Who Do Atheists Thank on Thanksgiving?

November 24, 2008 | By | 2 Replies More

I read this post by FriendlyAtheist, and thought that I’d expand on it. It cites an op-ed by Jim Griffith in Georgia:

Thanksgiving must be a terrible time for atheists. They have no God to thank.

They do not have the privilege of gathering with family and friends to express gratitude by saying: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”

Indian GiverThink about it. The Pilgrims were indebted to and grateful to the (arguably atheist) Indians for life itself. They couldn’t admit that. So they thanked their sky-daddy instead. This mindset is still here. If something good happens, thanks be to deity. If something bad happened, either it was because of sin, or just Mysterious Ways (woo-oo).

So who do Atheists have to thank for a warm home, loving family, and bountiful harvest?

How about the builders, the farmers, and all the other human agents who work together to make it all happen? We’re thankful for the bounty we have because of human discovery. We honor the massively useful inventions that came about not because of, but in spite of Biblical wisdom. Like plaster walls that finally banished fleas from homes. Like glass that lets in light but keeps out wind. Like cast iron radiators or rolled sheet metal air ducts to keep us warmer than any fireplace, or even for the design of smokeless fireplaces from the 1780’s. Blessed be those warmongers who needed nitrates and financed the research into producing fertilizer from fossil fuels, now feeding millions from land that otherwise supports only thousands. May the herdsmen be blessed for breeding bigger turkeys, and the modern farmers and butchers for doing the dirty work of converting lively social birds into ready-to-bake yummy feasts (as seen behind the Palin video).

May we be thankful to the loggers and sawyers and miners and smelters and fabricators and architects and builders and waste haulers and truckers who made our homes? Shall we thank the tired-footed cashiers who scan our endless bounty, and handle tens of thousands of dollars a day and only take home minimum wage?

Whom can atheists thank for our health? Could it be the sanitation engineers whose efforts alone reduced the death rate in the First World by 90%? How about the advances in medicine in the last century alone, with germ theory, antisepsis, sulfonimide, penicillin, vaccines, and other God-defying discoveries? These gave another 50% of us extended life beyond the sanitation advantage. Less than a century ago, life expectancy in the U.S. was in the late 40’s for those who had already survived childhood!

I’m second generation probably-would’ve-died without modern medicine. I cry hallelujah to those discoverers who refused to accept “God’s will” and followed the implications of Darwin and Pasteur.

May we atheists give thanks to our ancestors, all the way back? To those clans who survived because they were more sociable, to those monkeys who learned to stand upright and walk, to those rodents who hibernated and scavenged though the K-T winter while all but the small, feathered saurians died out.

Let’s give thanks to our more recent ancestors, who migrated out of the drying Eden (Sahara) and persevered to populate the entire world long before the written word was invented. I even would go so far as to thank God, as the obsessive hallucination that drove some of my ancestors to migrate all around the fertile crescent for generations and eventually write the books that now cause us atheists so much trouble.

So, who would you other atheists thank?


Category: American Culture, Bigotry, Communication, Current Events, Religion, Science, Technology

About the Author ()

A convoluted mind behind a curly face. A regular traveler, a science buff, and first generation American. Graying of hair, yet still verdant of mind. Lives in South St. Louis City. See his personal website for (too much) more.

Comments (2)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    I realize that we are supposed to "thank" others, given that it is "Thanksgiving." I do go out of my way to thank many of the people who, over the past year have offered random acts of kindness. There are hundreds of them who have affected me through their admirable actions over the past year.

    Although I "thank" real life-humans for their persistence, their kindness, their fortitude, courage, sensitivity, and good humor, I don't claim to "thank" any person or entity I can't actually see or hear.

    Instead, I do "appreciate" my fortunate situation. I am extraordinarily lucky to still be alive on this oftentimes chaotic planet and to have this opportunity to tap these words into this comment. I'm even more lucky that others might actually read it. I might not be alive today, or I wouldn't be the person I turned out to be, except that hundreds of other people stepped forward and showed that they cared.

    I also appreciate that the younger version of myself took care of things years ago, so that the older version of myself had a better chance at a better life.

    I appreciate that many great writers and thinkers took the time to write down their ideas carefully, so that I had a chance to learn from them.

    I very much appreciate my own family. How is it that they are so willing to repeatedly forgive me my passion to so often contemplate the world?

    This year, I especially appreciate those many people out there who have shown me that sitting around and thinking and writing is not enough–that we each need to get socially involved in making the world a better place, (even those of us who are introverts!). This year, I had the great opportunity to see, up close, many Christians being truly Christian and many humanists being truly Humanist.

    The experiences I have had this year need to be expressed in a battle cry to shape next year: This coming year is the year in which we must all continue to DO. Faith, hope, insight and gentle thoughts are nothing at all until they take root and improve the lot of one or more people.

    These are the lessons to come to mind at the moment. With more time, though, I could write many thousands of words. I am truly one of the luckiest people alive.

  2. Tim Hogan says:

    Erich, thank you for your patience and friendship. Be just. Do good.

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