Quote Of The Day

>> Saturday, April 24, 2010

"Some of these judges have lost their way," [Topeka, Kansas Mayor Bill] Bunten said. "Every day is a day of prayer in most Kansas lives, whether they are Christian or Muslim or Jewish or whatever, and to say that a prayer day is illegal is just ridiculous. That judge better go back and read some history about how this country was formed. Next thing you know we won't be able to sing 'God Bless America.'"
-quoted by Todd Richmond, "Atheists, faithful lobby
politicians on prayer,"
, April 23rd, 2010.

Mayor Bunten is responding, of course, to to last week's "well, duh" Wisconsin Federal District Court ruling that having Congress ask Americans to pray on a particular day violates the Establishment Clause.

Given that the National Day Of Prayer is designated by Congress (36 U.S.C. § 1191), one doesn't even need to get into a big honking discussion about whether the contemporary reading of the Establishment Clause (that it prohibits all governmental religious preference or discrimination, and not just acts of Congress) is overbroad--you can go to a good old, old-fashioned, foursquare, "four corners" reading of the First Amendment's text: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..."--and say, "Is Congress making a law--check; is the law regarding the establishment of religion--check; can Congress do that--nope." It's not exactly rocket science.

But the most ridiculous thing about the whole affair probably isn't the waste of time or routine violation of people's rights or any of that--to be honest, the discomfort I annually feel whenever I see people gathering in front of my workplace at the courthouse for the National Day Of Prayer Lunchtime Circus is leavened by a certain degree of bemusement and apathy; no, the most ridiculous thing is the reason Bunten's comment is "Quote Of The Day" today at Giant Midgets:

Every day is a day of prayer in most Kansas lives, whether they are Christian or Muslim or Jewish or whatever, and to say that a prayer day is illegal is just ridiculous.

Which is also to say that a prayer day is unnecessary.

I mean, seriously: how insecure is somebody's faith that they have to declare a National Day Of Publicly Flaunting My Personal Beliefs And Pressuring Everybody Else To Join Or Feel Marginalized? Or is there really somebody out there saying, "Golly gee, I'm a Christian, but I don't think I could pray unless there was some sort of official government day for doing it." The National Day Of Prayer, like most religious attempts to make private faith a publicly mandated thing, at best a superfluous extra nipple and at worst a cynical attempt to bolster one's insecurities by trying to force the whole herd to act like one or two especially dolorous cows who are never happy with their own cuds.

If Congress went and declared a National Day Of Secularism, celebrating the contributions of a secular, rationalist, materialist philosophy to the national culture, I'd be confused and baffled by the sheer overweening stupidity of it. What would the fucking point of doing that be? I enjoy the benefits of rationality every time I flush my toilet or appreciate that the blue sky is a manifestation of the wonder and awe of a bunch of massless particle/waves that have flown at the fastest speed conceivable and still taken a minimum of eight minutes to arrive in my vicinity now being scattered preferentially at certain wavelengths by the gaseous envelope around my planet such that shorter waves that I perceive as "blue" are scattered more evenly across the sky. Or, when the weather is what it looks like it's about to be this afternoon, when I'll probably be appreciating the glorious beauty and horrifying power of an electrical discharge flowing down a column of ionized air accompanied by a sonic boom created by superheated air moving faster than the speed of sound in cooler surrounding air without thinking it's a magical supernatural creature's hammer or spear or somesuch.2

