Tag Archives: prayer

Bill Sali makes a stupid comment

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Back on July 12th I posted about a disruption in a US Senate hearing when a Hindu prayer was offered. (see: Hindu prayer in US Senate draws protesters)

Well of course a member of the House, Representative Bill Sali (R-Idaho), believes the prayer should never have been offered.

“We have not only a Hindu prayer being offered in the Senate, we have a Muslim member of the House of Representatives now, Keith Ellison from Minnesota. Those are changes — and they are not what was envisioned by the Founding Fathers,” asserts Sali.

Sali says America was built on Christian principles that were derived from scripture. He also says the only way the United States has been allowed to exist in a world that is so hostile to Christian principles is through “the protective hand of God.”

Idaho congressman disturbed by Hindu prayer in Senate, election of Muslim to House

Like I said in my first post – some Christians talk a good game about religious tolerance until they are asked to do it for other beliefs.

I also wonder how someone like Rep. Sali is competent to serve in Congress when he lacks a basic knowledge of the Constitution and US history. It would be like letting a stranger off the street practice medicine just because he owns a stethoscope.

Maybe Congress needs an intelligence test rather than a religious test for office as Sali suggests.

Hindu prayer in US Senate draws protesters

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For some reason this didn’t surprise me. Some Christians talk a good game about religious tolerance until they are asked to do it for other beliefs:

Hindu prayer in the Senate draws protesters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Three protesters disrupted a prayer by a Hindu chaplain Thursday at the opening of a Senate hearing, calling it an abomination and shouting slogans about Jesus Christ.

It was the first time the daily prayer that opens Senate proceedings was said by a Hindu chaplain.

Capitol police said two women and one man were arrested and charged with causing a disruption in the public gallery of the Senate. The three started shouting when guest Chaplain Rajan Zed, a Hindu from Nevada, began his prayer.

They shouted “No Lord but Jesus Christ” and “There’s only one true God,” and used the term “abomination.”

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/07/12/prayer.protest.reut/index.html

That’s why religious and government entanglement is a bad road to go down. Religion is divisive.

Not Just About The Words

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In the past week, Michael Newdow, the man who lost his lawsuit against “under God” in the pledge of allegiance on a technicality, lost his lawsuit concerning the use of the words “In God We Trust” on US currency. The federal judge based his decision on a previous case from the early 1970’s that upheld the words on the currency. Using Aronow v. United States, the court ruled that the motto is a “secular motto” having only a spiritual, psychological and inspirational value.

The topic came up with some co-workers who were upset that Newdow was making a big deal out of some words. What is more disturbing is that even some of my atheist friends make the same complaint. They tell me that Newdow’s efforts make believers hate us more and it is a waste of time to raise these complaints.

It all reminds me of the time I had to explain, to another friend, why such words about God go against all that this country is suppose to stand for and why it is harmful. I used a sports analogy. This one may not make sense to people outside of Ohio.

Imagine you live in a small town in Ohio and are a huge fan of the Ohio State Buckeyes. The majority of the town as well as the elected officials are bigger fans of the University of Michigan. Every football season the town council issues a resolution in support of U of M in their annual battle with Ohio State. Before council meetings the members lead those at the meeting in singing of the Michigan fight song. You find out that the council and the majority of the town either were born in Michigan or went to the University.

You complain that they are showing unfairness to non-michiganders. The council says they are only celebrating their U of M heritage.

While it is true, in this case, that such actions to confer special status for a group of people doesn’t “harm” people left out it does institutionalize separate classes of people. The “state” uses its time and tax payer dollars to give special attention to a particular group of people who happen to have something in common. Such actions ignore the plurality that is inherent in our democracy and that plurality makes those actions suspect.

Newdow explained the difference in a television interview when he compared the words “under God” in the pledge to the past practice of having separate water fountains for whites and blacks in the South. He noted that blacks still had water and the water was the same as what the whites drank but the practice was ended because it treated a group of people unfairly.

Or how about the debate in some southern states concerning the display of the Confederate flag on state property. It is claimed that it is just flag celebrating history but to others it symbolizes the entire era of slavery and the Jim Crow laws that followed the Confederate loss in 1864.

