This Thanksgiving, We Give Thanks… but to Whom?
Happy Thanksgiving, Mediumsphere! Have you ever considered toward whom your gratitude is directed on this day? After all, the “-giving” part of the holiday’s name implies a recipient of our thanks
For example, it doesn’t quite make sense to give thanks to your family and friends for the fact that you have family and friends; those persons aren’t responsible for placing themselves on this earth, nor necessarily in your life. So then, when feeling gracious for these persons or the good things you have, who are you to thank?
Let’s be honest: those of us living in 21st-century Western civilization are by comparison to other times and places very fortunate, and, as a result, generally very thankful. May I suggest this holiday that you take a moment to consider deeply to whom you should be directing your thanks.
And then go gobble gobble til you wobble.
I originally wrote this short piece in 2016, citing another author who brought this point to light for me. I encourage you to read his article here.
The reactions I received from two of my readers were quite surprising, and I’d like to share them here — one reply at a time, followed by my response.
Thank you for another reason why I have questioned my catholic faith for a very long time but this is icing on the cake. I’m sorry but for someone who is supposed to be in the court of God and love others, this isn’t quite the article I would be expecting to see as I lay down to rest.
So, sure, I could have posted a couple bible verses about gratitude and simply said I was thankful, reminding others to be thankful too, in order to punch my ticket as a person who is supposed to be in the court of God… but you must know how I generally like to do things by now. :) I enjoy encouraging people to think about how they came to the beliefs they have, the traditions they keep, and the worldviews they hold, to see whether they are consistent internally and with external reality. One could take offense at my doing this, but I can’t be responsible for that reaction. I’m disconcerted, but it’s not enough to convince me that such conversations aren’t worth having. I think plenty of people appreciate being challenged to examine their deep-seated beliefs, to make sure they hold water.
So in that spirit, again, I was not trying to put a damper on anyone’s holiday. I was simply pointing out a philosophical truth that gratitude implies a source of the things given to us, and that “thanks giving” implies a “thanks recipient.” I can’t connect the dots as to how this makes you glad you questioned your catholic upbringing, nor how it further demonstrates that you had something worth questioning. (I’m not catholic either; I’m sure you know this.) If I may, what did you mean by that?
I felt like this article was a cluster of rants. Interesting though, as I did not ever know or think of Thanksgiving as a religious holiday. I will not let others interpretation of what a holiday should or shouldn’t be affect my experience.
The more I question or push myself to think about religion, the more I keep coming back to this same experience. Why is there only one right way? Why do many religious practitioners want to shame or put down others for not believing as they do?
Yea, I can see how you might pick up on this author having a chip on his shoulder. (For the record, I’ve never read any of his other stuff; he was linked from elsewhere, and I found the article to be in the same vein as what I was getting at in my post, so I included it, and did so as an afterthought really.) I’ve personally interacted with very few people I actually knew to be atheists — most people I know or meet consider themselves closer to theist or deist at the least — but those with whom I have conversed have always been nice folks. So I don’t hold any of the grudges that the author might seemingly have.
I also wasn’t trying to suggest that only those with a Christian worldview can enjoy this holiday. On the contrary, I truly do think we are all thankful and we enjoy celebrating the things we’re thankful for — and eating fantastic meals. The more the merrier!
As I said to the question above, really the heart of my post (what I wrote, vs what the article said) was philosophical — not personal, nor accusatory. I write similar stuff at Easter, when I say that I’m glad for anyone coming to church that Sunday, and will never imply those without Christian beliefs shouldn’t be at church. But I simply point out when something is inconsistent, such as going to church to celebrate the resurrection of a person that a skeptic doesn’t even think necessarily existed; or celebrating Thanksgiving and describing a feeling of gratitude without acknowledging an indebtedness to any higher power for the good things one has. Both are fine to do, they just aren’t consistent philosophically and logically.
Now to your latter points about feelings of superiority in religious people, or requirements to convert others: If I believed Big Bird was my savior, I hope someone who considers me a friend would try to steer me clear of such a belief. Or if I was driving a road my friend knew to be flooded up ahead, I hope they’d warn me. Such it is with those who hold classical Christianity to be the right worldview/religion, correct above all others: it’s not a position of pride from which to shame those who aren’t sure or who believe differently. (It’s not supposed to be, anyway. Sadly, sometimes pride can creep in. I’m human, so I’m guilty of it at times, ashamed to say. My motivations for this post were not self serving though, if you’ll take my word.) For someone like me, I see all of us as in the same position: kinda broken, obviously imperfect, secretly wondering the big questions, hoping to always feel loved and fully known (and grateful when we do).
So then what I strive to do with a post like this, what Christians should be doing as believers in the Bible, is more akin to one person after having found reliable answers to life’s big questions, going out and helping steer others toward the answers. And if I have evidence to trust the convictions I hold to be objectively true, and therefore see them as worthwhile for others, I’ll risk having my efforts misconstrued as prideful or judgmental if it means possibly helping others see the mistakes in their thinking, the same mistakes I didn’t realize I was making for years.
As far as how there can possibly be only one right answer: there are countless others who have handily shown that to be a none-issue. Here’s a list of several articles to start.