In God We Trust

By Jean-Claude Gerard Koven.

Pollsters would have you believe that they accurately reflect the thinking of the American public. This is anything but true when they pare complex issues into a simple yes or no answer then report the results as the will of the majority.

I recently received an email announcing the results of a national poll allegedly conducted by NBC. Apparently this message has been making its way through the internet for some time and eventually found its way into my inbox. In case it hasn’t reached you yet, here’s the text of it:

Subject: Do you believe in God?
NBC this morning had a poll on this question. They had the highest number of responses they have ever had for one of their polls, and the percentage was the same as this: 86% to keep the words “In God We Trust” (on U.S. currency) and “God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, 14% against. Now it is your turn. . . . It is said that 86% of Americans believe in God. Therefore, I have a very hard time understanding why there is such a mess about having “In God We Trust” on our money and having “God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. Why is the world catering to this 14%? Amen! If you agree, pass this on, if not, simply delete.

I assumed this was just another internet hoax perpetrated by some high-IQ teenage kid with far too much time on his or her hands. But the email turned out to contain a kernel of truth. The Land of the Peacock really does ask America if “In God We Trust” should be removed from U.S. currency on its msnbc website (see: ). And website visitors are offered two answers to choose between:

Yes. It’s a violation of the principle of separation of church and state.
No. The motto has historical and patriotic significance and does nothing to establish a state religion.

Apparently this is an ongoing survey, and if you feel inspired to join this national debate, you’re welcome to add your view to the count. I cast my vote (under protest) only to gain access to the latest poll results. The current margin is not quite as large as reported in the email – 78% are in favor of keeping a reference to God on U.S. currency and 22% are opposed – and NBC does not ask whether “God” should be included in the Pledge of Allegiance. But the question and the results are certainly close enough to lend support to the issue raised in the email.

I sent a reply to the lady who sent me the email not because I wanted to be part of the email’s proliferate-or-die process but because I have a deep and highly personal relationship with All That Is and felt the need to tell at least a small part of the world that Infinity in fact lies well outside the box I was being asked to think within. Here’s my return email:

Perhaps the question is far larger than NBC or most of the respondents to its popular poll realize. If someone were to ask if I believed in God, I would answer, “Of course not. Does a fish believe in water?” For me there is only God – what’s to believe? God is the unfoldment of creation itself – a verb that implies the oneness of it all, not a noun to be separated from, prayed to, or trusted.

Polls are always misleading. The very question presupposes certain answers. We live in an infinite universe that does not easily submit to the realm of percentages. The choices you offer – agree and pass it on to others or delete it – are too finite for my palate. Perhaps you have an expanded menu I might order from?

I take strong issue with NBC and all others who deem it proper to reduce large issues to a toggle poll – one that requires only a simple yes or no answer. We live in a world of diminishing sound bites where people want everything synthesized into a one- or two-word bottom line. I find that trend deeply disturbing. The willingness of millions of respondents to submit their profoundest beliefs to black-and-white thinking is equally serious.

The real treat in diving into the waters of the worldwide web in pursuit of this debate is the postings on websites. For example, visit: where you’ll find a good cross-section of passionate, intelligent views on both sides of the Great God Debate. Here’s one of my favorite postings, from someone named Jay: “We ‘cater’ to the 14% because of a scrap of paper called the Constitution. I realize that doesn’t carry as much weight as an NBC poll of call-in listeners . . . but what can ya do? Perhaps we could just pay attention to our national motto – e pluribus unum (out of many, one) – and quit fretting about whether God can exist only if it is acknowledged on a nickel.”

How bland our world would be if we were offered only two choices for any item we wished to purchase. Ice cream stores would sell only vanilla and chocolate. Cars would come in two styles, each available in two colors. Buying a new home would be simplified, but our neighborhoods would all look the same. Within a New York minute some opportunistic entrepreneur would seize the moment and offer a third choice with the advertising slogan “Dare to be different.”

That about sums up my view of toggle polls. Issues like the war in Iraq, redefining our immigration policies, and human rights are far too complex to be reduced to a simple yea or nay. I deeply resent those who would limit debate so callously and then report the poll results as the will of the people. Given the choice of yes or no, I opt for none of the above.

Jean-Claude Gerard Koven is a writer and speaker based in Vilcabamba, Ecuador. He was a featured weekly columnist for the UPI (United Press International) Religion and Spirituality Forum and is the author of Going Deeper: How to Make Sense of Your Life When Your Life Makes No Sense, recipient of both the Allbooks Reviews Editor’s Choice Award and the Award for the Best Metaphysical Book of the Year.

©2004 – 2021. Jean-Claude Gerard Koven / All Rights Reserved.


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