The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling blessing the practice by local governments of opening public sessions with prayer is a big deal only because a majority of Americans are religious, mostly Christian. The predominant argument against this ruling is that it essentially promotes one religion, Christianity, and flirts with the establishment of a single state religion.
The court’s all-Christian majority’s interpretation of the First Amendment’s “establishment clause” is suspiciously stretchy, but in the absence of more precise legislation that would prohibit any practice of religion in government sessions, the nation’s local governments are now free to pray without legal liability or, apparently, without concern for the separation of the church and state doctrine.
I wonder, will these governments allow their non-Christian citizens to open public sessions with prayers to other deities? Imagine if each session had to accommodate multiple entreaties to various deities before getting down to business. Hopefully, none of them would have to slaughter some animal and examine its entrails before the session could proceed.
Wouldn’t it be more efficient and less controversial if public prayer were confined to churches? But then that would limit the public displays of piety so important to many folks of faith — like the athletes who congregate on the field of play to pray immediately after the game, before the fans and TV audiences have left.
Interestingly, the Christian trinity god, visiting earth as Jesus, admonished those who made public displays of their piety. Jesus told people not to show off, but to pray in the privacy of their homes. Good advice, and from a god no less. Wish that more Christians would actually follow the instructions of their savior-god rather than use their religion to justify impositions on and condemnations of others.
I don’t question why people have religion — to explain the mysteries of life and to provide comfort against their inevitable mortality — but I do question why they need to be so demonstrative about it. Is public prayer a form of advertising in the hopes of proselytizing new converts? Is a god more real if more people believe that it is? Can a real god cease to exist if no one believes in it? Poor Zeus, Odin, Osiris and the myriad other gods mankind has invented and worshiped since the dawn of human history, all abandoned and gone now. All those prayers in vain.
Issues of religion continue to plague nations around the world. At least here in the United States we settle them in courts of law rather than by butchering each other in the streets. As the human intellect advances with new knowledge and science, more deities will no doubt join Zeus and Odin in the great god graveyard and, eventually, humanity may be free of troublesome, contentious and violent religious issues.
Theologies are, after all, merely theories that in the absence of conclusive, valid evidence offer explanations. As theories go, theologies are woefully weak. Not only is there insufficient indicative evidence to support them, but also their logic is flawed.
In the surviving sandal and scripture religions from the ancient Middle East — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — god is the all powerful, all knowing creator of the universe. Aside from the many silly scriptural claims that are clearly debunked with modern science, the idea that this omniscient creator, having designed and built an entire universe, from sub-atomic particles to galaxies, would then devise a goofy game of believe-it-or-not jeopardy to salvage disobedient, imperfect creatures of its own creation is indicative that this god was created in the image of man rather than the other way around. For only fallible humans with limited imaginations could come up with such implausible fiction.
The only valid statement anyone can make about the mysteries of life and what happens after death is that no one knows. However, based on the available credible evidence and on rational logic, a valid theory is that when we die we go to the same place we were 10 months before we were born. The universe having gotten along without any one us for hundreds of billions of years will continue to do so after we are gone.
The essential problem with religion is that its followers confuse believing with knowing. Believing is not the same as knowing, but believers think that it is and insist that we all accept it as such. So, we get prayer at public venues, we get laws discriminating against victimless life choices or behaviors that are said to offend some deity, and, in some places, we get true-believers murdering infidels.
Historically, religion has provided an effective vehicle for manipulating the masses and justifying inequitable and oppressive public policies — the primary reason America’s wise founding fathers wanted to keep religion and government separate. Religions have power only as long as enough people believe in them. Until most of mankind evolves above superstition, religion will endure as a contentious nuisance at best and a tool of oppression at worst. With its recent misguided ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court has, hopefully, only abetted the former.