Tag Archives: thanks

Appropriate thanks

With the US Thanksgiving holiday coming up I thought it worth repeating this article from 2 years back.

There are many religious ceremonies and prayers giving thanks to a god. I often think these are rude on two grounds:

  • I many case these are imposed on people who don’t share the belief in a god (consider our parliamentary prayers, Christian prayers and “grace” in a mixed social situations);
  • Thanks are directed at a mythical being while the real people responsible for theDan Dennett goodness in the world are ignored.

The later point was made by Daniel C. Dennett in his article THANK GOODNESS! In this he expressed his thanks for recovery from nine hours of serious heart surgery. It’s worth reading the full article but consider this extract: Continue reading


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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Giving thanks

I have written before about the hypocrisy and rudeness of religious ceremonies of thanks (see “Let us pray . . . “ and Thank God or Thank Goodness?). Hypocrisy because these ceremonies and prayers are often imposed on people who don’t share their belief in a god. Rudeness because they usually ignore the real people who should be thanked. I am gratified to see that several bloggers are raising the same points to mark the American Thanksgiving holiday.

Curmudgeonly Reflections in Thankfulness of an Atheist rejects the argument that “atheists have nothing to be thankful for because there is no one to be thankful to. ” Simple response – Hogwash. Atheist Ethicist deals with similar arguments in Giving thanks where thanks are due. About.com/atheism has several articles on this theme : Can Atheists Really “Give Thanks”? and Do Atheists Have Anyone to Thank?

The Digital Cuttlefish has a beautiful poem, An Atheist Gives Thanks, showing how we can replace hypocritical thanks to God with genuine and specific thanks those individuals and groups of people really responsible for things that please us and enhance our lives. Intelligent Dissent provides a simple statement Thanksgiving with the same purpose.

Marilyn La Court in her An Atheist Says Thanks expresses sincere thanks to members of her family for the way they contribute to her life.

Lets hope these demonstrations of a genuine way to give thanks have an effect. Perhaps we can look forward to a future where even religious believers will join with us to give thanks where it is really due.

Related Articles:
Thank God or Thank Goodness?
“Let us pray . . . “
Christian prayer problems
Destiny of Christian privilege?
Trends in religious belief in New Zealand
Religious diversity includes “non-believers”
Religious Diversity Statement