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Gratitude, to an atheist

kenny

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I think about this at times, especially Thanksgiving.
Who/what does one thank if one does not believe in a higher power?
Yourself?
That seems rather narcissistic.

So I step back in my mind and think about what/where thankfulness comes from.
I'd say being thankful springs from things we are happy about, good things.

But then what?
What do you 'do' to celebrate being happy if there's nothing to thank and no author-of-your-life or gift-giver in the sky.
Ultimately, I end up with yet another unanswerable question.

Obviously I'm not talking about whom to thank when, say, my neighbor gives me something; I'd thank my neighbor.
I'm talking about the big stuff where there's no gift giver to thank.
I guess for good health you could thank yourself for taking care of yourself, but even then you can come down with cancer. I did.

I don't think it's good to be ungrateful as though you deserve everything, but it seems wrong to thank yourself for the good things in your life you had no control over, and it seems weird to thank chance itself.
Then of course you should thank yourself for your good choices and hard work that result in a better life.

So in a sense being grateful about those big things falls into that category of accepting supernatural stuff ... as in some supernatural entity that gives us good stuff ... though of course it's is frowned upon to blame that entity when a tornado levels our house.

Your thoughts?
 

Queenie60

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You can be thankful for all of the events in your life that have made all of the good things possible. Life is a series of events, good and bad. Those events are the foundation of the person you are. I believe in God and higher powers however I also believe that all of the bad things I have endured and all of the good that has come my way is something to be thankful for, they all have a cumulative effect and provided the small bricks that have made up the person I am. I am very thankful for that. I know I'm rambling, hopefully you get what I'm saying :confused:
 

kenny

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Queenie60|1459010533|4011357 said:
You can be thankful for all of the events in your life that have made all of the good things possible. Life is a series of events, good and bad. Those events are the foundation of the person you are. I believe in God and higher powers however I also believe that all of the bad things I have endured and all of the good that has come my way is something to be thankful for, they all have a cumulative effect and provided the small bricks that have made up the person I am. I am very thankful for that. I know I'm rambling, hopefully you get what I'm saying :confused:
Thanks, I hear ya.

I also have had some very bad things happen to me that weren't my fault.
I also recognize that these bad experiences have helped develop my character, make me strong, and make me a bit more compassionate.
So yes, there is an upside to bad things.

But what I'm examining in this thread is how the important difference between you and me affects the entire premise of gratitude itself.
You have something or someone to thank.
I don't.

I don't even believe in karma, or luck.
Things just happen.
Things just are.

That's why I guess I have to just stop at being happy about X, and cannot take it to the next level of being grateful for X.
 

december-fire

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Kenny,

I didn't know that you had cancer. I'm sorry to hear that and hope that you've beaten it.

An atheist would be the best person to answer what/who an atheist thanks, or thinks for that matter.

But I showed up first! :lol:

Bad stuff happens. That's just how it is.

Some of it is caused by people and we have choices as to our response.

Some stuff, such as tornadoes, is 'Mother Nature'.
We have to deal with these natural occurrences and can, and do, choose to gather information, design devices to help forecast such events, and come together to help victims.

Bad stuff, such as diseases, happen.
Again, we make choices to research prevention and treatment.

But the existence of bad stuff doesn't prove or disprove anything.

And I believe that humans aren't capable of understanding everything.

Now, to finally get to your question about whom is responsible for those things for which we are grateful, I'm definitely not responsible for most of the things for which I'm grateful. Also, other people are not responsible for everything for which I'm grateful.

If you think its 'weird to thank chance', then you might want to ask yourself why you consider that 'weird'.

Does it mean you think there's something else? :shock:

Now I'll let the atheists chime in to tell you to stop thinking and go stare at your Octavia. :))
 

Queenie60

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I get you Kenny - some things you just can't explain. I didn't catch the cancer part of your original post. I too had cancer at 40 years of age and it was very aggressive. I beat it! I thank God and feel that had something to do with it. But most of all it was chance and great medical care. So for that one, I thank myself for being a great advocate for my own health. I can see both sides, being spiritual and not believing. Very confusing subject. I'm sure another atheist can provide you with a good explanation.
 

Bayek

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I'm an AETHIST loud and clear... I suppose some of it came from being educated by nuns and priests in the 60s... or hypocritical religious people who speak with forked tongue.. or science.. basically all of that I suppose.

