Secularists counter National Day of Prayer with National Day of Reason

President Bush and wife Laura bow their heads along with National Day of Prayer Chairwoman Shirley Dobson and her husband, religious broadcaster James Dobson, at a May 2003 ceremony in the East Room of the White House. President Obama has said he will appeal a federal judge's ruling that the law creating the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional, even though he declined to host a Bush-style observance at the White House. RNS file photo/The White House
President Bush and wife Laura bow their heads along with National Day of Prayer Chairwoman Shirley Dobson and her husband, religious broadcaster James Dobson, at a May 2003 ceremony in the East Room of the White House. President Obama has said he will appeal a federal judge’s ruling that the law creating the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional, even though he declined to host a Bush-style observance at the White House. RNS file photo/The White House

As millions of Americans bow their heads next Thursday (May 3) for the annual National Day of Prayer, atheists, humanists and other nontheists will mark a day of their own.

The National Day of Reason – or “NDR” in the shorthand of the nontheist community – will also be held May 3, part protest, part celebration and totally godless.

“In times of great conflict and worry, people want to look to a higher power, and I am sympathetic to that, ” said Paul Fidalgo, communications director at the Center for Inquiry. “But our day puts the focus back on people and what we can do for ourselves. We are trying to make a better world on our own by emphasizing good works and good deeds on the day.”

To that end, local groups of nontheists will hold blood drives (Groton, Conn.) training in lobbying politicians (Raleigh, N.C.) and voter registration drives (Flagstaff, Ariz.), as well as marches, rallies and social gatherings. One group in Putnam, Conn., is holding a “science for reason” book exchange — turn in a Bible and receive a free copy of Charles Darwin's “The Origin of Species,” among other titles.

NDR was started in 2003 by a Washington-based group of humanists who viewed government participation in the National Day of Prayer as a violation of the separation of church and state.

While the numbers participating in NDR have never equaled those of the National Day of Prayer, NDR supporters scored a victory in 2010 when a federal judge ruled that the 1988 law that designates the first Thursday in May as the National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional.

The victory was short-lived, as a higher court ruled in 2011 that government participation did not equal compulsory participation.

This year, while there are no pending legal challenges, nontheist groups would still like to see the National Day of Prayer become a strictly private holiday.

“We feel that having our chief elected officials proclaim a religious day to be a clear violation of the separation of church and state,” Fidalgo said. “Besides that, it is exclusionary not just for nonbelievers but to everyone who does not buy into monotheism.”

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The problem with a day of reason is that it assumes faith and reason are opposites. Faith is reasonable and reason also requires faith. They are not opposites, they go hand in hand.

Ryan Downie

How does reason require faith?

Hanane Neff-Loutf

This is what I think and hopefully it makes sense:
As long as you can’t prove that 1+1=2 or that infinity exists, you can’t deny that reason requires “faith”…

Religiously and from an Islamic perspective, rejecting the Devine is not reasonable, humans have a good reason to believe in God. Both rationally (for instance the design of the universe, ourselves…) and an empirically (ex. the beginning/creation of the universe), God is the best justification, in other words a good and sound reason cannot reject God.

But how God is and how to worship him… are subjects that require reason, a religion or faith that makes sense will be true.


Ryan Downie

Hanane –

But 1+1=2 CAN be proved and infinity can be shown to “exist”, though it depends upon what you mean by “exist”. Now, there are some statements in any mathematical system that can neither be proved or disproved, yet we know they are true. But this is not “faith” in the same sense in which it is used by religion and statements of this type are not of the same sort as claims made by religion.

Now, you say that “design” is a reason for believing in God’s existence. But this isn’t true because you are merely assuming that the universe is designed. You are begging the question. Certainly, if the universe is designed, then it makes sense to ask, “who designed it?”, but we do not know this. So the use of “design” is not legitimate.

The same goes for using a term like “creation”. Yes, if the universe is a creation, then by necessity it has a creator. It is merely a matter of the definition of the word. But one cannot simply assert that the universe is, in fact, a creation, since it very well may not be. You say that “God is the best justification”, but I disagree. On what grounds is it the “best”?

Hanane Neff-Loutf

In order to prove 1 + 1 = 2 you need to assume and consider certain statements to be true otherwise you CANNOT. You say infinity exists!? in what world? if that’s true then what’s infinity -1?

