Day of Prayer vs. Day of Reason.

Today has been the National Day of Prayer since 1952:

The first Thursday in May is a peculiar day for many Americans as it’s a day set aside for government to intrude in their private religious practices. On May 1, the National Day of Prayer, government officials from city council to president ask citizens to join them in supplication. The National Day of Prayer was made an annual event when President Harry S. Truman signed a joint resolution into law in 1952. This was the Cold War era of McCarthyism where fear of communism drove Americans to permit the curbing of our freedoms, some temporarily, and some like the Day of Prayer and the insertion of “Under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance, unabating to the present day.

We secularists have countered by naming today the National Day of Reason.  Two concepts fighting for the same day.  How do we know which one to partake of?  Well don’t you worry, I’ve got a handy test that everybody can use.

Pick one day and don’t try to reason the solution to any problems.  Just pray.  Hungry?  No listening to your intellect telling you to go to the fridge and get those leftover crab rangoons.  Just sit and pray for your stomach to stop grumbling.  Taking your trigonometry test?  No paper, pencil, or reasoning…just pray for god to give you the answer.  Forgot where you left your car keys?  No problem!  Just sit idly and pray without looking for them.  Remember, we’re trying to isolate prayer’s ability to achieve results.  How productive was this day?  This should tell you the value of prayer for figuring shit out and for getting shit done.

Now, pick another day and make this your day of reason.  Hungry?  Figure out how to solve this problem as an autonomous human being.  Remember, no praying, just figuring it out on your own.  Trig test?  Remember, you’re only allowed to use your brain and the past discoveries of other thinking mortals to figure that shit out!  Can’t find your car keys?  Use reason to figure out where they most likely are and go search there (probably in the pocket of last night’s pants.  You’re welcome).

On which day were you happier?  On which day did more shit get done?  Now ask yourselves how we should tackle the rest of the world’s problems.

And don’t give me any of this “Of course we pray, but we also use reason and human effort at the same time” bullshit.  Doing what works along with what doesn’t work and claiming they share the credit is like saying it’s the singing in the shower that gets you clean.

And if you found that one of these days is very similar to the way you already live, that should tell you a great deal about the value you really place on reason and the value you really place on prayer.  When we want to change the world, even in little ways, for almost everybody every day is a day of reason.  So stop insisting that prayer is what we need to be doing.  Time spent praying is time not getting us closer to the results we want, and that goes for our leaders as well as somebody taking a trig test.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.


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