An Atheist Town Council Prayer

The town of Greece, NY, as a result of their recent court decision, is going to have a town council opening prayer delivered by an atheist. This has left a segment of the Christian population utterly befuddled; when the bible is the only book you need, you are not likely to have a dictionary handy. As both articles and comments show an astonishing lack of imagination or understanding on the part of these concerned Christian citizens, I offered the following comment at the link above (for whatever reason, though, my comments never show up, so I have reproduced it, with additional comments in verse, here):

To pray, by definition, can mean to entreat, to beseech, to implore–to make a request of a person or persons. The verb is not restricted to communion with a god, but may include communion with our fellow citizens. If I were offering the opening prayer, I would beseech the council to remember that they serve *all* the citizens of their community, not just those who share their religious views. I would implore them to look to the constitution and laws for their guidance, instead of to a holy book that many in their community do not follow. I would entreat them to put themselves in the place of these others in their community, as their own bible tells them (Matthew 25:40). I would pray that they use their critical thinking, not merely their faith, in fulfilling the obligations of their elected office.

I beseech the worthy council
To remember, as we pause,
That they serve the constitution,
And the people, and the laws;
They are here as public servants
It is us they represent
By, and of, and for the people
Thus, they serve by our consent

I entreat them to remember
During arguments or fights
That minority positions
Do not lead to loss of rights;
That our freedom of expression
Will protect us as we rant—
We can favor our religion;
It’s the government that can’t.

I implore my fellow citizens
Here gathered by my side
To remember that we use
The constitution as our guide
The majority can’t bully—
We’re protected from attack,
If we heed the constitution
Then the founders have our back

And I pray to every one of you
The bold, the brash, the meek
If you hear or read my words,
Then it’s to you that I would speak
Let us gather here together
Cos there’s work that must be done
So let’s work with one another,
We the people… every one.


  1. says

    Not that I personally want to help atheism too much — but Freedom of Religion, yes! — but in some parts of the legal system, the word “pray” is still part of the boilerplate or traditional, formal legal language for a petition or request to the court or government. Fundies would be scandalized, but the English word has never applied only to a deity (real or imagined). Even in Shakespeare, from one human-only character to another: “I pray thee….”

    From the historical perspective, legislative meetings are about nothing else BUT such mostly-not-explicitly-religious “prayers,” aka “agenda items” or “proposals”!

    I appreciate the reminder, both your own and my own recollections. And you’re alot better at poetry than this English major ever was!!! :)

  2. CatMat says

    Though “prayer” should just mean obeisance
    To my God, in my way, by me
    To use, in an act of purveyance
    For getting what others get free
    They tell me, an atheist’s praying
    Without giving credence to Grace
    I’m not, well complaining, just saying
    This whole thing’s a bloody disgrace
    A non-christian prayer is crappy
    For Christians – You surely can see
    If godless can say “Let’s be happy”
    What’s left for a devout like me?

  3. Pliny the in Between says

    Not at your level but I took a crack at the serenity prayer a few years ago:

    I shall seek the serenity
    to accept the things I cannot change;
    the courage to change the things I can;
    and the wisdom to know the difference.

    I will strive to distinguish the possible from the impossible;
    no matter how strong the pull of wishful thinking;
    and devote neither time nor energy;
    to the lore of humanity’s youth.

    I will trust in truth as humankind’s salvation;
    Living one day at a time;
    Enjoying one moment at a time;
    Using reason and empathy as my guiding star.

  4. CatMat says

    @Pliny, an ad hoc adaptation:
    Serenity is what I will beseech
    To cope with things I cannot modify
    And courage, for the things within my reach
    To change, and wisdom, to identify
    Whichever the case
      I now see.
    A hope can’t make a fantasy come true
    A lie will not a good foundation make
    All progress comes to those still searching, who
    Can see what truly must be at the stake
    Science as base,
      Let it be.

  5. Al Dente says

    I seek the serenity to do those thing which must be done,
    To not do the things which should not be done,
    And the ability to hide the bodies of those people who piss me off.

  6. CatMat says

    Lord, give me might
    To keep the flight
      Off the ground
      What’s that sound?
    – Hold the fight?
    Someone is here
    Speaking like we’re
      Not of flock
      Foreign stock
    Endtime’s near.

  7. Menyambal says

    I pray for the wisdom to know the difference between the laws of physics, the nature of humans, the customs of my culture, and my own personal problems.

    Awaiting moderation at the linked article:

    Why does the author keep saying “so-called” atheists? How can Christians prove that they are not falsely so called? Have you taken the Lord’s name, but not lived in His way?

    Why do the “Christians” here show so little imagination and so much hatred? Why do they call their brothers fools?

    An atheist would ask the people present to remember that they are all human, to be understanding, and to work for the good of all. They would not condemn or divide.

    An atheist “prayer” is no stranger than the Pledge of Allegiance. It is a secular dedication to a shared ideal.

  8. CatMat says

    @Menyambal, about the “so-called” Christians (this one won’t fall into rhyme no matter what I do):
    The funny thing about sects, beliefs and such is that
    the worst enemy/opponent/fiend/whatever is not the non-beliver,
    it’s the near-believer: the one who holds the same base beliefs
    that you do but chooses to interpret them differently.
    That’s the main competition to whatever organized faith you happen
    to subscribe to – the one that needs least persuasion to migrate to.
    That’s why the bloodiest feuds are not between followers of different
    belief systems but between the followers of different variants of one.
    That’s also why (I think) it is imperative to separate one’s personal beliefs
    from those of any organized religion.

  9. Die Anyway says

    I read through the existing comments under the article and decided not to even bother trying to reply. It was the usual mix of misunderstanding and animosity from people whose IQ is most likely below 100.

  10. CatMat says

    “Cuttlefist”, heh. Apt, though.
    Feeling too blue
    Just got a clue
     Lose the whine
     This: To thine
    Self be true.

  11. rikitiki says

    We are all in this together
    If we fail, we’re all to blame
    I would pray to all and sundry
    To use reason, not some name
    Who has never granted wisdom
    Never shown up though he’s called
    We are on our own together
    So, let’s play, not drop the ball

  12. SteveV says

    It’s a wishy washy agnostic’s prayer, but I think Zelazny did a decent job:

    “Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I say, I ask, if it matters, that you be forgiven for anything you may have done or failed to do which requires forgiveness. Conversely, if not forgiveness but something else may be required to insure any possible benefit for which you may be eligible after the destruction of your body, I ask that this, whatever it may be, be granted or withheld, as the case may be, in such a manner as to insure your receiving said benefit. I ask this in my capacity as your elected intermediary between yourself and that which may not be yourself, but which may have an interest in the matter of your receiving as much as it is possible for you to receive of this thing, and which may in some way be influenced by this ceremony. Amen. “


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