Arizona had an extraordinary moment this week during the opening prayer. No it is not what you think of some sectarian screed or other controversy. To the contrary, it was an unprecedented act of inclusion when the legislature allowed an atheist to open the session. An atheist state lawmaker tasked with delivering the opening prayer for this afternoon’s session of the House of Representatives asked that people not bow their heads. Democratic Representative Juan Mendez, of Tempe, is an atheist and opened the session by asking his colleagues not to bow their heads but look at each other.
Mendez told his colleagues:
“Most prayers in this room begin with a request to bow your heads. 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.
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.”
He added, “Carl Sagan once wrote, ‘For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.’”
For atheists, it was a rare occasion for inclusion. Despite the increasing attacks on atheists and agnostics that we have been discussing, this was a moment of tolerance that is worth noting . . . and celebrating.
Source: New Times