November 21, 2012

Atheists Can Be Thankful Too

fall follage
This post was initially written in 2012 but was updated in 2016 to include the time frame from 2012 to 2016.

This is the time of year when those clever Christians bombard social media with one of their favorite memes: atheists have nobody to thank and nothing to be thankful for. I'm starting to think that anyone who is both a Christian and a moron is required to have a Twitter account and use it prolifically to share this message every November. Of course, atheists have plenty to be thankful for and a great many people to thank for it. Just because we are not interested in thanking gods does not make our thankful sentiment any less relevant.

Although Thanksgiving is a holiday I've never particularly enjoyed and have not celebrated for several years, I thought it might be fun to review my thoughts from previous posts on the subject. My guess is that they will not have changed much, but we'll see.

A Review of Past Thanksgivings

We start with 2005, which was the first year of this blog's existence (after being instantly created by Ju-HEE-zuhs). I wrote about the Christianization of Thanksgiving. I have certainly been exposed to this in the form of having dinner with those who treat the holiday as if it was a Christian holiday, but I was spared most of this ridiculousness in my own home.

In 2006, I wrote about how I have never considered Thanksgiving to be a religious holiday even though I've known several people who would disagree. I said that I was thankful for having a job I like most of the time, my growing comfort in identifying myself as an atheist, my optimism about the growth of freethought, and my wonderful readers. All of this remains true today.

I sought to change things up a bit in 2007, describing myself as "content but not thankful." I said that I felt like "content" worked for me much more than "thankful" because it did not contain the implicit assumption that there must be an identifiable someone or something to thank. It wasn't that I didn't have people toward whom I felt thankful as much as it was that I felt "content" was a better way to describe my current status. This is still true today.

In 2008, I wrote about how I was thankful for the atheist movement itself. And even though I might prefer to jettison certain parts of it today, this sentiment remains true. I am thankful to all those who have worked so hard and continue to work so hard to establish and preserve the freedom from religion which I currently enjoy.

I felt like doing something a bit different in 2009, so I wrote about how I was thankful that the local Christians haven't killed me yet. Believe me when I say I remain thankful for this today! There is too much left that I'd like to do. My 2009 Thanksgiving was also characterized by a bad cold, a visit from family, and news that my family was concerned about my atheism. Perhaps this was part of what prompted me to ignore Thanksgiving completely in 2010.

I returned to a few of these themes in 2011, noting the absurdity of the claim that atheists have no reason to give thanks to anyone. I framed this as one more example of Christian privilege.

When I sat down to write the initial version of this post shortly before Thanksgiving of 2012, it struck me how little has changed. Despite learning that Thanksgiving was created by aliens, I did not do anything different that Thanksgiving than I do on any other day off. I also found myself feeling thankful for many things and to many people. I'm still not sure why this is so difficult for some Christians to comprehend, but there it is.

I did not have much to say in 2013, so I focused on a recent and all-too-rare legal victory involving separation of church and state here in Mississippi and how nice it was to see the efforts of secular activists pay off.

In 2014, I wrote about how I was thankful for having the day off work, for the recent legal decision overturning Mississippi's ban on same-sex marriage, for all the hard work done by church-state activists, and for the fact that relatively few Christians seem to take their bibles too seriously.

2015 marked a bit of a turning point because this was the year I decided to delve into freethought in a major way here at Atheist Revolution. My 2015 Thanksgiving post reflected this interest. While I had certainly explored the topic of tradition many times before, I was now viewing it more through the lens of freethought, something I have continued to do.


One theme that jumped out to me as I went back over all the Thanksgiving posts I have written since 2005 was that this seems to be the time of year where it hits me almost every year how burned out I'm feeling and how much I need a break. I'm not saying that this is the only time of year I feel this way. I'm just saying that I seem to feel this way almost every year around this time.

Another theme is that is takes considerable work on the part of those who care about separation of church and state to maintain it. Church-state separation seems to be under attack from Christians constantly. Without our continued efforts, it would likely slip away. I suspect this is why I continue to return to the theme of how thankful I am for those who keep putting in the work to defend it.

The last theme I'll mention briefly involves my general distaste for tradition. It isn't that I do not enjoy some traditions. I suppose it is more about my not wanting to participate in those I do not enjoy simply because they are traditions. That has never struck me as an adequate reason.

Regardless of whether Thanksgiving is something you celebrate or not, I hope you enjoy your day.