Author Topic: Question about Thankfulness and Atheism  (Read 257 times)

Businessocks

  • Made of Star Stuff
  • *
  • Posts: 86
Question about Thankfulness and Atheism
« on: August 03, 2010, 03:38:03 AM »
So as I was eating dinner with my family, I was struck with how truly thankful I am for the happiness and love in my life.  But then I paused and asked, "Whom or what am I thanking?"

Does "thankfulness" imply by its definition that someone or something is being thanked?  As a hopeful atheist (a.k.a. pantheist  :) ) I'm okay with thanking something beyond my understanding for how this world evolved at this very moment to give me this life.  But I wonder if a different term is more appropriate for an atheist when he or she feels "lucky" or "blessed" or "thankful" for his or her life situation?  Even "grateful" seems to suggest the same.  

Or is it just happiness?  

Is viewing the moment with feelings of "thankfulness" (rather than just "happiness") a remnant of my Christian past?
The god of the cannibals will be a cannibal, of the crusaders a crusader, and of the merchants a merchant.  -Ralph Waldo Emerson

McQ

  • Administrator
  • Has an Invisible Dragon in Their Garage
  • *****
  • Posts: 3672
  • Foolproof and capable of terror.
Re: Question about Thankfulness and Atheism
« Reply #1 on: August 03, 2010, 03:51:23 AM »
Good question, and not sure I know an answer. I often think about that too. My family still says a blessing before meals, and although I don't participate, I realize I'm "thankful" for having them. In this case, I think I tend to think of my thankfulness as just good old happiness, or the feeling of contentment with what I have around me, and for the people in my life. Perhaps that's all thankfulness really is, but because it's hard to pin down where the feeling comes from, humans once again attributed it to an unseen force, god, or ethereal being.

Interested to see what others think.
Elvis didn't do no drugs!
--Penn Jillette

Davin

  • Don't Pray in My School, and I Won't Think in Your Church
  • *****
  • Posts: 7023
  • Gender: Male
  • (o°-°)=o o(o*-°)
    • DevPirates
Re: Question about Thankfulness and Atheism
« Reply #2 on: August 03, 2010, 04:00:29 AM »
I think it's also very important to actually thank those in your life. I think the more you show that you appreciate those in your life, the happier everyone will be... except for me, too much thanking gets annoying, but once a day or several times a week doesn't hurt.

As for the feeling of appreciation for what you have, I agree with what McQ said.

Always question all authorities because the authority you don't question is the most dangerous... except me, never question me.

Tank

  • Fed up with stupid.
  • Administrator
  • Excellent and Indefatigable Guardian of Reason
  • *****
  • Posts: 29557
  • Gender: Male
Re: Question about Thankfulness and Atheism
« Reply #3 on: August 03, 2010, 08:21:56 AM »
Good question. I think one part of the issue is language itself. Language has some modularity to it, we bolt existing words together to make new ones. One very rarely finds a totally novel word appearing out of the blue, one example is Quiz, :hmm:  and thinks about the logical meaning of words that one has a 'Wittgenstein' moment (I understand what you said but I'm not sure I understand what you meant.) and realises how truly inadequate colloquial use of symbolic language really is.

The word Thankful and its meaning wasn't designed, it evolved, and we all know how good evolution is in a pragmatic sense and how poor it is in a logical predictive use sense. Most people use language pragmatically i.e. grabbing the nearest tool to hand that is basically fit for purpose, and in the context of the OP I think 'thankful' is a perfectly pragmatic use of the word.
If religions were TV channels atheism is turning the TV off.
“Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt.” ― Richard P. Feynman
'It is said that your life flashes before your eyes just before you die. That is true, it's called Life.' - Terry Pratchett
Remember, your inability to grasp science is not a valid argument against it.