When I think of gratitude in my life I am usually thinking about choices made, I am grateful that I stuck out my horrible first marriage for 10 years and then we broke up and I met my husband of 28 years. I think of the actions of another person and am grateful that say a car swerved instead of smashing into me.. sort of an act and a reaction, sometimes though people react or make choices that hurt me and no higher power, supernatural flyguy can change this, we are not puppets. Life is a series of actions on my part and others actions that affect me. I grateful that science has come as far as it has and there are people who are compelled to study and learn. Gratitude comes from being spared or rewarded.
 

smitcompton

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Hi,

Being grateful focuses me on the good things I have. I say Thank-you to the Universe of which I am part. Your brain actually benefits by this kind of thinking and produces the chemicals that are most beneficial for your body, and makes you feel good. For me, its like a prayer, knowing , while things are never perfect, some things are good.

So, I thank the Universe, for giving me a share of the good.

Annette,
Another Atheist
 

marymm

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Is there something about atheism which prevents an atheist to be grateful/thankful for what is?

To be grateful for a sunny day, a close parking slot, a songbird, a great conversation, the awareness you feel fulfilled or content, fill in the blank?

Isn't gratitude also appreciation?

I guess I don't define gratitude or thankfulness in a way that requires belief in higher powers and/or someone/something that must be thanked.
 

kenny

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marymm|1459015160|4011374 said:
Is there something about atheism which prevents an atheist to be grateful/thankful for what is?
To be grateful for a sunny day, a close parking slot, a songbird, a great conversation, the awareness you feel fulfilled or content, fill in the blank?
Isn't gratitude also appreciation?
I guess I don't define gratitude or thankfulness in a way that requires belief in higher powers and/or someone/something that must be thanked.
You ask, "Is there something about atheism which prevents an atheist to be grateful/thankful for what is?"
I'd answer, maybe.
Gratefulness depends on there being an object for the gratefulness.
No object, no gratefulness.

Of course I appreciate, "a sunny day, a close parking slot, a songbird, a great conversation, the awareness you feel fulfilled or content, fill in the blank."
Absolutely! I'm just as happy as the next guy, theist or atheist.

But there is nobody or no thing to thank for some of that.
Many things just are.

Well, actually, let's take em one by one:
1. Sunny day, I guess I could thank the infinitely complex weather patterns, the rotation of the earth, the sun itself for warmth ... but isn't that as bizarre as thanking a sidewalk for supporting my weight or thanking gravity for preventing me from floating off into space?
2. I assume you meant an empty parking spot to pull into: Perhaps thank myself for not arriving when it is usually more busy ... or thank chance (bizarre again) ... maybe thank the previous occupant for leaving?
3. A songbird: I guess I could thank its parents and all the insects that died to feed it. Thank my ears for working and the existence of air, the medium through which sound waves travel.
4. A great conversation: I'd thank that person, and myself.
5. The awareness you feel fulfilled or content, I guess I'd thank myself for my awareness and for making good life choices resulting in fulfillment and contentment ... I could thank my race, gender and being skilled enough to get born in America since all those give me an unfair advantage. I'd thank my therapist for helping to release me from my garbage.

You ask, "Isn't gratitude also appreciation? "
No, it's not.
They are very different.
Appreciation is directed at what you appreciate.
Gratitude is directed at who/what provided what you appreciate.

Again how can you thank it/him/her when you believe in nothing supernatural?
And with nobody or nothing to thank, are you really thanking, or just happy about something?
That question is the point of this thread.

Being grateful depends on there being a giver of the good thing.
By definition there must be an object for your gratefulness.

Again, for many things there is clearly a giver to thank.
But for everything else, with no supernatural object for gratitude, I'm at a loss.
I'd say all I can do is just be happy (not grateful) about about the good things that didn't come from a person.

I'm just trying to think freshly and clearly ... not and easy thing to do.
 

House Cat

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Why can't you just be grateful?


Be grateful for the moment.
Be grateful for your health.
Be grateful for the beauty of life.


Just feel the warmth of gratitude and just...be.
 

kenny

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House Cat|1459020356|4011391 said:
Why can't you just be grateful?


Be grateful for the moment.
Be grateful for your health.
Be grateful for the beauty of life.


Just feel the warmth of gratitude and just...be.
I'm certainly happy about all of those.
When it comes to your question, I've already posted the answer. :wavey:
But I'll repeat.

Gratefulness depends on there being an object for the gratefulness.
No object, no gratefulness.
 

