This is my annual Thanksgiving post (“annual” because I wrote it last year and I’m reposting it this year. It’s companion piece is over at my old place). –PalMD
It’s easy to see what Christmas means to an atheist—another day off work. What about Thanksgiving? This nominally secular holiday is practiced throughout North America by people of most faiths and cultures, and by those of no faith at all. But to whom are we giving thanks? Can “thank” be an intransitive verb?
This question falls into the same category as many ethical questions about atheism, such as “where do atheists get their morals?”, but this is a little different. First, does celebrating Thanksgiving require “giving thanks”?
I’d argue that it does not. To celebrate the joys of family, the harvest bounty, and just not working is enjoyable in and of itself. There is no moral imperative to “thank” anyone or anything. The pure joy of celebration is enough for many.
But thanking people is a good thing. It cements social bonds, creates interpersonal harmony. It’s a good idea to thank your family, your friends, and anyone else who has helped brighten your days. Why do that on one particular day? Why not? Devoting a day away from work to simply thank those around us is probably a good thing.
I am certainly not saying one should not thank God on Thanksgiving…that’s up to you. If you are one of those who believes in a deity, go for it. But remember that there are many ways to “thank” without having to believe in God. While you thank your God, you may also want to thank your atheist neighbor who, despite not fearing hellfire and damnation, returned your mower.
So happy Thanksgiving to both my loyal readers. I’ll be with my family filling my belly—heaven on Earth.