Anyway, you have no problem saying that there are some statements in math that can neither be proven nor disproven yet they are considered true… Well I come from a scientific background and I have no problem with that, but why can’t we do the same about the existence of God. How is the existence of God not true when you apply a rational and an empirical approach? The universe is fine-tuned for our life, to me this is a clear sign for the purpose of the design (yes I am saying a design, what else you want to call it?) and only an ignorant person would not ask the questions “who designed it?”, “why are we here?” those questions show that the mind is actually doing its job!
Why can’t you admit that the universe is created? can something come from nothing? of course not… then how did it come to being knowing that it has a beginning?

Although God by his nature can’t be seen nor measured, the design of the universe is a clear sign of his existence, I can’t think of any other rational justification. The big bang to me is an empirical prove for the existence of God, the Creator.

Now as a muslim I don’t need any of the above to justify my faith, I have a book called the Quran that CANNOT be a work of man, Islam is not a blind faith and requires its followers to use their reason before anything. Maybe you were disappointed with your previous faith but don’t paint all with the same brush, try and learn about Islam from the right source (I know you come from an evangelical background, I can only imagine what you have been thought about Islam).

OK, I have to make dinner for the fam!

Ryan Downie

To prove 1+1=2 you need axioms, so what? It is still true that it can be proven. As for infinity, look up ordinal numbers and cardinal numbers. Also, it is believed to be a real possibility that the universe could be infinite.

We cannot consider the statement: God exists, as simply true because it is an existence claim which requires evidence. You don’t just get it for free. What rational/empirical approach guarantees God’s existence? Again, I would contend with your use of “fine-tuned” as it is a loaded term. Just because our universe has conditions which allow us to exist does not mean that a super being had to make it that way.

I don’t admit that the universe was created because there is no good reason to do so. Can something come from nothing? Yes, but it depends on what you mean by “nothing”. It is also possible that the universe exists eternally. In fact, there are many theories which account for the universe naturalistically and do not require a creator.

As for the Quran, I very much believe it to be the work of a man and it seems intellectually irresponsible to assert so overtly that it “CANNOT” be such.

Hanane Neff-Loutf

Typical nonsense from an atheist that doesn’t deserve much of my time :), “I believe, but you can’t consider to be true… blablabla”. But if you claim the Quran to be the work of man then show me alike of it. Have you read it? I guarantee you haven’t even read your bible in the first place.
Or wait a second, do you have anything better for me? What should we Muslims do? you claim to know math but I see you vey blind:) (amicalement! biensur)

Ryan Downie

So you are turning to insults now? Classy. Anyway, I think I can point to works that are just as good as the Quran and better. But what good would that do? Such a matter is given to subjectivity. Whatever I point out, you will just deny because you have already made up your mind that the Quran is the greatest. To simply assert that the Quran is the greatest written work and that it could not possibly have been produced by man is not evidence. It is an assertion which requires evidence.

Hanane Neff-Loutf

I am not insulting you. 
To make it short and sweet (I noticed you have a lot of time at hand to write and repeat over and over many nonsensical statements regarding some subjects). 
To say it is irrational to believe that the Quran is divine just multiplies everything you claim by zero ( you know the result right?). 

I will give you an example, is it irrational to believe that Morocco exists even if I haven’t been there? (I hope your answer is No) Well the same goes for the Quran. 
Now if I have evidence for it then my claim will be empirical, do you know what I am talking about?

So believing that the Quran is divine is rational and having evidence will only make the claim confirmed. 

What I was expecting you to say in your previous reply is “Hanane, what makes you believe that the Quran is divine?” rather than saying it is an irrational claim. The question remains, did you read it?

Ryan Downie

Actually, I said it was a claim that requires evidence and that it is irrational to merely assert that there is no way that it could possibly be the work of man. If you have evidence, let’s hear it.

Now, why is it that it is not irrational to believe in Morocco even though you haven’t been there? Is it because it is always rational to believe in places even when one hasn’t been there? I think not. Is it irrational to believe that the Space Cafe exists on Neptune even if I haven’t been there? I hope your answer is yes. But what is the difference? In the case of Morocco we have vast amounts of evidence that it exists from pictures to news stories to books to people who have been there, etc. Plus, if you wanted, you could go there just to make sure. None of this is true of the Space Cafe. Furthermore, the whole concept of Morocco is unobjectionable, since we have plenty of experience with similar places so that it doesn’t seem far fetched that such a place exists. Again, this doesn’t hold for our Space Cafe.

Now, as for a divine book, we have a lot of books that claim to be divine, but we have no actual experience of things that we know for certain have divine authorship. We don’t really have divine writing samples to compare something like the Quran to. What standard is used to judge that something is divinely authored as opposed to humanly authored? Beauty doesn’t work because that is subjective. And even IF there was a strong case for the Quran being the most beautiful literary work in existence, it still wouldn’t follow that it was divinely authored. All it would mean is that Mohammed was the greatest writer of all time. Now, before you object here, I know you think Mohammed was illiterate, but there are ways around this.

