What Humanists Are Thankful For

Thanks to everyone who wrote in response to last week’s Message From the Editor, “What Are Humanists Thankful For?” We’ve published some of our favorite comments and, due to the large volume of responses, we regret that we could not include them all. Thank you again, and Happy Thanksgiving!

One of the things I am thankful for is that I am in good company as an atheist, and that through being a member of various atheist and humanist organizations, both national and local, including the American Humanists, I have met rational people who think for themselves, and with whom I can share ideas. We can work together on seeking ways to promote (and to the extent it exists, preserve) separation of state and religion.

I am thankful that there is a day of celebration each November that has nothing to do with religion or an imaginary friend in the sky, on which we get together with family and friends and enjoy wonderful food together.

I am thankful that there is no TV where I will be celebrating Thanksgiving, since I have no interest in watching football.  I am thankful that there will be a TV where you will celebrate Thanksgiving, so that you [Maggie Ardiente, HNN editor] can enjoy what you call the greatest rivalry in football.

 —-Daniel A. Kalish, White Plains, NY

I did a “Humanist Minute” several years ago at our November chapter meeting.  My computer seems to have swallowed it, but as a retired U S history teacher I know some people I thanked. Often working for their own interests and deeply divided, our Founding Fathers still cobbled together a government and a nation which has lasted for about two and a quarter centuries.  Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine — freethinkers by any definition — played a huge part, but there were others with different religious persuasions.  Then those who have kept the country going since, but especially Lincoln, the two Roosevelts, Truman, and up to today deserve mention. Inventors and business people who, again for their own reasons, made possible the lives we lead today.  On a personal level, my own ancestors lived in circumstances that would defeat me and established families I can be proud of.  I’m also grateful for our children and their families, as many as possible of whom will be at our dinner table on Thanksgiving. Some will give thanks to their god; others will appreciate the human beings who made the gathering, and the feast, possible.  But all will enjoy a fine American dinner together.

—-Jerry Wesner, Albuquerque, NM

My thankfulness is to have participated in this truly awesome Universe — or multiverse, if you prefer — and to have been born and lived a life that is meaningful in how I have contributed to our human society.  As a Humanist, the cosmos is far more respectable by me than a God of love one day, and of torture and destruction of innocents the next day.

—–Jack Lander

Easy: My wife, family, friends and country.

—-Don Peterson, Nashville, TN

Things I Am Thankful For:

1. An awareness of history
2. A brain that learns/retains
3. Living in the same time as JK Rowling, Carl Sagan, Barack and Michelle Obama, Fred Rogers, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michael Shermer, etc.
4. Being born into the same family my siblings were born into
5. The way my nieces have found such fabulous men–this generation of American Men
6. This generation of American women!
7. Gay Rights
8. Living in history’s most civil, open society, ever.
9. For my family and friends.
10. That in my generation red wine, chocolate, and coffee have all been found to be healthful!

Life is good.

And number 11: that I get paid for doing what I love: teaching.

—-Kate Wallace Johnson, Okanogan, Washington

I used to think that atheists, having no one to be thankful to, could not be thankful for anything. Yet today I am an atheist myself, and I’m thankful to other people for love, kindness, thoughtfulness, generosity, hospitality. I’m thankful for those who are no longer living, but whose presence in my life I still miss, and even for former friends who cannot abide my unbelief, for all the years of friendship we did share. I’m thankful for individuals I’ve never met, such as Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan, whose work continues to enlighten me; for Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers on Car Talk, whose call-in talk show enlivened so many Saturday mornings, as has Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion for many decades now; for teachers, policemen, firemen, soldiers, doctors, and nurses for their willingness to dedicate their lives in service to others; for the political satire on Saturday Night Live, that leavens so many election seasons; for old friends and new. I’m thankful for times of doubt and struggle and even anguish that led me to a more honest and peaceful state of mind. I’m thankful for dozens of thoughtful authors of books and articles that have brought me enlightenment and enabled me to continue to be a lifelong learner. I’m thankful for the federal student loan program that enabled me to afford to go to college, and I’m thankful that I was able to pay it back ahead of schedule. I’m thankful for a mate who not only shares my values, but has taught me so much about being a better human being. I’m thankful that Al Gore invented the Internet (just kidding), which has given me access to the thoughts of countless other minds. I’m thankful for the countless hours of dedication that causes others to freely share knowledge on the Internet, on public television and radio. I’m thankful for public libraries and free museums; for the freedoms we have in this country, which I not only hope we will keep but hope we will share with citizens of other countries in their struggles for freedom and personal responsibility. I’m thankful for women who struggled against sometimes terrible oppression so that I, a woman, can campaign and vote for representatives of my choice today, and I am thankful that there are individuals whom I am proud and confident to have represent me in both my state and the US Congress. I’m thankful that President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were re-elected, because it means that at least enough more people cared enough about other people to elect those who care for the least of us. I’m thankful for two bright daughters, both pursuing professional careers of their choice, who are raising wonderful children of their own. And I’m thankful to my parents for doing the best they could with what they knew to do, for being good enough parents, in spite of many impediments. I’m even thankful for the many years I was a true believer in a Christian fundamentalist church, because of it, I was able to see why, in spite of even excellent intentions of others, we should never give power over ourselves to others: only in taking responsibility for our own lives can we truly be free and happy adults, able to contribute to the society around us. So I say Happy Thanksgiving Day to everyone, and I hope the coming year brings more for each of us to be thankful for.

