Religion Survives National Day of Reason

From the Archives: Atheist unconvinced of religion’s evil by fellow atheists

Creation of Adam / wikipedia.org

Institutions of organized religion continued to exist following the tenth annual National Day of Reason Thursday.

The national celebration was the latest contretemps in the 131-year-old battle between theists and atheists since Nietzsche pronounced God dead in 1882.

The National Day of Reason was instituted directly to challenge the National Day of Prayer, which was created in 1952 by an act of Congress to be held each year on the first Thursday of May.

The American Humanist Association, together with the Washington Area Secular Humanists, said the National Day of Reason is meant "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."

Organizers and advocates say the National Day of Prayer is both exclusionary to the roughly 20 percent of Americans who identify as nonreligious and a violation of the separation of church and state.

"Well, it's confrontational in the sense that we think a national day of prayer sponsored by the government is a mistake," American Humanist Association executive director Roy Speckhardt told the Washington Free Beacon. "We think it violates the spirit of the First Amendment."

"I think it would be great if they replaced the National Day of Prayer," he continued. "By promoting a national day of reason we highlight what it looks like to do something inclusive and useful. As non-theists, we don't believe that prayer is the best way to get things done."

To celebrate the National Day of Reason, Speckhardt and his group encourage non-religious people to participate in things like blood drives and community service.

The National Day of Reason has also attracted some notable sponsors. Or at least some relatively notable sponsors. Rep. Michael Honda (D., Calif.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D., D.C.) both declared their support for the Day of Reason.

"The National Day of Reason celebrates the application of reason and the positive impact it has had on humanity," Honda declared in the Congressional record last week. "It is also an opportunity to reaffirm the constitutional separation of religion and government."

Charlotte Mayor and transportation secretary nominee Anthony Foxx also came out in support of the human faculty of reason.

"It is the duty and responsibility of every citizen to promote the development and application of reason," Foxx said in a statement.

A suave politician, Foxx also released a proclamation in honor of the National Day of Prayer.

As an atheist—agnostic when the weather is particularly nice—this reporter found the arguments of my fellow heathens hard to follow.

I wanted to see what a social gathering of nonbelievers looked like in action. Unfortunately, there were no events  to attend in our nation’s capital. The National Day of Reason website listed 13 events around the country Thursday, but none in Washington, D.C.

"We usually have something going on, but not this year," Speckhardt said.

The closest celebration of reason was in Baltimore, but traveling to Baltimore didn’t seem very reasonable at all.

In any case, I could not detect the terrible waves of oppression emanating from Capitol Hill where a group had been reading the Bible from cover to cover over the past several days. They finished up with the final verses of the Book of Revelation around noon on Thursday.

The voice of reason seemed not to reach even President Barack Obama, who is said by liberal pundits to possess reasonableness and pragmatism. Obama released a presidential proclamation in honor of the National Day of Prayer.

"All of us have the freedom to pray and exercise our faiths openly," Obama said. "Our laws protect these God-given liberties, and rightly so. Today and every day, prayers will be offered in houses of worship, at community gatherings, in our homes, and in neighborhoods all across our country. Let us give thanks for the freedom to practice our faith as we see fit, whether individually or in fellowship."

God did not respond to a request for comment.