Today is the National Day of Reason (NDOR), which is the inclusive alternative to the National Day of Prayer (NDOP). For those of you who don’t know, the National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May and was created by a congressional resolution approved by President Harry S. Truman in 1952. The resolution calls on the president to issue a proclamation every year to encourage Americans to pray in thanks for America’s freedom and other values, and to establish that year’s National Day of Prayer through government recognition.
The nontheistic community’s main problem with the National Day of Prayer is that it excludes the 23 percent of all Americans who are nonreligious or atheistic and who don’t pray but wish to celebrate the important values that are lauded during the NDOP. Instead of working to get rid of the NDOP, the American Humanist Association began advocating for a National Day of Reason as an inclusive alternative worthy of government recognition. The goal of this effort is to celebrate reason—a concept all Americans (both religious and nonreligious) can support—and to promote public policy that is based on reason and logic instead of politics and ideology.
The AHA has promoted the NDOR in various ways, including both government proclamations and resolutions. In the past, the Republican governors of Iowa and Nebraska, as well as the Democratic governors of Delaware and Rhode Island (along with numerous mayors and city councils) have issued NDOR proclamations, and members of Congress have made statements on the record honoring the NDOR. Last year, the AHA was even able to work with Reps. Mike Honda (CA-17) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-At Large) to introduce a NDOR resolution.
That resolution was just reintroduced this year, and has the support not only of Reps. Honda and Norton, but of Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27) as well. Upon introducing the resolution, Rep. Honda stated “I introduced this resolution declaring May 5, 2016, a National Day of Reason because the application of reason has proven to improve the conditions in which people live, offer hope for human survival on Earth, and cultivate intelligent, moral, and ethical behaviors and interactions among people.”
With all the irrational partisanship that takes place in the halls of Congress, it’s reassuring to see that at least some members of Congress are advocating for reason-based public policy and for the inclusion of the nontheistic community in American civic life. The AHA will continue to push for additional congressional support of this important resolution and for the issuance of National Day of Reason proclamations on the state and local level.