Can I Get an Amen? National Day of Blah Blah Blah…
Thursday May 3rd marks the National Day of Prayer. Every year on this first Thursday in May, the president signs a proclamation encouraging all Americans to pray. Similar proclamations are signed in all 50 states and U.S. territories.
The National Day of Prayer traces its origins back to 1775 when colonies were asked to pray for wisdom in forming a nation, and in 1952 President Truman (the nation’s last good president according to some) signed a joint resolution declaring an annual day of prayer country making it law. In 1988, President Reagan amended the law and set the official day as the first Thursday in May. Regardless of political affiliation, every president since Harry Truman has signed a National Day of Prayer proclamation.
The American Humanist Association opposes the National Day of Prayer. They believe the day violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, that it endorses government sponsored and funded religious observance, that it promotes religious ideology and violates the separation of church and state and that the that the day is not inclusive of all. To counter the standard National Day of Prayer, the American Humanist Association sponsors the National Day of Reason which they advertise as a “… Reasonable Alternative to Prayer.”
I’m not asking you to defend or deny religion, or state your religious beliefs, but where do you stand on the issue? Should the United States have a national day of prayer? Should the government be involved? Is a national day or prayer beneficial or divisive? Is it potentially harmful? Is it respectful of prayer?
For me, I’m one of those goofy people who believe that prayer and reason can exist hand-in-hand. I’m also of the thought that it’s not part of the government’s responsibility to tell people, or in this case remind them, when it’s time to pray. I don’t believe the government needs to be involved in designating a specific day for prayer. I feel it cheapens the act in a way and reduces it to the mundane.
As always, I’m interested in your thoughts so feel free to leave a comment below.
Warning: This is the part of the posting where I start to write about stuff I’m thinking and when I do that I have a tendency to ramble so this would be your warning to stop now if you want!
It’s difficult for me to think about prayer without thinking about religion – although I don’t believe the two are exclusive. When I think about religion I think about doing good in the world, and usually when I think about this stuff I think about the why’s behind the action. In this case, while both religion and common sense/reason tell us to do good, I wonder if different people do good for different reasons. Do atheists, skeptics and other non-believers do good for the sake of being nice to other people and do religious people – and I’m speaking in general here in both cases and not in absolutes – do good because they fear the punishment from not doing good or they anticipate the reward for doing good? If so, is that even important, or more relevant than the why behind the decision to like, or dislike, something like chocolate? To me, the only thing that seems like it should matter is that something good is being done in the world.
Because I like quotes I’ll end this with a couple of quotes from both sides of the faith fence. Both quotes are anonymous and I chose anonymous quotes on purpose even though I tend to think “anonymous” is simply a code word for “someone writing and trying to get it alongside the Einsteins and Emersons and Chestertons and Churchills of the world”. Regardless, that doesn’t make those quotes less interesting of thought-provoking. No, I’m not the anonymous writer behind either one of the two quotes below.
“The atheist can’t find God for the same reason that a thief can’t find a policeman.” – Anonymous
“Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned.” – Anonymous
And for the record, if anyone’s interested, at this point in time I consider myself a pantheist who leans strongly to secular humanism and appreciates and respects Jewish culture and history. If there’s a one or two word label for that I don’t know what it is. If there’s one or two inconsistencies in there I don’t care!