Of course, the ugly truth that the Day Of Prayer folks won't be likely to admit is that it is in fact insecurity that's behind the whole thing. After all, where does the current legal custom originate? In 1952, during the Korean War and at a time when "Godless Communism" seemed to be getting the upper hand in various parts of the world, Reverend Billy Graham pushed the concept at a revival and Congress made it a law, signed by President Harry Truman. That is, it was born out of the same Cold War belief that only by being obnoxiously assertive about the virtuous twins of Christ and Capitalism could we take on the maniacal forces of Moscow and the Monster Society Of Evil. Same reason, in other words, we have the Judeo-Christian God on our money and in the Pledge Of Allegiance. (But not the same reason we have it in front of our courthouses and town halls--that more-or-less started out as a movie promotion.) You can put this down to a fear of an evolving society simultaneously becoming more secular and diverse, or you can put it down to the oft-stated fear that if God doesn't hear everybody down here praying to Him a lot, He'll get all smite-y (because, y'know, what's the point of being the omnipotent creator of the universe if you can't get your ego stroked by terrified hairless monkeys or something?), but however you want to put it down, at the end of the day it's fear, it's insecurity, it's an irrational belief that if other people are or behave differently it will cause you undue and enduring suffering.

So, y'know, if you really want to pray on May 6th--or on the 7th, or the 5th, or the 17th, or some day in June or later this month (tomorrow, I do believe, is a Sunday, if you're into that whole "church" thing)--I don't think you need a Presidential Decree or Act Of Congress for permission. Every day can be a "National Day Of Prayer" if you want it, without a statute saying the President shall declare one, without the obvious bias towards Christianity, without the need of official government recognition of your talk-to-God thing. And hey, if a certain amount of flippancy on my part is a little offensive, let me just point out that I might not be talking about the subject at all if certain folks were content to let their personal relationships with the universe remain unofficial without requesting a pseudo-holiday to rub it.

§ 119. National Day of Prayer

The President shall issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.

2Unless... maybe that stuff is a bunch of motherfucking miracles, motherfucker, like the way Shaggy's kids look like Shaggy and J's kids look like J, y'all.

Think I'm having a crisis of faith here the more I think about it. Fucking magnets, how do they fucking work?

Oh wait, that's right. Never mind. We're all alright, kids.


vince Saturday, April 24, 2010 at 5:17:00 PM EDT  

It's a lot like the whole "prayer in school" crap. You can pray in school if you want. Why does/should it be a whole public "look at me I'm being holy" thing?

It's like me. I (usually) say a very short prayer before eating no matter where I am. I don't make a big thing of it, and I don't try and embarrass those around me who choose not to for whatever reason, and I don't need a National-day-of-praying-before-you-eat to do so.

Sheesh. For a bunch of people who usually want the government out of our lives, they sure want the government in our religious/non-religious lives.

Sirry iriots!

Eric Saturday, April 24, 2010 at 5:42:00 PM EDT  

See, that's just it, Vince. If I'm out for lunch or dinner with a friend or colleague and they bow their heads for a moment before they tuck in, that doesn't bug me or amuse me in the least--it's their thing and it's cool. But when I see a small mob in front of the courthouse with microphones and National Day Of Prayer signs, it's irritating and stupid. The friend at a meal is humbly doing his or her thing with whatever he or she believes in, not trying to make it my thing and the Official Thing For Everybody™. The friend at mealtime is going about his or her business, I just happen to be there; the crowd with the signs and soundsystem is essentially meddling, putting their noses in everybody's personal affairs.

And yeah, you're right: the irony of their inconsistent views is something to behold.

Carol Elaine Saturday, April 24, 2010 at 7:19:00 PM EDT  

There will be no praying on Sunday, April 25th. Unless it is to worship me. The Ordinary Goddess has decreed it to be so.


WendyB_09 Saturday, April 24, 2010 at 8:55:00 PM EDT  

Our area has a substantial community of Muslim cab drivers.

One day while waiting for a ride I noticed the drivers in the cab line would pull off to the side one at a time. The driver would get out, spread his prayer rug, perform his devotions, then pull back in line. As it was a slow day, the other drivers politely let the driver back into his spot in the cab line. Then the next driver would pull out for his devotions.

Very simple system they'd put in place by mutual consent to honor their faith. I respect that.

Since my ride was running late, I observed this ritual a couple of times.

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