Once I preached a Thanksgiving sermon entitled, “Thank Who?”  I thought it raised a serious question about people who didn’t believe in God.

Turned out I was wrong.  Increasingly, atheists, secularists, humanists, agnostics, and other types of “nones” are giving thanks.  American Humanist Association executive director Roy Speckhardt explains, “Thanksgiving is a uniquely secular holiday, as gratitude is a universal human emotion.  This special day of the year is a chance for humanists and other nontheists to express gratitude . . . ”

Austin Cline, agnosticism and atheism expert (what’s an expert on what isn’t?) argues somewhat cynically . . .

“There’s a popular belief among some American Christians that the American Thanksgiving holiday is necessarily religious.  Aside from the apparent desire to turn everything into an expression of their religion, the primary reason behind this seems to be that the whole point must be to give thanks to their god–not other gods, just theirs–thus making it a Christian holiday too.  If this is true, then it makes no sense for non-Christians, or at least non-theists, to celebrate Thanksgiving.

“It is undeniable that non-Christians and non-theists all over America participate in Thanksgiving observances.  This proves that the insistence on the religious or Christian nature of Thanksgiving is false.  It simply can’t be true, but this doesn’t tell us why it isn’t true.  For that, it must be shown that giving thanks to God is unnecessary or senseless, or that there are others to whom we can give thanks, or preferably all three.”

Speckhardt is right; gratitude is a universal human emotion.  Why?  Did we just happen to evolve that way?  Or did our Creator use the same mold for us all?

Cline’s argument that non-Christians and non-theists “all over America participate in Thanksgiving observances” proves that “the insistence of the Christian or religious nature of Thanksgiving is false” is nonsense.  Does the fact that theists observe Thanksgiving prove it’s a religious holiday?

My biggest disagreement with Cline, though, is his unconcern for truth.  It’s the “Christians’ god” and the atheists’ god.  Both are “true”.  “You create your reality and I’ll create mine.”  Bit delusional, no?  For the theist, there is a God; for the atheist there isn’t.  Alternate realities.  Yet even the atheist feels compelled to offer thanks.

But, if not to God, to whom?  Here are their suggestions . . .

  1.  People who help us live or live better.
  2. Farmers who provide food we eat.
  3. Soldiers and veterans who keep us safe.
  4. Doctors and medicine to fight disease.
  5. Engineers and modern technology that improve how we live.
  6. Friends and family who help support us.
  7. Truck drivers who deliver food.
  8. Turkeys who gave their lives for us to enjoy a feast.

Secularists even have Thanksgiving prayers . . .

For the food . . . for the sun and earth, farmers and cooks . . . We give thanks . . . For family and friends . . . For ____________ (this is the interactive part; the leader of the prayer names person to right, who says, “and for ________ naming person to the right, and so on, till back to leader; or the leader could just name everyone . . .  We give thanks . . . For the time to gather and the leisure to sit and the spirit to celebrate . . . We give thanks . . . We pause to remember those who cannot be with us today . . . And those who live more in famine than in feast . . . May our sense of good fortune overshadow our daily troubles . . . And yet cast light on the struggles of our neighbors . . . For life’s great bounty and the will to share it . . . We give thanks . . . And in gratitude we eat . . . Amen.

(Information above from the following web sites . . .

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/11/20/thanksgiving-is-a-uniquely-secular-holiday-atheists-have-a-message-about-how-non-prayers-can-replace-holiday-grace/

http://religionnews.com/2013/11/27/grateful-without-god-secular-thanksgiving/

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/11/26/grace-for-an-atheist-thanksgiving/

http://www.eloquentatheist.com/2007/11/secular-thanksgiving/

Commendable.  Gratitude is far better than greed.  But, if the Bible is true, the thankful secularist is playing with fire . . .

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.  For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools,  and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things” (Romans 1:18-23, ESV).

Non-theists have no excuse.  God says he’s clearly seen “in the things that have been made”.  So non-theists “know” God, but “did not honor him as God or give thanks to him.”  That refusal leads to mind and heart problems—futile thinking, darkened hearts, ignorance about their foolishness and idolatry.   Such is God’s wrath on those who will not acknowledge him.

We may shake our heads in scorn.  But we have to admit, “except for the grace of God”, there we go too.  So here’s a Thanksgiving prayer in addition to “thank you for the food” . . .

“Father, thank you for calling me to yourself through your Son.  I admit I honor you not because I’m wise or good.  Apart from your grace my thinking is futile, my heart darkened, my “wisdom” foolishness and my worship idolatry.  Only because of you I’m in Christ Jesus.  He alone is my wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption.  Thank you for opening my eyes to see you in creation, and to see you in Christ Jesus as my sacrifice on the cross.  Thank you that I have far more for which to give you thanks than a turkey” (from 1 Corinthians 1:26-31).

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