Arizona Rep. Juan Mendez: We need atheist invocations

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Rep. Juan Mendez speaking to the Secular Student Alliance at Arizona State University.

Rep. Juan Mendez speaking to the Secular Student Alliance at Arizona State University. Photo Credit: Arizona State Press, courtesy Mendez.

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After Greece vs. Galloway, Arizona Rep. Juan Mendez tells RNS why atheists should offer invocations at government meetings, and why all people should support them.

  • gilhcan

    I disagree totally. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..” means, as Thomas Jefferson explained to the Danbury, CT, Baptists, a “wall of separation” between religion and politics, between churches and government.

    The Framers knew their history, and they recognized how divisive religion and churches were when mixed with politics and government. It is for that very reason that the very first clause of the very First Amendment to the Constitution was to build such a wall of separation to prevent such troubles in our new government.

    The insistence of religious individuals, as in Greece, NY, and the Catholic majority on our Supreme Court, to ignore that troublesome history and violate the very Constitution that Court should be enforcing and protecting, is a clear demonstration of the problems the Framers recognized and presumed they were avoiding with the “non-establishment clause.”

    Religious people, like the Greece, NY, politicians and the Catholic majority of our Supreme Court, are not secure in their own beliefs. That is precisely why they insist on adding religious practices to civil action. They are unconsciously reinforcing their religious beliefs about which they are insecure.

    Worse, they are violating all decency, especially the decency presumed of religion, by pompously forcing their religious practices onto everyone else, believers and non-believers. Instead of responding “Amen,” I respond “god-damn!” And I use a lower case “g” to assert my non-belief in the face of their boldness to dare to try to force their beliefs onto me.

  • Doc Anthony

    Sure. No problem. Su “First Amendment”, es mi “First Amendment.”

    So, you really want more atheist invocations? Then Go volunteer down at City Hall or your State Legislature. Ask to be placed in the invocation rotation or something.

    Hopefully the atheist prayers will be interesting (which is what I say of all invocations).

    But honestly, for me, since you got nobody to pray to, and no God to expect the slightest help or aid from, there’s not much you’ll be able to offer. As Ben Franklin discussed at the constitutional convention of 1787, a desirable outcome for America’s citizens is ultimately NOT a matter of human effort, but of a special, supernatural Person.

    “And have we forgotten that powerful Friend?”, Ben Franklin asked. America’s well-being, and that of her city halls and state legislatures, seriously depends on the answer to that very question.

  • Jon

    Chris, as usual – great article.

    While gilhcan makes a good point, I can see reasons the other way too.

    When this has come up in the past in discussion, my suggestion to make an invocation that includes everyone was countered by “you make one that includes everyone, and we’ll continue with our prayers when it our turn, and that’s fair to everyone”. I have to point out then that such a plan is not fair, and show that by offering a comparably assertive Humanist invocation, such as “we all give thanks to those brave people who have died for showing us that all gods are just myths, and that hell is just a tool for oppression.”.

    Then they usually see that only inclusive invocations (that don’t mention a god or Jesus) are actually fair.

    However, reading this article helped me see that Mendez’ idea might be better – to offer an invocation which does support Humanism (by condemning divisive invocations explicitly)- and still includes everyone. That is countering the idea while still respecting all people. Bravo!

    His point to be 100% authentic and not worry about being original is great. We need some central place – on a Humanist website or something – to make nationally avaiable a selection of Humanist invocations, so that someone already dealing with the difficult challege of this kind of a situation isn’t simultaneously saddled with trying to come up with an invocation.

  • I don’t think that it would be much more awkward than some of the crazy prayers that I have some heard “Christians” pray… not saying much. Probably every bit as blasphemous too.

  • I wrote this Secular Humanist prayer / invocation after I found out about the court decision.
    http://cancerfreethought.org/1/post/2014/05/sentiments-of-conscience.html
    We have a voice too.

  • gilhcan

    See what I mean? It never stops. Religion has always caused wars, wars between religions and ugly battles within nations and wars between nations for political reasons. That is precisely why it was wise for the Framers to specifically exclude religion from our governmental life. To accomplish that, it must be kept out of politics. We can’t control the politics outside government, but we sure as hell can keep religion out of government by abiding by the First Amendment. It’s good for both, government and religion.

  • gilhcan

    That is precisely the nature of religion, division. You cannot have a “united” government, a unified and peaceful civic life, without keeping religion separate from them.

  • gilhcan

    Another reason for the exclusion of religion from government and civic life, even when some think what they say or do is religious, others think it’s “crazy” and “blasphemous.”

    Government and civic life are not health–they cannot be healthy–unless religion is excluded. Belief is private. Religion is belief. Religion should be private or shared only among those groups who share the beliefs and wish to participate.

  • gilhcan

    We don’t need any “prayers” to conduct our government business or civic life!

  • Very beautiful prayer indeed!

  • So I sent him the words we recite at West Hill every week, written to replace the Lord’s Prayer and mimic its cadence. Starts with words similar to the prayer (wrongfully) attributed to St. Francis so that it would “feel” like it had history. If you use it, please credit it!

    As I live every day,
    I want to be a channel for peace.
    May I bring love where there is hatred,
    and healing where there is hurt;
    joy where there is sadness,
    and hope where there is fear.
    I pray that I may always try
    to understand and comfort other people
    as well as seeking comfort and understanding from them.
    Wherever possible,
    may I choose to be
    a light in the darkness,
    a help in times of need,
    and a caring, honest friend.
    And may justice, kindness, and peace
    flow from my heart forever,
    Amen.
    written by gretta vosper and Scott Kearns
    (c) 2005 West Hill United Church
    Creative Commons Licensing – you can use it, reproduce it, but attribute it and don’t change it unless you mark it changed. Thanks!

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