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prayer

I know a lot of my fellow atheists/agnostics are up in arms about Bush declaring a day of prayer, but I'm not going to join their chorus.

Just let it go. So, he has asked people to pray. He hasn't ordered anyone to pray. It's not mandatory. Just like people who take offense to the Pledge of Allegiance, ignore it if you must, but don't make such a big deal out of it that you get in the way of people who do not take offense to it.

While I don't pray or even have a God to pray to, I understand what it is like to need faith during terrible times. If this is what comforts people, what makes them feel hope or peace, why would you want to take that away from them?

I'm sure in the past that I've made snide remarks about days of praying, but I guess I've mellowed in my old age. Or maybe I've matured enough to understand the whole different strokes for different folks thing and I can't be bothered to waste my energy ridiculing people for trying to find hope in a chaotic time.

There's a difference between people blaming God for an act of nature or crediting God for saving certain lives over others and people taking comfort in the act of praying together as one voice, in a nation that is made up largely of people who do believe in one God or another. It's not like Bush has ordered everyone to pray to God to smite atheists or Democrats or anyone. It's just prayer and if you do not believe in God or the power of prayer, then how can this possibly bother you? What affect can it have on you to allow people their day or moment of clasped hands and silent devotions? None. None at all.

We all have our ways of finding peace or hope. We meditate or listen to music or sit in the garden or hold our children and we try to find a place that makes us feel warmth or solace or even hope. For you, it's listening to Mozart while drinking green tea. For someone else, it's saying the rosary and asking their God to help those in need.

The fact that our president has called for a day of prayer should be the biggest worry you have. Let it go, already.

Update: Laurence has made a poll so you can vote on which God for me to pray to (he forgot that I have no god before me but Mike Patton)

Comments

Is it ok for me to worship you?

Is it ok for me to worship you? Instead of a rosary, I have a Limp Biskit CD I can rub.

Damn finicky interweb thing... Sorry 'bout that.

Beautifully put, Michele.

That is one of the most pleasant and mature entries on the subject that I have ever read.

I won't stand for this kind of sensible posting. If you're going to be part of the Inter Nets, you are required to be explosively angry, and be yelling at someone.

Pie will be withheld until you start yelling that "it's _____'s fault!"

I hear that Ray Nagin is blaming Bush for not calling for the Day Of Prayer fast enough... ;)

That would be a good madlibs....

Ok, we officially need a Katrina Media Report™ madlib, ready made to spew venom at the polotician or pundit of our choice.

Who is taking it away from them? The President, in declaring a day of prayer, is not forcing me to pray, and in not declaring one, he wouldn't be denying anyone the opportunity to do so.

It's an unnecessary declaration, if anything.

As for having other things to worry about, I would think the President has many more as leader of the free world, yet there he stands talking about let's get on our knees and pray.

Shouldn't he be the one letting it go?

Despite its remakable ineffectiveness, people are free to pray if they want, if it makes them feel better. But do you really need the President endorsing it or telling you when is the time?

but don't make such a big deal out of it that you get in the way of people who do not take offense to it.

But what about those people who live to make a fuss? Shouldn't they be allowed to be the center of attention for a little while?

The problem with that, Shawn, is that they think they ARE the center of attention, always.

Andy: Nobody NEEDS the president telling them when or where or how to pray. But if it makes people feel better, more power to them. Yes, the President has bigger things to tackle but really, how many minutes out of his day do you think it took for him to say "let's pray?" Do you know the percentage of Catholics in New Orleans? I'm sure they appreciate the sentiment of the president a lot more than you don't appreciate it.

For me, it's rather like the idea that "under God" in the pledge is just ceremonial deism, yet Christians sure want to keep such a therefore meaningless statement in there.

It's an unnecessary entanglement of church and state, and had he said something like "and let us make burnt offerings, the smell of which is pleasing to God," I think the chorus of "let it go" would be a lot less loud.

If he's going to take the time to make such a declaration, we'd be better served leaving it as a national day of simple remembrance, with encouragement to remember it in our own individual ways.

As far as appreciation goes, I suspect the atheists in New Orleans might philosophically appreciate a national day of "all we have is each other, while the impotent gods hide in shame," but I'm certainly not going to ask or expect a government official to declare such a thing.

I find it a futile and unnecessary gesture and said so, which, I might add, has nothing to do with wanting to be the center of attention (particularly since my blog reaches maybe .00000006% of the world population).

