November 28, 2013

Can an Atheist Celebrate Thanksgiving?

If an atheist says, "Thanks," but there's no one there to hear it, is it still Thanksgiving? Here's theologian Gerald Bray:
One of the most popular American holidays is Thanksgiving Day, which manages to be religious and secular at the same time. The Pilgrim Fathers who first celebrated it did so for religious reasons . . . Today it is a major celebration when people are expected and encouraged to be grateful, but no one specifies to whom thanks should be given. Christians have no problem with this because they thank the God of Jesus Christ, but what about followers of other religions, not to mention atheists and agnostics? You cannot be thankful in the abstract, and most people admit they have received blessings that they have done nothing to deserve, even if they are not clear as to where those blessings have come from. They are usually quite prepared to be grateful for them, though, and this feeling gives Christians an opportunity to talk about God. [1]
This should really go without saying, but I'll say it anyway: you can't be thankful if there's no one there to thank.

1. God is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology (Crossway, 2012), p. 35. Emphasis mine.

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