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A Reasonable Celebration

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Representative Pete Stark (D-CA), the only openly nontheist member of Congress, issued a proclamation recognizing the National Day of Reason, a day celebrating reason and its positive impact on humanity. As in previous years, the National Day of Reason is scheduled to be a more universally embraceable alternative to the congressionally mandated and federally supported National Day of Prayer. Since the National Day of Prayer's creation in 1952 by an act of Congress, the federal government observed the National Day of Prayer on the first Thursday of May, which this year will be May 3rd.

With taxpayer-funded faith-based initiatives giving preferential treatment to religious organizations, and Religious Right-supported efforts to remove evolution from our public school science classrooms, there has never been a better time in which to affirm our commitment to the constitutional separation of church and state. Whether you're a humanist, a freethinker, a Hindu, or a Christian, all are able to celebrate reason as the guiding principle of our secular democracy. Even most fundamentalists, who live a portion of their life outside the bounds of reason, must recognize the value of reason in everyday acts, from putting together Ikea furniture to choosing the best path to get to work.

The National Day of Prayer, besides being a violation of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, divides Americans in a time characterized by partisanship. Government's focus on prayer alienates atheists who don't believe its efficacy, leaves out Buddhists who don't use prayer to express their values, and offends many Protestant Christians who believe government's involvement sullies their faith. Congress's and the White House's support of this day underscores how our government fails to represent the interests of all Americans.

This exclusionary quality of the National Day of Prayer is why the National Day of Reason is so important. On this day religious people of all sorts join non-believers in recognizing that a government of the people should use reason as the basis for creating and enforcing its laws and regulations.

The American Humanist Association along with the Washington Area Secular Humanists host a website for the National Day of Reason (www.nationaldayofreason.org), where individuals can access a wealth of resources, including a listing of National Day of Reason events in their area, facts about the National Day of Prayer, essays on church-state separation, and examples of proclamations for state and local use.

Each year on the National Day of Reason events are held across the United States that are geared towards setting the right example for how to effect positive change through actions that are based in reason. That's why local humanist groups engage in food donations and blood drives that have a real positive impact. As Americans become more willing to use reason to solve problems, our ability to help those in need will steadily be on the rise.