North Alabama Freethought Association board member Kelly McCauley will open the Huntsville City Council meeting Thursday in a non-religious invocation after a secularist group threatened to sue the council over its tradition of Christian Prayer.The question is, can atheists truly pray?
McCauley, who according to his Meetup page was confirmed in the Lutheran Church and "dropped out" at age 23, told AL.com, "My goal is to offer a non-sectarian invocation that, I hope, will lend gravity to the meeting and point to our civic values."
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McCauley was invited by Huntsville leaders to give the body's first atheist "prayer" after secularist group Freedom From Religion Foundation complained about its Christian opening prayers. (all emphases mine)
I’ll go out on a limb and say ‘yes’. Look at the definition of prayer:
A reverent petition made to God, a god, or another object of worship.What makes this definition work for atheists is ‘another object of worship’.
So what do atheists worship? There are lots of folks out there who’ve said (and still say) that atheists worship the self, or reason, or knowledge, or rationality, or science, or a host of other non-metaphysical objects. So as long as their ‘prayers’ (or ‘invocations’) are directed at one of those, the terms used for them are being used correctly.
However (you knew this was coming) … you cannot put the terms ‘prayer’ or ‘invocation’ together with ‘non-religious’ or –non-sectarian’ – that doesn’t’ fly. Prayers and invocations are by definition religious and sectarian, because they are directed at an ‘object of worship’, whether that object is physical or metaphysical. You cannot pry religion and sectarianism off prayers and invocation no matter how hard you try.
So my suggestions is, quit trying. Admit that your atheism is as valid a religious belief as Christianity or Judaism or Islam or Baha’i or any of the other religions on this planet.