He told his child to say the phrase “under dog,” instead.
This man is trying to raise his child to be an atheist. I am afraid that he will find out that that is a mistake. I was raised a Catholic. This is the surest path to atheism that I know of. Send that kid to parochial school is my advice to that earnest Dad. Sure, he may be attracted to the pageantry and the swell robes at first. He may even develop a mild fetish for girls in short plaid skirts and knee socks. When he hits puberty, though, and is told an act he has no choice but to do several times a day is a mortal sin and makes him a prime candidate for Hell, he’s going to have his second thoughts about the One True Church, and you’ve got yourself a perfect little atheist.
But if that atheist Dad can’t go along with that program, my counsel is not to worry about the Pledge. It’s no more likely to make your boy more religious than it is to make him more patriotic. The nanosecond it is over, all thoughts of God and country have vanished from his head, to be replaced by fervid but unremarkable childish thoughts, like how to cheat at math, avoid getting bullied, and which of the objects of his boyish affections is least likely to laugh at him if wants to sit at the same lunch table as her/him.
Public displays of patriotism and piety are only enjoyed by those who arrange them, not those that are forced to participate. The authority that forces that atheist boy to recite the pledge imagines that he/she is encouraging love of the Almighty and America when they are, in fact, doing no such thing. They might as well tell those kids to open a tab to PornHub when they get home, which those kids are probably going to do anyway, whether you encourage them to or not. Porn has far more educational value than the Pledge. Children know that instinctively.
Having something crammed down your throat is liable to leave a bad taste in your mouth, to mix a gustatory metaphor. Atheism may be no exception to this rule. A kid raised in rationalism may rebel. No atheist parents want to hear, “Mom, Dad…I think I might be a Jehovah’s Witness.”
There’s no way to avoid religion in this world, and that’s not going to change for hundreds, if not thousands of years. If ever. People will always try to figure out ways to influence the unknowable future, whether it’s by rabbit’s feet, reading entrails, avoiding Scorpios, or making a novena, even if none of those ways has ever demonstrably worked.
I’m the only atheist I really know in person, and on some days I’m even an agnostic. All of my close friends have mild, tolerable forms of religious belief. The love of my life is vaguely Jewish, as is another friend I’ve had for thirty-five years. One of my beer buddies believes in God, because, in a moment of physical danger, he prayed and was saved. The other suffers from a case of Lutheranism, or something similar, left over from his childhood. Another will just say “I believe in Jesus!” whenever the question comes up, like a jack-in-the-box squawking when its handle is turned. He won’t say what Jesus he believes in, or what theology his Savior promotes.
Oddly, this makes his faith just about impregnable.
The only true atheist I know is my son. That’s because I let him go to Catholic school for a few years. “Might as well check it out,” I told him. "Always a good idea to see what the other side thinks."
He came out a committed rationalist.
Do what works, is my advice. Eggs and bunnies, everybody.