Dispatches from Future America: Nation Celebrates National Day of Reason

[Editor's Note: This just keeps getting stranger.

Last month, I received a news dispatch from a disturbing future version of America through an anonymous remailer. The other day, I received a message from a different address, presenting itself as the same thing... but apparently from a very different future than the previous one.

I have no idea how to explain this. Parallel universes? Uncollapsed quantum wavefunctions? Which of these, if any, are our future? Are different possibilities somehow competing with each other to become reality? I think this was sent to me because someone wanted it to be shared, but other than that, I leave the judgment up to you...]

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS (June 27, 2035) — The first annual National Day of Reason, approved by Congress in a bill passed last year, was observed yesterday in this midwestern metropolis by an array of national figures. President Linda Sanchez delivered her address from the steps of the Public Library of Science, framed by a skyline of residential towers laminated in solar glass. A crowd whose size was estimated at fifty thousand gathered to hear the speech on a tree-lined pedestrian avenue beneath the turning blades of the nation’s largest urban wind farm.

“My fellow Americans, I am proud and honored to speak before you on this day,” her remarks began. “As one of our wisest leaders, Thomas Jefferson, put it, the president has no authority to direct the religious exercises of her constituents. I applaud Congress for repealing the National Day of Prayer law, a senseless and divisive event meant to convey a false message of the superiority of religious people. In its place, I’m proud to celebrate the first National Day of Reason, a fitting tribute to the virtue which powers our civilization. It was reason that sent human beings to the moon, reason that cured cancer through stem-cell research, and reason that offers the best hope of a future of peace and prosperity for all of us.”

Media observers weren’t surprised by the President’s decision to attend the Kansas City event. “Kansas City’s political importance increased greatly in the Midwest progressive revolution of the 2020s,” said CNN analyst Athena Jones. “Its selection as one of the dozen primary hubs in the national high-speed rail network made it a major migration point, and the boom that followed the completion of the rail network, which had its roots in the stimulus bill of 2009, cemented its economic power. Kansas City is emblematic of the changes that have come across this country in the past two decades, which made it a natural choice for the President to attend.”

The National Day of Reason was commemorated in parallel events across the nation. In Washington, D.C., a crowd estimated at one million people gathered on the National Mall to hear speeches by a series of dignitaries, including taped messages from representatives of the United Nations, the Middle East Democratic Alliance, and the scientists at Ares Research Station 1 in Elysium Planitia. However, some of the loudest cheers of the day were heard during the keynote address by Supreme Court Chief Justice Sarah Jane Braasch.

“Almost four hundred years ago,” said Chief Justice Braasch, “an ancestor of mine had his life and livelihood nearly destroyed by Governor Winthrop and the Puritan theocrats of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, because he was advocating for a secular government. But today, we’re emerging into a new future, one in which we recognize that we are a single human family on this tiny planet. Today, even the most devout appreciate the value of reason and secularism and understand that this system is in everyone’s best interests. There are no human rights without secularism. There are no women’s rights without secularism. There is no democracy without secularism. Let us never forget that only a truly secular government makes real freedom possible!”

In spite of the celebratory mood nationwide, President Sanchez struck a solemn note in her remarks, pointing out how many challenges are still faced by the human species.

“The fighting in Jerusalem and Saudi Arabia is ongoing, the remnants of a fading and archaic worldview that no longer has any place in a free and rational planetary civilization,” she said. “Despite the long-overdue achievement of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, millions of people still lack access to comprehensive public education, family planning, and advanced healthcare. Ensuring that every person on Earth has access to these necessities will be the cornerstone of my second term. Last but not least, although the global atmospheric carbon-remediation project is proceeding on schedule, the best estimates are that it will take decades to fully reverse the damage. The tens of billions of dollars we’ve spent on reseeding coral reefs and building advanced seawalls to protect coastal regions are a tragic testament to the greed and short-sightedness of the past.”

“But although we face great challenges, let it never again be said that Americans are afraid to offer equally great solutions. We’ll no longer be afraid to dream big, to take bold action, to make decisions that advance the common good while keeping an eye on the future. Most importantly, we’ll no longer be afraid to rely on the guidance of science and reason, rather than the irrational passions of prejudice or faith. If we keep to the course we’re following, we have the potential to create a future bright beyond imagining, not just for the United States of America, but for the entire human species and all our descendants yet to come.”

No religious groups were in evidence to protest any of the National Day of Reason rallies. However, a statement e-mailed to the press by a group identifying itself as the New Reformed Campingists denounced the “godlessness that has brought humanity to the brink of ruin” and asserted that the Rapture was due to happen “any day now”.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Dan

    Imagining a world with no Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist minions to protest in their home state …..

  • http://journal.nearbennett.com Rick

    I enjoyed the fantasy, but I’m skeptical of the prospects of reality ever coming close. Keep the good dreams coming!

