This Thursday, May 5th, 2011*, is the National Day of Prayer (36 U.S.C. § 119) in the United States. After 33 years on this planet as an American citizen I am only now learning of its existence. That should give you some indication of its level of importance to me. Having said that, it is increasingly important to oppose this “observance” since it smacks of government endorsement of religion especially as it is increasingly being hijacked by right-wing Evangelical Christians. On the surface they claim freedom of religion and governmental non-interference, but they are intolerant of non-Christians in general and especially as equal partners in America when in high profile, quasi-government endorsed ceremonies.
Actually, they weren’t.
While not on the National Day of Prayer, in September of 2000, Venkatachalapathi Samuldrala, a Hindu priest from Parma, Ohio opened a session of the U.S. House of Representatives with a prayer. Guess what happened? The Family Research Council happened and they reacted as they always do. With righteous indignation, thinly veiled hate and superiority while completely misrepresenting the First Amendment.
"What's wrong is that it is one more indication that our nation is drifting from its Judeo-Christian roots...Alas, in our day, when 'tolerance' and 'diversity' have replaced the 10 Commandments as the only remaining absolute dictums, it has become necessary to 'celebrate' non-Christian religions - even in the halls of Congress...Our founders expected that Christianity -- and no other religion -- would receive support from the government as long as that support did not violate people's consciences and their right to worship. They would have found utterly incredible the idea that all religions, including paganism, be treated with equal deference.
Many people today confuse traditional Western religious tolerance with religious pluralism. The former embraces biblical truth while allowing for freedom of conscience, while the latter assumes all religions are equally valid, resulting in moral relativism and ethical chaos..."
“As for our Hindu priest friend, the United States is a nation that has historically honored the One True God,” “Woe be to us on that day when we relegate Him to being merely one among countless other deities in the pantheon of theologies.”
Several years later Operation Save America (hint...not a Unitarian Universalist group) actually disrupted a Hindu prayer in the Senate Chambers yelling out various Christian religious hate speech. “Lord Jesus, forgive us father for allowing a prayer of the wicked, which is an abomination in your sight.” Among other things.
Again, neither of these events took place on the National Day of Prayer, but could you imagine the backlash if a Sikh, Hindu or Muslim led a prayer at the White House or in Congress on the National Day of Prayer? The freedom of religion would go right out the window for anyone not Christian and then I am sure they would have reservations for various other sects of Christians. This isn’t speculative hyperbole either. Does anyone dispute that this would cause an uproar? In a week where Fox “News” accused Obama of not being “Eastery” enough do you really think that Freedom of Religion applies to anyone in the country except Evangelical Christians? Nope.
Damn, I wrote more about that than I intended...moving along.
One of the ways the National Day of Prayer is being countered is with the National Day of Reason.
The purpose of the National Day of Reason is to celebrate reason—a concept all Americans can support—and to raise public awareness about the persistent threat to religious liberty posed by government intrusion into the private sphere of worship.
Not too high profile, not too sexy,and it doesn’t have the cheap flair for the dramatic that the fundies get moist over...but hey, it is reasonable.
For this National Day of Reason** I am taking the opportunity to post my Freedom From Religion Foundation “Coming Out Campaign” billboard.
There it is all its glory. Now you have a name and face to put to my awful punctuation. I encourage others to make their own if they are comfortable, but only if you are comfortable. The Friendly Atheist recently posted a study that stated atheists are still the most reviled group in America. Hemant goes on to say:
It starts by coming out of the closet as an atheist. If someone believes atheists are bad, but they happen to know you very well and they know you’re a good person, nothing will create more cognitive dissonance in their mind than finding out you don’t believe in a god. So start telling people. Tell one friend first. Tell others acquaintances later. Maybe tell your family after that. Whatever order is the most comfortable for you.
We are going to make a post of our billboards to go up on Thursday. If you want to create your own The Freedom From Religion Campaign’s “Out of the Closet” billboard please visit their page at http://ffrf.org/out/. If you would like us to add your billboard to Thursday's post then please email us the HTML code in your email from FFRF via our Contact page or DM Steve via Twitter @uzh77. I’ll create the post and constantly update it with billboards. Other wise it will be just be us and it will be lonely.***
*any religious observance that gets in the way of Cinco de Mayo awesomeness is doomed. DOOOOMED! I’ll give up my cold cerveza in exchange for your cheap Bible when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.
**again, also for National Day of Reason...beer and tacos.
***however we will be inebriated.