Reason, anyone?

~a column by Colleen O’Brien

This Thursday, Governor Branstad will proclaim as Iowa Day of Reason, to coincide with National Day of Reason.

This is a laudatory action, and all Constitutionalists and separation-of-church-and-state folks no doubt can applaud.

The day simply calls for reason – which means comprehending or thinking in an orderly way (intelligence) and proper exercise of the mind (sanity).

The American Humanist Association and the Washington Area Secular Humanists joined together in 2003 to launch this National Day of Reason in part to “draw attention to the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, which calls for the clear and elaborate separations of church and state.”

The first Day of Reason was celebrated unofficially that year, in Washington, DC, and it has been celebrated since without too much fanfare, in various parts of the country, often on college campuses. This is the second year in a row that a National Day of Reason resolution has been introduced in the U.S. Congress.

That there was a call for a day of reason says something in itself — perhaps that we have become more unreasonable, petty, judgmental and xenophobic than before 2003 – and that we need a reminder that personal opinion and religious faith is just that, and each of us is entitled to it, however lame we think the other’s belief or opinion, or however outrageous or feeble they think ours.

Whatever the total reason for instituting a day of reason – the Day of Reason folks talk about counteracting the National Day of Prayer – the Reason folks do think that “belief” (prayer, supplication, thanksgiving, confession) to a god is not something the federal government needs to be proclaiming, what with the prior installation of the First Amendment. Those people who came up with National Day of Reason as well as those who designed National Day of Prayer might have expanded a bit, for we could use a National Ignore Our Differences and Talk to Someone We’d Not Ordinarily Talk to Day. Whether one prays or does not pray, all of us could do this.

You could talk to a person of a different faith or no faith – just a “Hello there! How ya doin’! Whaddya think about this weather?” [if that’s not too hot a topic itself.]

No need to probe too deeply about anyone’s beliefs or lack of while you’re talking to a PhD or a dropout, a teenager or a homeless person; or a poor working person; or a rich person who doesn’t work, for that matter. It could be your neighbor’s child who is a Down syndrome kid that you approach and chat with; or maybe it’s a minister of a different faith, a city council person of a different party; how about a foreigner, legal or not?

A Day of Reason seems to me what we could be doing every day because with a little practice, we could end up being reasonable people.

We do not need to be ranting pro or con regarding the leader of the free world, or about trans-gender bathrooms every day. The former does indeed affect us, usually in the pocketbook, but we can abstain for a day or two in supporting or lambasting him; the latter usually goes by us without our noticing, so what’s the problem?

I think it’s obvious that it’s easier in this culture not to be gay, old, black, foreign or mentally challenged. But, really, what choice do we have if we are one or many of these “kinds” of people whom a lot of people think are a problem? Any debate about the goodness or badness of these folks because of what they cannot help is nuts.

I think our choice is simple — that we simply act in a reasonable (fair, moderate) manner every day. This may not be easy if we have always thought we need to meddle in others’ business. But there’s a chance that if we try reasonableness, we might turn into a reasonable country.

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