Who Are You Thankful For? November 22, 2008

Who Are You Thankful For?

Columnist Jim Griffith of The Times-Herald in Georgia doesn’t think atheists can have a wonderful Thanksgiving:

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.” An atheist on his deathbed faces serious uncertainties. Gazing upward, he pleads: “Oh God, if there is a God, please save my soul — if I have one.”

Apparently, we can’t be thankful for anything or anyone if God is not at the top of our list.

(Also: I’d love to know any atheist who has actually said those last words… or anything like it.)

You don’t need to thank God for anything. There are plenty of other people — living, breathing, existing people — that are truly deserving of that honor.

Who (or what) are you thankful for?

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  • Oh, you know, the same thing everyone is thankful for – good work, good friends, loved ones, health, good food.

    It’s one of the current tactics of theists to pain us atheists as unhappy. I’ve seen it spreading pretty much all over the place. They can’t say to us that we’re wrong, and increasingly they can’t even say that we’re evil, so they’ve retreated into canards about our happiness and our ability to perceive joy and the like. It’s just another way that they are working to feel superior.

  • Bull.

    I can be thankful for my parents, I can be thankful for my teachers, I can be thankful for my friends and all they do for me.

    And if I have no person to be thankful for then I can just have a state of un-anthropomorphised thankfulness and be perfectly content.

    Thanksgiving is one of my favourite holidays of the year, and not just for the food.

  • Christie

    Isn’t it just *bizarre* how they figure we can’t experience the most basic human emotions?

    I am *so* thankful to be employed right now in a time when so many people in my field are not; grateful to have so many friends and family to share life with; grateful to have had the luck to be born in a place with so much opportunity!

    And I’m grateful for the internet, which makes it possible for so many people to reach each other in ways we never could have before.

    As you point out, all of those things are made possible by *people.*

    Happy Thanksgiving! It’s my favorite holiday. 🙂

  • Richard Wade

    This is what I wrote to Jim Griffith on his website:

    Hi Jim,
    If I were to publish what unflattering things I thought you think, feel and do, without knowing anything about you at all, but pretending that somehow I have such intimate insight into your mind and heart, I think that you would be very rightly justified in calling me arrogant and slanderous.

    Not that I’m calling you that, but you really should get to know several atheists on a close and personal basis for a long time before you go telling everyone what we are like. It is apparent that you know none. Sadly, it is a common hobby among religious people to tell atheists about atheists, but to never ASK atheists about atheists. Atheists are very good at asking questions. Try it sometime. Finding out that you are wrong about some people you have misjudged can be a very liberating experience.

    Who do I thank on Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday, you ask? Well, thank you for asking, Jim.

    I gather with all my family and friends, always including those we only marginally know who otherwise would have no one with whom to celebrate. I thank all the warm and wonderful people in my life for all the love and support they have given me and have given each other. I thank them not just with two words, but with my actions to do my best to make their lives somehow better. My hands are not folded in prayer, but open and ready to help them in whatever they need. Thanksgiving is a very human holiday for me. It is the story of people who survived terrible hardship by getting over their differences and their suspicions, and helping each other simply because they were human and therefore deserved help.

    Jim, I hope you have a wonderful holiday season with your friends and family, and I hope that you can have the additional joy of learning about a large minority of good, kind, generous, moral, happy people called atheists. They’re all around you. You need only say hello with an open heart and an open mind. Your belief in God will remain intact, but your beliefs about atheists will be changed.

  • Zar

    I am thankful that there aren’t any religious nutbags in my immediate family.

  • Qrazyqat

    I’m thankful that not everyone is as dumb as Columnist Jim Griffith of The Times-Herald.

  • llewelly

    I’m thankful for Vinton Cerf, without whom we might not be reading this blog.

    And I’m thankful for Dawkins and Sagan, without whom the atheist community would be a lot smaller.

  • AxeGrrl

    Great letter Richard 🙂

    I particularly liked “My hands are not folded in prayer, but open and ready to help them in whatever they need.”

  • Karen

    And if I have no person to be thankful for then I can just have a state of un-anthropomorphised thankfulness and be perfectly content.

    I call this thanking the universe for blessings.

    It doesn’t care, but I do; and I don’t think it’s particularly anthropomorphic to shout out to the universe “thank you!” in response to good things happening. The true value of gratitude is in how it conditions the mind of the grateful to be aware and appreciative of such blessings, regardless of whether they’re bestowed by an intelligent agency.

  • Like everyone else, I am thankful for my family, my friends, my health.

    I am also thankful we live in a time when we can stand up to articles and people like this and say “No, that’s wrong” instead of just shaking our heads in silence.

