Opinion: Praying for rain common among Southwestern tribes

"Last week, such atheist hysteria reached a peak when Tom Flynn, executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism, publicly over-reacted to remarks made at a press conference by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. In speaking about the devastating drought now facing farmers in the Midwest, the worst in 25 years, the Secretary, who was raised a Roman Catholic, struck a tone both emphatic and personal.

“I get on my knees every day,” he said, “and I’m saying an extra prayer right now. If I had a rain prayer or a rain dance, I would do it.”

Flynn came out churlishly swinging. About Vilsack’s statement, he said, “that’s not just government entangling itself with religion, that’s government publicly practicing it, and wallowing in superstition.” Besides, he added (rather meanly), prayer doesn’t work.

Rain prayers are especially potent among desert dwellers; in the arid Southwest, Native Americans have for thousands of years made prayers, songs, and dances for rain and they continue to do so today.

“Thence throw you misty water,” goes the “Rain Magic Song,” of the Pueblo Indians, “all round about us here.”

Before they make such supplications, says Tony Chavarria, curator of ethnology at Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe, Pueblo Indians are taught to “look within yourself, your community to see what needs to be repaired, what you can to make yourself and your community a more balanced place so the deities will be more willing to convey that blessing.”"

Get the Story:
Lisa Miller: Praying for rain: Atheist critics show how petty and small-minded they’ve become (The Washington Post 7/27)

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