Atheists Can Be Thankful Too

fall follage

This post was initially written in 2012, updated in 2017 to include the time period from 2012 to 2016, and updated again in 2020.

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. Just because we are not interested in thanking gods or other imaginary beings does not make our thankful sentiment any less relevant.

Although Thanksgiving is a holiday I've never particularly enjoyed and have not celebrated for many 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. 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.

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 how I felt.

In 2008, I wrote about how I was thankful for the atheist movement itself (I still believed there was one at the time). In any case, I remain 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. My 2009 Thanksgiving involved 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 write about how I was ignoring Thanksgiving 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 that 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.

And then there was 2016. What a year that was! Like many Americans, I was still coming to terms with our new president during Thanksgiving 2016. The election was still fresh and was all anybody was talking about. My post that year reflected my hope that we could all take a day off from post-election tribalism.

In 2017, I took a look at conformity and tradition, noting that I've never been terribly good at either and explaining that celebrating something I don't enjoy just to fit in has not been something I've been willing to do for some time. I took 2018 off and didn't write anything related to Thanksgiving but returned in 2019 to write about how I was thankful for being exposed to skepticism. It is hard to imagine where I'd be without it today.

I was not planning to write anything related to Thanksgiving in 2020 given everything else going on with the global COVID-19 pandemic, but then something happened that made me change my mind. I wrote about whether Thanksgiving was worth dying for (it isn't) and noted that Thanksgiving provides atheists with an opportunity to help others understand what Christian privilege feels like.


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 it 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, I hope you enjoy it this year.