  • I am thankfull for the internet and the atheists who populate part of it – without whom I would be a prisoner of religion.

    oh and Hermant ofcourse 🙂

  • It’s not Thanksgiving here in Canada, but it’s good to be thankful every day of the year probably.

    I’m thankful for the roof over my head, the food in my belly and the warm bed I can sleep in at night. Too many people in the world are missing at least one of those things.

    I’m thankful for family, for friends, for the freedom to think out loud, the luxury of having a job I enjoy.

    I’m even thankful that I breathe in and out and walk without aid and have full use of my eyes and ears and teeth. I expect as I age that’ll be something even more precious to be thankful for.

  • This one is easy! My atheist bride and I just got married on Friday!

  • I’m thankful for lots of things:

    1. The fact that my partner and I get to have a quiet Thanksgiving, just the two of us, without having to fly or drive long hours, and not beings in the midst of any drama.

    2. That I have a good job in this economy.

    3. That my partner has a really good temp job right now.

    4. That we finally have a car that doesn’t need repairs twice a month.

    5. That I have a sister who keeps me sane despite everything else.

    6. That I live in such an awesome city.

    7. Public libraries

    8. Also, public libraries

    9. That despite the USA’s flaws, I have better reproductive freedom than many nations around the world.

    10. And last but not least, my friends. (And public libraries. Which get a donation from me every year because of my gratitude)

  • being thankful and enjoying thanksgiving are two entirely different things. and i’ve hated the holiday since i was young, and ‘being able’ to thank god didn’t make it any less of a hassle.

  • I love Thanksgiving but I don’t especially give thanks on that day. I just enjoy having a relaxing day, eating comfort food, and spending time with my immediate family.

    We stopped traveling to be with the larger extended family on holidays a long time ago and it has made our lives much less stressful.

  • PrimeNumbers

    I thankful I don’t live in the USA among Christian not-jobs. I’m thankful I have a great family. I’m thankful my family are not Christian nut-jobs. I’m thankful for what health I have. If I were religious, I’d have to be annoyed and angry that the intelligent design process gave me such annoying medical faults that frustrate my life. Instead, I just get on with enjoying my life.

  • My 5-year-old son made a book of 16 people or things in his life that are thankful for other people or things. My favorite remains that his Mama (not me, but his other mother) is thankful for her coffee. Funny thing, absolutely no mention of God.

  • As a liberal Christian, I find articles like this embarrassing. Not much humility or recognition that the gifts of life are common to all. I agree with Karen, the attitude of thanksgiving, for family, for our world, etc. is the important thing.

  • Vincent

    to all the people who came before me whose hard work makes my life possible. Inventors of vaccines, other medications, the telephone, the computer. So many people before me have done so much that I am thankful for.
    Why thank some god when you can name the specific people who actually did the things you are thankful for?

  • I’m thankful for a wonderful family, great friends and a country that by design protects our right to free expression, even for witless clods like Jim Griffith.

  • MH

    Richard Wade, that was a great response thanks for taking the time to write it.

    I love Thanksgiving and it is one of the best holidays. The only requirement of the holiday is to spend time with family and friends and be thankful for what you have. It’s hard not to like that.

  • This is why on Thanksgiving, I’m not thankful for people, I am thankful to people: I send out Thank You cards this time of year to people I’m very thankful to have in my life. Why is it so difficult for people to thank individuals for their presence and deeds instead of a nameless deity?

  • Lyz

    I’m utterly disgusted by the idea that (a) thanking god is a privilege (WTF?? You have to be part of a special club to get this “bonus”???) and (b) there is absolutely no way a family could get together, enjoy a good meal and celebrate the good things that have happened over the last year unless they make a god the centerpiece of it. No wonder these people think atheism is the end of the world. And if your family is so lame that the only thing that brings you together is god, then no wonder you have that fear. Lose the god, get a life. Appreciate what you have.

  • I’m also in Canada, so our Thanksgiving was about a month ago. Still, I’m thankful for my mom, who shoulders so much responsibility in raising us kids right by herself, and my younger sister, who’s my all-time favourite person in the world. I’d also be thankful for my (part-time, sales-associate) job, which doesn’t pay great and isn’t incredibly fun, but means so much for me to have! And would it be terrible of me if I said I’m thankful for myself and all the awesome stuff I do for Number One (i.e. me)? =)

  • Óli

    I’m thankful for having been born. Most people aren’t born. I’m one of the lucky few who gets to experience human emotion.

    And I’m thankful for the elements that make those emotions a positive experience. Like my wife and kittens and the sun and learning about the world and laughing at AFV. And countless other things.

