Post-prayer reflections

So the National Day of Prayer 2010 has come and gone. President Obama’s proclamation contained the following words,

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 6, 2010, as a National Day of Prayer. I call upon the citizens of our Nation to pray, or otherwise give thanks, in accordance with their own faiths and consciences, for our many freedoms and blessings, and I invite all people of faith to join me in asking for God’s continued guidance, grace, and protection as we meet the challenges before us.

Apparently, on National Day of Prayer, those “freedoms” do not extend to the freedom from religion. Non-religious Americans have every right to feel abandoned by their government on such a day. In inviting “all people of faith”, President Obama is slicing up the American people into those of faith and the rest of us who, on one day a year, are essentially barred from participation on a nationwide scale. Not only is this idiocratic, but it is unnecessary and counterproductive.

And where in the Constitution is there any mention of it being the President’s responsibility to proclaim such things as national prayer days? I’m not a constitutional scholar, but my understanding is that the government is bound to neutrality on religious matters and those of individual conscience. So it was slightly shocking to read:

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth.

The year of our Lord two thousand ten? Clearly, this was a call to Christian prayer, neatly undermining the much-heralded pan-religious propaganda of the event in question. I, as an American citizen, do not recognize the year 2010 as the year of my Lord, or any Lord whatsoever. That, as we say, is a private matter of conscience. It has no place on White House letterhead.

National Day of Prayer is such a bad idea

I’m not even sure I can find the words – without offending almost everyone I know – to describe why this is such a bad idea. “What is so offensive about God?” It’s this kind of question that creates atheists.

Those, myself included, who do not think God – or any type of “higher power” – exists (except in the minds of the faithful), might answer, “Nothing is offensive about God, as long as you keep Him or It out of public life.”

National Day of Prayer is clearly in violation of this principle. Non-theistic Americans are being told, “Unless you pray, you are excluded. Your government encourages you to pray.” For what, pray tell? Money? Power? To stave off disaster from our shores? To win the lottery?

If you do believe in God, or any of the many gods on offer, that’s your business. I respect you, even if I may not respect your belief. I will not lobby for our government to enforce an National Day of Unbelief. And I will remind you that the only type of society in which both you and I are equals is a society which nurtures each individual’s right to believe, or not believe, in accordance with his or her own conscience.

I don’t especially want to turn you into a non-believer. I don’t care to debaptize you or your children. Calm down. There is no atheist inquisition out to get you. All we want are the equal rights guaranteed to all citizens by the constitution, with no favoritism of the religious over the non-religious.

And I would expect religious people to be a bit more up in arms over this as well. Do you really want your government trampling over your personal relationship with God? Rev. Barry Lynn has a great piece in which he writes,

Government is supposed to be neutral on religion. It has no business telling people how, when or where to pray — or even if they ought to pray. Government does lots of things well, but meddling in our private religious lives is not among them.

I know people who think we atheists are “obsessive” about separation of church and state. But this is a very real, and important, battle none of us can afford to lose.

“Will you ask that ‘under God’ be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance? ‘In God We Trust’ from money? Will you people not stop until you have destroyed God entirely?”

This is typical Fox News talk, and not really worthy of serious discussion. But, for the record, it wouldn’t be a bad start.

Because once you open the door to God, all sorts of opportunistic little critters start scampering in. And, trust me, you don’t want them around.