Happy National Day of Reason! Let’s end The Government Sponsored National Day of Prayer!by Don Lacey on May. 03, 2012, under Atheism, AZ Politics, Christian Self-Righteous Arrogance, Christianity, Critical Thinking, Faith, Freethought Events, God & Bible, Government, History, Islam, Logic, Mormonism, Power of Prayer, Question of the Day!, Reason, Religion, Responsible Government, Sanity, Science, Separation of Church & State
Some thoughts on this special day from Jim Wilson:
Happy National Day of Reason everybody!! Today, the first Thursday of May, is a day, when atheists, agnostics, and secular humanists go out, and have food drives, blood drives do charitable work, protest state sponsored religion and, of course, celebrate science, reason and critical thinking. For us secularists, National Day of Reason marks an opportunity to turn something negative into a positive. That negative thing is of course the U.S. Government’s continued yearly practice of declaring the National Day of Prayer.
The government has no business telling people to pray or giving certain religious practices its endorsement. Freedom of religion means freedom from government telling people how or when to express their faith. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was created to protect citizens from being told what to believe or how to engage in religious practices. A yearly day of government sponsored prayer is unconstitutional. The Public Law that state that, “The President shall issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals” is clearly a law respecting an establishment of religion, and is an example of government favoritism, towards certain religious practices, which runs in direct conflict with the free exercise of religion. Prayer is a sectarian practice, as not all religions or philosophies practice prayer to a higher being and prayer is purely a religious practice, with no demonstrable secular benefits.
Thomas Jefferson’s coined the “wall of separation” between church and state. It was a term he used when explaining the purpose of the establishment clause and free exercise clause in the newly-framed constitution. The position of non-believers is that they do not want to see their tax dollars, used to promote fallacious ideas. Even believers should recognize that spiritual matters are best left between the individual, his or her religious community, and whatever beings he or she believes in. There is no need for government involvement. Government mixing with religion corrupts both. The government is wrong in imposing it’s version of Christianity. How could government possibly be trusted in matters of faith anyway? Note, there are countless versions Christianity to choose from, not to mention other religions and I cannot imagine anyone who would want the government to impose someone else’s religion on them. Evangelicals should keep this in mind as we see a Mormon running for president. Eroding the separation of church and state may appeal to people, while their guy is in office, but it won’t when someone whose faith they disagree with takes over.
Studies on the power of prayer have shown it to be largely ineffective and its results are indistinguishable from random chance. Some say, “Nothing fails like prayer.” I like that the Day of Reason encourages activism in the community. Hands that actually help are much better than lips that pray. Prayer as what you do when, you want to feel like you are helping, without actually having to do anything at all. This is not the type of thing the government should be endorsing.
Like many government intrusions into the personal beliefs of the American people, the annual recognition of a National Day of Prayer, came about in the fearful atmosphere of the 1950′s Cold War. This is also true of “In God we Trust” appearing on all currency and “Under God” being added to the Pledge of Allegiance. They were added as part of an effort to contrast the American cause with the godlessness of Soviet Russia. In addition, many loyal, hard working, tax-paying American non-believers were branded as communists and un-American. While it does have roots in a one-time mandate from George Washington, its yearly observance and formalization into law, has its roots in the McCarthy era.
Today, the National Day of Prayer Task Force headed by Shirley Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, works to coordinate prayer events around the country, which included the White House events, under George W. Bush’s administration. The group is explicit about its desire to use the National day of prayer to promote Christian conservatism, and has been widely accused of making the national prayer day, more sectarian in nature.
Please support the Freedom from Religion Foundation’s work to get this law recognized as unconstitutional. In the great scheme of things, there are may be more important issues than people getting together to plead to an imaginary friend, but when the government endorses it, or uses our tax dollars to support it, it should not be tolerated. Secularists should not wait for large scale violations of church and state separation to speak up. Minor violations lead to an atmosphere that is conducive to major ones. We need to be vocal.
I hope everyone enjoys the day of reason and uses the opportunity to let a little more reason into their lives. Please feel free to share your opinions on the national day of reason/prayer, in the comments as well as write to our state, local, and national governments to express disapproval of their support for this intrusion of government into the spiritual lives of the people.
Editor’s note: The Tucson Atheists will be meeting tonight at Espresso Art Cafe, at 944 E University Blvd, to discuss this and other important secular issues–upstairs, 7 PM