Hey all! Thanks for welcoming me as a contributor to Hemant’s site. I’m excited to be part of the team. As many of you know I am a Christian pastor that has been participating in the conversations here for over a year now. I have a great respect for atheists, and while I obviously don’t always agree with all your perspectives, I have found that the questions you have raised about my faith have been invaluable to me in refining and improving my own beliefs and (more importantly) my attitudes towards others.
While I’ll be posting here once or twice a week on any variety of topics, one idea I have for a recurring theme is a series of “Questions for Atheists”. Back in May I did an “Ask a Christian Pastor” Q&A series where you all got to ask me questions about my approach to faith. (I’d advise going back and re-reading my answers if you haven’t already. I think you’ll find that I probably don’t fit many of the usual atheist stereotypes of Christians. You can also find out more about me at my blog: Emerging Pensees) Now I’d like to turn the tables, so to speak, and take the opportunity to ask you guys some questions. Many times as I’m reading or pondering things I tend to wonder “what would my atheist friends think about this idea?” I’m interested in learning more about how you view the world, and maybe even offering a little push-back occasionally.
However, I feel like I should give a disclaimer. I know many of you have probably encountered Christians who weren’t really interested in your views but were just asking so they could set you up for an evangelistic pitch or to try and win an argument. Let me assure that this is not at all my intent. I have no ulterior motives. I’m not setting you up, or asking leading questions merely to prove a point. I really am genuinely interested in your answers. Please interpret my questions in the same spirit of open, friendly dialogue with which I intend them.
Anyhow, here’s my first question: yesterday was Thanksgiving, which is one of the few major secular holidays in the United States. While the founding of the holiday often does involve a story of Christians fleeing religious persecution in Europe, in truth, one need not have any religious commitments to join in the spirit of thankfulness that this day commemorates. And I think religious and atheists alike can agree that thankfulness is a virtue that all of us would do well to cultivate. But I do have two questions – the first is simple, what are you thankful for? What good things (what we Christians call “blessings”) have been a part of your life this past year? In my family our tradition has been to go around the Thanksgiving table and share our answers to that question together. I’d like us to do that together here too.
But the second question is a little more complicated: who (or what) are you thankful to? Christians tend to thank God for our blessings since we believe that all good things ultimately flow from him (though of course we also give thanks to all the intermediaries along the way too – the people in our lives who are often the direct source of the blessings). Who do atheists thank? Obviously if the blessings come from other people you can thank them, but what about the other things that many of us are also thankful for but which can’t be attributed to particular people? What about things like good health, fortunate financial circumstances, life and liberty and happiness, etc.? Do you thank nature? Circumstances? No one in particular? Or does it even make sense for an atheist to be “thankful” for such things? Perhaps you should simply feel “glad” but not “thankful” per se. I’m just curious how you all think about that. How do you say thanks for those sorts of things?
At any rate, I hope you had a great Thanksgiving and I want you to know that I am personally thankful for this blog community.