The good in godlessness

Extolling secular ideals that lead to a strong democracy

George Gold is president of the Atheists of Butte County and coordinator of the Butte County Coalition of Reason. For more info, visit

On Jan. 6, I was honored to make history locally by delivering the Chico City Council’s first-ever secular invocation. At the beginning of the meeting, however, two council members, Sean Morgan and Andrew Coolidge, chose not to attend the invocation.

Based upon statistics from the Pew Research Center, there are 17,600 Chico residents living secular lives. That means Morgan and Coolidge turned their backs on 20 percent of Chico’s population.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Greece v. Galloway made it unlikely that government-sponsored prayers before a meeting will cease any time soon. But the decision clearly indicates that delivering invocations must be inclusive of all perspectives, and, since that time, cities across the country have begun including secular invocations.

It’s unfortunate that two of Chico’s City Council members appear to be so closed that they couldn’t sit through a three-minute uplifting secular invocation. Perhaps next time, if they choose to attend, they’ll learn something about how we in the secular community live.

For example, our group is starting its third year of sponsoring an Adopt-a-Highway project just south of town on Highway 99. The other day, one of our signs was vandalized. Some people have actually asked me if scrawling “Pray For” underneath our name (meaning Pray for Atheists) on the sign isn’t an act of free speech. Really? Wanna get a sign that says “Pray for Atheists”? Well, get out there, clean up the highway and get your own sign. Otherwise, it’s vandalism.

All across our world there is sectarian violence—people are being killed under the guise of religious beliefs. Meanwhile, there is still a disconnect regarding atheists. Whether it’s Paris or Sydney, none of the recent terrorist attacks were committed by an atheist. Not one. Did you know that the U.S. prison population for atheists is less than one-tenth of 1 percent? Here at home, most of our own American democratic systems have flourished over the past 100 years in a predominately neutral and nonsectarian environment.

Societies across the globe are learning that when reason, logic and justice prevail, so too does democracy. Humanists, nonbelievers, agnostics and atheists by their very nature believe that we have the power to solve all problems within ourselves, among ourselves. By applying science and reason together with the strength found in sympathy and compassion we can overcome any hurdle we encounter.