Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Who does the atheist thank?

Austin Cline has a great entry about atheists and a “godless” Thanksgiving.

Last part of Cline’s article at About.com:

A Godless Thanksgiving, Because Gods are Irrelevant:

There are an awful lot of people to whom we should give thanks, all because of their responsibility in helping us either to live at all or to simply live better. A common thread in all of these cases is precisely the fact that it is humans who are responsible for that for which we should be thankful, and therefore it is humans whom we should be thanking. At no point are gods involved in any way. Gods are irrelevant because, even if they exist, they aren’t responsible for that for which we should be thankful, thus there is no point in thanking them.

We find something similar in other situations where people thank god. Sports players thank gods when they should be thanking their parents, coaches, and teammates who have helped them develop their skills and thus made their victories possible. People thank God when they survive an accident when they should be thanking the engineers who have designed planes and cars to help people survive accidents. People thank God that their child has survived a medical condition when they should be thanking the doctors and nurses who created the treatments and spent hours using skills developed over a lifetime.

Thanking irrelevant gods is ultimately an insult to the humans who are genuinely responsible for what happens to us. It suggests 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, our fates lie in our hands — whether a problem is caused by us or by circumstances beyond our control, we must take responsibility for solving them.

Next 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 (generally anonymously) to improve our lives. Stop to reflect on these people and how your life has benefited.


CyberKitten said...

Nice....... Not that we *have* Thanksgiving over here... but nice nevertheless....

Butch said...

Nice. I said something similar in my most recent newspaper column: http://butchbailey.com/?p=620

Surprisingly, the response wasn’t all that bitter. Maybe after almost a year of atheist related article the offensiveness of an atheist writing in the paper has worn off.

tina said...

My sentiments exactly.