—-Kathleen Kakacek, Grandview, Missouri

This year I am thankful for the generosity of someone I don’t even know.  My brother-in-law is suffering with AML – a type of leukemia that requires a bone marrow transplant.  None of his four siblings were a match, so his physician went to the National Bone Marrow Registry where they found an unrelated donor match!  We don’t know who this person is (and may never know), but his/her willingness to undergo the donor procedure (and it’s not a simple thing) for someone he/she doesn’t know is truly giving my brother-in-law a new chance at life.  We have no idea what the donor’s religious beliefs are, but we are grateful that they share our value of responsibility to our common human family.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to express my appreciation and gratitude to this wonderful person, even in this indirect way.

—Kathy, Rochester, NY

I too am often asked “Who do I thank” at Thanksgiving.  My answer: My Ancestors, and the fact that they braved the move to America.

—Ron Taubman, Breckenridge, CO

For 23 years I was a Southern Baptist and if that wasn’t bad enough I converted to Catholicism and was a Catholic for 44 years. I could have gone on blissfully ignorant the rest of my life, but I didn’t.  After I retired I decided that once and for all I was going to try to solve the problem that had eluded me for all of my life.  wanted to know how can all these various religion claim to be the only “right” religion. That’s an obvious contradiction in terms, but who was right? Well I studied religion of all types for 5 years straight as if I were getting a graduate degree in Religion. And when I was finished I really believed I had a graduate degree although it was never awarded. I wanted to make sure I made the right decision on this because I believed at the outset my very life depended on my decision.

Well guess what? I discovered that none of these religions were right and they were all wrong. I couldn’t believe any of them because they all fell short of showing any proof whatsoever of their legitimacy. In fact when I finished studying I held many of these Christian religions in total disdain and contempt because of their history of bigotry and involvement in starting wars for over centuries and some for over two millennia. Well after I reached this astonishing conclusion I then asked myself whether there are people like me. And I couldn’t find any because I lived in the center of the Bible Belt of Texas and I was afraid to even admit that I didn’t believe in Christianity anymore. And I knew what Christians thought about atheists and agnostics. How much lower in life could two groups of people be than atheists and agnostics? Why they were even lower than car salesmen and politicians on the popularity scale.   They were like snakes slithering around on their bellies.

So I became very discouraged because there was no one I could talk to about my loss of faith and the reasons I had lost my faith. My wife certainly didn’t want to hear anything I said about my losing my faith. So I got to searching around on the web for a place for people like me. And I found two groups that thought and believed as I do. They were the American Humanist Association and the Unitarian Universalist Church. I believed everything they both stood for and I was relieved that someone else in this world believed as I did.

So I am thankful this Thanksgiving that there are organizations out there like AHA and UUA who stand for the intelligent things in life and don’t believe in myths, legends, and fairy tales because that is what I believed in most of my life. Now thanks to the AHA and UUA, my life has turned around and I see truth for what it really is. It is the world all around us that each of us see. No more and no less.

