Apparently Thursday, May 1, 2008 is the National Day of Prayer as designated by the United States Congress in 1952 and signed into law by Harry Truman. There’s a privately funded National Day of Prayer Task Force with a stated purpose of “encouraging participation” in the NDP, though only encouraging the participation of Christians of course since “this country was birthed in prayer and in reverence for the God of the Bible.” Actually, this country was birthed by a bunch of deists who understood the importance of separating church and state, but whatever floats their boat.
The Task Force states on their web site (Google it if you want) that
People with other theological and philosophical [non-Christian] views are, of course, free to organize and participate in activities that are consistent with their own beliefs. This diversity is what Congress intended when it designated the Day of Prayer, not that every faith and creed would be homogenized, but that all who sought to pray for this nation would be encouraged to do so in any way deemed appropriate.
That’s all very nice, but what about those of us who don’t pray?
Though I’m not religious, I do understand that prayer can have value. It can help people feel more connected to one another, give them false but comforting hope about their lives and afterlives, and it can be calming in a meditative way. That said, I also understand that major studies have shown that prayer has no beneficial impact on the health of others, and in fact can have a detrimental effect in heart patients who know they are being prayed for. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that praying for one’s country will only work if you keep praying long after the National Day of Prayer is over . . . at least until inauguration day some time in January of 2009.
So, there are probably better things we can do for our country this Thursday. A number of nonbelievers have proposed a National Day of Reason, with plenty of perfectly rational ways to benefit your fellow man. Here’s a list of events happening around the country, and you’re free to organize your own. My favorite idea is to give blood, either in a large group of nonbelievers or individually. When it comes to saving a person’s life and making the world a better place, I’ll gladly put one pint of blood up against a thousand prayers from the pious.
This post from Tennessee Indymedia has easy instructions for getting it done:
1) Find your local blood bank by accessing www.americasblood.org
(Bottom left corner, type in your zip code to find your local blood bank.)
2) Phone the blood bank to make arrangements for a group donation.
(You will find them amazingly supportive and accommodating.)
3) Notify your local newspaper, TV and other media that your group is
doing this and why. It’s important to alert them ahead of the event.
It’s simple, it’s positive, it’s effective. Come on, Agnostics, Atheists, Freethinkers, Humanists, Secularists, Non-believers, Separation of Church and State advocates, join us in our positive protest against the Day of Prayer! Show the world that while religious people are on their knees, Atheists are on their feet and giving a part of themselves for the good of humanity!
It might be a bit late, but let me know if any of you out there get something going!
Have your picture taken giving blood on Thursday and send it to me at skepchick(at)skepchick.org. Include your mailing address, and I’ll send you a prize!