Today humanists, atheists, freethinkers and secularists gathered at the Minnesota state capitol to pay homage to Reason and to uphold its use in our public policy deliberations. We came to implore all our political leaders and fellow citizens to draw on the most up-to-date knowledge we have in the social and physical sciences, of world history and philosophy, and to use pragmatic moral reasoning in our civic decision-making. We must commit to bring the very best of our rational capacities to our pursuit of the common good.
We also came to counter the National Day of Prayer supporters who attempt to infuse society--and our government in particular--with a sectarian faith-based worldview. In doing so, they misrepresent our role as citizens. Democracy is by design a human endeavor dependent upon our capacity to reason together. It requires a well educated citizenry -- not a religious one. Democracy was founded on humanist principles and hence those of us who identify as humanists are strong advocates for civic engagement based on the discipline of reason and not the habit of prayer.
In a democracy no one gets to lay claim to supernatural insight or divine knowledge.In our civic lives—and especially within our governing bodies—we must sit down together—with all our differences and collectively figure out how to live together. It’s an egalitarian, collaborative affair—requiring compromise and negotiation, knowledge and understanding. There is no higher authority to which we should or even can appeal; in fact, there is no authority other than ourselves to do this work.
Democracy is part of the ethical project of our species. It will always be a work-in-progress and it is incumbent upon us to learn to live with the differences we have among us—so long as such differences do not undermine the well-being of others,the principles of fairness or the common good which sustains the whole. We cannot rely on magical thinking or appeals to a higher power to ameliorate our differences. Common ground is not fashioned through prayer or platitude. If attained at all—it is through hard work--forged through rational, persistent, mutual engagement with our fellow citizens.
So whether we--as a state or nation--are grappling with the effects of climate change, the nuances of human sexuality or preparing for death with dignity, we must employ the best knowledge available from all the scientific disciplines. And we can and must also engage in robust secular moral reasoning—drawn from that vast and deep well of human experience to ground our values and inform our decisions. Reason combines the evidence-based sciences and the meaning-making humanities to provide the foundation of democracy. Let Reason prevail!