It took him very little time to make the statement, and very little time for me to offer my opinion. I suppose we'll have to agree to disagree.

there's nothing at all wrong with prayer, but i don't think the argument is over whether prayer itself is bad. i think the argument is whether or not government-sanctioned, government-mandated prayer is bad. to many of us atheists, this is the first and could lead to the latter.

there's also the fact that this "day of prayer" is pretty much christian only, as sanctioned and ordered by a born-again-christian president. i'm sure there are plenty of ppl of other faiths affected by this disaster--but they aren't really included in this type of thing. that's another problem i have with it.

"this is the first and could lead to the latter."

Slippery slope argument. You could also say "this is the first, and the backlash against it would cause people to rend their garments and kill anyone with a cross in the streets".

The day of prayer thing doesn't bother me, in and of itself. However, it does come from a President who has many supporters (possibly including the next Head Justice of the Supreme Court) who would like to see all American public school teachers and students reciting Christian prayers in our schools.

I'm not upset about a day of prayer, but I do care about the Constitution and I will become very upset if the hyper-conservative Supreme Court that's staring us in the face decides to interpret the establishment clause so narrowly as to make it meaningless.

"However, it does come from a President who has many supporters (possibly including the next Head Justice of the Supreme Court) who would like to see all American public school teachers and students reciting Christian prayers in our schools."

Really? What flavor of theocracy are you envisioning? Presbyterian? Methodist? Baptist? Or are you thinking that the Catholics will force the Protestants to pray to Mother Mary?

You're fear mongering with statements like that. No one outside of the Fred Phelps style of religious nuttery wants to force anyone to pray Christian prayers. What Christians want is to be allowed to pray. Muslims too. Most of us are sensible and realize that seperation of church and state is beneficial to our beliefs.

Unless you actually have a long list of names of people with correlating quotes on how they're interested in the Supreme Court making "Jesus Loves Me" a mandatory morning ritual. Then I'll belive you.

Oh, I'm not up in arms regarding the National Day of Prayer. I feel much as you do about it.

I guess I just don't know why it couldn't be a National Day of Mourning or a National Day of Reflection or a National Day of Remembrance, or whatever other non-denominational/non-religious/non-inflammatory moniker you want to hang on it.

I'm cynic enough to believe that Bush is playing the religion card again for personal gain without regard to the fact that he governs a nation of many beliefs, including those who do not pray. It plays well for the papers, but does denote a certain disregard for a sector of the population.

I'll respect the Day of Prayer in my own way (emphasis on the word "respect"), but I'll form a quiet opinion of the man calling for it at the same time.

That was good andy, but for the next Katrina Media Report madlibs, if you leave out some of the proper nouns, we all can play along. Like this:

That ______(invective) idiot _____(politician/pundit) actually said "_______"(false quote), and everyone know ______(urban legend). If (s)he had his/her way we would all be ____(verb) under the _____(adj) boot of ____-ism(noun). ____(respected dead person) would be spinning in the grave if they saw this!

DrObvious -

You'll note (or should do) that I did not use invective, false quotes, urban legends, or a dead person spinning in their grave, thus I'm not sure why or how you think your Madlibs idea applies to my statements.

You're more than welcome to challenge what I say. You're not welcome to attempt to intentionally mispresent it.

Ok, I've posted a poll of gods you can pray to.

Sadly, there was no room for the Flying Spaghetti Monster, nor does the FSM seem to fit into the overall themes of Higher Powers I selected.

andy, if it makes people feel better, its hardly ineffective.

But it's ineffective for Andy, therefore it serves no purpose.

Sorry Andy, but that's how you come off in matters of religion.

Pril -

If they are praying to feel better, then I would agree, it is effective.

If they are praying for something unexpected (spare the city, heal someone, etc), then I would say the evidence says, quite conclusively, it doesn't work any better than random chance (hey, maybe God really does play dice with the universe!).

All of that said, it's irrelevant to the larger issues brought up above.

Michele -

Whether it works for me or others is not necessarily the issue (as I believe I have made quite clear in my comments above).

When I feel stressed, I find that, for example, making love to my wife helps quite a bit, or maybe a beer or two with friends. I don't expect Bush to get on television and advocate a day of Humping and Carousing and Remembrance (as neat as that would be).

As for how I come off on matters of religion, I know how I come off: as someone who finds it all irrational and silly. That, however, has little to do with the merit of my comments above.

You know what I find irrational? Pi. Damn thing just doesn't allow itself to be described fractionally.

Very annoying.

Actually, andy's right, to a point. The last post could be read as me attempting to madlib his post directly. If he thought I was trying to misquote him intentionally, it's fine to get pissed over that. For the record, thatís not what I was going for

So, once more without hyperbole:
Michele posted an interesting, genuine, and much less common point of view. You responded with something that reads like it came from a book called "Boilerplates for the Indignant Atheist". Hey, aren't boilerplates a lot like those old Madlibs games.

