We Really Don’t Need a National Day of Prayer

After seeing the extent to which the National Day of Prayer has turned into the National Day of evangelical-Christianity-or-else, Sally Quinn of The Washington Post says she no longer sees a need for the celebration:

This country was founded on the idea of religious freedom. But shoving one’s beliefs down the throat of all Americans is just the opposite. [Rev. Greg] Laurie and [Pseudohistorian David] Barton are so far from the mainstream that they are representative of only a very few Christians in this country, not to mention those of other faiths and no faith.

Whatever happened to inclusiveness and pluralism?

Well, they seem to disappear whenever the Religious Right gets involved… and let’s face it: The day isn’t really about prayer. It’s about public prayer and making sure everyone else knows which group really has all the power.

Quinn also doesn’t believe we need a National Day of Reason — which was started in response to the Day of Prayer — though she doesn’t really offer a reason why beyond “if you’re not an atheist, then why would you want to observe” it? (Answer: Because it’s symbolic opposition to the idea of prayer as a substitute for action.)

But if Shirley Dobson and her cohorts want to cancel their event next year, I’m pretty sure the American Humanist Association will be glad to do the same.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • C Peterson

    A National Day of Reason makes sense even without it being a reaction to the National Day of Prayer. Reason is demonstrably a highly effective way of solving problems. To celebrate it is very reasonable, and it can be celebrated regardless of one’s religious viewpoint. After all, most intelligent religionists, once they compartmentalize religion itself, make effective use of reason.

    • Hat Stealer

      Eh, I would prefer that instead of the government proclaiming ‘National Day of X” they actually spend their time actually governing. The whole thing strikes me as rather silly.

      • C Peterson

        It depends on what you think the legitimate role of government is. I consider social engineering one of those roles, and a “National Day of X” falls into that category. So I don’t have a fundamental objection to the concept, although I certainly have strong opinions about the nature of “X”!

  • Baby_Raptor

    So we don’t need things since some people might not want to partake of them?

    Does this woman realize that she just erased everything in the world except for oxygen, eating and sleeping?

    • http://www.facebook.com/melissa.a.ward.9 Melissa Annette Ward

      I think it’s more about what The National Day of Prayer has become, as opposed to what it’s supposed to be.
      Why should it be a national issue where Christians march around glaring down their noses at those who do not pray? It’s turned into just another way for us to segregate within our communities. However, the Jewish community were focusing more on their actions for The National Day of Prayer and many Jewish-based Facebook pages encouraged their Friends to post things on the Wall with descriptions of their positive acts to help inspire others to do good in the world. Which, the entire thing was applauded by National Day of Reason enthusiasts.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Timothy-R-Alexander/1850774621 Timothy R Alexander

      Works for me. Pardon me while I get dinner and go to sleep.

  • JET

    I think a National Day of Action would be even better than a National Day of Reason, suggesting ways one might actually help accomplish something. Fundies could pray their little hearts out on their day and the rest of us could donate blood, work in a soup kitchen, give to the local food bank, etc. It would point out the difference between wishing for something and actually trying to make it happen.

    • cary_w

      Haven’t people already been trying to turn Martin Luther King Jr. Day into a National Day of Service? I’m not sure how “official” it is , but it certainly makes a lot more sense than praying. It’s inclusive of everyone and a lot of good things actually get done, instead of just a bunch of wishful thinking!

  • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Tanner B James

    I think we shout have a National Day Of Thought and everyone can choose from this list what kind of thought they are going to use:


  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    I’m going broken record here, but I’d like to make it National Day of Empirical Prayer Research. Everyone pray for the same measurable result, like no car crashes for the day. If there was a statistically significant drop in car crashes on that day, after factoring for such things as day of the week, I’d start praying.

    • Hailey

      Shoot, the U.S. government has done that at least a few times with taxpayer money. All the research was pretty much for naught. Prayer does not work.

  • cipher

    Yeah, it’s about time. She’s been far too tolerant of evangelical bullshit on her interfaith blog at the Washington Post. I’ve had a comment deleted for not being nice enough to the poor, oppressed evangelicals (and I’m so charming!).

    I’ve been waiting for her to wake up from her happy-clappy, can’t-we-all-just-get-along fantasy for some time.

  • kielc

    We need a National Day of Prayer like we need a National Unicorn Appreciation Day.