A Few Reactions to the National Day of Prayer

Here’s a misleading headline for you, courtesy of Christianity Today:

They’re referring to the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s case against the National Day of Prayer — last month, the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals said that FFRF lacked standing in the case, thus allowing the NDOP to proceed with government support and presidential proclamations.

However, the way that headline reads, you wouldn’t even know the case was about government support of prayer. It looks like a court “allowed” Christians to celebrate the NDOP.

They could always do that. Christians can pray whenever they want. This was never about stopping their right to pray. This was always about the government taking a side on the issue of religious belief.

But Christians love playing the victim card…

***Update***: I was told by someone at Christianity Today that the headline came by way of the Religious News Service (it’s also used here as a result) — i.e. it wasn’t necessarily their headline. So perhaps they weren’t playing “victims” as I stated in the line above, but I still think it’s misleading.

There was some good news yesterday, though. In case you missed it, Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) went on the floor of the House yesterday to recognize the National Day of Reason:

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize Thursday, May 5, 2011 as the 2011 National Day of Reason.

The National Day of Reason, observed by millions of people in this country and around the world since 2003, celebrates the application of reason and the positive impacts it has had on humanity. Reason and rational discourse have the power to improve living conditions around the world and cultivate intelligent, moral, and ethical interactions among people.

Reason and rational thinking have made our country great. The Constitution of the United States of America is based upon the philosophies developed during the historical Age of Reason and the idea that citizens engaging in rational discourse and decision-making can govern themselves. The Constitution also contains a strong separation of church and state, making it clear that government should continue to be built on reason.

Our nation faces many problems — ending two wars, creating jobs, educating our children, tackling our budget, and protecting our safety net. Although the gravity of these issues may drive many to prayer, the way we will solve them is through the application of reason.

The National Day of Reason is also about taking time to improve our communities — whether that means holding a blood drive or collecting items for the local food bank. It is also about ensuring that our government represents citizens of all beliefs and backgrounds.

I encourage everyone to join in observing this day and focusing upon the employment of reason, critical thinking, the scientific method, and free inquiry to the resolution of human problems and for the welfare of human kind. It is the duty and responsibility of every American to promote the development and application of reason.

I’m so used to hearing members of Congress make meaningless or idiotic statements that it’s a bit unsettling — but very appreciated — to read something so simple and direct. That’s what happens when you elect an openly non-theistic person to Congress. It’s symbolic only, but it’s still meaningful.

You can thank the Secular Coalition for America for making the proclamation happen, by the way:

“The Secular Coalition for America has a great appreciation for the continued work Representative Stark has done to promote reason and secular values on Capitol Hill,” said Sean Faircloth, executive director of the Secular Coalition for America, who spoke today at a National Day of Reason event on the North Carolina State Capitol grounds in Raleigh. “By encouraging Americans to employ reason and perform good deeds in their community, this proclamation embodies values that all Americans can rally behind — not simply those who pray or believe in a god.”

Amanda Knief of the SCA even got interviewed on Pat Robertson‘s Christian Broadcasting Network (at the 1:11 mark):

Amanda Knief, the government relations manager for the Secular Coalition for America, said [the NDOP] violates separation of church and state.

“We do not believe the government should be in the business of telling people when or how to pray,” she explained.

Considering she only got a few seconds of air time, I think she made the perfect point. This isn’t about persecution of Christians. This is simply about whether the government should be taking sides regarding religion and prayer.

(Side note: I’ll give you a dollar if you can sit through Rev. Rob Schenck‘s monologue at the end of that video… ugh…)

Meanwhile, with the FFRF case out of the way, President Obama issued a proclamation on behalf of the National Day of Prayer:

It is thus fitting that, from the earliest years of our country’s history, Congress and Presidents have set aside days to recognize the role prayer has played in so many definitive moments in our history. On this National Day of Prayer, let us follow the example of President Lincoln and Dr. King. Let us be thankful for the liberty that allows people of all faiths to worship or not worship according to the dictates of their conscience, and let us be thankful for the many other freedoms and blessings that we often take for granted.

