by Jesse Galef
Thanksgiving is my favorite American holiday. Its connection to religion is only peripheral so we atheists can participate easily, it celebrates one of humanity’s best attributes, and it only tangentially invokes our history of slaughtering the indigenous population (not as badly as Columbus Day, at least).
I treat Thanksgiving a bit like liberal religious individuals treat prayer. Gratitude is a powerful emotion and I find it genuinely does me good to express it. There’s real value in reflection and appreciation for the good things in life. I think PZ Myers might be missing that point…
The universe is cold and uncaring. You may be grateful that you weren’t vaporized by a meteor falling out of the sky this year, but there’s no agent out there who will feel pleased that you noticed, and the fact of your general relief that your existence continues will not be a factor in the motion of space rocks in the next year.
So don’t sit at your table and think you’re being good by warmly thanking an indifferent universe for whatever. It doesn’t care.
Right PZ, and do you walk up to people who are writing in their diaries, saying “You know that nobody’s reading that but you, right?” (Actually, I can picture that happening, though PZ would have a mischievous twinkle in his eye.) It’s not all about informing someone else that you’re thankful; it’s also about reminding yourself of all the good things in your life.
So if you’ll allow me to indulge my cheesy side… It’s true that things are not quite as I’d like them to be in my life – what with the unemployment and all – but there’s so much for which I need to give thanks. I have a wonderful girlfriend who makes me happy, a loving family who supports me in my secular quests, a great group of friends with whom I always have fun, a fascinating world around me with endless possibilities for excitement, and – in the interest of making this slightly less solemn – the opportunity to enjoy such delicious treats as basil, rosemary, and waffles (not necessarily together, although I suddenly have something I want to try…)
But I also need to thank all of you. I’ve been surprised at how nice people have been, both in comments and getting in touch with me on Facebook (it’s not too late to add me as a friend!) I never expected to get such nice messages and words of support from the atheist community, but you’ve blown me away. It always brightens my day to hear from you. Thank you.
I’ll be spending the day first playing a pickup game of football with friends then eating with my family and relatives from New York. When my grandmother was alive, she would always put us on the spot by saying “Let’s all go around the table and share something we’re thankful for.” Perhaps I should take over that role now…
How do you celebrate this high secular holiday? Do you think there’s something to it, or are we just being foolish?