So, why is the Quran an example of Morocco and not an example of the Space Cafe?

Hanane Neff-Loutf

Good evening Ryan,

I appreciate your last reply better this time.

You have to be careful in choosing your words and in the way of approaching rationality and reason. For the existence of Morocco, what makes you believe in its existence if you haven’t been there? you say you have vast amount of evidence (pictures and stories)… But truly you’re just counting on others experiences not yours, and that makes believing in Morocco’s existence rational. If you were to require being there to “experience” it in order to believe in its existence then you will be irrational.

Luckily you are rational about a statement when you gain knowledge about it independently from “experiencing the evidence”, in the case of Morocco, even though you haven’t been there, because of some stories and pictures you can’t deny its existence.

For the Space Cafe, not only you haven’t been there but no other information on it period! There is no other way to come to the conclusion that it exists. Again your own personal presence in the Cafe is not necessary to be rational here, the problem is there is no other source to get knowledge about it, that makes believing in the Space Cafe irrational.

So what makes the case of the Quran similar to that of Morocco and not the Space Cafe? Well just because you are not aware of the evidence you can’t say believing in it is irrational. First, there are over 1.6 billion people in the world who hold that belief, secondly it is not because there are other books that claim divine authorship that the Quran is not, just like there can be many lottery tickets but only one is the winning one.

You shouldn’t be looking for standards for the Quran to match, just think of it, what do you need? another divine book to compare it to? It doesn’t make sense!
What we are saying is that the Quran is unmatched, unmet, and unique, and that it a historical fact confirmed by muslims and non-muslims.

The eloquence, accuracy of meaning, the perfect choice of words and the unique style (an impossible linguistic style) are just one aspect of the divine authorship of the Quran. I will be happy to share the evidences about the Quran later in a post.

You also say that if one can give credit to the Quran being the greatest book ever written, it will only make Muhammad (peace be upon him) the greatest writer even though he was illiterate… really? even his enemies during his life never claimed such, what do you mean by there are ways around that? are you just arguing to argue? I hope not.
Please explain how can an illiterate man be the author of a book that represent the highest of the Arabic eloquence?

Ryan Downie

I’m slightly surprised that you appealed to the number of Muslims in the world as evidence for the Quran’s divine authorship. If you are going to count such a thing as evidence, then Christianity has you beat, since 2.1 billion people seem to think that the Bible and not the Quran is actually the word of God.

As to your second point, I didn’t argue that the Quran was not divine because there are other books that claim this. Instead, I’m wondering how one could tell the difference.

Why would I not look for a standard? If we don’t have a standard, then how can we tell if it is authentic? When you say that the Quran is unmatched, unmet and unique, all you are doing is expressing your opinion. It is not an historical fact. There are almost 7 billion people in the world, so about 5.4 billion people disagree with your assessment. Also, roughly 2.1 billion people believe that the Bible is the book that is unmatched, unmet and unique.

Similarly, when you mention the eloquence, accuracy of meaning, perfect choice of words and unique style, these are all things claimed for the Bible as well. Furthermore, on what basis does the Quran possess an “impossible linguistic style”? Again, this is not a claim you can simply assert. It needs to be proven.

When I said that there are “ways around that” I meant that there are lots of possibilities. First, someone else could have written the Quran and Mohammed simply took credit. Second, Mohammed may have been a great speaker and someone wrote down his words for him. Third, he could have had help in both writing and coming up with the Quran. Fourth, he may not have been illiterate, but only pretended to be or he may have become literate at some point. Or it could be a combination of possibilities. There are lots of possibilities. Did you know that Mormons pretty well claim the exact same thing about Joseph Smith? But Islam and Mormonism cannot both be right, so one or the other or both claims are false.

Hanane Neff-Loutf


I am only showing you that you can’t say that claiming the Quran to be divine is irrational. My evidence is not the number of muslims… Are you reading or is it too late to understand? Read how I am arguing with snd please pay attention, I am using the definition of rationality to show how wrong you are, that’s it!
As for the evidences I haven’t talked about them yet other than the style which is impossible because it doesnt fit any of the arabic writing styles.
The christians or mormons can claim their books are divine too and that is not irrational at all, only evidences will show which one is truely divine.

Ryan Downie

You seem to keep misunderstanding me. What I said is that it is irrational to merely assert that the Quran is divine. This is different from what you are trying to make me say.