Right… because it was the prayer circle by the Navy SEALs that killed Osama bin Laden, right?

According to Rep. Allen West (R-FL), yep.

[West] posited that the Navy SEALs prayed before entering bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan…

Yeah. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that had more important things to think about at that moment than whether or not Jesus loved them.

At least the president mentioned non-theists in passing in the process of illegally pandering to his religious base. We’ve gotten used to that by now…

  • http://hoverFrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Why does the US set aside a day of prayer? Do you at least get to sacrifice a goat in keeping with your nation’s religious origins? I mean what’s the point if there isn’t a blood sacrifice? You know that the economy would collapse if not for the offering of smoky goat bits and telepathic messages to the cloud based deity.

  • http://jacobblock.com Jacob

    Hemant, are you suggesting that Jesus didn’t guide the bullet into Osama’s face?

    Blasphemy!!!

  • gski

    @hoverfrog

    Because sacrificing goats, is preferable to sacrificing votes.

  • MRL

    Out of curiosity, was there anything demonstrably good that came out of last years NDOP? I mean, all those folks praying at the same time, the Bearded Man In The Sky must have made something pretty fncking cool happen, right?

    Seems to me that if you aren’t getting results, what’s the point? Might as well have a national day of masturbation.

    Or, is that too reason-y to expect empirical results from the NDOP.

  • Luther

    Referenced Rep Stark’s statement on my facebook wall.

    I think we should call the alternative the National DOP (pronounced DOPE)

  • Nerdette

    If any one watched the extended interview Jon Stewart did with David Barton a couple days ago, Barton made it sound like the FFRF demanded people not to pray and how wrong that was. Stewart even agreed with him, and insinuated that the FFRF were idiots. I would post the clip, but I can’t find it on the CC site now…

    I know Stewart is good about being cordial to his guests, but that little bit still surprised me. I am so tired of people confusing the demand that the government stop leading prayer for a demand to stop praying. It’s not a difficult distinction!

  • God’s People

    I am glad that Pete Stark is striking a cord somewhere, personally, I think that he is the most intellectually challenged rep in office. Look, if it is soo great to be an atheist, why do you guys spend so much time justifying it. You have company, but of this company, how many of you in your time of need and confusion will NOT cry out for GOD’s mercy. Just sayin, I am seeing more people my age reaching for something higher and more beautiful than the flawed easoning of a flawed man such as Stark. But whatever floats your boat.

  • Alex

    To MRL,
    A National Day of Masturbation would be its own reward, and the results would be automatic and self evident.
    And to Nerdette,
    Here is the Barton/Stewart interview, as loathe as I am to link it:
    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-may-4-2011/david-barton-pt–1

    I hope that works.
    Stewart needed to be a bit more like Chris Matthews and not let the little ass-hat filibuster.

  • Hazor

    Right… because it was the prayer circle by the Navy SEALs that killed Osama bin Laden, right?

    Yep, ’cause Jesus was a war man who never preached peace and love.

  • John Small Berries

    Christians can pray whenever they want.

    Well, not if they actually follow the teachings of Jesus.

  • mjp

    Thanks for the heads-up about Schenk, I will not be earning that dollar! He is from the Buffalo area, he and his brother were rabid anti-abortion activists in the area for years, leading up to the murder of Dr. Slepian. It’s been appalling and sickening, yet not surprising, to see him making inroads into DC politics.

  • Another Steve

    I think the National Prayer Breakfast is more insidious. It’s nothing but a forum to facilitate meetings between right wing theocrats and politicians. Endorsed by the very highest levels of government, the real stuff goes on behind the scenes. And many of the biggest theocrats like the Family/Fellowship play key roles.

  • Nordog

    I would caution against citing Pete Stark as any exemplar of reason, or at least of reasonableness.

