Oh go soak your head

And people wonder why atheists get huffy.

Obama is scaling back White House plans for Thursday’s National Day of Prayer even as his administration defends the tradition in federal court in Wisconsin…The Obama administration has asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which claims the day violates the separation of church and state. In a rare alliance, 31 mostly Republican members of Congress and a prominent Christian legal group are joining the administration to fight the lawsuit. Congress established the day in 1952 and in 1988 set the first Thursday in May as the day for presidents to issue proclamations asking Americans to pray.

Okay, it’s a small thing, and we can always just ignore it, but just the same – what business do presidents have asking us to pray? Fuck off! What business do secular heads of secular states have asking us to perform some magical rite? They’re not our priests, they’re not bishops, they’re not clerical officials of any kind; it is none of their business whether we pray or not. None, zip, zero. It’s a highly offensive intrusion for them to make such a request. It also sends that notorious excluding message that atheists are always complaining of and that does a lot to explain our sometimes irritable attitude toward religion, the one that mystifies our friends and acquaintances on the other side of the Atlantic. It sends the message ‘everyone prays and we’re all alike in this and anyone who isn’t is deeply weird and, as Bush I so wisely said, probably not exactly really quite a citizen.’ That’s a stupid and ill-mannered message to send for no good reason – it’s a kind of pro-active rudeness. What the hell do we need such a day for? People who want to pray can pray; why do the rest of us have to be chivvied and hassled?

Well it’s obvious from the initial date what we need it for: to remind us that we’re not like those godless commies. But that’s a bit out of date now, and it’s not, alas, the godless commies who are gathering their forces in Pakistan, getting ready to start slouching towards Manhattan. So it would be nice if we could ditch the gratuitous National Marginalize Atheists Day.

It’s not as if we want to replace the damn thing with National Abolish Prayer Day. It’s not as if we want to set an annual date for presidents to issue proclamations asking Americans not to pray. We just want presidents to shut up about praying, that’s all. We want nobody official governmental political to talk about praying at all, because it’s not their job and it’s emphatically not their business.

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