Observations on the world today.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

That Prayer Decision Thingy 

I just sent the following letter to the editor of my local paper.

As an American, an atheist, and someone who respects religious freedom, I applaud the recent decision by US District Judge Barbara Crabb to enjoin the President from endorsing a National Day of Prayer. As an atheist, I think prayer is a waste of time. However, as an American, I think people should be free to pray whenever and wherever they choose. While as one who respects religious freedom, I don’t think the government has any business endorsing any strictly religious activity, of which prayer is primary. As an atheist, I have no desire to attend prayer services, public or private. As an American, I recognize that people have the absolute right to gather and pray on any grounds public or private. As one who respects religious freedom, I worry for the rights of my religious brethren whenever the government encroaches into what should be private spiritual territory.

An atheist is one who believes many things, but does not believe there is a God. An atheist can believe in your right to assemble. An atheist can believe in your right to pray. An atheist can even believe in your right to choose a day to gather and pray in tandem as a nation of faithful religious individuals. And in fact, this atheist does. But as an American, I cannot believe any other American with a profound understanding of the Constitution and the lessons of our history could ever want any government (least of all our own) becoming involved in the business of legislating religious observances.

Yes, the majority of persons in this country are Christians. Yes, the majority believe prayer has some nondescript magical efficacy. But I fail to see how that translates to a need for our government to sanction a day set aside for what should be an everyday part of every good Christian’s daily routine anyway. Being the majority doesn’t change that. Were the majority to convert to Islam, would those of you who remain Christian be okay with the government endorsing Sharia law? Should most of your neighbors convert to Hinduism, would you Christians be okay with our government adopting a caste system? I dare say you would not. So why should I, an atheist, be okay with my government, as Judge Crabb referred to it, “endors[ing] a religious message?”

And staving off the critics who will erroneously declare that the founders would have supported the recent tradition, I leave you with these words from Thomas Jefferson; “I do not believe it is for the interest of religion to invite the civil magistrate to direct its exercises, … nor of the religious societies that the general government should be invested with the power of effecting any uniformity of time or matter among them... Everyone must act according to the dictates of his own reason, and mine tells me that civil powers alone have been given to the President of the United States, and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents.”

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?