Thanks for…Nothing?


Do non-believers celebrate Thanksgiving? 


I was thinking over the past few days that – like most of our major observed holidays – Thanksgiving is inherently a Christian holiday.  The concept of giving thanks requires that one acknowledge some sort of source towards which thanks can and should be directed.


If you don’t believe in God in one shape or another, how can you be thankful in the broader, more generic sense?  How can you be thankful for your job, if you believe that you really deserve whatever wonderful position you hold?  Are you thankful for your spouse and children, or do you just assume that this is your just desserts, that you’ve earned them or somehow are entitled to them simply because of who you are and what you’ve done?


Thanksgiving is not a thanking of ourselves, after all.  There’d be little point in that.  You don’t thank yourself for just doing what you do.  Thankfulness implies that there is an alternative state, a state of lesser blessedness, and I would argue, it implies at its core that what we are thankful for is not something we have earned or deserve.  We are blessed in spite of ourselves, in spite of what we ought to receive, to the contrary of what we have actually earned.  Hence, thankfulness.  Gratitude.  Humility. 


Can you be thankful in a general sense, without a God to be thankful to?  It would seem to me that the only option would be thankfulness to specific individuals for specific things.  But frankly, without the idea of a God behind it all, it would seem that such specific, individual thankfulness would quickly dissipate into so much matter-of-fact equal exchanges.  We have our job because we are best qualified for it, and therefore there’s no reason to be thankful – our employer is simply doing what is in their best interest.  It’s an even exchange.  We have our good health because of our genetics – and since that’s nothing that can be controlled (yet), there’s no sense in being thankful.  We have our spouse because we were attractive or convicing enough to woo them successfully, which means that they are getting what they want, and it’s back to an equal exchange again. 


We don’t tend to think about these things – as Christians or otherwise.  But it’s fascinating to let the mind loose on some of these concepts that we take for granted now and then.

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