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RET focus of columinst's concern
Wow. I've pasted the article Greg Johnson wrote in today's Knox News-Sentinel below. If you care to respond to the editor or Greg, their e-mails are: letters@knews.com and jgregjohnson@hotmail.com. Instead of trying to bridge a gap, he's trying to widen it by promoting the stereotype that atheists or secular humanists are angry, spiteful people.

Rational thinking about a day of prayer

May 5, 2005

"The Thinker" has been thinking for over 100 years. But what is the muscular man with his chin on his hand sitting and thinking about?

An image of "The Thinker" adorns the Web site of Rationalists of East Tennessee. The Rationalists are promoting a National Day of Reason "to raise public awareness about the persistent threat to religious liberty posed by government intrusion into the private sphere of worship." Actually, the Rationalists instigated a Day of Reason on the first Thursday in May in hopes of silencing the National Day of Prayer.

Government officials have proclaimed the first Thursday in May a National Day of Prayer since 1988 when President Ronald Reagan signed legislation that Congress had unanimously passed.

Gov. Phil Bredesen's 2005 proclamation notes that a National Day of Prayer "is a tradition first proclaimed by the Continental Congress in 1775." An aged Benjamin Franklin asked that each session of the Constitutional Convention begin with prayer and said, "The longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this Truth - that God governs in the Affairs of Men."

Abraham Lincoln went beyond a day of prayer and proclaimed a National Fast Day. He wrote, "It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God." He asked Americans to fast and pray and "to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord."

With irrational reasoning, Rationalists of East Tennessee would do away with public prayer, even though the founders asked for it. In spite of our national leaders depending on prayer for over 200 years, the Rationalists would ignore history and impose a tyranny of the atheistic minority. Literally, in spite.

Rationalists of East Tennessee and organizations like Atheists Alliance International and Internet Infidels spitefully endorsed today as a Day of Reason to intimidate government officials into either recognizing a Day of Reason or not recognizing a Day of Prayer.

The city of Maryville caved and recognized both. Knoxville's leaders either cowered or didn't care and didn't recognize either. Oak Ridge courageously proclaimed a Day of Prayer and dismissed the demands of the Rationalists.

Rationalists of East Tennessee use semantic gymnastics to pass themselves off as benign promoters of free thought and critical thinking. Their affiliations and activities suggest otherwise.

American Atheists, founded by Madalyn Murray O'Hair, lists Rationalists of East Tennessee as an affiliated group. In 2002, Rationalists of East Tennessee participated in a Godless Americans March on Washington.

Last October, Rationalists of East Tennessee promoted an appearance by Dan Barker, co-president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. Barker's foundation's Web site lists "Files lawsuits!" as the number one thing they do, and their proudest accomplishments include eliminating a Good Friday holiday and removing the Ten Commandments and crosses from public land.

This May, the Rationalists will host former University of Tennessee professor Massimo Pigliucci. Pigliucci demeaned centuries of Judeo-Christian thought and tradition when he wrote in the UT campus newspaper, the Daily Beacon, that America "is currently in the hands of a bunch of nutcases who still believe in the literal reading of a book written by ignorant people several thousand years ago."

Pigliucci's intellectual elitism withers in light of the real intellect of 17th-century scientist, mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal. Pascal wrote, "God is or He is not. But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide nothing here."

Pascal proposed a wager: "Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose you lose nothing. Wager then without hesitation that He is."

That's what "The Thinker" is thinking about - the reality of God. "The Thinker" is part of a multistatue work by Auguste Rodin titled "The Gates of Hell." The icon of atheists gazes on statues of a fallen Adam and Eve and scenes from Dante's "Inferno" while sitting on the portal of Hell. He is contemplating the consequences of a godless eternity.

You might even say he is praying. That's what thinking people do.

Greg Johnson is an East Tennessee native and resident and writes this column for the News Sentinel. Email him at jgregjohnson@hotmail.com.

Related Link: Rational Thinking about Day of Prayer

Posted by dbuck
May 05, 2005