April 30, 2012

Why the National Day of Prayer Must End

end the national day of prayer

Here in the U.S., some will celebrate the National Day of Prayer in early May. Others will celebrate the National Day of Reason. But there is a critical difference between these celebrations that is not evident from their names. The National Day of Prayer has the support of the U.S. government; it has an official designation. The National Day of Reason has no such support and no such designation. In fact, it is little more than a grassroots attempt by the reality-based community to offer an alternative to the National Day of Prayer.

So just what is the National Day of Prayer, and why should any self-respecting atheist care whether or not there is one? Here's how Dave Niose described it in a post for Psychology Today:

On May 3, the nation will once again be subjected to the annual fiasco wherein conservative Christians utilize the apparatus of government to publicly exalt their theological beliefs, to ensure that their vociferous anti-secular views are promoted as official state doctrine. I refer, of course, to the religious pandering known as the National Day of Prayer.
That's right, the National Day of Prayer isn't even about prayer; it is about the intrusion of evangelical fundamentalist Christianity into the U.S. government.

As Niose points out, the event is a problem for the reality-based community not because it involves prayer or because it is organized by conservative religious activists. It is a problem because it is sponsored by our government. He goes out of his way to explain that there would be nothing at all wrong with churches coming together to support a day of prayer without government involvement.

But the religious activists behind the National Day of Prayer are not content with their religious freedom. Instead, they have a compelling need to see their government (which also happens to be mine and yours) sponsor the annual prayer event and issue proclamations, preferably accompanied by grandiose ceremonies, validating their supernatural theological beliefs.

Let me see if I can provide a brief summary of why the National Day of Prayer should be stopped:

  1. It is an event through which the U.S. government supports evangelical fundamentalist Christianity via overt sponsorship (i.e., issuing proclamations, participating in public ceremonies, etc.).

Short list, wasn't it? That's because this is a fairly easy one. Our government is not supposed to be in the business of encouraging religious exercises. As Niose says,

It speaks volumes for the state of today’s America that the day of prayer is government-sponsored, whereas the event exalting reason is not. Surely Jefferson, who refused to declare any official days of prayer during his presidency, would not approve.