Monday, May 18, 2015

Why Do Presidents Promote 'National Prayer Days'?

Obama - maybe praying for expeditious  passage of fast-track TPP.

The news that NONES - those without any religious affiliation - now make up 23 percent of the American populace (2nd only to evangelicals) ought to get everyone and especially our poltroon politicians to sit up and take notice. But likely as not they won't and they'll keep on peddling their bullshit including the 'National Day of Prayer" and other baloney.

One writer (Jeffrey Tayler) has recently exposed Obama's role in this pandering by observing:

"What concerns me now is what President Obama has just wrought to insult that most aggrieved (yet steadfastly growing) American minority, the advocates of reason, those who insist on evidence before accepting the truth of a given proposition, especially grand propositions about the origins of the universe and our species.  On Wednesday, President Obama marked the deeply pathetic traditional outrage to rationalism that is the National Day of Prayer (since 1988 the first Thursday of May) with a proclamation bearing the stark, yet somehow comically august, title “A PROCLAMATION.”  Ecumenically irrationalist, he urges us to pause and immerse ourselves in incantations addressed to a magical celestial despot, be He Judaic, Christian or, presumably, even Muslim, and thank Him for the fruits of our labor and for fortuitous events that have proved conducive to our contentment."

Tayler, not to be deterred, goes on, after referencing  "verbiage that sounds mostly like boilerplate pol-speak and preacher-talk":

"After a bland preface, Obama reminds us that we Americans “cherish” religious liberty at home, and exhorts us to “recommit to standing up for religious freedom around the world.”

But there is a contradiction inherent in Obama’s act of “proclaiming” from the White House on National Day of Prayer; namely, that such a day should not exist, but since it does, the president should not avail himself of it to militate for the cause of faith.  In 1952, in the depths of the Cold War confrontation with the atheist Soviet Union, Congress birthed the noisome basilisk of a law establishing the NDOP, which the Freedom From Religion Foundation valiantly (but unsuccessfully, of course) challenged in 2008 on (obvious) First Amendment grounds. 

 Fresh challenges should be mounted until the NDOP goes the way of Jim Crow.  To do my part in the fight for true secularism, I hereby contest the constitutionality of Obama’s issuance of Lord-positive declarations from his podium as the chief officer of our officially godless republic, if only because such declarations menace the mental health and intellectual development of children.  After all, in 1962 the Supreme Court decided against allowing prayer in public schools, so how is it that the president can use his office as a platform to call on us to beseech the “Almighty”? "

 Children might be exposed to such corrupting speech and suffer the same retardation religion has historically inflicted on science and education.  If nothing else, the White House Web page displaying the Proclamation should carry the warning “CONTAINS RELIGIOUS SPEECH — NOT SUITABLE FOR MINORS.

Terrific take down and well justified! We need LESS religious and superstitious bollocks in our political space and not more.  In a post five years ago I noted the efforts of the Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation. to get rid of the "National Day of Prayer" malarkey. Recall the group had sued the Bush and then the Obama administrations in an effort to block presidents from making their annual proclamations inviting Americans to "set aside a day for prayer or meditation". (Who do these presidents think they are, Mullahs, or maybe Ayatollahs? We don’t need any proclamations! If people want to pray some entity emanating from their own temporal lobes, fine – but don’t make a national deal out of it!)

At the time Anne Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the foundation and a plaintiff in the lawsuit, heralded one federal judge's (Crabb's)  decision as courageous, and further observed:

“It's an invasion of the freedom of conscience of Americans to have their president direct their prayer or tell them to pray".

Again, so true. What the hell are Americans? Toddlers who need nurse maids in the guise of Presidents to try to keep them in line? Indeed, the very efforts each year tell me the politicos of every stripe are trying to use religion as a quasi-Neoliberal force to keep Americans in check. The more prayer declarations, I guess, the less the chance Americans will go bonkers and riot because of the increasing inequality, see e.g.

This is what we expect the Mullahs in Afghanistan or Iran to do. Crabb’s decision still  stands as exceptional and courageous since most judicial districts and judges in any capacity remain cowed by the religious zealots and their political well-wishers who still hold this country in their feverish, frenetic grip. Indeed, Jordan Sekulow of The American Center for Law and Justice (which filed an amicus brief at the time on behalf of 31 members of Congress), said he was "confident the decision would be overturned on appeal." (It was.)

"This is one district court judge," bellowed Sekulow, an attorney with the public interest law firm founded by evangelist Pat Robertson. "It's not like it's happening all over the country. In no way do we think this is the mainstream of judicial thinking in the United States."

He may well be correct. But the “consensus” or unified position of  all other federal or state justices – or even the Supreme Court- doesn’t make their appeals decision right or in concert with the Constitution. Very often, it is the voice crying in the judicial wilderness – like Judge Crabb’s – which embodies the true perception and ruling. Crabb warranted praise for having the mettle and spine to come out with her decision in a god-besotted nation where even presidents jump on the god bandwagon to score cheap political points. (And again, to distract the hoi polloi from their Neoliberal agendas, like the TPP - which will take even more jobs away. Here's a radical thought, Mr. Prez, how about less prayer mongering and more efforts to prevent future job loss - such as form NAFTA on steroids?)

But let's be honest, few presidents possess the backbone to reject the tide or refuse to play the game. Even presidents who are detested in all other aspects of the national tapestry – from politics to economic policies. Obama is hated as a “socialist” or Hitler clone by much of the country, but this will not stop him from playing the god card. Indeed, he may be convinced doing so confers an added layer of protection – though most of those in nut country (as JFK once put it) don’t accept he’s a real Christian any more than a legitimate citizen. (It's that middle name, "Hussein",  that betrays him!)

Do I have some overarching objection to prayer? No, not at all, even though it's a totally vacuous, empty activity more to the benefit of the pray-ER than its object of worship, or extended purposes. (The claim that prayers helped sick people in hospitals was proven to be fraudulent some years ago, after the papers were subjected to further statistical tests and analysis. In particular, the thresholds for confidence in the z-tests and t-tests were way too open-ended and the sample sizes either too small or too infected with selection bias).

The majority of "nones" and I simply say let people pray on their own, in private, and for their own benefit if they must- or feel a need to. We don't need the odious spectacle of presidents grandstanding on their special perches or platforms (in public places that are supposed to be free of religious influence). Thereby squandering time and capital on vacuous appeals for a national entreaty to the supernatural.  Obama, funny enough, is often compared to the character "Spock" from Star Trek, but this is something Spock would never do. In fact, Spock often poked fun at the crew's superstitious habits which happened when they were in trouble.

Is Obama really trying to use this prayer spiel to deflect attention from his odious, legacy-wrecking stance on the TPP? We don't know but the signs are not auspicious, especially when he tears into truly liberal Dems like Elizabeth Warren!

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