There's a great editorial on CNN entitled, "Why must the nation grieve with God?" It discusses the apparent expectation that whenever there is a national tragedy, we must all come together to pray. From the editorial:
"Why must it be a natural expectation that any such national tragedy will be accompanied by prayers, including from the president, to at least one version of the very God, who apparently in his infinite wisdom, decided to call 20 children between the age of 6 and 7 home by having them slaughtered by a deranged gunman in a school that one hopes should have been a place or nourishment, warmth and growth?
"We are told the Lord works in mysterious ways but, for many people, to suggest there might be an intelligent deity who could rationally act in such a fashion and that that deity is worth praying to and thanking for 'calling them home' seems beyond the pale...
"...the question that needs to be asked is why, as a nation, do we have to institutionalize the notion that religion must play a central role at such times, with the president as the clergyman-in-chief?"
Exactly. No one would argue that many people derive comfort from their religion in times of grief. But having the president offer prayers, without even acknowledging that some of us don't worship a deity, is more annoying than comforting. The endless discussion of religion in the media doesn't help, either. Some members of the families of the victims may not be religious, and there are certainly nonreligious people in America trying to come to grips with this tragedy. Offering some thoughts of a more humanistic nature might help comfort them. Offering religion up as the only possible consolation doesn't.