You said: “My evidence is not the number of muslims…”
If your evidence does not include the number of Muslims, then why did you bring it up?

You said: “I am using the definition of rationality to show how wrong you are, that’s it!”
How have you done this so far? You have so far only asserted your position and that it is not irrational to believe the Quran to be divine. Okay, prove it.

You said: ” …the style which is impossible because it doesnt fit any of the arabic writing styles.”
But why does this make it impossible? All it means is that the Quran has a unique writing style. “Impossible” essentially means “unable to exist”. But the writing style does exist, so it is clearly not impossible.

Finally, you say: “The christians or mormons can claim their books are divine too and that is not irrational at all, only evidences will show which one is truely divine.”

I know! And I’m waiting to see why I should believe you over the Mormons and Christians. Remember, though, you cited Mohammed’s alleged illiteracy AS evidence that he didn’t write the Quran himself, but that it is divine. The Mormons also claim that Joseph Smith was illiterate and that he could not possibly have come up with the book of Mormon so that it must be divine. So, why don’t you therefore believe the book of Mormon to be divine?

Hanane Neff-Loutf

See if you read carefully my reply with the example of Morocco and the space cafe you will understand that the reason i talked about the number of muslims is for rationality and not to prove my claim. 
I have not provided you with prove yet and i promised to do it in a separate post.
Again if you understand rationality you will not say that when muslims or christians or mormons claim their books to be divine it is irrational.
You keep comparing the Quran to the book of Mormons or the bible but this isn’t going to take you anywhere just focus on each one, from all aspects including the theology and the information, the idea of God.. included in each one.

Now again have you read it? Don’t you think it would be honest to do so before you start arguing against it?

Again i appreciate your efforts Ryan!

Ryan Downie

And if you had read my posts carefully you would know that I never said that claiming a book to be divine necessarily meant being irrational. I am going to say this one last time. It is irrational to MERELY ASSERT that a book is divinely inspired and that there is no way it could not be divine.

Okay, now that we hopefully have that cleared up, you say that you brought up the number of Muslims to support the idea that the Quran is like Morocco. But this is not true. If one group of people claim that Morocco exists and another group of people claim that Jamaica exists there is no conflict. But if 1.6 billion Muslims claim that the Quran is the word of God and 2.1 billion Christians claim that the Bible is the word of God, then there IS a conflict because BOTH CANNOT be true.

Furthermore, it is not true that just because a lot of people believe something that therefore it is rational.

We have to compare various alleged divine books to each other because we are presented with different options and must decide which, if any, is actually divine. If you use evidence for one book that equally applies to one or more other books, then your evidence is not conclusive and hence, not especially useful.

Hanane Neff-Loutf

This is very entertaining:) but to be quick:
– You don’t need prove to be rational!
– Your example doest apply because Morocco and Jamaica exist in different areas, if the 1.6b claim Morocco to exist in a specific spot and 2.1b claim Jamaica to exist in that same spot then we have a conflict. But both claims are rational if both have some sources where they get their knowledge from… Picture, stories… But you and I who haven’t been to that spot, if we’re really curious and we care enough, we have to either examine their sources and see which one makes mote sene to us or actually go there!

In this case I would love the spot to be Jamaica, oops is it the bible? 

Hanane Neff-Loutf

I mean does NOT apply;)

Hanane Neff-Loutf

The problem is that you don’t believe the spot exists in first place so why bother attributing names to it?

Ryan Downie

Do you believe in unicorns? If not, then why do you use the term “unicorn”?

I really wish you’d get on with showing why the Quran is like the Morocco example. Or, more specifically, what evidence there exists demonstrating that it is divine. So far you haven’t presented anything useful. First, claiming that a book is divine is not like claiming Morocco exists. As I mentioned before, there is nothing extraordinary about claiming Morocco exists. Claiming that the Quran is divine, however, is quite the extraordinary claim. Furthermore, not only have you not presented any solid evidence for the claim that there is such a thing as a divine book, you have not given any evidence that could not be used for another book of scriptures. So, not only do we not know if there is such a thing as a divinely authored book, even if there was we have no means, yet, of discerning which of the possibilities it could be (if any).

Hanane Neff-Loutf

Ryan, again there is no need to talk about evidence right now… I will get them to you soon just be patient:), and again I was talking about rationality.
Ok I have played the game of the Space Cafe, the game of Jamaica… But the Unicorn I’ll pass.

Ryan Downie

You asked: “The problem is that you don’t believe the spot exists in first place so why bother attributing names to it?”

My response with unicorns was not a game, but meant to show that there is no problem with not believing in something and yet having a term for it.

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