left biblioblography: Defending The Delusion: Or How Journalists Pander To The Sheeple…

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Defending The Delusion: Or How Journalists Pander To The Sheeple…

Cross posted @ the Atheist Oasis

Separation1.003It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing. — Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5)

Puff pieces. Nauseating things. They’re usually filler, pandering to the great unwashed, designed to tug a tear from the brainless. And this article is illustrative of that:

In defence of prayer

Whenever the US Congress and Senate are officially in session, the daily activities commence with someone saying a prayer. The same ritual occurs in many state and local governments throughout America: a prayer, the pledge of allegiance to the flag and then the business of the day.

To get a feel for what these prayers are like, consider this one that opened the US House of Representatives session on Friday:

"God our Father, we give You thanks for giving us another day. Bless the Members of the people's House as they gather at the end of another week in the Capitol. Endow each with the graces needed to attend to the issues of the day with wisdom, that the results of their efforts might benefit the citizens of our Nation and the world.

"On this Flag Day, may we be reminded of the greatness of the democratic experiment that is the Republic of the United States and diligent in our responsibilities as citizens to guarantee the freedoms enumerated in the Constitution for all who claim this country as their home.

"We also ask Your blessing leading into this weekend upon fathers throughout our country. May they be their best selves, and may their children appreciate fully the blessing their fathers have been to them. May all that is done this day be for Your greater honor and glory. Amen."

This was said by the House's resident chaplain, a Roman Catholic priest. He gives many of the prayers, although "guest chaplains" from other faith backgrounds are also invited throughout the year.

This is a clear violation of SOCAS. But this author goes on a tangent:

In an increasingly diverse nation, people are rightly asking if these prayers still have a place. The simplistic answer is to demand complete separation of church and state and advocate for the end of these prayers. But they are a tradition that has been in place since the initial meeting of the Continental Congress in 1774 (and even earlier in some state sessions).

No, it’s not ‘simplistic’ to demand that separation. An argument from tradition would also state that the Founding Fathers had slaves – so we should re-institute that atrocity.

It's the reason the US supreme court decided in 1983 (Marsh v Chambers) that these prayers are legal – but on one very big condition: the prayer opportunity cannot be "exploited to proselytize or advance any one, or to disparage any other, faith or belief".

What exactly constitutes proselytizing is hard to pin down and means something very different to each person.

What a load of shit. The word proselytize means, "1: to induce someone to convert to one's faith. 2: to recruit someone to join one's party, institution, or cause, and transitive verb: to recruit or convert especially to a new faith, institution, or cause”. The meaning is unambiguous, and not contingent on interpretation.

The supreme court is again hearing a case about crossing that line, this time from in a town in western New York where the claim is that the prayers have been far too Christian over the years and efforts have not been made to invite non-Christians to participate.

  And the best way to deal, is to eliminate the superstitious fluff.

The issue goes to the heart of the first amendment of the constitution that grants religious freedom:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

Wrong again. The issue is about expressing religion itself – and that the government should stay out of that arena.

Keep in mind that these prayers are said among grown-ups (well, as much as you can call lawmakers that some days). Those who want to take a moment to pause and reflect can, those who don't can reasonably be expected to tune it out.

This is the dishonest backhand: don’t like it? Shut up about it.

Any appearance of religion in government does not mean there's a theocracy. Yes, some legislation (anti-abortion bills, in particular) in America is motivated by religious causes, but by and large, there is respect for the diverse society that we live in today. It's built into the very nature of such large deliberative bodies that are responsive at the ballot box to a multicultural voter base. If someone really crosses the line, they will be called out and voted out.

Oh please. It must be soothing to be so naïve. Lawmakers cross the line so often, it’s been smudged out of existence. George W. claimed ‘gawd told him to invade Iraq’ (which was ploy to get him re-elected). There’s too many of these sort of examples to list in a single post.

It's true that the US has a growing atheist (or simply agnostic) population, though it is still less than 20% of the population. The overwhelming majority of Americans practice and identify with some religious tradition. It forms a part of many people's personal morality and their sense of being. That doesn't mean every decision comes from the Bible or the Qur'an or the Torah or the Vedas. But it does mean that people see their belief system as a spiritual guidance.

An argument from numbers? Pathetic.

That's why the prayers should stay in place, albeit in a more explicitly diverse way. These daily prayers can showcase how pluralistic America is, and they can still offer some inspiration for those for whom faith is an integral part of life.

No they shouldn’t – because they’re symptomatic of a more primitive, more superstitious tradition that we should’ve outgrown centuries ago.

There is nothing to hide with the prayers. They become part of the official record. At the federal and state levels, they are easily searchable online. What stands out to me after browsing through them for this year alone, including at the federal level, is a need for more diversity. Many governments are good at inviting clergy from different Christian traditions, but not at inviting other religions to take part. For example, in my home state of Pennsylvania, the state house hasn't had anyone other than a Christian give the prayer, according to the records released thus far for 2013.

Oh no, we can’t do something as simple as discontinue this…no, no, no, too many people’s petite toes might be stepped upon. Instead, let’s complexify everything even further by allowing every crazy delusionist a shot at being heard.

When I called the offices that coordinate the prayers in Pennsylvania, it was clear that they weren't trying to exclude anyone, they simply select people to give the prayers based on the nominations they receive from fellow lawmakers (and sometimes the politicians themselves will offer the daily prayer). There probably needs to be a greater effort to recruit people from other faiths. And yes, that should include having some atheists, as well.

Pander, pander, pander. It’s nauseating, it is. It’d be simpler (but not simplistic) to simply do without the nonsense altogether.

Controversies are inevitable. Recently in Arizona, an atheist politician used his prayer slot to offer some thoughts that one of his fellow lawmakers took issue with. Having so many faith traditions exist side by side has brought plenty of friction over the years in American society. It's never going to be perfect, and there are likely to be more court cases about public prayers, regardless of the outcome of the current one.

And yet still the obvious solution is avoided assiduously.

That is part of the grand experiment of America. But so is the ability to practice religion. Simply striking it entirely from our legislatures doesn't honor the many faith traditions who have come to this nation seeking religious freedom.

Wrong – striking it from the legislatures saves a whole lot of tax money, and that means a fatter wallet for us the citizenry. Wouldn’t you agree?

Because it really boils down to ‘my dad can kick your daddy’s ass’, only in this case, the fathers are not only not present, but never existed in the first place.

Till the next post, then.

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