I’ve been asked a zillion times, and nearly always accusingly, who I feel grateful to. I’m an atheist…so apparently, the reasoning goes, I can’t be thankful for stuff.
Sometimes it feels like an interrogation…
Where is my gratitude for all my stuff, for the experience of every day, for the beauty I see in the blessings I experience?
It’s a really strange question if you think about it, because it has such a simple, obvious answer:
I thank people.
I mean, when I sit and eat a meal, I’m not thinking about God miraculously making it appear on my plate. Because — well, let’s be real. That’s not how it happened. A lot of people put their blood, sweat, and tears into making that food possible. THEY deserve all the credit for the food that’s on my plate. Nonexistent deities doesn’t deserve one iota.
Honestly, when you think about it…it’s kinda rude to thank God for getting you to a destination safely, or getting that job, or buying that house. No, I’m not saying that you’re thinking it’s rude, Christians, and I’m not saying that YOU’RE rude when you do — at least, not in spirit. I’m sure you’re a decent person who is trying to do the right thing by being grateful to your imaginary friend. This isn’t a guilt trip…but in all fairness, I probably have the right to a guilt trip, considering all the times people have tried to guilt me for deciding not to pray.
Just take this thought at face value, and think about whether it makes sense.
In spite of the fact that the United States is 70% percent Christian, I see a major gratitude deficit among quite a few people who thank God profusely for everything they have. The people who thank God for their McDonald’s food, but argue regularly that the guy working there hardly deserves minimum wage because of the supposed uselessness of their labor…which made the burger in their hands. Those who are thankful to God for their new job, but vote in ways that snatch pay out of the hands of the teachers who busted their asses trying to get them there. The people who thank God for a great vacation, and then turn right around and demean the many people, from the garbage collector to the immigrant who wiped the hotel floors, who made such a pleasant trip possible.
When I think about it…it just seems like people are paying a LOT of respect to God that really belongs elsewhere.
It’s just strange that you’re thanking a nonexistent God instead of the people who did the actual work. For you.
The gratitude doesn’t belong to you.
It belongs to the people who are actually doing the work.
I mean…even when I was a Christian, I kinda appreciated it when people went beyond just “thank you God,” and started praising at least one person who made the food possible.
But what if we took God out altogether, and in that void, we put the people who made each of our experiences possible? Wouldn’t our sense of gratitude run over?
How much more connected to each other would we feel? How much more grateful for each other would we be? It would be a whole paradigm shift. Instead of thinking that you have a natural right to everything you have because God, and that natural right allows you to take a crap on everyone who worked hard to make what “God” has “given” you possible, you would have to realize that you have what you have because other people made it possible, and the gratitude you show belongs to them and only them.
So you see, hopefully, why I get confused when other people are confused about where atheists put their thanks.
The switch could make for a more beautiful, full, complete, connected life — and not just for you. For the people that change helps you to love and see deeper value in. For the work you have found new thankfulness in.
I dunno. Just a thought to think about.
Thanks for reading.
PS: Speaking of thanking people, I want to thank all 35 of my patrons for supporting my writing. I deeply appreciate it.