Moving on, I think claiming that a president's (or any leader's) job doesn't involve managing the emotional sentiment of the country is just silly. One guy made a funny fist and told us he feels our pain. Told us our astronauts arenít dead, they are just touching the face of God. One told us the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

Nothing "atheist boilerplate" about believing in church/state separation (unless Americans United actually contains atheists pretending to be Christians).

In fact, the core point of what I said was this:

If he's going to take the time to make such a declaration, we'd be better served leaving it as a national day of simple remembrance, with encouragement to remember it in our own individual ways.

Sounds a lot like, oh, managing the emotional sentiment of the nation, and without invoking God.

On a slight tangent, I'd like to point out that while Bush has often (as most all Presidents have) invoked God, he's also been more explicitly tolerant of atheism than any President in recent memory*:

http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/quotes/quote-b4.htm
Several quotes here (scroll down), including:

"My job is to make sure that, as President, people understand that in this country you can worship any way you choose. And I'll take that a step further. You can be a patriot if you don't believe in the Almighty. You can honor your country and be as patriotic as your neighbor." (And this to a group of Christian journalists, so it's not like he was just sucking up to us non-believers or something.)

  • - looking at the same quotation site for recent presidents, I found nothing from Bush 41 or Reagan, some generic quotes from Carter that don't address atheism per se, and one "pro-atheist" quote from Clinton.

Don't make me withhold Pi as well.

Michele, that was a very thoughtful and considerate post. Thanks.

Andy, I almost get the feeling that if someone holds elected office, you would like them to stop worshiping as they please. One of the great things about the Bill of Rights is that we can worship as we please. The government cannot establish a religion. Prayer is a generic term, Andy. I understand that you have a real thorn in your paw over Christians or something, but all you are doing is making your blood pressure go up.
Prayer is not just for Christians, and I think you are jumping to great, huge conclusions that really have no basis in fact.

Thank you, Michele, another gracious, common sense approach.

We buried my Uncle Bob yesterday and whatever the personal beliefs on an afterlife the crowd of people assembled held, we were all comforted when the pastor lead us in prayer. Assembling together and having a reverent respect for those events we have no true control over brings a certain amount of serenity.

And for a time, time stood still with peace.

It's like being on the curb watching a 4th of July parade and putting your hand over your heart when the color guard marches by. Or singing the national anthem at a stadium before a game begins. It becomes greater than the sum of its parts and you get, even briefly, the power of individuals together.

Andy, you remind me of Teresa Heinz [Kerry] when she, worried about how it would look in a photo, leaned over and snatched the thumb out of the little Edwards boy's mouth.

[mythical place in the sky] forfend what little bit of comfort someone might reach for that offends YOU.

The First Amendment from The Bill of Rights

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievance."


What guarantees our freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and to petition the government is not that these rights will be protected BY the government but FROM the government. To prevent government from suggesting to the people what beliefs are expected of us and when to practice them.

It shouldn't be taken for granted, this was a hard won freedom and the battle ever rages.


The Landing Of The Pilgrim Fathers In New England
by Felicia D. Hemans


The breaking waves dashed high
On a stern and rock-bound coast,
And the woods against a stormy sky
Their giant branches tossed:

And the heavy night hung dark
The hills and waters o'er,
When a band of exiles moored their bark
On the wild New England shore.

Not as the conqueror comes,
They, the true-hearted, came;
Not with the roll of the stirring drums,
And the trumpet that sings of fame:

Not as the flying come,
In silence and in fear;
They shook the depths of the desert gloom
With their hymns of lofty cheer.

Amidst the storm they sang,
And the stars heard, and the sea;
And the sounding aisles of the dim woods rang
To the anthem of the free.

The ocean eagle soared
From his nest by the white wave's foam,
And the rocking pines of the forest roared,-
This was their welcome home.

There were men with hoary hair
Amidst that pilgrim-band:
Why had they come to wither there,
Away from their childhood's land?

There was woman's fearless eye,
Lit by her deep love's truth;
There was manhood's brow serenely high,
And the fiery heart of youth.

What sought they thus afar?
Bright jewels of the mine?
The wealth of seas, the spoils of war?-
They sought a faith's pure shrine!

Ay, call it holy ground,
The soil where first they trod;
They have left unstained what there they found,-
Freedom to worship God.