This isn’t about removing “God” from the public square – never has been. It is about holding our elected officials to the spirit of what it means to be neutral in a religious context. Singling out a specific sect for special treatment and recognition laughs at our democracy and makes a farce out of claims to be “only celebrating our heritage”. You never see a government (local, state, of federal) trying to single out any other sect but Christianity for special treatment.

Newdow’s fight against “some words” has some big implications and is neither trivial nor waste of time.

Restore our Pledge of Allegiance

Restore the Pledge.org

Pledge Project

Newdow Loses “In God We Trust” Challenge; Pledge Case Still Pending

People of faith are crazy… except when they aren’t… What?

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On Thursday January 5th, the news was filled with the comments made by evangelist Pat Robertson on his TV show the 700 Club. On the program Pat says that the stroke suffered by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was “divine retribution for the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.” He went on:

“He was dividing God’s land, and I would say, ‘Woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the [European Union], the United Nations or the United States of America,'” Robertson told viewers of his long-running television show, “The 700 Club.”

“God says, ‘This land belongs to me, and you’d better leave it alone,'” he said.

Robertson suggests God smote Sharon

This isn’t the first time that Robertson has shot his mouth off. And like the other times, others were quick to criticize his remarks.

Daniel Ayalon, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, compared Robertson’s remarks to the overheated rhetoric of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (He had claimed the Holocaust was a myth back in December)

He called the comments “outrageous” and said they were not something to expect “from any of our friends.”

“He is a great friend of Israel and a great friend of Prime Minister Sharon himself, so I am very surprised,” Ayalon told CNN.

Robertson spokeswoman Angell Watts said of people who criticized the comments: “What they’re basically saying is, ‘How dare Pat Robertson quote the Bible?'”

“This is what the word of God says,” Watts told the AP. “This is nothing new to the Christian community.”

West Virginia Mine Tragedy

The day before Robertson made his remarks – sorry – quoting the Bible, 12 miners were found dead after an explosion on Monday the 3rd.

During the period of the search, friends, family, and the media appealed to God to help save the men and help the rescuers to find them.

“We still pray for miracles . . ,” Governor Joe Manchin said (01/03/06). “There is still a chance.”

Then when initial reports claimed that the12 miners had been found alive late on Tuesday night, church bells rang and people thanked God for a “miracle.” Then hours later it was learned that in fact all but one of the miners had been found dead.

John Casto was at a church where families had gathered when the false report arrived, and later when the terrible news was announced. After the first report, “they were praising God,” he said. After the second, “they were cursing.”

‘Sound of moans’ led rescuers to surviving miner

At least one family was quoted as saying they had a “miracle” taken away by the mine owners. Whatever that means?

Oklahoma Wildfires

Also happening recently in the news is the problem with wildfires in Oklahoma and nearby plains state. The weather continues to help fuel and spread the fires and fire fighters are struggling. What needs to be done to help?

A Day of Prayer.

Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry on Friday called for a day of prayer in Oklahoma.

“Our hearts go out to those whose lives have been affected by the wildfires,” Gov. Henry said. “Oklahomans are strong and resilient, but as people of deep faith in God who have always found solace and comfort in prayer, we understand our limits.”

The governor asked for Sunday to be set aside for special prayers aimed at fire victims and their loved ones, for exhausted firefighters and first responders and for rain.

Pray for rain first

Observations

One could read these observations about God and prayer and think, “Gee, God seems so inconsistent.”

Or….

“Gee, God is a nasty deity.”

Or…..

“Man just can’t know God’s will. It all happens for a reason.”

Well I reject all those explanations because none of them are logical or rational. Are we really to believe that the all knowing all powerful God either shows preference for specific members of the flocks in which case He is a nut job or this omnipresent deity can’t answer all the billions of prayers received at Prayer central.

If some people who pray still have a negative result for them then what does that say about one’s God?

I think most people “pray” or attribute results to God to make themselves feel better. Some may not be able to deal or think they can’t deal with negative results unless they think they had nothing to do with it or had no control.

