Atheists don’t do invocations or prayers. We recite no magic words, beseech no deities, invoke no figments of imagination for public worship. But this doesn’t mean that atheists are incapable of language of the sort appropriate (according to SCOTUS) to solemnize a session of federal, state or local government.
Without such solemnizing language to evoke our most cherished illusions—apparently—government might fall apart. So say the Christians who have controlled such solemnizing for the past 200 years, though one might suspect they are more concerned with creating a public aura of authority for their particular religious practices than abetting democracy.
So in the spirit of providing a secular alternative to religious invocations and prayers, I submit the following for use at government functions.
Life, wrapped on each end by oblivion, is all we have.
There is nothing else. Let us therefore not drop our heads, but raise them and look at the world bravely and honestly.
As Carl Sagan wrote in his wonderful book, Pale Blue Dot…
Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there—on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
In the vastness of the universe, earth is small and insignificant and temporary. Sagan continued…
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
So it is. Life is a bright and wonderful season between walls of enveloping darkness. For one transient moment we have our day.
Like sparklers we transit the darkness, flashing into the bright rich colors of this brief day.
We each travel our short distance lit with the quiet insouciance of life, between vast walls of oblivion.
In this brief moment exists all our hopes and dreams, our pleasures and pains, our joys, our sadness, our love for one another.
In this brief and transient sparkle across the darkness, we have our all.
We live, and then we pass the brightness on to others before our own extinction in the dark.
On this fragile blue-green planet. Alone in the vastness of the universe. Alone with each other amid the everstretching darkness.
But what brightness it is, this bit of life on earth! What sparkle and color and brilliance we have for our brief day! To share this with each other, to live it and joy in it together!
So we gather as members of this brief community of life, working together as we must.
Let us endeavor, collectively and cooperatively, to do our very best to preserve and improve the brightness of this transitory bit of existence. By our communal effort, let us enhance life on this small, pale blue dot we call home.
We have each other. There is nothing else.