Football season has begun. Attending the games of my favorite high school, which also happens to be the school my kids attend, is an enjoyable past-time.
Living in the great red state of Oklahoma, prayer happens. It happens a lot. Despite my Atheistic rants and raves on my twitter account and this blog, I am actually easy to get along with out in public. I do not and I have not made a fuss about people praying. I am the only out and open Atheist in my families: biological and in-laws.
So I usually sit or stand quietly at family gatherings while someone says grace before a meal. I offer no objections. The only incident that has occurred was when some distant relative at a family holiday gathering asked me if wanted to say the prayer since I am the eldest child attending Thanksgiving at my parents’ home.
“If you want to say a prayer, then say it. I’m not participating. I’m just observing,” was my response.
“Well I don’t understand,” said this grand Uncle. “Why wouldn’t you participate?”
“Leroy,” my mother hollered. (Leroy is not his real name. I change the names of real people to protect their privacy.) “Don’t worry about it. Just say the prayer.”
My father who disapproves of my non-belief whispered to Mother, “At least’s he’s not gay.”
The point of this is that I am surrounded by prayer, often. So when I attend football games at a public school, I am not offended by a minister offering a prayer. My reason is that I do understand that people have a superstitious belief in prayer as a supernatural insurance to keep their kids safe during a game.
Football is a dangerous sport. My son, although not playing this year, wants to play football next year. I support and approve of his athletic ambitions. But I worry. I never played football myself but I watched my friends play and a few friends throughout my high school years had received some serious injuries.
Nobody died and no one had damage that caused a permanent handicapped. But there were injuries to knees, bones, heads, etc. that required trips to the hospital. So when my son plays I am hoping he will not receive major injuries.
I am well aware that praying to an imaginary friend in the sky does not prevent injuries. And I am also aware that hoping does not prevent injuries. But I do understand that those who are religious feel an extra comfort when a minister prays before a game, hoping that a message to their imaginary friend will encourage that friend to protect the players.
In conclusion, it does not offend me for a minister to prayer at a high school football game. It does not hurt my feelings and it does not change my Atheistic perspective. Some atheists are against prayer at a public high school game. I do object to teachers or principals coercing children to pray in public schools. Children should not be taking a moment of silence nor saying “under god” in the Pledge of Allegiance.
My only catch is that I as an Atheistic parent also has the right to say a few words or to have an Atheistic representative say a few words for me at a football game. If I am going to support the right of the religious to have prayers, than I damn well expect the favor to be returned.
If the religious don’t like it, they can sit or stand quietly. They are not required to participate. I would most likely offer a quote of comfort by Mark Twain, Charles Darwin, Carl Sagan, or Gene Roddenberry. But the point is that if I want to take a moment to offer some encouraging words before a game then I shall be allowed or no one shall be allowed.