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This Thursday is the National Day of Reason!

Apparently Thursday, May 1, 2008 is the National Day of Prayer as designated by the United States Congress in 1952 and signed into law by Harry Truman. There’s a privately funded National Day of Prayer Task Force with a stated purpose of “encouraging participation” in the NDP, though only encouraging the participation of Christians of course since “this country was birthed in prayer and in reverence for the God of the Bible.” Actually, this country was birthed by a bunch of deists who understood the importance of separating church and state, but whatever floats their boat.

The Task Force states on their web site (Google it if you want) that

People with other theological and philosophical [non-Christian] views are, of course, free to organize and participate in activities that are consistent with their own beliefs. This diversity is what Congress intended when it designated the Day of Prayer, not that every faith and creed would be homogenized, but that all who sought to pray for this nation would be encouraged to do so in any way deemed appropriate.

That’s all very nice, but what about those of us who don’t pray?

Though I’m not religious, I do understand that prayer can have value. It can help people feel more connected to one another, give them false but comforting hope about their lives and afterlives, and it can be calming in a meditative way. That said, I also understand that major studies have shown that prayer has no beneficial impact on the health of others, and in fact can have a detrimental effect in heart patients who know they are being prayed for. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that praying for one’s country will only work if you keep praying long after the National Day of Prayer is over . . . at least until inauguration day some time in January of 2009.

So, there are probably better things we can do for our country this Thursday. A number of nonbelievers have proposed a National Day of Reason, with plenty of perfectly rational ways to benefit your fellow man. Here’s a list of events happening around the country, and you’re free to organize your own. My favorite idea is to give blood, either in a large group of nonbelievers or individually. When it comes to saving a person’s life and making the world a better place, I’ll gladly put one pint of blood up against a thousand prayers from the pious.

This post from Tennessee Indymedia has easy instructions for getting it done:

1) Find your local blood bank by accessing www.americasblood.org
(Bottom left corner, type in your zip code to find your local blood bank.)

2) Phone the blood bank to make arrangements for a group donation.

(You will find them amazingly supportive and accommodating.)

3) Notify your local newspaper, TV and other media that your group is
doing this and why. It’s important to alert them ahead of the event.

It’s simple, it’s positive, it’s effective. Come on, Agnostics, Atheists, Freethinkers, Humanists, Secularists, Non-believers, Separation of Church and State advocates, join us in our positive protest against the Day of Prayer! Show the world that while religious people are on their knees, Atheists are on their feet and giving a part of themselves for the good of humanity!

It might be a bit late, but let me know if any of you out there get something going!

UPDATE:
Have your picture taken giving blood on Thursday and send it to me at skepchick(at)skepchick.org. Include your mailing address, and I’ll send you a prize!

UPDATE #2:
Okay, okay, I get it. For those of you who cannot give blood, for any reason:

Send me a pic of you doing something awesome for humanity on Thursday. If you’re wondering whether it’s awesome enough, just ask yourself: is it more effective than prayer? If I judge it to be awesome enough, you will get a prize as well.

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Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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28 Comments

  1. Every day should be rational day! If people want to take some time out and pray, that’s fine.

    But what is the purpose of ‘Prayer Day’? Everyone gets together to convince themselves that someone is definitely listening?

  2. TheCzech, is it really a travesty? My wife lived in England for a time during the late 80’s and thus can’t give blood due to concerns about CJB. I suspect they are being unduly cautious, but I certainly wouldn’t deem it a travesty. If the blood safety statistics support banning gays due to increased HIV risk, then that is indeed what they should do.

    Does anybody here know if the ban on homosexual blood donation is, in fact, supported by any statistical evidence? If not, then of course The Czeck is correct in labeling this a travesty. Otherwise, it would seem to be an unfortunate necessity.

    As for the original subject of the post, yes please do donate blood! It is a vital and scarce resource, and it doesn’t have to be!

  3. So this Thursday is…

    … National Day of Prayer

    … Beltane.

    … Day of Reason

    … Pay Day

    All the same!

    Really though… that whole separation of church and state thing remains a mystery to me….

  4. I second the call to give blood. I get my 4 gallon pin the next visit to the vampires.(pats self on back) I have O neg. and CMV neg which I’m told is useful stuff; and I have guilt if I don’t give when eligible. It really isn’t that painful and the worst is often the finger stick for the hemoglobin test. Some technicians are more experienced than others and having a Gatorade or something like that an hour before giving blood is more useful than cookies and juice after. My wife is not eligible to give in the US because she’s lived in the UK for to many consecutive months during the early days of Mad Cow disease. Clearly this is not an issue in the UK. The Q and A sheet you must complete before giving blood has a very large number of diverse travel, health and habit questions where a yes will get you disqualified. This form may be available on line somewhere and most local blood banks have websites where questions can be answered about restrictions.

