(Photo: American Humanist Association)
Three U.S. cities along with Nebraska joined in the effort to establish a National Day of Reason this year, with local politicians signing proclamations making the first Thursday of May such a day of observance. The movement was created as a counter-balance to the National Day of Prayer, which some critics consider unconstitutional.
The National Day of Prayer was established in 1952 when President Harry S. Truman signed it into law -- and consequently every president since, including President Barack Obama -- and its roots extend to the nation's founding fathers. The National Day of Reason is not federally established, and has been "held in parallel with the National Day of Prayer" for the past nine years, while its proponents have been asking the public to "work to have a Day of Reason proclaimed by your state or local government."
Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) sponsored a proclamation establishing National Day of Reason in 2011, as well as this year.
"The National Day of Reason, observed by millions of people in this country and around the world since 2003, celebrates the application of reason and the positive impacts it has had on humanity," Stark wrote last year. "Reason and rational discourse have the power to improve living conditions around the world and cultivate intelligent, moral, and ethical interactions among people."
This year, California was joined by the governor of Nebraska, Dave Heineman, who has issued a state proclamation for the National Day of Reason.
"The application of reason, more than any other means, has proven to offer hope for human survival upon earth, improving conditions within the universe, and cultivating intelligent, moral and ethical interactions among people and their environments," reads the document, available for viewing on the Facebook page of American Humanist Association's, a secularist organization that championed the idea together with the Secular Coalition of America.
According to some data, 41 percent of Nebraska's population do not declare any religion. The Roman Catholic Church is the largest single Christian denomination within the state with an estimated 372,791 adherents, although Protestants outnumber Catholics overall in the state.
In addition, the Omaha Coalition of Reason, another secularist organization, convinced Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle to sign a similar proclamation this year. The mayor of Charlotte, N.C., Anthony R. Fox, and as well as the New Orleans City Council signed similar proclamations. All the governmental bodies were influenced by local secularist organizations, according to American Humanist Association.
"The National Day of Reason includes sample language that can be used for a proclamation" for each governmental body to produce their own document, Brian Magee, a Communications Associate at the American Humanist Association told The Christian Post via email. "We also encourage individuals to participate in a number of events that are happening on the Day of Reason, including blood drives, food donations, and rallies."
The organization, boasting the motto "Good Without a God," also created an online petition to President Obama, in which it asks to "support us in our efforts by promoting the idea that any individual can do good works without a belief in a deity."
Although the secularist organizations have been criticized by many Christians for spreading an aura of negativity toward their faith and ability to celebrate the National Day of Prayer, the main people behind the National Day of Reason said they are not "specifically against prayer."
"We're not specifically against prayer, yet we wanted to offer an alternative so that many Americans would not feel like second class citizens on a day when the nation is told to pray," Lauren Anderson Youngblood, a spokesperson for the Secular Coalition for America, told CP.
Still, the idea has met with hostility from practicing Christians.
"Secular fundamentalists believe in and serve their god called 'reason' and want the nation to equate it with the Lord Jesus Christ," McCormack told CP earlier. "France bowed to the god of reason when it adopted its Constitution. Our forefathers founded a Christian nation based on the teachings of Jesus. The difference is plain."
Meanwhile, President Obama issued his proclamation on the National Day of Prayer on Tuesday, in which he wrote that prayer "has always been a part of the American story, and today countless Americans rely on prayer for comfort, direction, and strength, praying not only for themselves, but for their communities, their country, and the world."
"On this National Day of Prayer, we give thanks for our democracy that respects the beliefs and protects the religious freedom of all people to pray, worship, or abstain according to the dictates of their conscience," the president said. "I invite all citizens of our Nation, as their own faith directs them, to join me in giving thanks for the many blessings we enjoy, and I call upon individuals of all faiths to pray for guidance, grace, and protection for our great Nation as we address the challenges of our time."
Americans across the nation celebrated the National Day of Prayer Thursday in estimated 40,000 prayer events.