Skepticism

On Thankfulness

It’s that time of year again, when we red-blooded Americans gather with family and friends around the table (or the television) to stuff our faces in celebration of everything we have to be thankful for. It is a uniquely American holiday: the perfect embodiment of our “because we can” attitude layered over a highly mythologized story about two groups of people sharing resources. We’re thankful that we have food on our tables, thus we revel in that fact by eating ourselves into food comas. I’m no exception. I mock lovingly.

What exactly is this thing we call thankfulness anyway? What’s it about? Why is it so important? More to the point, who or what are we thanking? Does it matter?

For theists, the answer to these questions is fairly straightforward: God. But what about us godless types? PZ linked to a nearly incomprehensible op ed piece the other day in which the writer expressed pity for atheists due to this lack of someone to thank, assuming that ours must be an empty and thankless existence. I beg to differ.

Personally, I’m much more comfortable with the idea of expressing joy that I’ve been fortunate enough to thrive (or even exist at all) in this vast and random universe than the idea that I exist or thrive on the whim of a capricious god who could take it all away in an instant if I’m not properly thankful. I don’t try to pretend that there is anything innate in me separating me from a person starving somewhere in the developing world. I happened to be born into better circumstances.

To me, thankfulness is all about humility. It’s the acknowledgement that nothing we have in life is purely the result of our own actions: there’s always at least a tiny bit (and sometimes a ton) of luck involved. Whether or not the object of my thanks is a conscious being is irrelevant.

Ours is a precarious existence, and tomorrow is never a guarantee. This is an experience shared by all people, and I think it can be a powerful tool for unification. As you sit down to eat today, with family and friends who may or may not share your worldview, enjoy what you have and remember one thing: we are all in this together.

Oh, one more thing. Because I’m thankful for all of you, here’s a little token of appreciation.
*Warning: nsfw, violence and nudity.

Thanksgiving Trailer

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Related Articles

7 Comments

  1. It is a uniquely American holiday….

    Well, it’s not actually. We in Canada have a Thanksgiving Day do too. Different day; different cause; same idea. Grenada also has a Thanksgiving Day, though its function, purpose, and cause are at some variance to the North American version.

    I must say I’m not too sure about this idea of thanking Nature for being Nature, chance for chance, and so forth.

    Why thank something for which the very concept of “thanks” is beyond meaningless? I mean, to be thankful do we not require some “thing” to be thankful to? Or more importantly wouldn’t we require the experience of having, through the intercession of “something”, successfully bypassed, overcome, or otherwise avoided some lesser experience for which we are grateful to have avoided?

    Perhaps not.

    As for expressing joy (relief?) for not being born into one of the multitude of terrible places that so many billions do get born into, I’m down with that for sure. Many heavy sighs of relief for not sprouting out in Outer Mongolia, for example.

    There but for the grace of chance go us, and so forth. And for that I am truly relieved, but not thankful, no I don’t think so. After all, there is no one there to thank.

    All that being said, I would like to add to those who are joyfully practicing the good fortune to be able overeat today, have a great time, overdo it, don’t forget the pie, and sleep well.

  2. Grindhouse=WIN! I heard they’re thinking of making a full length, btw.

    I’m in Oklahoma. Some of my Indian pals have a slightly different look at the holiday and have a different greeting for it, which I give to you…

    Happy Indigenous Holocaust!

  3. Happy Thanksgiving to you , and everyone , reading this as well.

    The mythology of Thanksgiving is just that – an Anerican myth. I prefer Greek mythology myself – it’s much cooler.

    I must admit that I don’t give thanks to anyone specifically on this holiday. I’m thankful that it’s a five day weekend ( my day off is Wednesday ) , I guess. I LOVE that it’s a time spent with family and friends. Any vacation, time off, or holiday that allows me to spend qulaity time with those I cherish is something I’m always thankful for.

  4. “…a nearly incomprehensible op ed piece the other day in which the writer expressed pity for atheists due to this lack of someone to thank, assuming that ours must be an empty and thankless existence.”

    Perhaps it was incomprehensible precisely because the author was trying to stitch together all the bogus claims, lies , distortions and half-truths that the churches feed to the faithful about atheists? :-D

  5. @SicPreFix:
    “Why thank something for which the very concept of “thanks” is beyond meaningless? I mean, to be thankful do we not require some “thing” to be thankful to? Or more importantly wouldn’t we require the experience of having, through the intercession of “something”, successfully bypassed, overcome, or otherwise avoided some lesser experience for which we are grateful to have avoided?”

    Maybe you are looking a little too deep at this. I think that you can take time to be happy and grateful for what you have achieved and the benefits you enjoy without objectifying it.
    You can look at where you are in life and feel the pleasure of having overcome obstacles and personal disasters with determination and hard work to arrive at the here and now. Perhaps consider it a time to reflect on what has gone before, take some pleasure from the struggles and accomplishments that got you this far, and look to the future in the hope of helping others to reach the level you currently occupy in life.

    @Justin: Having lived in areas where I had Native-American friends, I can understand their point of view. Unfortunately, humans did that to each other and still do. One of our less honorable characteristics is the tendency to prey on our own kind. It’s one of the many, many bloody handprints on human history, and one that personally makes me despair for our long-term future.

    I doubt that there is any ethnic group in history that has not been preyed upon by other groups at one point. The Native-American genocide was only one of the more recent in history. I don’t know how (or even if it is possible) to heal the wounds after all this time. That’s way above my pay grade, so to speak.

    Yesterday, I sat with my wife and a few good friends (and six Shelties, three cats, etc.) and enjoyed a good meal and a fun time. That time and the wealth that allowed it came from the collective work of our society. I think that’s something I can be thankful and grateful for without hauling in some archaic deity. No, many did not/could not share that kind of time yesterday. That should be both a shame and a challenge to us all.

Leave a Reply

You May Also Enjoy

Close
Close