I no longer have to fear going to a place of damnation where I will be boiled in oil for all eternity.  Who could really believe something like that anyway? I did, but I don’t anymore.  But I can tell you there are millions out there who do and live in constant fear of going to hell. And I hope young people all over this country are seeing organized religion for what it really is and that is the panderer of all things unbelievable and the greatest manipulator of the truth in this world. It appears that our young people are deserting standard religions in great numbers and this must send a chill of fear into their manipulating little hearts. Where oh where is that money going to come from that has supported us for all these years?  Who is going to believe all these lies that we have fooled millions with over two millennia? The Holy Bible has been shown to be what it really is, a history of Iron Age men who believed in the supernatural and built their whole life around this fabrication. It seems a shame to me that it has taken over two millennia for people to come to their senses. And who do you think kept the people blinded from the truth all those years? It started with the Roman Catholic Church and has spread to all Protestant denominations that fell away from the Catholic Church.

So I give thanks for my freedom from fear and the understanding of what religion has done to us for over two thousand years. It is great to be free, finally.

—Anonymous, Kerrville, TX

Since becoming an out-of-the-closet, avowed non-believer, my Thanksgiving meal gratitude now extends infinitely. No longer do I briefly or superficially thank the supernatural deity of biblical myth, abruptly stop, and then dig into a plateful of bounty. I think of all the human beings that had a hand in my holiday repast. Just look at the sweet potatoes, for example. There are farmers taking risk; field hands doing work; botanists perfecting better sweet potatoes; wholesalers, distributors, transporters and grocers efficiently getting food to my kitchen; a cook preparing the meal; and – well you get the idea. And no supernatural being is necessary.

My lowly sweet potato involves a wide swath of my current planet-mates. And, historically, I can thank human beings with a bent for growing things for many past millennia. And so my gratitude can go out to my species mates in earnest, and with a real, practical recognition for all they do for me each day. And it’s a reminder of my personal duty to uphold my little spot in the human continuum – to do my duty as your fellow homo sapiens.

As an added benefit, I seriously doubt that one of my Christian friends would ever ask me to say the Thanksgiving meal blessing. They would not care to hear my brand of gratitude – it might take too long and for sure, it would invoke uncomfortable thoughts.

Your enthusiastic and regular reader,

—–“Wally”, Star, Idaho

First, I am happy every morning when I get up. I will be 84 on my next birthday, and as far as I know, just as sharp as I was in my 20’s. I wouldn’t complain if I can get a new body, but it also can be worse. November 15 was my wife’s 85 birthday and also pretty sharp. Although major travel is no longer possible, we are both thankful for having seen a good part of the world already.

I am thankful that my wife who is one of 6 siblings, both older and younger, is the last one left. I am thankful that I can still say to her every day that I love her. I am thankful that our children and grandchildren are all healthy and doing fairly well. I am thankful that all the nieces and nephews, although not close to us physically,  feel close to us in spirit and call very frequently to see how we are doing.

I am thankful that I have been very successful in my schooling and working careers and have never felt the need to thank a supernatural being for all my good fortune.

I was born in a orthodox Jewish home and observed with my family all the rituals and ceremonies as a duty, but two days after my 13th birthday and Bar Mitzvah, I said to myself “What am I doing?  I don’t believe any of this.” From that day on, I was obviously a humanist in my actions and beliefs, and have never regretted it.

 —-Paul Chankin

I worship “Nature”— the natural world we evolved in.  I daily hug an ancient  oak in Nipomo Native Garden that my community placed a plaque at:  “Bill Denneen’s Coast Live Oak” with a quote from H.D.Thoreau.

My Cathedral is Point Sal  that I have kept “undeveloped” for 50 years—-it is now fully protected. I have worked  to get vehicles off Oceano Beach & Nipomo Dunes SVRA (State Vehicle Recreation Area).   State Park Rangers should be leading Nature Walks rather than promoting driving as a type of “recreation.”

This Thanksgiving I will go to these natural areas to thank “Mother Nature” for these so special “gifts”.

—–Bill Denneen, Nipomo, CA

Nice to know other atheists have pondered with me on the meaning of “Thanksgiving,” since “giving thanks” implies “someone” who may have directed all the good things in our lives. I usually describe it as a time of MINDFULNESS…..when I’m MINDFUL of the good things in my life and of the people I cherish. That’s what I taught my daughter.

So…at this time….I’m very MINDFUL of American Humanists and all the things you do for us! THANKS!