  • Nick Awesome

    I’m thankful for vegetable soup. I Freaking LOVE vegetable soup! I’d love to give a big ole bear hug to whomever invented it!

  • RobL

    Richard – I wish I could be as restrained as you are. I am afraid my response was not as ‘christian’ as yours….

  • Nancy

    Oh, this is too easy.

    1) I am thankful to my parents for raising me to be a loving, responsible, caring person.
    2) I am thankful to my sister who helped me care for my aging and ill parents for 8 years.
    3) I am thankful to my BIL who is my closest atheist friend and treats me like a sister not like a SIL.
    4) I am thankful for my friends who let me be me and not what they expect me to be.
    5) I am thankful to my headmaster for allowing me to teach at his school for my 35th year.
    6) I am thankful to my cats for loving me unconditionally (esp when I feed them on time)

  • Gabriel

    1. I am thankful for my children and that they live with me and that this year I have them for thanksgiving.

    2. I am thankful that my wife is willing to put up with me and loves my children.

    3. I am thankful that my parents don’t make us pray on thanksgiving.

    5. I am thankful that my sister is visiting from Australia with her really cool and fun husband.

    5. I am thankful for fine scotch whisky.

    6. I am thankful for the annual broadcast of Alice’s Restuarant.

    7. I am thankful for cool crisp fall days.

    8. I am thankful for pie and whipped cream.

    9. I am thankful that I have a job and a house and a car.

    10. I am thankful for Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan, the internet that allows me to interact with other atheists.

    11. I am thankful that I do not live in terror of upsetting an imaginary supernatural creature that will send me to an eternity of torture because I did something wrong even if it is only really minor.

    12. I am thankful that I was able to get custody of my children without having to hide my atheism.

  • Cathy

    There are really good reasons not to celebrate thanksgiving, like the history of racism and imperialism that it perpetuates. A number of historians attribute the origins of this holiday not to any interracial coorperation at all, but a 1637 celebration of the genocide of the Pequot people. There is basically no evidence that the thanksgiving story myth is based on fact. What we know is that as early as 1615 there was a bounty to kidnap and enslave Wampanogs. At the same time, small pox blankets and other small pox deaths killed 70% of the Wampanogs and 90% of a neighboring tribe. It was 1620 when the so called “pilgrims” arrived at plymouth. In 1621, there was an all white feast, after which two native men were brutally murdered, one of whose head was removed and placed on a stake as a symbol of white power. In 1637 there was a “thanksgiving” feast given in celebration of the genocide of the Pequot people. The governor said “This day forth shall be a day of celebration and thanksgiving for subduing the Pequots.” In 1676, colonists in Massachusetts declared a public day of thanksgiving, once again to celebrate the genocide of Native Americans.

    So, while I have many things in life that I am glad of, and I think family and community are important, I will never celebrate this disgusting holiday of genocide.

  • Christophe Thill

    I’m glad I’m not American, so I don’t have to celebrate Thanksgiving. Glad, mind you, not thankful, because there’s nobody to thank for that.

    Same as the beautiful sunshine today. I’m not thankful for it. If I had someone to thank, then that someone would also be to blame for the icy rain that was pouring yesterday. But there’s no such person: it just happens.

    But being thankful to people (well… to mammals : let’s not forget cats) is perfectly ok with me.

  • Marisa

    Apparently Mr. Griffith is not only mistaken about atheism, he also believes his own bible states that the lion will lay down with the lamb. It actually states that the wolf will lay down with the lamb.

    I feel sorry for anyone that believes anything he has to say.

    P.S. I am thankful for family, friends, my spouse, my job, and many other things that christians are thankful for. I’m just not thankful to an imaginary being for them.

  • Tim Bob

    i thought thanksgiving was about turkey and Indians??!? im confused. Smallpox blankets? eh idk i give up.

  • Anonnie Mouse

    I admit it, I laughed out loud all alone in my house when I read that article quote.

    I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my mom and dad for doin’ the nasty so that I could exist. I’d like to thank my friends for understanding and accepting me just as I am, my spouse for his love and honesty, and my children for being completely awesome. I am thankful that I have enough food to eat, a roof over my head, and live in a relatively peaceful place, so that my family can be safe. I am thankful for both my health as well as the health of my family members. I am thankful for having a creative mind. I am thankful for quick wit and that little smile my spouse gives me when I catch him looking at me out of the corner of my eye.

    No deities necessary. Besides, if we want to explore the real roots of Turkey Day, we should be giving thanks to the corn maidens and such, and call it what it is: Potlatch.

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