  • Valhar2000

    I enjoyed the fantasy, but I’m skeptical of the prospects of reality ever coming close. Keep the good dreams coming!

    I actually felt emabarrased by how much I was enjoying it. And then dismayed by the realization of how unlikely it is.

  • Stacey Melissa

    Elected officials denigrating religion and faith would be a CSS violation.

  • http://www.noforbiddenquestions.com NFQ

    :D This must have been so much fun to write…

    Stacey, I’m not sure that a statement like, “We should make our national decisions based on evidence and logic rather than on unwarranted assumptions” is a church-state separation issue. I’ve also had many religious people tell me that they fully acknowledge their faith is not rational.

    Reasoning is something everybody can and should do, and it seems okay for the government to say as much.

  • NoAstronomer

    “New Reformed Campingists”

    LMAO

  • Valhar2000

    Stacey: This was clearly a fantasy: if you pay attention, you can hear funk guitars in the distance while you read it.

    Perhaps rephrasing a couple of things would have made it a little more realistic and a smiedgeon more in tune with ideals about religious tolerance (for example, mentioning that there were religious groups supporting the celebrations would have been great), but it was still a lot of fun.

    I mean, seriously! Residential towers with solar panels, the largest wind farm in the USA, a high-speed rail network from coast to coast? Does it get any better than that?

  • Joffan

    I immediately read Stacey’s “CSS” as “cascading style sheets” and interpreted it as obscure geek humour… only subsequent comments alerted me to any other possibility.

    I’d be disappointed that no religious protestors turned up, though. I think a little bit of countercurrent helps to keep society alive.

  • Stacey Melissa

    Stacey, I’m not sure that a statement like, “We should make our national decisions based on evidence and logic rather than on unwarranted assumptions” is a church-state separation issue.

    I agree with you on that line. There are others that would be violations, though. “a fading and archaic worldview that no longer has any place in a free and rational planetary civilization,” and “the irrational passions of … faith,” would both be CSS violations when coming from government officials.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch

    I like that parallel universe.

    Thanks for making me the SC Chief Justice.

  • http://gazinglongintoanabyss.blogspot.com/ Michael

    Congratulations on your future promotion, Sarah! :p

  • http://twitter.com/camusdude camusdude

    @Joffan – my thought too! I didn’t read the comment closely at first, and just saw “CSS violation” and figured it was a coding joke.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    For those who’ve asked, yes, this was enormously fun to write (er, I mean, republish). It’s an unlikely future, it’s true, but no more so than the very different future in my previous post.

    But even so, thought experiments like this one have value. I spend a lot of time writing about what I’m against, but I think it’s equally important to spend time writing about what we should be for. We need to remember not just that we’re fighting for fighting’s sake, but in the hopes of bringing about a better alternative, and use that vision and that possibility as a wellspring of motivation. The alternative is certain burnout and despair. There’s a line in Kim Stanley Robinson’s novel Green Mars, which I’ve been reading, that I found very apt:

    “Your anger will help, but it can’t be everything… You have to fight not only against what you hate, but for what you love, you see? And so you have to find what it is you love. You have to remember it, or create it.”

    @Stacey Melissa:

    There are others that would be violations, though. “a fading and archaic worldview that no longer has any place in a free and rational planetary civilization,” and “the irrational passions of … faith,” would both be CSS violations when coming from government officials.

    Well, in President Sanchez’s defense, this story only included part of her speech. If she was referring to violent fundamentalism rather than religion in general, which seems likely considering that the reference was apparently to some sort of ongoing war or strife, that wouldn’t be any more problematic than modern presidents condemning al-Qaeda. And as NFQ said, many religious people themselves freely acknowledge that faith isn’t rational, so I don’t think there’s any great problem there.

  • http://blog.oldnewatheist.com/ jim coufal

    Certainly it’s a fantasy; we know the world is ending May 21. 2011,

  • Richard P.

    I fail to see why it is unlikely. I have talked to many ex-christians. It’s only a matter of time. The church has always had the power to oppress. Now its power is in a steady decline. The more we discuss it, the more we mock it, the more we point to its failings, the sooner it will enter the annals of superstition. It is possible, we just need to stick to the fight. It can hit critical mass.

  • Rollingforest

    @ Richard P. : Yes, but how much time? Atheism is increasing in America and I think that Ebon’s scenario is feasible at some point in the future. But we need to look at our progress so far to see when. According to Gallup polls taken, when asked about their religion, 2% said “none” in 1948 whereas 13% said “none” in 2008. If we assume that this is a linear increase, then by my calculation we should reach a 51% non-religious population in America by the year 2218. Now, we can hope that it is non-linear exponential increase instead, but right now it is hard to tell how it will happen.