Since it was mandated by Congress in 1952, the first Thursday of May has been set aside as the National Day of Prayer, a time for the religious in America to “turn to God in prayer.” By dint of this law, the President signs a proclamation each year encouraging Americans to pray.
In response to this, a number of secular and humanist organizations came together to formulate the National Day of Reason in 2003. Arguing that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional, as the wording of the law and the leadership behind the Day of Prayer are Christian in nature, and unnecessarily divisive, as it specifically excludes those who are not religious or do not pray and implicitly excludes those who do not pray to the same god, organizers of the National Day of Reason look to use this day to work toward real change.
In addition to promoting the separation of church and state, secular groups around the country also use this day to highlight the disparity in effectiveness between action and prayer. Secular groups engage in many community service events such as food drives or blood drives. The Humanist Community of Central Ohio, for instance, will be engaging in a “Bleed and Feed” event, donating blood at the Red Cross donation center on Sawmill Road before going out to dinner on this Thursday.
The National Day of Reason has gotten a boost this year, as Representative Pete Stark (D-CA) rose on the floor of the House to officially recognize the day:
The National Day of Reason celebrates the application of reason and the positive impact it has had on humanity. It is also an opportunity to reaffirm the Constitutional separation of religion and government….I encourage everyone to join in observing this day and focusing upon the employment of reason, critical thinking, the scientific method, and free inquiry to improve our world and our nation.
This, rather than the divisiveness and reliance on wishful thinking promulgated by the National Day of Prayer, is what humanity needs in order to advance.