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.

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2 thoughts on “Praying for Rain

  1. Despite my overwhelming agreement with your views on prayer and the Constitutional underpinnings of this argument, I find your incredulity concerning the statements of the Council somewhat naive. Our purportedly secular society is becoming decidedly less so. Secretary Vlisack’s comments were inoffensive in my view, as well. However, had he made an exhortation to a non-JudeoChristian deity or talked about making a positive affirmation on behalf of rain; he would’be been widely excoriated. Non-Christian are not treated with respect in the public discourse ant not everyone is capable of turning the other cheek nor have they been taught to act in that manner by our fellow Christians.

  2. Amen, Rory…

    There is as much, if not more “…militant hostility to (non or different)religion(s) expressed by…” those who profess to be Christian – and the most conservative of media affirm and encourage the hostility.

    From many differing view points, through silence, society accepts being held hostage to loud, often hostile voices. Consider Christian conservatives and many of their unusual alliances – Pro-Life and the NRA, a marriage made in … How many rounds are enough? Is it time to find our voices, our respectfull voices, and come together?

    My prayers go out to the families and loved ones living through the horrors of the Aurora, CO shootings.

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