Since I am not a believer, I subscribe to a simple philosophy – shit happens.

You can live your life perfectly – eat right, don’t drink or smoke, have a great job, and a perfect family and one day step off a curb downtown and get hit by a bus.

I’m not saying that since you could die tomorrow you should party like its your last day, but because something could happen anytime, praying isn’t going to help either way. No one can say that those 12 miners in West Virginia deserved to die or the one survivor deserves to live because of their religious beliefs or they went to church all the time. Or that we should “pray” for rain in Oklahoma. That would be crazy talk.

Like Pat Robertson’s claim God gave Sharon a stroke because he wanted peace in Israel. (Now some could make a case that peace is the last thing Sharon has wanted since the day he announced his intention to run for office, but that is a different story)

The ironic thing is that while many would indeed say, and have said, Robertson is crazy, no one seems to question the God talk when it is done at times of trouble even though it is not rational either.

Why should we care if the President asks everyone to pray?

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In moments of severe difficulties, like we have in the gulf coast area after Hurricane Katrina, there seems to be a parade of government officials and media talking heads offering prayers. Two days after the hurricane hit, Kathleen Blanco, governor of Louisiana, called on people to pray. President Bush has called for a National Day of Prayer for September 16th for the victims of the hurricane.

What could possibly be wrong with that? We all feel for the victims. We all want to do something to help. Why is government people offering prayers or asking people to pray wrong?

It ignores at least 14% of the population where prayer is meaningless and not something they do. It also ignores the 14% of the victims who are non-believers.

The preamble of the Constitution says that “We the people…”, the 14th Amendment says that all citizens are equal and the laws of the land apply equally, and the 1st Amendment prohibits the government from favoring the religious.

An elected official offering prayers or asking people to pray contradicts the Constitution and marginalizes people who are not believers.

Now if President Bush or other officials meet with victims individually and want to offer their prayers, then they are free to do so but to make it part of their official duties is just wrong.

Robert Meyer, writing on the Renew America website, disagrees.

In his article he complains about people like Annie Laurie Gaylor, Co-President of Freedom From Religion, making comments about the uselessness of prayer and complaints from them about officials asking people to pray.

He goes on with a religious lesson trying to refute the old “since there is suffering there is no God” be reciting the Bible verse where God allows his own son to die for our sins:

“All of humanity is born under the curse of sin, and deserves death as a consequence for that sin. It is only through God’s love and grace that any are saved at all. We often talk about those who are innocent, but that concept is only relative to human perception, interaction and agency. The scriptures tell us that none are good except for God.”
God’s Love and hurricane Katrina

So the question that comes to my mind is – Why are we praying AFTER the event? Logic would dictate that if we want to save the victim’s soul then we should pray for them before the storm hit.

In context, elected officials pull out the prayer card as way of soothing people. Sins or God really are not part of the reason they do it.

President Bush could be far more inclusive and support the ideals of this country if he said “Our thoughts are with those effected by the hurricane,” or “There will be a National Day of Reflection for those effected by this tragic event…” Then if he wanted to take time out to pray in private he is free to do so, as are the rest of the believers. Those of us who don’t pray can reflect and think about the event. Then we would truly be united in our time of difficulty.

Isn’t that point of the effort? If so, then why bring God into the mix.

Toward the end of his article, Meyer makes a comment that offended me more than his comment about people with sins deserving to die. He wrote:

“Gaylor’s group should be commended for the small grant they gave for the hurricane relief effort, but she should also be chastised for assuming that because people of faith pray, they don’t help in other constructive ways. If such people spend time with “mystical incantations” in their closets, be sure they pitch in with both hands also. Faith without works is dead. Look at the faith-based groups at ground zero. Isn’t it fair then to ask where all the atheist groups are down there — those who are anxious to sweep away the theological debris in our culture so that we can have a better world?”

Meyer assumes that there aren’t atheist groups “down there”. It is true that there isn’t an atheist relief group in the United States. That is because we work with non-theistic groups that exist already like the Red Cross, Oxfam, and AmeriCares. I am also sure that some non-believers either are working in the area or will be in the coming months or years. We just don’t issue press releases about it.