Across The Universe
Public Reveal: After Being Asked To Lead State House Prayer, Arizona House Representative Juan Mendez (D-Tempe) Reveals To Colleagues That He’s Atheist, Then Talks About His Atheism And Quote Carl Sagan
A lawmaker put in charge of delivering the opening prayer at yesterday’s session of the Arizona House of Representatives surprised his colleagues by using the opportunity to talk about his atheism and quote Carl Sagan.
USA Today says Juan Mendez (D-Tempe) put in a request to have Secular Coalition of Arizona director Serah Blain speak before the house during yesterday’s “prayer time,” but his request was somehow misplaced, so he decided to address the House in her stead.
“Most prayers in this room begin with a request to bow your heads. I would like to ask you not to bow your heads,” Mendez told his fellow legislators at the start of yesterday’s invocation. “I would like to ask that you take a moment to look around the room at all of the men and women here, in this moment, sharing together this extraordinary experience of being alive and of dedicating ourselves to working toward improving the lives of the people of our state.”
This room in which there are many challenging debates, many moments of tension, of ideological division, of frustration. But this is also a room where, as my Secular Humanist tradition stresses, by the very fact of being human, we have much more in common than we have differences. We share the same spectrum of potential for care, for compassion, for fear, for joy, for love.
Carl Sagan once wrote, “For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.” There is, in the political process, much to bear. In this room, let us cherish and celebrate our shared humanness, our shared capacity for reason and compassion, our shared love for the people of our state, for our Constitution and for our democracy - and let us root our policymaking process in these values that are relevant to all Arizonans regardless of religious belief or nonbelief. In gratitude and in love, in reason and in compassion, let us work together for a better Arizona.
Mendez went on to point out several Secular Coalition for Arizona members watching from the House gallery, and said he hoped Arizona’s non-believers would now be able to “feel as welcome and valued here as believers.”
The Phoenix New Times reports that one of the Coalition members in attendance “said she was ‘witnessing history.’”
In related news, the Supreme Court this week announced its plans to review the constitutionality of holding prayer sessions at legislative meetings.
[photo via Mendez for AZ]
The Stone Roses by Dennis Morris.
I cannot understand why we idle discussing religion. If we are honest—and scientists have to be—we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality. The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination. It is quite understandable why primitive people, who were so much more exposed to the overpowering forces of nature than we are today, should have personified these forces in fear and trembling. But nowadays, when we understand so many natural processes, we have no need for such solutions. I can’t for the life of me see how the postulate of an Almighty God helps us in any way. What I do see is that this assumption leads to such unproductive questions as why God allows so much misery and injustice, the exploitation of the poor by the rich and all the other horrors He might have prevented. If religion is still being taught, it is by no means because its ideas still convince us, but simply because some of us want to keep the lower classes quiet. Quiet people are much easier to govern than clamorous and dissatisfied ones. They are also much easier to exploit. Religion is a kind of opium that allows a nation to lull itself into wishful dreams and so forget the injustices that are being perpetrated against the people. Hence the close alliance between those two great political forces, the State and the Church. Both need the illusion that a kindly God rewards—in heaven if not on earth—all those who have not risen up against injustice, who have done their duty quietly and uncomplainingly. That is precisely why the honest assertion that God is a mere product of the human imagination is branded as the worst of all mortal sins
- Paul Dirac
I love his posture after pulling away Magneto’s hood. Like “I have no idea what else I was expecting.”