Matata

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Don't get lost in semantics. Grateful, thankful, appreciative are used interchangeably and carry the same meaning. None of the aforementioned need to be directed at something or someone. If you're hung up on the meaning of a word related to its symbolic representation, change the word -- instead of being thankful, be fred or glook. Then you can ascribe any object to it you want, or nothing at all and resolve trying to figure out to what or whom one should be grateful or thankful if one doesn't believe in supernatural.
 

ame

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I am an atheist and I don't thank a sentient being at thanksgiving. You don't have to thank any one or any thing to be thankful or grateful for being alive, for having the good fortune that you've had. In your case beating cancer I'd say thank you to science and medicine for helping my body beat that illness and the doctors and nurses that worked day and night to help me. But if you must thank "something", you can be thankful to Mother Nature, you can be thankful for the vast universe itself for evolving to have been exactly how it is for things to be so fortuitous that you built your life the way it is...
 

House Cat

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kenny|1459020405|4011392 said:
House Cat|1459020356|4011391 said:
Why can't you just be grateful?


Be grateful for the moment.
Be grateful for your health.
Be grateful for the beauty of life.


Just feel the warmth of gratitude and just...be.
I'm certainly happy about all of those.
When it comes to your question, I've already posted the answer. :wavey:
But I'll repeat.

Gratefulness depends on there being an object for the gratefulness.
No object, no gratefulness.

I'm not sure I agree.

I believe gratitude is a state of being.
 

Alex T

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ame|1459028107|4011460 said:
I am an atheist and I don't thank a sentient being at thanksgiving. You don't have to thank any one or any thing to be thankful or grateful for being alive, for having the good fortune that you've had. In your case beating cancer I'd say thank you to science and medicine for helping my body beat that illness and the doctors and nurses that worked day and night to help me. But if you must thank "something", you can be thankful to Mother Nature, you can be thankful for the vast universe itself for evolving to have been exactly how it is for things to be so fortuitous that you built your life the way it is...
This exactly. I am a huge follower of science & physics. I am also a grateful person. I am thankful for family taking care of themselves & being healthy & strong. In times of trouble or death, I am thankful for medicine, inner strength & being able to find a positive from the negative. I am amazed at the beauty of nature & I understand how evolution has made those things possible. A clear blue sunny sky with beautiful green, full trees looking over me always makes me catch my breath, always. It is one of the most beautiful sensations ever. But I don't thank "anyone" for that. It just makes me grateful to be alive :))
 

kenny

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Maybe I've seen one too many of these bumper stickers ..."Question Everything." :lol:
 

Alex T

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I question most things too, but not in the way of a higher entity being involved. I'm just curious & I like to learn. When I left High School at 18, my fellow Literature A-level students had me a T-shirt printed that read "Yes, but...." on the front, and "...WHY???" on the back :lol:
 

ame

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Alex T|1459028791|4011464 said:
ame|1459028107|4011460 said:
I am an atheist and I don't thank a sentient being at thanksgiving. You don't have to thank any one or any thing to be thankful or grateful for being alive, for having the good fortune that you've had. In your case beating cancer I'd say thank you to science and medicine for helping my body beat that illness and the doctors and nurses that worked day and night to help me. But if you must thank "something", you can be thankful to Mother Nature, you can be thankful for the vast universe itself for evolving to have been exactly how it is for things to be so fortuitous that you built your life the way it is...
This exactly. I am a huge follower of science & physics. I am also a grateful person. I am thankful for family taking care of themselves & being healthy & strong. In times of trouble or death, I am thankful for medicine, inner strength & being able to find a positive from the negative. I am amazed at the beauty of nature & I understand how evolution has made those things possible. A clear blue sunny sky with beautiful green, full trees looking over me always makes me catch my breath, always. It is one of the most beautiful sensations ever. But I don't thank "anyone" for that. It just makes me grateful to be alive :))
:wavey:

I also have never thought of Thanksgiving as anything more than a secular holiday. It's not religious at all. So all the implications in more recent years that it is anything BUT a secular holiday are baffling to me.
 

packrat

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Attitude of Gratitude, Kenny. That's all there needs to be. It doesn't have to be directed to anyone or anything to have meaning, feel it in your heart and let it rest.
 

VRBeauty

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Kenny - I'm going to let you in on a little secret. There are some people who identify as "believers" or even "Christians" who aren't actually sure about those big questions. They might have started out as believers and then questioned more, or realized that what they had believed didn't answer all their questions, or maybe they came up with other explanations or constructs. Some of those people dropped out and became atheists or some other brand of non-believer, but others decided to choose to believe... which I'm sure you realize is a bit of an oxymoron. I know one or two thoughtful, well-educated people, even ordained ministers, who have chosen to believe for one reason or another. Maybe it's because a faith-based community is what they want to be a part of, maybe it's because beliefs and practices that we associate with faith check a lot of boxes that they want checked in their lives. I don't know... I do know that whatever the thinking or reasoning, it works for them and for the communities they participate in. I guess to some extent the "anonymous" groups' belief in "a higher power" serves the same function, although the beliefs of the people I'm describing might be a step back even from that.

