Okay, you’re thankful. But to whom?

George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789

George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789 (via mountvernon.org)

Happy Thanksgiving, guys. I hope you’re having a good time with your friends and family. Perhaps you’re rattling off all the things you’re thankful for. That’s what this holiday is all about, right? To be thankful. And thankfully, we don’t need to think too hard to come up with a cornucopia of wonderful things that we Americans enjoy.

I just got one question. To whom are you thankful?

You grammar police are thankful I phrased this question correctly. I said “to whom are you thankful?” rather than “who are you thankful to?” Well, with that, I’m thankful I don’t have the grammar police harping on me right now.

So let’s continue using correct grammar, shall we?

The word thank is a verb that requires a direct object. So without someone to thank, your list of things you’re thankful for is an incomplete sentence. Without someone to thank, that list is just a bunch of good things in your life that you’re hoarding.

So who gets your thanksgiving?

For me? I’m thankful to God. You know who I mean by God, right? He’s that being who has power over all aspects of the universe. He provides me with life and protection. I’m grateful for the benefits from obedience to him too.

Thank you, God.

Some of you right now are embarrassed. That kind of talk is so unscientific. It’s un-American to introduce religion into a public national holiday.

Well, you know what? I pretty much just paraphrased George Washington with his Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789. It begins as follows:

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor– and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be– That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks.


See? George Washington named God as the direct object of our nation’s thanksgiving.

Now I know what some of you are thinking. You’re thinking that President Washington’s reference to God is just an archaic formality of that day. We’ve progressed beyond that type of thinking.

Yes, we’ve moved away from that thinking. But I wouldn’t call it progress.

We’ve moved into absurdity. If we don’t thank God for what we have, we’re either thanking ourselves or the impersonal universe.

It’s absurd to thank ourselves for what we have. We didn’t provide it. It’s not like someone would deny himself something good if he didn’t also thank himself for what he provided for himself.

For example, it’s not like New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said to his family at dinner today, “Guys, I’m thankful that I completed that pass to Amendola on third and long against the Buffalo Bills on Monday Night. Also, I’m thankful that I cashed my paycheck from UGGS and spent some money on me.”

No! People don’t thank themselves. You say your thankful for external things that benefited you. Tom Brady probably said he was thankful for friends, family, and teammates who stuck by him this year, his new dog Scooby, and Coach Bellichick. (I’m also thankful for Coach Bellichick.)

So we’re all thankful for external factors and people who’ve benefited us. We show gratefulness that things outside of our control acted in our favor. But again, to whom do we show this gratefulness?

Can you thank the impersonal universe? No. That’s pointless. The impersonal universe is nothing more than chance. It’s like thanking the roll of the dice. Yes, the universe dealt you some good things this time around. But with the next roll, all those things may be gone. Sorry, it’s just the luck of the draw. Your thankfulness didn’t influence it.

What do you gain by publicly thanking the universe? Since it’s not a being, it cannot reward your gratitude. Likewise, the universe won’t punish you if you fail to thank it.

So Thanksgiving is absurd and meaningless if we don’t thank God. Really, it’s a total sham without him. Everybody is just saying what they’re thankful for so other people don’t think they are a jerk. Americans only care about the validation of others. They aren’t really thankful.

So, what if I proposed to just drop the Thanksgiving holiday? We could just call it the Stuff-I-Like Feast. You get together, tell everybody stuff you have that you like, and eat food.

It wouldn’t fly. We’re not daring enough to publicly thank God anymore — again, because we care about what others think — but we’re too cowardly to just drop the whole thankfulness aspect of Thanksgiving. We’d feel terribly guilty if we did. We’d live in apprehension that we’d lose what we have.

Why? Why can’t we recruit some Atheist inspirational speakers to rally everyone? They’d say, “Hey, there’s no God, so he won’t punish you if you don’t thank him. Next November 23rd, we can get together, eat turkey, and not thank God! Who’s with me? Chant ‘Science’ if you want no more Thanksgiving!”

People wouldn’t do it because of guilt. But where does that guilt come from? It comes from our innate sense of justice which would be violated if we remained ungrateful for what we have. We cannot shake justice. No atheist can scoff us away from it.

My kids got this book from the library this week about Thanksgiving. The book didn’t talk about the American Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims and Indians as much as it talked about various harvest festivals throughout human history.

It was a perfect specimen of multiculturalism down to the cute little Aztek girl smiling atop the pyramid about to be slaughtered to appease their sun god.

Obviously, the subtext of this book was that our thanksgiving is nothing special. Oh, and the white, Christian Pilgrims would have died without the help of the indigenous Native Americans. (Of course!)

But here’s the real take-a-way from this sweeping anthropological study. It fits right into the point I’m making here.

Our need to thank is only part due to our gratitude. It’s mostly due to our need for propitiation.

You like that word? I learned it from the Bible. The Apostle Paul used it in his letter to the Romans. It means to offer something to a deity to appease him. You can read more about the word on wikipedia or in Romans 3:25.

So gratefulness to a deity and propitiation of him both arise from our innate sense of justice. If a society doesn’t thank its God, he’ll punish it. That’s what they deserve.

But what can we say about American society that we don’t even thank a god let alone the God of Gods?

It means we have no sense of Justice.

The fact that we claim to be grateful without a recipient for that gratefulness shows that we have no ability to reason, hence no regard for the truth. (Remember, it’s absurd to thank the universe.)

In America, there is no Truth. There is no Justice. So all these things you say you’re thankful for? They will be gone.

George Washington specifically thanked God as a being, not a nebulous deity of nature who you could misconstrue as the impersonal universe. In his Thanksgiving proclamation, he said that on Thanksgiving, Americans would devote themselves, “to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.”

Washington was not just our first President, he was also the Army’s first General. As such, he acknowledged God’s favor in our victory. In this same Thanksgiving proclamation, he said Americans should thank God for, “the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war.”

So the end of our thanking God is peace by way of propitiation.

Guys, I hope you enjoyed this thanksgiving. It could be our last.

One comment

  1. […] Who do atheists thank on Thanksgiving? Someone asked me that and actually I kinda answered that in my post, Okay, you’re thankful, but to whom? […]

Write a Comment: