An atheist state legislator opened Tuesday afternoon’s session of the Arizona House of Representatives with an invocation in which he asked his colleagues to not bow their heads, referred to his secular humanist beliefs, and quoted Carl Sagan. Miraculously, no one shouted “You lie!” or even walked out in response to the invocation by state Rep. Juan Mendez, a Tempe Democrat elected in 2012. For that matter, we have not yet been able to find any examples online of wingnuts citing Mendez’s invocation as proof that America is over, although we suspect this may change as the story hits the wire services. So for the moment, let’s just enjoy the awesomeness of what Mendez had to say … but yeah, we’re keeping an eye on Bryan Fischer’s Twitter, too.
Mendez opened with a request that acknowledged that he’d be departing from the usual script, and went on to remind his colleagues in the House that for all the invocations of an invisible skyman, representative government depends on the people you can see when you’re not bowing your head:
“Most prayers in this room begin with a request to bow your heads. I would like to ask that you not bow your heads. I would like to ask that you take a moment to look around the room at all of the men and women here, in this moment, sharing together this extraordinary experience of being alive and of dedicating ourselves to working toward improving the lives of the people in our state.
This is a room in which there are many challenging debates, many moments of tension, of ideological division, of frustration. But this is also a room where, as my secular humanist tradition stresses, by the very fact of being human, we have much more in common than we have differences. We share the same spectrum of potential for care, for compassion, for fear, for joy, for love.”
The invocation closed with a quote from Carl Sagan: “For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.” Excuse us for a moment, we seem to be doing that thing where we think about Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot” speech and have to start dabbing at our eyes for some reason.
The Arizona Republic reports that “House lawmakers appeared to have no reaction to Mendez’s remarks,” which is a definite improvement over “It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.”
Following the invocation, Mendez introduced members of the Secular Coalition for Arizona who had somehow been allowed into the gallery and noted that he was among the estimated 1.3 million Arizonans who are not affiliated with any religion, saying “I hope today marks the beginning of a new era in which Arizona’s nonbelievers can feel as welcome and valued here as believers.”
We now return you to your regularly scheduled real world, where Wolf Blitzer was surprised that a survivor of the Oklahoma tornadoes didn’t “thank the Lord” for not being among the 24 people the Lord apparently ignored.