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If you watched the inauguration earlier this month, then, like me, perhaps you thought the most memorable part of it was the poem read by Amanda Gorman.

Writer Kate Cohen loved that segment, too, and she writes in the Washington Post that Gorman’s piece had an added benefit: It showed how spoken words could be emotional, powerful, patriotic, and uplifting… without being a prayer.

The formal benediction and invocation were full of lofty language about God, but Gorman’s piece, while including religious references, achieved the intended effect without centering itself around anything supernatural.

… Delivered with clarity and conviction, it enlisted scripture both biblical (Micah) and theatrical (Miranda). It acknowledged the darkness that surrounds us and called on us to press on, to face the many tasks that remain to us as Americans:

“When day comes, we step out of the shade / Aflame and unafraid / The new dawn blooms as we free it / For there is always light / If only we’re brave enough to see it / If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

Gorman’s poem didn’t mention God. But in its incantatory power and its grandeur of vision, in speaking to and for each of us congregated in that moment, it was a prayer indeed.

All the more reason future events like the inauguration should just have more poets and fewer priests. (This applies to everything, really).

Cohen, by the way, has written other pieces about atheism in unexpected places.

Hemant Mehta is the founder of, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.