On numerous occasions, atheist activists from across America have made known their disdain for prayer at government meetings. But now, at least one non-believer is prepared to join in on public invocations. This Thursday, Dan Nerren, the non-believing founder of the Humanist Association of Tulsa, will offer up an opening prayer at the Tulsa City Council Meeting.
Nerren, who became an atheist after reading a book that purportedly exposed Biblical contradictions, is a retired railroad worker and a former Christian (he was a Southern Baptist before his conversion to non-belief). After years of atheist groups unsuccessfully petitioning to stop religious prayers at these government meetings, the city council took an intriguing step -- a move to allow atheists to partake in secular invocations.
"As far as I know, I’ll be the first to offer a secular invocation," Nerren said, according to NewsOK.com. "I’ll be invoking the council, not a deity."
What will be his message, you ask? Rather than appealing to God for the well-being of Tulsa residents, the atheist leader will be urging council members to address "the welfare of all people" in the community "by respecting the inherent dignity and worth of each person."
The concluding line, as presented by NewsOK.com, appears to be inspirational in nature. It reads, "We must remember that in the face of adversity, we need not look above for answers but instead recognize the proven potential within ourselves and in each other to overcome any challenges we face."
Council invocations are open to people of all faiths, so including atheists is a natural progression. Already, Wiccans, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Native American religious adherents have delivered remarks.
While the American Civil Liberties Union and atheist groups have worked diligently to try and end prayer at government meetings, some are viewing the decision to allow a secular invocation as a second-best alternative. The council has been at odds for years with these groups, who hold that sectarian prayers are unconstitutional. Local officials, though, reject this notion, claiming that their openness to prayer is historically-rooted and constitutional.
Nerren's prayer seems to be an effort to meet non-believers on middle ground.