Thanks

I recently attended a celebratory dinner with members of my extended family. Inevitably such gatherings include people with widely different philosophical religious beliefs. That’s just a fact of our democratic, pluralist and secular society today.

I know this particular gathering included people who would have described themselves as Christian, Catholic, ‘Born Again’ agnostic and atheist (me). And there were probably people present who would have answered to other labels. However, we all enjoyed ourselves and were able to communicate without problems. Specifically no-one imposed their own specific religious beliefs on the group as a whole.

This inclusive atmosphere was encouraged by the specific way we gave thanks for our meal. Instead of a Christian ‘grace’ which is sometimes imposed in such situations a non-religious form of thanks was given.

We expressed thanks for those who prepared and presented our food. And to the people who grew and transported the food.

Everybody seemed to think this was a great way of handling the situation. After all – why should we not thank these people.

The only group I would have added to list of people to thank are the scientists who through their efforts help us to produce this food.

Daniel Dennett provided another example of this approach when he gave thanks to those responsible for saving his life when he was hospitalised with heart problems (see Thank God or Thank Goodness?).

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11 responses to “Thanks

  1. I know the feeling. I once attended a dinner with a scientist couple I know, only to be asked to hold hands in a circle for grace! Caught me quite off-guard 🙂 I can see their want to, but I think its perhaps kinder on the visitor to offer them an excuse not to have to (“you have to do this if you don’t want…”)

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  2. This is when people begin to realize that secularism =/= atheism. Great story (you should submit it to the Humanist Symposium).

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  3. What does the “=/=” symbol mean? (I’m left wondering if you are saying that secularism equals atheism or that it does not equal atheism)

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  4. Thanks for the suggestion Ian -I’ll submit it and see what happens.
    Damian the = symbol with the diagonal slash is used for not equal to. But it’s hard to do it with the normal characters on the keyboard and =/= does look a bit funny. There is a character (unicode 0xB9) in the symbol font but I don’t know how you get this into a comment.

    Do you know a way to use such characters in comments?

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  5. @3: I think he means does not equals-?? He could have written that !=, which might be more recognisable to some computer programmers (‘!’ is usually treated as ‘not’ in logic). English might have been better still! 🙂

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  6. ≠ ?

    My post crossed, obviously!

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  7. OK – how did you do it?

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  8. Are you on a Mac or PC? On a Mac, I’ve memorised the main short-cuts that I find useful. On a Mac, ≠ is alt + = (typed at the same time).

    Others (have to show off…), e.g. é ü ø ˚ (degree) Å (angstroms unit) can all be typed in a similar fashion.

    Most of the Greek characters, relational symbols, units and “accent” marks associated with some languages have shortcuts.

    You can look up Character Palette to get the full sets, including those without shortcuts. There is also some way to type in Japanese, etc., like this.

    This only works if the page supports Unicode, not all do. (HTTP headers control this aspect, or are supposed to anyway.)

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  9. Ahhhh, I see. I’m a programmer and we use != to indicate inequality so the other symbol threw me. Cheers.

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  10. @ Heraclides:

    I’m on a PC. Usually I just use the Character Map facility so don’t have a list of keystrokes handy.
    Problem is that the Symbol font characters don’t copy over correctly. Maybe they aren’t Unicode.

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  11. Pingback: Humanist Symposium #27 « This humanist

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