I have to say that, as an atheist, I don't feel those words belong in the pledge, either. I do not know what Representative Josephs' beliefs are but it doesn't really matter. She feels that the pledge is now a prayer and considers a public prayer inappropriate in a secular government such as ours, so she does not say it.
I simply omit the words "under God" when I say the Pledge and that is what other atheists I know generally do. This has the added effect of confusing others who don't exclude the phrase as I don't pause but continue straight on to "indivisible" so I finish before they do. (And yes. This does make me chuckle. I'm simple that way.)
This whole thing made me curious about the origins of the Pledge so I Googled it. The Pledge was written by a Baptist minister, Francis Bellamy, in 1892 and it was worded a little differently:
"I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."The word "to" was added later that year and was the first revision. The words "my flag" were replaced by "the flag of the United States of America" in 1923 - over the objections of Bellamy.
In 1951, the Knights of Columbus campaigned to add the words "under God" to the Pledge and in 1954, Congress voted to do so.
It seems a little odd that a religious organization like the Knights would be able to influence policies but we have to remember that Cold War tensions were utmost in the minds of our representatives in Congress and they felt that anything that separated us from the "godless" communists was a good thing.
I wonder how many other revisions the Pledge will undertake in the future. Bellamy originally thought "equality" should be included and I agree with that idea. Personally, I'd like to see the words "under God" removed as the United States - regardless of the beliefs of its citizens - is a secular government.
What, if any, changes would you recommend?
Note: Much of the information contained here was obtained from this article by Dr. John W. Baer which contains quite a few more interesting details and links to excerpts from his book, The Pledge of Allegiance, A Revised History and Analysis, 2007
Image courtesy of FreeFoto.com and found here