If a good civil rights organization's legal wing -- I would suggest the A.C.L.U. -- jumps on this and files suit to enforce the atheists' rights to give an invocation at a public meeting, there is a chance they could succeed in overturning this decision: http://www.alternet.org/belief/florida-county-unanimously-bans-athe...
Unfortunately, a challenge might well revive the debate about whether atheism is a "religion," but that shouldn't matter one way or the other. Satanists have been denied the right to give invocations at meetings of political bodies. Frankly, I come down on the side of atheism NOT being a religion. Religions have central myths (crucified and resurrected savior for example) and all myths of a religious nature arise out of a deity. (I am not saying, by "myths," that the person central to the religion did not actually live: in their own time, they were legendary (e.g. one or another mystic wandering around in the "holy land" and making extraordinary pronouncements about this and that). They were so extraordinary that they were, in death, given apotheosis. This theory is known as euhemerism, after an ancient Greek philosopher who claimed to have learned it from the Gods. By now, Lincolnm Gandhi, and MLK ought to be considered Gods.
But atheists cannot properly "invoke" in any case. It is not for nothing that religious leaders giving invocations at meetings speak their piece as a prayer; they begin by addressing the deity they beseech for guidance. It's also common for invocations to end, e.g. "We ask this in the name of your son Jesus Christ the Lord." What atheist is going to come up with anything like this? Oh, maybe "We ask this in the name of Charles Darwin [add or substitute any of many, from the Stoics to Christopher Hitchens with Carl Sagan thrown in for fun]." These are my Gods.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has begun an annual award for any atheist who can prove that they were allowed to give a godless invocation at a government-approved meeting. Details on their web site:
The prize is an all-expenses-paid trip to their annual convention and $500. Wish I'd known about it earlier....this year's convention is in Los Angeles, and I LOVE staying in hotels, no matter where they are.
Staying in hotels? Really? Have you ever seen those TV news magazines where they use a black light to illuminate cum stains on the bedspread and elsewhere?
Uh....I rarely watch TV. Hurts my eyes (as does my computer monitor after a while), and what is on most channels that we still get fries my brain.... for an effing $75 a month.
I just like to get out of the house, and stay someplace where somebody else does all the cleaning and cooking for a few days. An Amtrak sleeper car will do, even though the food is not the quality stuff it used to be....the diner bill is now included in the ticket price IF you pay for a sleeper (formerly Pullman) space.
I just like hotels....GOOD ones. Not sleazy.
@James > Oh, maybe "We ask this in the name of Charles Darwin [add or substitute any of many, from the Stoics to Christopher Hitchens with Carl Sagan thrown in for fun]." These are my Gods.
Like you, I prefer to see atheism not regarded as a religion. This "in the name of [insert atheist]" approach just reflects their inanity. These guys were great but they're dead.
The etymology of the word "religion" is from the Latin re [again] + ligare [to link or connect, as in ligature]. So it's original meaning is to reconnect or to re-establish a connection that's been lost. To any formalist, this makes the concept a self-contradictory notion, a one-word oxymoron, because there's nothing out there to connect to. Religion, or any attempt to emulate it, is hitching your wagon to a non-existent star. Why even give an "invocation" when there's nothing to invoke? How about a nice, warm atheist welcome instead?
I loved the late "hip" comedian Lord (Richard) Buckley, who inspired everyone from Jonathan Winters to George Harrison. The Beatle met his agent, a Mr. Greif, at an airport and learned from him that Buckley lived in an old ramshackle house in Hollywood, dubbed the "Crackerbox Palace," the name of George's song about Buckley. In one of his very funny routines, the comedian began by saying, "I hope I don't insult your religion, but I worship people. I really do. I like a god I can get my hands on. I like a god I can get my brains on...." In one routine, he referred to Jesus as "the Nazz," and he wrote another one about "the Mighty Hip Einie" (Einstein). Buckley was clearly a secular humanist. I have trouble worshiping people in general, at times being downright misanthropic, but it would be easy to me to worship a freethinker, an agnostic, or a fellow atheist. And if the ancient Greek philosopher Euhemerus was right, gods are nothing more than extraordinary people granted apotheosis in death. But I agree that atheism is not a religion. In fact, by definition it is opposed to all religions. All religions have "god" in common and we have none. Even Scientology has a god: L. Ron Hubbard, aka "Old Mother Hubbard."
Makes sense as long as everyone remembers the apotheosis is all in someone's mind, unlike what happened with the Nazz and his daddy and the thousands of other gods and gremlins out there.
What?! You're calling J.C. the Nazz now? The routine is hysterically funny, like most of Buckley's stand up stuff. Another of his fans, incidentally, was the late Robin Williams. I have all of Buckley's recordings, including a "live-and-at-home" tape where you can hear the Lord telling his wife to shut off the air conditioner because it is interfering with the recording. My hands-down favorite is his "The Bad Rapping of the Marquis de Sade."