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An Atheist's Perspective on the Inauguration: Enough With all the God Stuff

Why do the prayers of a church belong in the single most important ceremony of our state? Obama is not God's servant, he's ours.


Yes. Okay. Pride; hope; history; immense joy; inexpressible relief.

Yes. Sure. Absolutely.

But also this.

I was watching the Inauguration, with pride and hope and history and joy and relief. And the message I kept hearing was, "We are one country. This country belongs to everybody in it. Everybody has a voice. Everybody has a part to play. Everybody's experience matters.

"Everybody -- except you.

"Everybody except you and the roughly 15% of Americans who don't believe in God.

"Not you. You're not part of this. This isn't for you."

Yes, yes, I know. I know what you're about to say. Yes, Obama said the word "non-believers" in his speech. He said, quote:

"For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers."

And yes, that was pretty neat. As far as I know (does anyone know for sure?), this was the first time that a President's inaugural address said anything about non-believers in a positive, inclusive way. I'm not going to underestimate that. He said it, and it was pretty darned cool. A milestone, even.

He said it once... in a speech, one of a series of speeches over the inaugural ceremony, that over and over again hammered home the message, "This is God's country."

Rick warrenFrom Rick Warren's icky opening invocation:

"Almighty God, our father, everything we see and everything we can't see exists because of you alone. It all comes from you, it all belongs to you. It all exists for your glory. History is your story.

"The Scripture tells us Hear, oh Israel, the Lord is our God; the Lord is one. And you are the compassionate and merciful one. And you are loving to everyone you have made."


"...when we forget you [God], forgive us. When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone, forgive us."


"I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life, Yeshua, Isa, Jesus, Jesus (hay-SOOS), who taught us to pray, Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen."

Do I need to point out what's wrong with this? Do I need to point out how grotesquely inappropriate it is -- in a massive and public government ceremony, addressed both to and on behalf of a secular nation populated by people of many faiths and many people of no faith -- to assert that everything that happens comes from God and belongs to him? To assert that there's something wrong/ needing of forgiveness about "forgetting" God and claiming our achievements for ourselves? To not only invoke a prayer on behalf of the whole country, but to do so in a specific prayer that comes from his particular religious tradition, in the name of his particular god? 


Rev joseph loweryOkay. Moving on. We have the closing benediction from Rev. Joseph Lowery. A much, much better speech than Warren's, and one which, when you take the God stuff out of it, I have little to argue with and a tremendous amount to be inspired by. But we still have this:

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