I was interviewed for an October 12 The Times Leader article which reports on the Public Square Rosary Crusade I protested and interviews me and Bill Dickerson of the NEPA Freethought Society concerning our protest.
For more background on the Public Square Rosary Crusade and my protest of it please read my thoughts on the event, my press release announcing a protest, another newspaper article in which I appeared, and afterthoughts reported on Brave Hero Radio. The protest was offered due to the event’s flyer promoting governmental prayer and opposing secularism.
The Times Leader article, partially reproduced for purposes of archive, is available below. Click the article’s title for the full, original article. Feel free to comment here and on the article itself, especially in response to other commenters.
October 12. 2013 11:18PM
JON O’CONNELL firstname.lastname@example.org
WILKES-BARRE — Worshippers took turns reciting portions of the rosary Saturday in Our Lady of Fatima Grotto in quiet reverance.
Behind them, two protesters stood for the length of the service, which was part of a national Catholic event called Public Square Rosary Rally. The protesters stood equally as quiet but holding a sign that read “Nothing Fails Like Prayer.”
The two men, Justin Vacula and Bill Dickerson, said they attended not to cause anger, but to tell the worshippers prayer has never effectively solved anything and they should not depend so heavily on it. They had been joined by a third person but he left shortly after the service began.
Some commenters, at the time of this posting, considered the protest to be disrespecting people and urged that atheists should respect the beliefs of people. I am not sure what it means to respect one’s beliefs. Beliefs are not entities which can be respected or disrespected. Saying that prayer fails is not disrespectful of persons, but rather is sharing my perspective concerning the efficacy of [intercessory] prayer. Prayer has simply not been demonstrated to be effective and thus will not fix the problems which ails the United States. Government leaders will not, contrary to what the America Needs Fatima organization thinks, benefit from prayer.
If I were to protest with a sign saying “Catholics are stupid” or something similar, a case can be made for disrespect, but merely pointing out that nothing fails like prayer is not disrespectful of persons; nothing fails like prayer is a response to a particular claim, a belief which is not vindicated by evidence. I did not disrupt the rally, say anything nasty about or to any of the protesters, and even protested on the opposite side of the street. Mere disagreement is not disrespect.
Sometimes messages from atheists can be viewed as ‘hard-hitting’ because we are challenging cherished beliefs. When challenging cherished religious beliefs, people may consider a simple message like nothing fails like prayer to be offensive, but instead of claiming offense and considering atheists disrespectful, they should examine belief in the efficacy of prayer and wonder why we are saying what we are saying. Where is the evidence that intercessory prayer has an effect? Is there good reason to believe that government leaders praying to God will receive some special wisdom or invoke a deific intervention?
The “Nothing Fails Like Prayer” banner spawned in response to the Circle the Square with Prayer event which commemorated the National Day of Prayer – an egregious violation of church/state separation with blatantly Christian roots which the United States government endorses and has defended. The banner returned in protest of the Public Square Rosary Crusade because of the overlap between religion and government which was suggested in the event’s flyer. I can’t “live and let live” as some religious people (and even atheists) tell me as long as the wall of separation of church and state continues to be eroded (and people claim that my opposition to religious belief is disrespectful of persons).