    I didn’t know he was an atheist until yesterday, however, I’ve known for some time that he was an over the top hot head.

  • El Bastardo

    Allen West eh?

    The same Allen West who wanted Joyce “..if ballots don’t work, bullets will” Kaufman as his chief of staff.

    The same Allen West who claimed to have a higher security clearance than the President.

    We all knew he was always delusional.

  • http://leavingthequietroom.blogspot.com/ Joe Zamecki

    Here in Austin, we had a great protest of the National Day of Prayer event that was held at the Texas State Capitol Building. Got some nice video too:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrQE-x80qPc

  • Rich Wilson

    I’ve been posting that I’d like to ADD a National Day of No Prayer. So we can compare the number of car crashes and cancer remissions on the two days.

  • Nordog

    Christians can pray whenever they want.

    Well, not if they actually follow the teachings of Jesus.

    I suspect the prosciption cited at the link above has more to do with the where and the how, not the when.

    And even the where of it can be addressed by silent prayer, a type of “in your room” privacy, so to speak.

    Perhaps I’m being too literal in the face of what was only meant as snark. Who knows?

  • John Small Berries

    I suspect the prosciption cited at the link above has more to do with the where and the how, not the when.

    Well, the fact that you have to wait until you’re at home to pray, if you’re reading Jesus’s teachings literally (as many evangelists claim to do), does place some constraints on the “when”.

    Perhaps they do the “National Day of Prayer” differently in other places, but when I worked in downtown Tampa, the NDOP was commemorated every year by a horde of people out in a vacant block, all praying “to be seen of men”, and were led in prayers over a PA system; not silent in the least.

  • http://moregloriousdawn.wordpress.com Sivi

    Well, now that you mention it, yes, they did have god on their minds.

    http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2011/05/seal_commanders_religious_scre.php

    “…it was reported on NBC’s Today Show that the commander of the SEAL unit, who was supposed to signal that the mission was successfully accomplished with the code word “Geronimo,” decided to embellish his communication by prefacing the code word with “For God and Country.””

  • BoomerChick

    Hemant wrote:

    “(Side note: I’ll give you a dollar if you can sit through Rev. Rob Schenck‘s monologue at the end of that video… ugh…)”

    Hemant, I sat through it and listened but all I heard was “bla…bla…bla…bla…bla…”
    So I must forfeit your payment.

  • Heidi

    Apologies in advance for feeding the troll, but…

    how many of you in your time of need and confusion will NOT cry out for GOD’s mercy.

    I’m raising my hand here. I am reasonably sure that there is no situation in which I would, with a straight face, cry for mercy from any god, goddess, leprechaun or unicorn.

  • http://www.correntewire.com chicago dyke

    I am reasonably sure that there is no situation in which I would, with a straight face, cry for mercy from any god, goddess, leprechaun or unicorn.

    i was just thinking about that today. i can see myself saying “oh, god” in a stressful moment, but without any meaning or force of belief behind it, rather just an expression. but if i was having say, a poltergeist moment (that scene at the end where she ‘prays’ for strength to pull her kids out of the maw) i dunno? now, granted in that example supernatural monsters have already physically manifested so it’s sort of a fantastic and thus unreal metaphor. but you know, if your kid were trapped under a burning car or something, would you, in a moment of desperate emotion, ‘call on god’ for the strength to turn it over? it’s really more of a question about how programmed we all are to react to certain situations in similar ways.

  • Rich Wilson

    Considering she only got a few seconds of air time, I think she made the perfect point.

    That wasn’t her choice, that was whoever edited the piece. And given slant, I’m surprised that’s the sound bite they included. If I had 2 seconds, I think that’s what I’d want included.

    What struck me (and in a local report of my community’s activities) was all the talk of Unity. I mean, wow, they even had Catholics and Jews there!!!

  • Ex Patriot

    NDoP should really be National Day of Idiots Talking to Themselves


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