National Day of Prayer:
An Open Letter of Thanks
to Governor Jesse Ventura
From: "Positive Atheism" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: National Day of Prayer:
An Open Letter of Thanks to Governor Jesse Ventura
Date: Friday, May 05, 2000 2:37 AM
Gov. Jesse Ventura
Office of the Governor
130 State Capitol
75 Constitution Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55155
May 5, 2000
We wish to express our thanks for not issuing an official state proclamation on behalf of the widely publicized National Day of Prayer event. We have noticed more and more officials who are refusing to bow to the groups who seem bent on establishing their narrow version of religion upon us all. We realize that many officials see this as "tossing a bone" to the religious lobbies, perhaps to quiet them down on more crucial issues, but events such as the National Day of Prayer and National Bible Week make more than a few of us squirm. I remember feeling uneasy at age 5 when the phrase "under God" was added to the Pledge of Allegiance, and that feeling remains every time I hear someone in authority tell me that I must believe something that I simply cannot believe.
Most atheists (and the like) seldom if ever even think about their atheism (and would even be taken aback if you called them atheists -- until they thought about what it means to lack a religious conviction). However, according to our reading of the 1990 Census, we number about ten percent of the population. An even larger portion of Americans (including vast numbers of Christians) do not go along with the idea of prayer, but think that only private, spontaneous prayer is genuine, and even others gain comfort and empowerment only ritualistic prayer. Others engage in rites or "communications" that may resemble prayer on the outside, to the unobservant, but to call it prayer would be improper.
We atheists (nontheists) aren't the only ones who are offended by this very narrow movement. It serves no observable purpose outside of a sense of pride in victory for those who have managed to coax various elected officials into making a big whoop-de-do for God and Country and Mom and Apple Pie and The Flag. (Much of my respect for you, Governor Ventura, comes from my assurance that you don't need to be reminded that most of us feel a sense of patriotism that goes beyond all this, that is, quite frankly, cheapened by such posturing.)
And then there are those of us who, religious or otherwise, think that separation and neutrality is the best way to go. Many advocates of religion think state-church separation is singularly responsible for the growth that religion has enjoyed in America over that past 150 years. Rhode Island founder Roger Williams, at one time a persecuted Baptist living in an Anglican world, taught that the only way to assure religious freedom for himself was to advocate religious freedom for all -- regardless of how offensive he found another's religious beliefs to be.
Most certainly, though, hardly any nonreligious folks organize to speak out against intrusions such as publicly sponsored and officially sanctioned religious proclamations, religious mottoes on our money, displays in our courthouses and government buildings, etc. We are freethinkers, and many of us tend to trust our own minds to figure out what we should do. Because of this, we tend to assume that others act from altruistic motives. Thus, you will not hear from many powerful, well-organized lobbies in our camp -- because they do not exist: we are not taking our orders from any leaders, but are each acting of our own accord.
I say all of this because from all appearances, you think similarly to the way most in our target audience seems to think. Thus, on behalf of many mind-your-own-business types, we once again thank you for doing what Jefferson and Madison advocated: keeping sectarian religion our of your official function as a state official.
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
P.O. Box 16811
Portland, OR 97292
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