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Atheism, Culture

Thanksgiving: What it means for *this* atheist.

Thanksgiving is a tough holiday for the thoughtful non-theist.  For a non-theist with progressive values, it’s difficult not to view it with utter disdain.  It is at once a distillation of the privilege of religious insinuation into public life, and the glorification of materialism and selfishness.  Despite this fact, Thanksgiving has become for me a symbol of hope for the future.  It is the embodiment of what American society could become if compassion and comeraderie became synonymous with culture.

“Dear Lord, Thank you for this thanksgiving holiday, and for all the material possessions that we have and enjoy, and for letting us white people kill all the Indians and steal their tribal lands. And stuff ourselves like pigs, even though children in Asia are being napalmed.”  — Wendy Hood (Christina Ricci) in The Ice Storm (1997)

This little snippet from a rather obscure movie embodies just about everything many progressive atheists despise about Thanksgiving.  First, there is an assumption that if someone is giving thanks, they are giving it to Jesus.  Like so many of the “non-sectarian” prayers addressed to one god ending with “Amen” (narrowing them down to very few gods indeed!), Thanksgiving is the epitome of Christianity insinuated into American culture.  Christians have convinced many Americans that this is a Christian nation  (It is most certainly not), and by default, Thanksgiving has become a Christian Holiday.  (Be honest:  How many times have you imagined a Hindu family gathered around a turkey and dressing?)

Perhaps more importantly, for progressives, Thanksgiving represents a time when we revel in our excesses, ignoring atrocity in our back yard and all over the earth.  We prepare a feast fit for thirty to feed our six relatives.  With our bellies full and our Ford Explorers littering the yard, we embrace our tryptophan fueled lethargy, cheering through antacid belches for football teams who pay their players enough to balance a Third World national deficit.

Historically, Thanksgiving reminds us of the worst aspects of human imperialism.  It is a testament to genocide, greed, and religious zealotry — the worst kinds of atrocity committed with a prayer on the lips and avarice in the mind.  The traditional Thanksgiving feast is a stark reminder of the things we craved — turkey, waterfowl, venison, fish, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, pumpkin, and squash — and the natives who to this day live destitute in the reservations we drove them to while feasting on their land’s bounty.

Thankfully, it need not be so.  Our past is unchangeable, but the future is ours to create.  What Thanksgiving represents is as old as culture itself, and much less philosophically troubling.  It is simply the outward expression of joy at the end of a harvest.  It is the last celebration of plenty before hunkering down for the icy tribulations to come.  It is the recognition that life is precious, and each year that passes is one year we are lucky to have seen.




4 thoughts on “Thanksgiving: What it means for *this* atheist.

  1. In general whatever kind of charity or morality projeted to gods or religions is weak and nonsense because, it denies the power of reason which human being has by nature. What is bad enough there many people in the world who still do not understand the truth of human nature, due to that they appeal themselves to imaginations which have nothing to do with truth.
    what is more it is sad that there many people who think we do good to others because there gods, if there not gods then there is no reason of respecting moral values. this convictions reveal immaturity of some people within our societies.
    up to now i agreed with what was said with one of sociologists that “religion is meant for immature people”. nowdays many pastors and priests and other religious leaders do use their religions to exploit their ignorant members materially, morally as well as psychologically.
    so religions will always be there because is still full of ignorant people. Do not ask themselves why must we pray now for the future world and why didnt we pray when where in the wombs of our mothers in order to live well in this world?

    Posted by nambude!!!!!!!! | November 21, 2011, 7:45 pm
  2. This atheist spends thanksgiving eating as much as possible and avoiding family.

    Posted by Alison | November 21, 2011, 9:02 pm
  3. Nambude, I don’t think there’s really a “natural power of reason” in human nature.

    Humans are irrational, [and predictably so]

    Left to our own devices, we’re way more likely to pick the irrational choice, regardless of if we’re atheist or theist.

    Posted by Alison | November 23, 2011, 12:42 pm
  4. What Thanksgiving represents is as old as culture itself… It is simply the outward expression of joy at the end of a harvest. It is the last celebration of plenty before hunkering down for the icy tribulations to come. It is the recognition that life is precious, and each year that passes is one year we are lucky to have seen.

    It’s truly a shame that you see fit to bury such gems under such a large pile of mental masturbation angst manure.

    Posted by CB | November 25, 2011, 3:22 pm

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