Want to see how religion mixes with government?

Almost immediately after posting my piece on National Day of Prayer over at Atheism Resource the cacophony of complaints climbed to a noticeably annoying level of volume. Chief in frequency amongst the outpourings of discontent was the question, “Why do you care if the President endorses a national day of prayer?”  I really wanted to answer each and every email by asking how they’d feel about the federal government endorsing a National Day of No Prayer.

A better question to ask would be why religious people don’t care about the President’s endorsement.  Sure, it’s schnazzy when it’s your religion in power, but even your religion gets fragmented by tiny differences and then shit like this happens.

Close allies of Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have been accused of using supernatural powers to further his policies amid an increasingly bitter power struggle between him and the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Several people said to be close to the president and his chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, have been arrested in recent days and charged with being “magicians” and invoking djinns (spirits).

Ayandeh, an Iranian news website, described one of the arrested men, Abbas Ghaffari, as “a man with special skills in metaphysics and connections with the unknown worlds”.

You should care if the President is advocating a religious practice because keeping our government secular is the only way to protect the followers of your religion (or your particular flavor of your religion) from finding themselves under the controlling thumb of someone practicing another.  If you wish to ensure your own religious freedom then your government needs to be based on discussion and reasoning, without someone having the opportunity to silence you with charges of heresy.

Many of the gripes I received also contained implications, either overt or subtle, that I was somehow upset that Christians pray at all, even though I never so much as sneezed my displeasure with anybody praying.  I think prayer useless, I think it’s infantile, and I think it doesn’t accomplish anything but self-delusion, but I don’t wish to stop anybody from doing it (though I will point out all of those things whenever I damn well please).

This brings me to the other reason the flabbergasted religious should care about the President lending his support to NDOP, and it boils down to what I initially said was my problem when I made the post: what the President is doing is illegal, no question.  He is not standing on principle unless that principle is insisting that he is above the law he has sworn to uphold, which is a terrible example to set for our nation.  Responsible adult citizens who disagree with our laws should work through the system to change them legally instead of violating them. If everyone got to pick and choose which laws to disregard we would be well on the road to anarchy.  Plus, after the Bush presidency, it’s no secret that the international community already has a very sour taste in its mouth with regards to the United States breaking whichever laws we choose.

WWJTD?  I’d apply a cattle prod to people who address arguments I never made or concerns I never voiced while ignoring the issues I did express.  I find this happens a lot when I’m discoursing with religious people.

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