LAKE WORTH, Fla. — An atheist recently led a Florida commission meeting in “prayer” to a variety of entities from across the spectrum of religions, invoking the names of Mother Earth, Allah, Zeus, Satan and Krishna in addition to Jesus.
As Preston Smith stepped to the podium to deliver the invocation on Dec. 2, a number of commissioners stepped out of the room so they would not be participants in what was about to take place. Mayor Mayor Pam Triolo also left the room as well, but told local television station WPTV that she did not do so because Smith is an atheist, but rather because he had mocked Scripture on Twitter earlier this year and did not wish to hear what he might say next.
“Free speech works both ways,” Triolo told the outlet. “You can say what you want and I can choose to leave.”
As Smith observed the mayor and three commissioners leave the room, he commented, “Duly noted,” and then proceeded with his statements.
“Our collective atheism, which is to say, loving empathy, scientific evidence, and critical thinking, leads us to believe that we can create a better, more equal community without religious divisions,” he said. “May we pray together.”
“Mother Earth, we gather today in your redeeming and glorious presence, to invoke your eternal guidance in the universe, the original Creator of all things,” Smith begins his invocation. “May the efforts of this council blend the righteousness of Allah with the all-knowing wisdom of Satan.”
“May Zeus, the great God of justice, grant us strength tonight. Jesus might forgive our shortcomings while Buddha enlightens us through His divine affection,” he continued. “We praise you, Krishna, for the sanguine sacrifice that freed us all. After all, if Almighty Thor is with us, who can ever be against us?”
Smith then scorned the concept of Heaven and Hell and urged adherence to humanistic attempts to define right from wrong.
“And finally, for the bounty of logic, reason, and science, we simply thank the atheists, agnostics, Humanists, who now account for one in five Americans, and [are] growing rapidly,” he stated. “In closing, let us, above all, love one another, not to obtain mythical rewards for ourselves now, hereafter, or based on superstitious threats of eternal damnation, but rather, embrace secular-based principles of morality —and do good for goodness’ sake.”
“And so we pray,” Smith concluded. “So what?”
After discussion ensued in the days that followed about those that chose to walk out on the invocation, atheist and blogger Chaz Stevens, known for erecting a Festivus Pole made of beer cans at the Florida Capitol Rotunda, submitted a request to lead a prayer to Satan at a future meeting.
“My name is Chaz Stevens, father of the Pabst Blue Ribbon Festivus Pole,” he wrote. “I’d like permission to give a Satanic, yes Satan, invocation at an upcoming City Commission meeting. Everyone is welcome to sing along, or as is the recent case when Miami atheist activist Preston Smith gave the invocation, like Elvis, they can leave the building.”
Some believe that the atheists are seeking to present these types of invocations at commission and council meetings to make a point that if Christian prayers are allowed, all other religions must be given time as well.