FFRF Co-President Dan Barker’s comments at the Reason Rally

That’s right. I am suing Congress.

Did you know that almost $800,000 of your taxes are spent each year for chaplains to open Congress with prayer? That’s more than $2,000 per prayer!

Although a quarter of Americans are nonreligious, all of the prayers have been blatantly religious, almost all Christian.

Shouldn’t the House of Representatives be representative?

Many of those prayers are delivered by guest chaplains. Over the years, the Freedom From Religion Foundation has asked Congress to allow me to give a secular invocation.

As many of you know, I was an ordained Christian minister. I preached for 19 years before I saw the light. After examining my faith with reason, I finally threw out all the bathwater and discovered: “There is no baby there!” There is no evidence, no argument and no need for a god. I just lost faith in faith.

But I did not lose my desire to participate in government.

Last year we finally found a member of Congress who agreed. My representative, Mark Pocan,
asked House Chaplain Father Pat Conroy, a Jesuit priest, to allow me to open Congress with a secular invocation.

The chaplain turned me down.

An atheist cannot solemnize government, he said, because the prayer needs to address a “higher power.” I replied that in this country, there is no power higher than “We, the people.”

In this country, there is no religious test for public office. I told him that although I cannot invoke a supernatural spirit, I can invoke the “spirit” of the Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, who put “Common Sense” over dogma, and reason over faith.

The chaplain still turned me down.

So the Freedom From Religion Foundation has just filed a lawsuit against Congress for discrimination, denial of equal rights, and violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

James Madison said there should be no chaplains in government at all, and we agree, but if there are, they should at least be inclusive.

In my book Life Driven Purpose, I declare the truly “Good News” that we atheists offer the world: There is no purpose of life. There is purpose in life.

In my newest book, GOD: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction — which Richard Dawkins asked me to write — I show that the God of the bible is not a creature we should base our government on, much less worship or admire.

As Dawkins said: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

Part 1 of my book is “Dawkins was right,” with a chapter documenting each of those 19 nasty adjectives. But Part 2 of the book is called “Dawkins was too kind,” showing that God is also a pyromaniacal, angry, merciless, curse-hurling, vaccicidal, aborticidal, cannibalistic slave monger.

Any country based on the bible is doomed to divisiveness, cruelty and irrationality.
Our government should not be praying to that god or any god.

It’s time for pious politicians to get off their knees and get to work!

Freedom From Religion Foundation