Christians zealots justify their use of the U.S. federal government to promote the worship of their deity, God, by claiming that God is not a uniquely Christian deity, but is a name that applies to all religion. Thus, they argue that the phrase “In God We Trust” on government currency is not an establishment of Christian religion, but only an establishment of religion in general.
Even if this argument is accepted, the God currency remains unconstitutional, as the First Amendment forbids any establishment of religion through government, not just the promotion of one religion in particular. For the sake of argument, however, let’s put that point aside for the moment, and focus on the zealots’ claim that God is a universal deity.
The fundamental problem with the zealots’ claim is that it requires a particular theological belief: That whenever non-Christians talk about a powerful deity, such as Jehovah or Allah, Vishnu or Manitou, what they’re really talking about is the Christian’s character of God. People who argue this line claim that all these deities are really the same thing, that Allah is just another name for God, for instance.
For centuries, Christians have used this argument in order to convince members of non-Christian religions to convert. In parts of Malaysia, for instance, Catholics have encouraged Muslims to covert by using the name Allah to refer to God.
If Muslims truly believed that God and Allah are the same thing, they wouldn’t have a problem with the Catholic approach. Instead, a large number of Malaysian Muslims are engaged in vigorous protest against the Catholic attempt to equate Allah and God.
Tens of thousands of Malaysian Muslims have signed onto a protest against the use of the word Allah by Christians to refer to the Christian deity God, following a court ruling in the country that seeks to prevent the Catholic Church from using the term “Allah”.
At issue is the belief of many Muslims that the deity God worshipped by Christians cannot possibly be the same deity as Allah, as Islamic theology declares that Allah is one deity, and that there is no other deity other than Allah. Many Muslims perceive Christians as engaging in the worship of two, perhaps three separate deities, depending on the Christian sect and its beliefs.
There are many Muslims who accept the equation of God and Allah, and don’t object to non-Muslims using the term “Allah” to refer to the Christian God. However, the point still remains that the equation of Allah and God is a belief accepted by only some Muslims who adopt a particular version of Islam. Many Muslims reject that the name “God” has any place in their religion, and that the name “Allah” has any place in other religions.
“God” is not a deity that all religious people worship. It’s a particular character that only some religious people accept. So, the use of “God” in articles of government-established religious worship such as the phrase “In God We Trust” does not meet the standard of promotion of religion in general. When our government uses the word “God”, it’s taking sides in favor of some religious beliefs, against other religious beliefs. Even if we accept, in spite of the First Amendment, that government establishment of religion in general is okay, the Malaysian dispute illustrates why the word “God” cannot be part of such a general religious establishment.