I guess what I'm saying is that I know people tend to think of religion in the extremes, because that's what makes the news and maybe because it's easier to grasp than the many and varied ways in which people - given a chance - believe. (And of course there are many groups in which this form of belief would not be accepted at all.) But the reality is that not everyone "believes" in the same way or with the same degree of certainty. Some people need everything to be black or white, others have learned to accept and even embrace the gray.

Maybe you can allow yourself some degree of latitude in your non-belief, in your atheism? Maybe you can be grateful for the things that go right, and the things that knock your socks off, without having to identify a specific entity to receive that gratitude? Just say "hey, that was really great - thanks" and not worry about the receiving end of that gratitude? (I guess that's basically a variation of thanking the universe...)

I know that for me, gratitude is important. It's a nice counter-balance to my list of complaints about the sucky things, and it seems to be able to lift me to a slightly better plane of thought - even when the rational part of my brain tells me that really, that was just dumb luck. I just know that my life would be much poorer if I weren't able to say "thank you" to universe, or the God I choose to believe in, or whatever...

Anyhow, I appreciate your thoughtful and thought-provoking post.
 

susief

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I think I agree with you Kenny, though I'm not an atheist. Without someone or something to give thanks to, it's not gratitude, just happiness. Nothing wrong with that!

But it doesn't have to be a specific object or person you are grateful to. As previous posters have pointed out, you can be grateful to advances in science, nature, whatever. But if none of these ring true for you, it's fine to forget the gratitude and just feel happy and fortunate.

As an aside, I think it's a human instinct to WANT to feel gratitude, and I suspect a lot of religion has evolved from that, as giving thanks is a common theme across the world's religions.
 

missy

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ame said:
Alex T|1459028791|4011464 said:
ame|1459028107|4011460 said:
I am an atheist and I don't thank a sentient being at thanksgiving. You don't have to thank any one or any thing to be thankful or grateful for being alive, for having the good fortune that you've had. In your case beating cancer I'd say thank you to science and medicine for helping my body beat that illness and the doctors and nurses that worked day and night to help me. But if you must thank "something", you can be thankful to Mother Nature, you can be thankful for the vast universe itself for evolving to have been exactly how it is for things to be so fortuitous that you built your life the way it is...
This exactly. I am a huge follower of science & physics. I am also a grateful person. I am thankful for family taking care of themselves & being healthy & strong. In times of trouble or death, I am thankful for medicine, inner strength & being able to find a positive from the negative. I am amazed at the beauty of nature & I understand how evolution has made those things possible. A clear blue sunny sky with beautiful green, full trees looking over me always makes me catch my breath, always. It is one of the most beautiful sensations ever. But I don't thank "anyone" for that. It just makes me grateful to be alive :))
:wavey:

I also have never thought of Thanksgiving as anything more than a secular holiday. It's not religious at all. So all the implications in more recent years that it is anything BUT a secular holiday are baffling to me.
Yes I agree with all of this. I am also a grateful and thankful person and while not atheist I am more of an agnostic (I want there to be a higher being but not completely sure) I am thankful and grateful to science, to medicine, to my friends, family and loved ones, inner strength, and to the universe for all the good that happens.




VRBeauty said:
I know that for me, gratitude is important. It's a nice counter-balance to my list of complaints about the sucky things, and it seems to be able to lift me to a slightly better plane of thought - even when the rational part of my brain tells me that really, that was just dumb luck. I just know that my life would be much poorer if I weren't able to say "thank you" to universe, or the God I choose to believe in, or whatever...

Anyhow, I appreciate your thoughtful and thought-provoking post.
Yes same here.
 

katharath

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I'm probably most similar to missy as far as my overall view - she, ame, and Alex T pretty much said exactly how I feel as well, so I won't go over it all again - basically just a big "me too!!" to the above post :)
 

jordyonbass

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I don't see why being an atheist should affect gratitude, the label only really has one definition and that's simply the you don't believe in any god. I fall under that simple definitio and:

I am grateful to be able to enjoy life how I do
I am grateful for mother nature
I am grateful for all the experiences that have shaped me into who I am

Does there need to be some kind of object, entity or person to give my appreciation and gratefulness to? I don't think so, you could probably find individuals and other areas where my gratitude can be given but I don't look at it like that.
 
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