  5. Dang nabbit! I just gave blood a few weeks ago. I also have type O blood (positive, though) so they make sure I give regularly. I’ll “double up” my donation next time I give. For the National Day of Reason maybe I’ll volunteer some time at the Red Cross.

  6. When I was first told that my blood was O neg./CMV neg. I knew the universal donor thing about O neg. Had to ask about CMV, which stands for Cytomegalovirus and is apparently a cold type virus which once you have it you’re a blood carrier forever with80% of adults being positive. This is not a problem for most everyone unless your immune compromised as in HIV/AIDS, organ transplant and cancer patients or a sick young infants. So after being told this I became a very regular donor. Apparently I can become CMV positive at any time and would not even notice being sick so I check every time I go in as the testing on the previous donation will update my status.

    So if you’ve never given or have not in a long time, go on and do it! And Rav Winston, you can always go dressed as an 18th century ships captain and pretend the naval surgeon is giving you your regular blood letting!

  7. Hm. Okay, since it’s maybe too late to organize a local event, how about this:

    Have your picture taken giving blood on Thursday and send it to me at skepchick(at)skepchick.org. Include your mailing address, and I’ll send you a prize!

    I’ll edit that into the post, too.

  8. Just an FYI for people with type AB blood. I know it sort of seems like a huge waste to donate AB blood (I’m AB+ myself) since it’s such a rare blood type and ABs can receive any blood.

    But AB is the universal plasma donor. I know it takes a whole lot longer to donate blood plasma than whole blood (like 2 hours) but I feel pretty great afterwards knowing how hard AB plasma is to come by and knowing that it will be put to good use.

  9. Oh, also you can donate plasma every 29 days… so if anyone out there just donated blood a month ago and is ineligible to donate whole blood, you could probably still donate plasma no matter what your blood type!

  10. For those in NYC…

    NYC ATHEISTS’ “GIFT OF LIFE” BLOOD DONATION ACTION
    Date: May 1, 2008 (Thursday)
    Time: 4:00 – 7:00 P.M.
    Where: New York Blood Bank
    Citigroup Center – Lower Level
    Entrance: On 54th street-100 feet west of 3rd Ave.
    When inside, walk straight to down escalator,
    NY Blood Bank straight ahead.
    Reservation: Not needed

  11. OK, TasCAHRD is the Tassie Council of AIDS, Hepatitis and Related Diseases. According to them, Gay Males, (particularly younger gay males) are most at risk of catching the disease along with IV Drug users. (Those are their target groups)

    The thing is, the *reason* that this is so is that young gay men are more likely to be involved in risky situations. This reason isn’t taken into account in the blanket ban, so people who are perfectly safe (monogamous long term couples, for example) are banned as well.

    It’s a crying shame that the questions don’t take this into account and just blanket ban all of us.

  12. I think the blood idea is a great thing to do, however, I am also being punished for being a regular donor, they call me every x amount of days to see if they can suck some more out of me (also in demand, O negative), and I am not eligible…I am however going to a party for a friend, do i get a prize for that?

  13. @Dcarm

    Its unfortunate, especially with current shortages, but people do lie in the questionnaire (esp. with the more personal questions) and the blood banks have to make a decision as to wether they can pick up the cost of detecting “bad blood” after extraction, or cut their losses and blanket ban wide groups.

    It would only take one batch of bad blood to be transfused and the lawyers/litigants would be swarming at the scent of blood (pun intended), even more so if said blood came from a ‘socially unacceptable’ group (eek!, they gave me teh gay blood!). So I suspect the B-Banks just don’t like it but they have to say ‘Sorry, we cant take the risk of being sued’.

    It happened in the UK once IIRC and the B-Bank went bust from the ensuing litigation.

  14. Blood collection in Canada was taken away from the Red Cross after a number of people were infected with HIV and Hep B by improperly screened blood.
    Now, the new collectors (Canadian Blood Services) err on the side of extreme caution. Not only would I be disqualified for sex with men (I am one) but also for sex with women whose histories I don’t know, or even recent dental work.

  15. Okay, okay, I get it. For those of you who cannot give blood, for any reason:

    Send me a pic of you doing something awesome for humanity on Thursday. If you’re wondering whether it’s awesome enough, just ask yourself: is it more effective than prayer? If I judge it to be awesome enough, you will get a prize as well.

  16. Buggers! My family (two spawn and me –we are O+, A- and A+) just gave 10 units of platelets and red cells at Standford on Saturday. We aren’t allowed to donate for about 10 days. But this is a great idea! We usually only donate once a month but I’ll see if I can convince the kids to go and do an extra shift this month.

    And those of you who can’t give blood because of sex, what better day to celebrate sex than Beltane. Let’s give some love to the crazy pagan people. :D

  17. I have my 17 year old son roped into taking my picture while giving blood today. The secondary goal is to have a picture of said son giving blood for the first time today! We’ll see how it goes.

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