For what might be the first time in the history of the United States, possibly the whole world, an atheist will deliver the opening "prayer" at a government meeting.
"Friendly Atheist" Hemant Mehta explains:
On Thursday night, atheist (and a founder of the Humanist Association of Tulsa) Dan Nerren will deliver the opening invocation at the Tulsa City Council meeting.
[The invocation] advocates the Humanist perspective without denigrating religion along the way. It's something everybody ought to be able to agree with, as opposed to the religious invocations that necessarily exclude those who don't believe in the chosen god.
Says Nerren, "As far as I know, I'll be the first to offer a secular invocation." It seems that the most "secular" any council or governmental meeting has been is simply not praying.
As reported in Tulsa World, the council had been reminded several times that a sectarian prayer was unconstitutional. Though the goals of the Northeast Oklahoma Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State is to stop the opening prayer altogether, the chapter's vice president said allowing an atheist to offer the invocation was "a very good move on the part of the council. It shows a willingness to accommodate diversity."
Here's the full invocation, which sounds quite reasonable to me:
Let us open our hearts to the welfare of all people in our community by respecting the inherent dignity and worth of each person, and realize our differences of race, religion, and party affiliation are merely superficial. Our common humanity unites us all, and may we recognize that through our interdependence we share a common fate.
In order to achieve the greatest good as citizens of Tulsa, it is important for us to maintain an open mind, and honor and respect the human rights of each other. We should consider the benefit provided by differing perspectives, and be willing to question assumptions that serve only to obstruct our path to progress.
Rather than bowing our heads and closing our eyes in deference, we should open our eyes widely to face the reality that confronts us, without losing sight of our ideals of what we could achieve.
Through the prudent use of reason and compassion we can ensure the success of this great city.
Lastly, we must remember that in the face of adversity we need not look above for answers, but instead recognize the proven potential within ourselves and in each other to overcome any challenges we face.
It seems to me that saying "let's all try to get along" is a far more productive and inclusive invocation than, "My deity, not yours, will make sure we pass laws that suit us, not you."
Now let's wait and see how many Christians object to this offensively inclusive invocation. Perhaps start a drinking game: Take a shot whenever a protester or Fox News presenter claims that the USA is one nation "Under God."
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