“The worst moment for an atheist is when he feels grateful and has no one to thank.”
~ Samuel Cavert
The accusation that atheists have nobody to thank for the good things that came their way is not only malicious and hypocritical but it is downright ungrateful for not giving credit where credit is due.
Let’s go back to the pre-Industrial agricultural age. During those days, people had no technology for weather forecasting. Although they already noticed that the seasons were fairly regular, they could not explain nor predict the daily weather conditions that could affect their crops. Thus, the first and most important gods were the weather gods like Apollo, Amun-Ra, Thor, YHWH, among others.
These gods were made to substitute what people at that time could not understand for they had no body of knowledge to do so. Because the weather seemed to them to be at the whims of these gods, they made fancy rituals like rain dances, animal/human sacrifices, and prayer ceremonies to get on the good side of the gods. When the harvest was good, people held feasts in honor of these gods. In mobster terms, you gotta give the godfather his cut otherwise you’ll be the one who’s gonna get cut, capisce?
“You gotta give the godfather his cut or you’ll get cut.”
Now suppose these gods really exist, should we be thankful to them? Should we be thankful to Poseidon for not sinking the ship we are on board? Should we be thankful to Hades for not taking us into his realm too soon? Should we be thankful to YHWH for not raining our cities with fire and brimstone, for not killing our firstborn children? Should we be thankful to the godfather for giving us an offer we can’t refuse?
The so-called “gratitude” in the religious sense is nothing more than a peasant thanking the king for making him slave all day in the field just to receive barely enough food for his daily survival. In a word, it’s good old-fashioned feudalism. No wonder, there’s this god who claims to be the “king of kings” and “lord of lords.”
So, who or what should the non-believers thank? Well, that depends. For our food, we could thank the farmer, the fisherman, and the cook. For good health, we could thank our good genes, good environment and good medicine. For our sanity, we could thank our families and friends for always supporting us and for keeping us grounded to reality. Notice I used the word “could” instead of “should” for I know it’s not in any way obligatory. I could not accept the notion that one needs a coercive imaginary celestial being to be thankful to. I give thanks to the people I know and I could see with my own two eyes.
I do feel grateful. I feel grateful to the scientists who worked hard to improve our lives. I feel grateful to the people who extended a helping hand to me. I feel grateful to the men and women of history who fought to change the status quo.
“There is no such thing as gratitude unexpressed. If it is unexpressed, it is plain, old-fashioned ingratitude.”
~ Robert Brault
We could express this gratitude by directly thanking that person or we could “pay it forward” by extending help to others within our capacities. We don’t need elaborate ceremonies, We could, in the name of the goddess of victory Nike, “just do it.”
“I expect death to be nothingness and, for removing me from all possible fears of death, I am thankful to atheism.”
~ Isaac Asimov