END

I guess those atheists/agnostics would be okay with Governor Blanco's prior request:

Press Release
Date: 8/30/2005

Contact:Denise Bottcher or Roderick Hawkins at 225-342-9037

Governor Blanco Announces Day of Prayer

"As we face the devastation wrought by Katrina, as we search for those in need, as we comfort those in pain and as we begin the long task of rebuilding, we turn to God for strength, hope and comfort.

"I have declared August 31, 2005, a Day of Prayer in the State of Louisiana.

"I am asking that all of Louisiana take some time Wednesday to pray. Pray for the victims and the rescuers. Please pray that God give us all the physical and spiritual strength to work through this crisis and rebuild.

"Please pray for patience for those anxiously waiting to hear from family members or to get word about their homes. Pray for the safety of our hard-working rescuers and those they are bringing to safety.

"I know, by praying together on Wednesday, that we can pull together and draw strength we need; strength, that only God can give us.

"In my prayers, I will also thank God for the strong and resilient people of this state and how they are working to meet this challenge."

30

Repeated calls to God's office for comment have gone unreturned.

Governor Blanco better start praying she still has a job when this is all over.

Michele,

I thought you prayed to the god named Steinbrenner, at the temple constructed by that Monk Ruth in the Bronx.

Despite its remakable ineffectiveness, people are free to pray if they want, if it makes them feel better. But do you really need the President endorsing it or telling you when is the time?

and

I thought you prayed to the god named Steinbrenner, at the temple constructed by that Monk Ruth in the Bronx.

I guess Michele proves Andy's thesis about the ineffectiveness of prayer, eh?

I, however, think Andy's full of it, because he rephrases his operational definition of "effectiveness" as soon as someone calls him on it.

I appreciate Michelle's common sense approach, and find the whole suggestion that this is somehow a breach of church/state separation to be beyond ludicrous, especially coming from the supposedly "reasoned" atheist viewpoint.

I think day of prayer fits within a framework that most religious folk could ascribe to. It certainly fits the three major monotheistic beliefs that cover an overwhelming majority of the U.S. population.

Day of mourning is way more "negative," in that it sounds like a day of moping around thinking about the past. Day of reflection/remembrance likewise.

The term "prayer" encompasses all of those sentiments. It can be time for mourning, reflecting, remembering, and resolving for strength, grace, love, and humility in the future.

Beth -

Andy, I almost get the feeling that if someone holds elected office, you would like them to stop worshiping as they please.

Well, you almost get the wrong feeling then. However, I've already realized that many people (usually of the right-leaning Christian variety) are wholly incapable of understanding that a government that does not acknowledge their god is not the same as one that denies their god.

Darleen -

Same response.

Bryan -

Given that I never defined effectiveness until asked to clarify, your comment about my being full of it is utter nonsense.

As before, you're welcome to challenge me, but not welcome to just make shit up.

point taken about my "slippery slope" argument--but to me, having a national day of (CHRISTIAN) prayer seems to deliberately ignore the fact that there's more than one religion in this country, more than one way of believing, more than one group of people affected by the disaster. and, yes, to me, it seems like a blurring of the line between church and state. some people don't see that as a big deal. i do.

Where does it say CHRISTIAN day of prayer? You show me where it says that the day is not for Jews, Protestants, Muslims, Budhhists, what have you, that it's just for Christians and then we'll talk about that.

I've already realized that many people (usually of the right-leaning Christian variety) are wholly incapable of understanding that a government that does not acknowledge their god is not the same as one that denies their god.
While I've already realized that many people (usually of the ardent, athiestic variety) are wholly incapable of understanding that a government figure who acknowledges their own personal god or asks those who share his belief to pray is not the same as the entire government endorsing a religion. Or forcing communion on schoolkids, or cramming it down others throats, etc.

Geez, Andy, nice to see how you read my post about serenity and peace and came to the conclusion that I'm incapable of understanding the nuances of a secular government (while you don't seem to understand that THAT doesn't prohibit a religious presence in the public square). Not enough that the ACLU runs around the country threatening lawsuits against cities and counties that dare acknowlege the historical religious heritage of their region (see county of LA seal now Bowdlerized of its naughty naughty nod to its Franciscan roots), now there's griping from the Church of the Easily Offended that the President is declaring -- outloud! -- that on a particular day they may like to take some time in reflection knowing others are doing the same is some sort of Xtian Conspiracy to jerk the country into theocracy. It's akin to handwringing about Flag Day being an appeal to xenophobia.

Get.over.it.

BTW, in regards to prayers effectiveness, I'll paraphrase Jesse Jackson... if you were walking alone down a street late at night and suddenly saw a group of young men approaching you, would you feel more or less safe if you knew they had just come from Bible study?

Given that I never defined effectiveness until asked to clarify, your comment about my being full of it is utter nonsense.

