Praying for Rain

It is no news to anyone that the Midwest, indeed, much of the United States, has been experiencing ongoing drought. (The area affected by the drought is the largest since 1956.) The lack of rain is wreaking havoc on farmland and will effect all of us.

I saw several Facebook comments yesterday that the Council for Secular Humanism was upset at a comment by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack that he gets on his knees every day and says a prayer for rain. He is not the only one; while I don’t pray on my knees, I have been praying every day for rain. (And when it rains here in the Twin Cities, I say a prayer that the rain reaches the southeastern part of the state, where my CSA farm is located.)

I confess that I am puzzled by the ire of the Council. Vilsack neither claimed that prayer was the government’s recommended response to the drought nor that anyone else should pray. So the claim that his remark was “just government entangling itself with religions” is a strange one.

It seems to me that the comment of the Council had nothing to do with constitutional concerns and everything to do with simply objecting to prayer.

I understand and accept that some people wish to lead their lives without God. While it is true that I pray for them as I pray for everyone else, their existence doesn’t offend me. And, while I hope, that by my life and example, I am able to show people that living a Christian life is something worth emulating, and I support the right of atheists to live without doing so.

What I do find offensive is the expressed goal of some atheist groups (and individual atheists) to wipe religion out of existence, the view that all of us must give up religion in order for them to be happy. One of my FB friends asserted that “because it’s the 21st Century…people must give up religious superstition, in order to proceed.”

There is an enormous difference between secularism and the kind of militant hostility to religion expressed by many atheists. I do think it is a legitimate subject for discussion the extent to which, for example, religious beliefs ought to have a privileged position over nonreligious beliefs – that is something we can talk about and will not necessarily agree about.

But we need to find some way to live more respectfully with people who disagree even on something so fundamental as the existence of God, because I’m pretty confident that despite anyone’s best efforts at persuasion, there will always be people who are religious and people who are not.