National Prayer Day, or ‘It’s OK Not to Have a Religion Day’
A story we’ve been following recently at Big Think is Tesla’s release of home and industrial batteries that store renewable energy. We’ve even had Elon Musk to the Big Think offices for an interview. Something Musk likes to talk about are so-called “first principles,” or an assumption that can’t be deduced from other principles. By going back to physics’ first principles, Musk has been able to innovate multiple industries including banking (PayPal), energy (Tesla), and space travel (SpaceX).
That’s a roundabout way of addressing the feelings surrounding our National Prayer Day, which happens to be today. If there is one first principle to the United States of America, it must be freedom. It may reach levels of jingoism at times, but freedom is in a lot of what we talk about when we talk about America: “free speech,” “free enterprise,” “free press,” “free samples at Whole Foods,” and so on… As Isaiah Berlin once said of freedom:
“Everything is what it is: Liberty is liberty, not equality or fairness or justice or culture, or human happiness or a quiet conscience.”
Freedom is a bold concept on which to found a country. It might even be dangerous. So this Pew Research Center poll from 2013 is surprising: It found 55 percent of Americans say they pray daily. That struck me as a high number, but perhaps a cursory grace said over a meal explains the results. Or maybe there are just more sincere religious people than I thought. Either way, it’s a powder keg for calm discussion.
After attending The Catholic University of America for a three-year graduate degree in the arts (in theater, no less, where religious faith doesn’t overtly prevail, even at the CUA), I must say I’ve discovered a new outlook on God and prayer. A lot of sincere, intelligent people are doing it — that’s what I’ve discovered (after spending most my 20s in a secular Europe).
Today is our National Day of Prayer, emphasis on “our” and “National,” meaning freedom is the first principle through which our discussions (and Internet comments) should be derived. As President Barack Obama said today:
“In America, our nation is stronger because we welcome and respect people of all faiths, and because we protect the fundamental right of all peoples to practice their faith how they choose, to change their faith, or to practice no faith at all, and to do so free from persecution and discrimination.”
And now, an Elon Musk video: