Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Giving Thanks. . . . For What?

Last Wednesday, on Thanksgiving Eve, two of my co-workers were having a chat when one of them responded to Thanksgiving well-wishes by calling the holiday "stupid." Wha?!?!? Surely not Thanksgiving. Everyone loves Thanksgiving. You can complain that we don't get a day off to celebrate what America's veterans have done for us or why we celebrate a day in honor of some Irish guy or even that Christmas is a religious holiday that doesn't affect anyone who doesn't prescribe to a certain set of beliefs. But come on, you can't have a beef with Thanksgiving. Only turkey! (Ed.'s note: Sorry.)

My co-worker feels that he has nothing for which to give thanks, and this is his problem with Thanksgiving. He doesn't believe in any higher being and thinks it would be silly to have a day to celebrate every time during the past year someone loaned him some lunch money or did something else which would deserve thanks. "Who should I thank tomorrow?" he asked. "My parents for giving birth to me? My grandparents for giving birth to them?" Valid question.

As much as I hated to hear him decry a great holiday full of food, fall, family, and football (and this year, Grey's A), I really respected him for thinking through the meaning behind the holiday. I think a large number of us just float through holidays enjoying a day off from work/school or complaining why we don't have a day off from work/school.

And honestly, I think a lot of his argument makes sense. If one does not believe in the concept of god, then we are, in large part, self-made people - except for our actual existence which we owe to our parents, as he acknowledges. Without any diety to thank for providing us life, nourishment, friends, jobs, salvation, purpose, and really everything, thanks really shouldn't be a big part of our lives except when someone opens a door for us or gives birth to us. Nothing really holiday worthy there.

Now this certainly does not apply across the board. I'm sure many non-religious people feel they have much to give thanks for - to other people, to good fortune, to whatever. It's just interesting how Thanksgiving has never really been tossed into the "Religious Holiday" bin, and yet here it stands, making no sense in the context of a godless world to my co-worker and to this blogger. It's funny, no matter what corner I turn, life just doens't make much sense without this Almighty guy who calls himself my Creator, Savior, Lord, and Friend standing in the middle of it.


Jeff said...

it does all go back to that

Oakley said...

I applaud your deeper thinking about the nature of being thankful and how Christ most definitely plays a role. I wonder if your coworker actually realizes how thankful that he/she should be for the things that he/she DOES have. To be living in this country, to have a job, to not be wasting away to cancer or any other incurable disease. It sounds like he needs to read Job a couple of times if you ask me.......

Ben said...


He certainly has much to be thankful for, and I believe he would acknowledge this. The problem with thanks is that you must give thanks TO someone or something because that entity, by definition, gave you something or did something for you which makes you want to respond in thanksgiving. He probably feels like he's been given a lot of the breaks in life that you mention. It's just that without belief in a higher power, there's nowhere to direct this thanks, meaning that he can't give thanks except to other people or to an intangible, such as fate, destiny, or good fortune.