Godless Thanksgiving: Do Atheists Have Anyone to Thank?

Thanksgiving is Not a Christian or a Religious Holiday

There's a popular belief among some American Christians that the American Thanksgiving holiday is necessarily religious. Aside from the apparent desire to turn everything into an expression of their religion, the primary reason behind this seems to be the idea that the whole point must be to give thanks to their god - not any other gods, just theirs, thus making it a Christian holiday too. If this is true, then it makes no sense for non-Christians, or at least non-theists, to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Godless Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving

Hispanic granddaughter helping grandmother baste turkey
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It is undeniable that non-Christians and non-theists all over America participate in Thanksgiving observances. This proves that the insistence on the religious or Christian nature of Thanksgiving is false. It simply can't be true, but this doesn't tell us why it isn't true. For that, it must be shown that giving thanks to God is unnecessary, or senseless, or that there are others to whom we can give thanks to, or preferably all three.

We Should Give Thanks to People

There are many people whom we should thank because of how they help us either live at all or just live better. A common thread in these cases is precisely the fact that it is humans who are responsible for that for which we should be thankful, so it is humans whom we should be thanking. At no point are gods involved; even if they exist, god aren't responsible for that for which we should be thankful, so there is no point in thanking them. On Thanksgiving, don't waste time with prayers, poems about gods, or empty religious rituals. Instead, do something meaningful like talking to your children about all the human beings who work (often anonymously) to improve our lives. Stop to reflect on these people and how your life has benefited.

Giving Thanks to Farmers

Perhaps the most obvious humans to whom we might give thanks to when we eat would be the farmers responsible for providing us with the food we eat. Although massive corporations have taken over significant aspects of food production and distribution, small farmers continue to play an important role in growing, raising, and providing what we eat every day. Most people are far removed from food production and forget what's involved; maybe Thanksgiving is a good day to stop to think about this.

Giving Thanks to Soldiers and Veterans

Also commonly forgotten are the sacrifices made by those in our military. Even those who never fight in any wars still sacrifice several years of their lives to be a part of an organization which helps keep America free. The government has too often misused the American military, but disagreements about policies should not cause people to forget what our military personnel has done for us.

Giving Thanks to Doctors and Modern Medicine

It is difficult to comprehend how devastating diseases were in the recent past. It's only been in the past few decades that doctors have been able to treat infections and other conditions reliably and consistently. Most of the medicine we take for granted is of recent vintage and medical research is helping make more and more conditions treatable, if not curable. Many of us would be dead several times over if it weren't for modern medicine, a fact to be thankful for.

Giving Thanks to Engineers and Modern Technology

The technology we have today, much of which was barely imaginable less than a century ago, has both saved lives and improved the way we live. Lives are saved via medical technology, safety devices, and better protection from the elements. Our lives are enriched by things like the internet, easier travel, and new ways to create art. Technology has also created problems, but the responsibility for problems lies with us, just as does the responsibility for the solutions.

Giving Thanks to Science and Scientists

One of the defining features of our modern world is science, but too often basic science is overshadowed by the bright glow of what science produces. Science has been instrumental in improving what farmers can grow, what the military can accomplish, what doctors can treat, and what engineers can build. Science and scientists are the ones who have helped make our world more understandable and hence have improved our ability to live in it.

Giving Thanks to Friends and Family

Those listed above are usually distant from us and easy to forget, thus making it important to stop to think of them, but we should also not forget those who are closest to us and who are easiest to take for granted. No person is an island; who we are is dependent upon those around us and we should stop to give thanks to friends and family who help us, support us, and generally make life worth living for us.

Gods are Irrelevant & Thanking Gods is Insulting

Sports players should thank parents, coaches, and teammates who helped them develop their skills and thus made their victories possible. Accident survivors should thank the engineers who designed vehicles to help people survive accidents. Parents of sick children should thank medical personnel who spend hours using skills developed over a lifetime.

Thanking irrelevant gods is an insult to the people responsible for what happens to us. It says that all the time, effort, blood, sweat, and tears we expend in improving ourselves and in improving the lives of those around us are ultimately wasted because the outcome will be determined by God, regardless of what we do. Whether for good or for ill, though, our fates lie in our hands.