On Friday, May 1, Congressional Freethought Caucus member Jamie Raskin (D-MD) introduced House Resolution 947 to recognize May 7, 2020, as the National Day of Reason. The resolution, introduced annually since 2015 and cosponsored this year by fellow caucus members Jared Huffman (D-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), and Jerry McNerney (D-CA),
encourages all citizens, residents, and visitors to join in observing this day and focusing on the central importance of reason, critical thought, the scientific method, and free inquiry to resolving social problems and promoting the welfare of humankind.
The American Humanist Association (AHA) helped conceive and launch the National Day of Reason in response to the National Day of Prayer, also commemorated on the first Thursday in May. Created in 1952, the National Day of Prayer invites people of all faiths to pray for the nation, typically through a proclamation issued by the president. President Trump’s 2020 proclamation reads, in part:
May we never forget that prayer guides and empowers our [n]ation and that all things are possible with God. In times of prosperity, strife, peace, and war, Americans lean on [h]is infinite love, grace, and understanding. Today, on this National Day of Prayer, let us come together and pray to the [a]lmighty that through overcoming this coronavirus pandemic, we develop even greater faith in [h]is divine providence.
The mission statement of the National Day of Prayer clearly elevates Christianity over other faiths, and yet the website also claims that the day “belongs to all Americans.” But what about the approximately 23 percent of people in the United States who aren’t religious and don’t pray, but who are also concerned for the nation and want to improve it through reasonable and compassionate action? That’s why we need the National Day of Reason.
“With the ongoing pandemic, this resolution comes at a time when science and reason ought to be our guiding lights,” says AHA Executive Director Roy Speckhardt. “However, some of our leaders are looking to anything except reason to get us through the pandemic. The resolution introduced by Rep. Raskin bolsters our government’s religiously neutral nature during this pivotal moment in American history.”
Concurrently, humanist communities across the country are introducing National Day of Reason resolutions and proclamations at the state and local levels as well as celebrating the National Day of Reason with a Secular Week of Action.
You can read the full text of the resolution here. This year it includes the assertion that “irrationality, magical thinking, and superstition have undermined the national effort to combat the COVID–19 pandemic, and reason is fundamental to creating an effective coordinated response to beat the virus involving the Federal Government, the States, and the scientific and medical communities.”
Indeed, for humanists and other nonbelievers, it can be hard to ascertain how prayer works beyond a very personal, psychological salve. In a Fox News opinion piece, Focus on the Family President Jim Daly celebrates the prayer holiday and notes that “people around the world are pleading with God to stop the spread of the coronavirus.” Fascinatingly, he asks, “Why doesn’t God seem to be answering these prayers?” His answer: “I believe God is up to something well beyond our sight or understanding.” It’s the old mysterious ways argument or, as Daly’s friend, the well-known pastor and author Tim Keller, puts it: “God will only give you what you would have asked for if you knew everything He knows.” Like I said, we absolutely need the National Day of Reason.
Learn more here, and tune in tonight, May 7, at 7pm ET (via facebook.com/americanhumanist/live) as AHA Policy Manager Rachel Deitch and Executive Director Roy Speckhardt discuss the role of reason in our national discourse.