hackenslash

  • A Frood Who Really Knows Where Their Towel Is
  • **
  • Posts: 497
Re: Question about Thankfulness and Atheism
« Reply #4 on: August 03, 2010, 08:59:53 PM »
Thank goodness seems to work, and doesn't actually imply an entity, so if you view 'thanks' as a contraction of that (since it's a contraction of thank _____ anyway), you're good to go. You can thank circumstances, or the progression of mechanisms that brought you to where you are, or that brought whatever it is that you're being thankful for to you, or to the people who worked to bring it to you (and let's face it, they're the people who should really be thanked). I thank understanding a fair bit, because it is understanding that has given me a decent life span, with good tasting food and plenty of leisure time (compared with our ancestors, I mean, who would have had to spend the majority of their time just in the pursuit of the bare necessities), lots of kinky electronic toys, etc. There is plenty to be thankful for, and plenty of entities to be thankful to, without having to invent any.

Good question, though.
Dogma is the death of the intellect - hackenslash

No man is more hopelessly enslaved than one who falsely believes he's free - Goethe

If I showed your preposterous beliefs the respect you think they deserve, I wouldn't be showing you the respect you deserve - hackenslash


Thumpalumpacus

  • Not Defeated by the Dark Night of the Soul
  • ****
  • Posts: 1882
  • Gender: Male
    • Some songs I wrote.
Re: Question about Thankfulness and Atheism
« Reply #5 on: August 04, 2010, 06:41:28 PM »
Quote from: "Davin"
I think it's also very important to actually thank those in your life. I think the more you show that you appreciate those in your life, the happier everyone will be... except for me, too much thanking gets annoying, but once a day or several times a week doesn't hurt.

As for the feeling of appreciation for what you have, I agree with what McQ said.

Well-put.
Illegitimi non carborundum.

Kylyssa

  • Pretty Sure the Black Cat Isn't in the Dark Room
  • ****
  • Posts: 1200
    • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/Kylyssa
Re: Question about Thankfulness and Atheism
« Reply #6 on: August 05, 2010, 12:04:45 AM »
I wrote something about this last Thanksgiving because people were "feeling sorry" for me because I "have no one to thank" for everything.  So I made a list of some things I'm thankful for.

When I feel thankful for my loving partner, I thank him for loving me.  I even thanked his parents a few times.  I used to thank my mom for making such lovely meals when I was a child.  I thanked my surgeon for doing a great job and restoring function to my ankle.  Seems pretty simple to me.  It just makes sense to feel happy about things you have and to thank the actual person responsible for them whenever the person is alive and available to be thanked.

notself

  • Not Sure About That Kool-Aid
  • **
  • Posts: 339
  • Gender: Female
Re: Question about Thankfulness and Atheism
« Reply #7 on: August 14, 2010, 06:22:00 PM »
There is something almost ungrateful about the average theist prayer.  It ignores the talents, dedication, courage, and resourcefulness of our fellow humans and credits everything good or useful to the invisible sky fairy.   These same theists refuse to credit this mythical being with any responsibility for incompetence, laziness, cowardice.

I am grateful to all those real people responsible for putting food on my table.  I keep them in mind when I am with theists saying grace.

defiant1

  • Padawan Learner
  • Posts: 6
Re: Question about Thankfulness and Atheism
« Reply #8 on: August 14, 2010, 11:04:26 PM »
This is something I use to think about all the time, but I pretty much accepted that ithas to do more with the language and the culture you are in.  I'm thankful to be alive, or I'm thankful to have a beautiful wife, doesn't necessarily mean you have to be thankful to any specific deity.  

Speaking of which, I absolutely hate it when Deists give credit to god or prayer when its so much more deserved on actual individuals and groups who actually did something.  Doctors, for example.  Father gets done with open heart surgery and comes out of it alive and healthier, what does the Deist say?  Thank Jesus or Thank the lord......NO! :hissyfit:   Thank the doctors and nurses!!!
He hoped and prayed that there wasn't an afterlife.  Then he realized there was a contradiction involved here and merely hoped that there wasn't an afterlife.    -Douglas Adams