for the sake of some eternal plan or purpose nudges me closer to outright disbelief.

  11. Bob says:

    Now you’re getting Entech.

  12. sarge yousi says:

    it is very nice to see name of our cereater GOD written in most places ,but respectfull places not on the money that we put it in the dancers G strings when some of us go to strip clubs ,or to by drugs to hirt ourselvs & others, or to by wepons to kill other poeple& invate other countries & destroy thier country & kill inecent chidren. I thnk they should remove in GOD we trust from the money. because money is #I GOD’s enemy how could we combine bothe of them together, if we read the bible we see jesus said you can not worship GOD & money at the same time , yes most of us say we worship GOD but do we do what GOD wants us to do ofcourse not, we go after the money that destroid our lives..

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