No, you're still full of it. However, you are right that you never defined "effectiveness," but assumed that no one would challenge the statement. After someone did, you conveniently shifted your statement from "prayer has been proven not to be effective" to "depends on what you mean by effective" in your second statement. You're still shifting the ground after someone calls you on your original statement, which was a full of it absolute statement to begin with.

suffer fools gladly.

Sharp-

A presidential declaration is hardly the same as the President simply asking like-minded folks to pray.

Darleen-

If the tables were turned, and the President were to say "I'd like us all to remember that god does not exist and all we have is one another," I'm sure all the religious people in the country would just nod and smile as you expect non-believers to do.

Re: your prayer effectiveness story, uh, what? How does someone going to Bible study have any impact on the efficacy of prayer? That's like saying because people go to medical school, the placebo effect occurs.

Bryan -

If you believe that most people pray only to feel better with no expectation that their god is listening or will pull strings, you might have a point.

However, I happen to believe that most people don't pray to simply feel better (at least I never did).

Thus, that leaves room for both my implied meaning of effectiveness and the silly one.

Anyway, this has been fun. Enjoy your day of prayer that accomplishes nothing but making you feel better about yourself - I'm not sure how the evacuees will eat or live under the shelter provided by your warm fuzzies, but, hey, more power to you.

"While I don't pray or even have a God to pray to, "

I find it strange that you don't believe in God, yet still capitalize the name in print.

Just sayin'....

Richard: Old habits die hard (raised Catholic).

CNN

The president also called for a national day of prayer.

"I ask that we pray, as Americans have always prayed in times of trial, with confidence in his purpose, with hope for a brighter future and with the humility to ask God to keep us strong, so we can better serve our brothers and sisters in need," he said.


BBC

US President George W Bush has declared Friday 16 September a national day of prayer and remembrance for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

He asked agencies in the disaster zone to treat bodies with "dignity and respect", and announced initial aid of $2,000 (£1,090) for displaced families.


Me

Although President Bush is not a member of Congress I would prefer he have more respect for the First Ammendment.

I don't believe in 'this' President but I capitalize his name too:)

Michael

Maybe you ought to actually, like, read the First Amendment sometime.

And while you're there, be sure to check out Article VI, Clause 3.

Andy,

So the president declaring Black History Month means we should all be Black?

Darleen, I had already posted the First Amendment but hear it is again...


First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.


Article VI, Clause 3

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.


I am well versed in the First Ammendment but not familier with this clause of the Constitution. However I read it to mean that they have to swear an oath by God but don't have to prove their beliefs, is that it?

What seems relevent to me is the Establishment Clause...


CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW RESPECTING AN ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION OR PROHIBITING THE FREE EXCERCISE THEREOF


What of this are you suggesting I don't understand?

CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW RESPECTING AN ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION OR PROHIBITING THE FREE EXCERCISE THEREOF

So how does Bush enacting a day of prayer fall under either establishing a religion or prohibiting the free exercise of?

Michael

Correct me if I'm wrong, but you seem to think that the First Amendment requires that the government be HOSTILE to religion: IE banning it from any mention from the lips of any government official/employee/appointee. Not only such a reading contrary to the First Amendment it also flies in the face of Art. VI, Clause 3 by, indeed, requiring a "religious" test - IE people with "deeply held religious beliefs" better not work for the government least loose lips offend your interpretation of the First Amendment.

Easy to see your basic hostility towards the religious that you can read clause three and automatically see "shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution" as "they have to swear an oath by God"

"So how does Bush enacting a day of prayer fall under either establishing a religion or prohibiting the free exercise of?" -michele


In the same way that the USSC determined that a 'designated moment of meditation' in public grade schools does.

However I don't claim to understand well enough why the courts, public schools, etc are bound by this interpretation and the President is not which is why I said, "I would prefer he have more respect for the First Ammendment".

Darleen, I am sorry I left you with that impression. I most assuredly do not think the government should be "hostile to religion" OR supportive of it. I do not agree if one is not supportive of something they are necessarily hostile to it.

But I do not believe we should even give an inch when it comes to the government/officials 'leading' us in anyway about our religious beliefs no matter how well intentioned or innocuous it may seem. That is between me and my maker. Our own history like with the Mayflower Pilgrims or those governments of other countries around the world warn us of the danger.

Where would you have the line drawn? Would you allow it as long as there were no protests? Would you allow it if it caused riots? Would it be like Israel's system and have no separation? Would it be non-denominational? Christian? Would you bypass the USSC all together and just put it up to a popular vote?


I'm afraid I still don't understand your point regarding Article 6.