Atheists Giving Thanks

It’s apparently a popular meme, on Twitter anyway, for theists, usually Christians, to say that atheists have no one to thank for the good in their lives. Apparently, this cliché was made popular by a blogger Joey Nelson on his Spiritual Questions Blog, or so I learned from About. He wrote:

Perhaps, in an unguarded moment, an atheist will look up this Thanksgiving and say, “Thank you” to the One who has made their life possible. Otherwise, the thing about atheism is that you have no One to thank.

When I see this cliché, I laugh. On Thanksgiving, my family always has turkey dinner. It takes days to prepare, and of course we have to buy all of the food with our own money that we worked to earn. We make the food ourselves. Why should I tank anyone but ourselves? (to be fair, being a child, I didn’t contribute financially, and most of the work preparing the meal was done by my mother. So when I say “we”… ) And if I’m with my family, I need not look up, but across the table to thank the people who made my life possible.

Meanwhile, around the world, people continue to starve to death, and suffer in numerous other ways. Why the hell would I thank a god?

I remember, when attending my brother’s Marine Corps boot camp graduation, listening to the Chaplain speak over the microphone. He told everyone to bow their heads is prayer. I remember feeling so angry as I listened to him thank his god for the work of others. I was there that day because I was proud of my brother for HIS accomplishment, because it was his. Yet here there was a chaplain giving thanks and praise, not the new marines for their accomplishment, not the drill instructors for their training and leadership, but to his own god, his imaginary friend.

For me, this was a repeat episode. Different characters, different setting, same story. The same exact thing happened had two years earlier at my own graduation from Army Basic Training and again at our redeployment ceremony when we returned from Iraq. Each time, someone else was thanked for our own achievements, someone we were instructed to thank as well.
As if that itself wasn’t outrageous enough, this someone isn’t even real. I was, on each of these occasions, feeling very much insulted.

I, as an atheist was not left with no one to thank. I had my leadership, the soldiers to my left and right, my family and friends, and myself. Without religion, I was still able to thank someone, I just thanked the right people. I was able and willing to give credit where it was due. If you’re a believer and you’re happy about an occurrence other than a natural phenomenon (like weather, which requires no thanks) and you want to thank someone, ask yourself, is there really no human being responsible who it would be appropriate to thank?

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving.

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Posted on 2011/11/23, in Army, Atheism, Diary, Humanism, Religion, Thanks and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Hello ! I just discovered you blog with the childfree article and I totally agree with you.
    But this article really talks to me.
    Just like you, I don’t understand how can people thank their god for something made by other people.
    A few years ago, my great grand mother died. When I was a child, I spent all my holidays in her farm and I loved her a lot.
    During the funeral, the priest said that she had been a good christian her whole life and that we should all be happy that she would be with god now.
    I was really mad when I heard that because for me she was not a good christian, she was my great grand mother and she thaught me a lot of things and I wasn’t happy that she would be with god.
    Anyway, I like what you wrote and completely understand you !

    • Julie Was Here

      I’m sorry to hear about your great grand mother.

      I always get annoyed when people say that so-and-so is “with god” or has “gone to a better place.” To me, that’s like telling a kid that their beloved pet has gone off to live with a nice farm family. Only it’s worse because you’re talking about a person. As an atheist, I would be very insulted if anyone said anything like that to me.

  2. Joey Nelson’s capitalization of “One” leads me to wonder when he’ll start referring to his worshipee as his “Precious”.

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