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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Who do Atheists Thank on Thanksgiving?...

Nice setting for Thanksgiving...
In 1863, at the height of the most divisive and devastating period in American history, where brother fought brother and our country was being torn apart, amidst bloodshed, suffering, grief and despair, President Abraham Lincoln declared a national day of thanksgiving to pause and give thanks for all the blessings God bestows on us each day.

We have been celebrating this day of "Thanksgiving" on the fourth Thursday of November ever since.

As we prepare for yet another Thanksgiving Day, a holiday tradition, which to me, is synonymous with the four f's; faith, family, food and football? (although my wife would contest the latter!), I couldn't help but think, in my own warped mind, about Atheists. 

Do they thank nature for their life, health, happiness and living in a country founded on the belief that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights?  Or do they thank the randomness of cells and chromosomes that gave them the ability to thank, in the first place, or even think, for that matter?

I came across an article on the subject recently on an Atheist website, where the writer claimed that Thanksgiving was not at all about thanking God.  Instead, he said, it was a secular tradition meant for thanking people, farmers, soldiers, science, modern medicine, etc.

I agree that we should thank those we love and people who do things for us that we couldn't do ourselves, but, as former Atheist and Oxford scholar, who became among the greatest Christian authors of the 20th century, C.S. Lewis, would have pointed out, this begins with a premise; an innate moral responsibility to show appreciation for the "good" others do for us, as if there is a standard for "goodness," which of course, Christians know there is since it is written in our hearts by God but, flies in the face of an Atheist, Naturalist or Materialist (which are interchangeable) worldview.

In other words, if we are just accidents of nature, material beings who developed over millions of years from a primordial soup and will live purposeless lives, only to die and rot in the ground, then where does good and evil, right and wrong, or even an inclination towards showing appreciation towards others fit in? 

Does it come from trying to serve the common good?  But, then again, who determines that common good?  Would it be the powerful, like when Hitler began euthanizing handicapped babies in Germany for the common good, since might makes right under a naturalist perspective?  (Think "survival of the fittest," as Charles Darwin would say!)

Or, would it come from reason?  But, then what role does reason really play in a materialistic universe, considering reason is neither material or substance and thus, what would propel anyone to abide by it in the first place?  

Ultimately, then, as even the father of modern Atheism, Friedrich Nietzsche, who was the first to proclaim, "God is dead," concluded, under an Atheist worldview, any standard for morality would be arbitrary, since as Dostoevsky once wrote, "If God doesn't exist, everything is permissible."

Now, that's not to say that all Atheists are immoral anymore than to say that all Christians are moral.  It is just that under a naturalistic worldview, where there is no transcendent objective and absolute truth, who theists call God, the standards for morality would have to boil down to individual preferences.

The reason I thought about Atheists and Thanksgiving, is that, last weekend, I met and befriended a man of apparently strong moral character and integrity, who proudly asserts, without reservations (well, maybe just a little, after a bit of coaxing and discussion), his disbelief in God.

This wasn't just a garden variety agnostic, who isn't sure whether God exists and really doesn't care (which actually may be further away from God than an Atheist), that you run into from time to time.  This was a bona fide non-believer!  I read a lot about Atheists, more to learn how to protect my kids from it than anything else, but this was the first time I actually met one!

Therefore, as I sit there at the dinner table with my family and friends to express gratitude to the Almighty God for all my blessings He gives me, such as faith, which obviously not everybody has, my wife and children, extended family and friends, our health, provisions and the good times and bad, as Lincoln called us to do 150 years ago, I will no doubt think about my newfound friend.

Who will he thank, as he sits around the table with his friends and family on Thanksgiving Day?...

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