How to Do an Atheist Invocation

The Arizona House of Representatives, like most legislative bodies, opens its sessions with an invocation — nearly always a Christian one. But on Tuesday, atheist lawmaker Juan Mendez of Tempe delivered a secular invocation and even quoted Carl Sagan. I really like the message he gave:

“Most prayers in this room begin with a request to bow your heads,” Mendez said. “I would like to ask that you not bow your heads. 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 in our state.”

As you can imagine — especially now, with Arizona’s legislature being controlled by religion-heavy Republicans — this is probably the first time that an invocation at the legislature took that direction.

“This is a room in which there are many challenging debates, many moments of tension, of ideological division, of frustration,” Mendez said. “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.

Mendez continued, “Carl Sagan once wrote, ‘For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.’”

That’s pitch perfect. It draws on humanist principles and presents a positive message of reason, compassion and our common humanity. Bravo, Mr. Mendez.

11 comments on this post.
  1. Modusoperandi:

    Pah! Typical divisive extremist militant Secular Humanist hate speech! This is America, where God is like ketchup. We put Him on everything!

  2. Michael Heath:

    Modusoperandi writes:

    This is America, where God is like ketchup. We put Him on everything!

    Given the march of the brown hordes from the south, I look forward to when God is instead like salsa.

  3. matty1:

    I look forward to when God is instead like salsa.

    Do you like your deity mild or burning?

  4. Reginald Selkirk:

    No, Allah is like Salsa.

  5. democommie:

    Modusoperandi:

    “GODchup; it goes with everything!”

    I like it!

    Maybe we could get Carly Simon to relicense the use of her lyrics from the old Heinz commercial.

    The only thing is that all you’d ever have, IS “anticipation”, you KKKristianist morons.

  6. John Hinkle:

    This is America, where God is like ketchup. We put Him on everything!

    Are you saying there’s no wall of separation between Ketchup and State? Pity those in Milwaukee that eat Brats with only mustard and sauerkraut.

  7. Modusoperandi:

    John Hinkle, worse, Obamacare forces Roman Catholic churches to provide things in their healthcare that the Church is against, like condiments.

  8. magistramarla:

    I also read that one of the godbots in that legislature got huffy and then led his own invocation and prayer and was joined by about half of those present. It shows that they simply can’t tolerate secularism.

  9. Dan J:

    magistramarla @8:

    I also read that one of the godbots in that legislature got huffy and then led his own invocation and prayer and was joined by about half of those present. It shows that they simply can’t tolerate secularism.

    I think the Christian Taliban member that you read about was Steve Smith. See: “On Our Radar – Arizona State Rep. Juan Mendez, Secular Humanist, vs Arizona State Rep. Steve Smith, Christian Taliban” for a good rundown.

  10. typecaster:

    I agree that this invocation was the correct approach to take. But how can any discussion of nonbelievers invocations be complete without mentioning Zelazney’s
    Agnostic’s Prayer ?

  11. Battle Of The Prayers In Arizona Legislature | Just The Messenger:

    [...] Ed reported on the initial atheist invocation delivered by Juan “Johnny” Mendez, calling it “pitch perfect”. [...]

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