 —–Pam Wright, Pasadena, CA

Three and half years ago I was a single mom, having been separated for some time from my husband of ten years. I was miserable. I had just completed a short-sale on a home I could not afford and lost many thousands of dollars. My then 12-year old son was having learning problems at school and I great disliked my sales job. I was dating, but no one wanted to know me for me. I was rock bottom.

Then I decided to change my life step by step. I took the GMAT and applied to graduate school and was accepted. In the three years since, I received two scholarships, completed 16 graduate classes and will earn a Master of Science in Taxation in December 2012. While going to school, I started a part-time job at a public accounting firm, that after a year went to full-time. Also, during 2008 I joined a Unitarian Universalist congregation, made lots of new friends and found more meaning in life, which enabled me to rise from the ashes and re-create myself. After healing from a painful past, I recently reconciled with my husband and we’ll be getting remarried next year.

I am grateful for so many people and good things that have happened in the last four years. I have never felt so appreciative of my life and my family. Life has more meaning. With all of this, I have had the courage to stand for what I believe: to pronounce that I am a humanist; that I believe in love, kindness, intelligence, creativity, and the goodness in people. My son has also connected well with this belief.

We ARE believers: We believe in each other. We believe in finding our strengths and dealing with our weaknesses. We believe in love. We believe in the miracles of mother nature. We are humanists.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to submit words of gratitude. I am grateful now, on Nov. 22nd and every day.

—–Lisa, Boston, MA

I am thankful for the AHA because it advocates for me and helps me feel like I’m not alone in thinking as I do.  I’m thankful for Facebook which has made it possible for me to reconnect with people I knew long long ago as well as friends I only see once a year or less.  I’m thankful for the mostly good election results. I’m thankful for the 2 most wonderful cats in the world, in my totally unbiased opinion.

—Heidi Johnson

I’m thankful for clean water, for freedom of movement, freedom of speech, freedom to have my own home-space which has never been torn-down, freedom for all to marry – or the choice not to do so.

I’m thankful for freedom from bullying and bombing.
I’m thankful for trees which have never been uprooted against my will and for those who stand up for their continued growth and for human rights.
I’m thankful for food prepared by my daughters and food grown organically by ethical farmers and gardeners.
I’m grateful for health care and appreciate those working for Medicare for all.
I’m thankful for family and friends, including four-legged, winged, and sea creatures and to all who treat each other with respect.
I’m thankful for those who are open-minded yet still question and for those who listen.
I’m grateful for those with open hearts and shared skills, giving and receiving through time banks or not.
I’m grateful for in-depth book discussions and Soul to Soul groups.
I’m thankful for the change of seasons and temperature-appropriate clothing.
I’m grateful for artists and poets and musicians.
I’m grateful for interfaith groups who also include humanists.
I’m grateful for shelters for the homeless – whether victims of the economy, mental health issues, or violent emotional or physical abuse.
I’m grateful for our few honest politicians who work from a base of integrity.
I’m grateful for the leaders and followers in social justice causes and those who positively participate in reconciliation work.
I’m grateful for those who help us prepare for future generations.
I’m grateful for good teachers who inspire.
I’m thankful for harmony of all kinds.
I’m grateful for the peacemakers.

—-Barbara Michael, Marquette, MI

I am thankful for the health and wellness of my family, including three sons and my mom.  I am thankful for a relationship that is warm and loving with another rational person who shares my views. I am thankful for a rewarding job as a teacher with students who are sweet, caring and curious. I am appreciative of nature and the sound body that allows me to go out and enjoy it. My dogs bring humor and affection to my life. Literature feeds my mind as do the many interesting podcasts and magazines that present a broad view of the human experience. The list is long. I think atheists in particular appreciate good fortune as a part of life in a society of other unique and interesting individuals.

—–Anita White, Nokomis, Florida

I’m not “thankful.” Because I have no one to thank for my escape from the chains of faith but myself. I attended a National Honor Society induction ceremony recently. My daughter was an inductee and I couldn’t be prouder. Just after she was given her certificate, a priest came up to the podium for the benediction. He went on to say how important faith is for us as humans. And that life without faith has no purpose or hope. All through his rant, I kept thinking how lucky I am not to fall for such religious propaganda. Hope is supposed to be based on the idea that we get another chance at life after we die? not my idea of hope. I am totally at peace with the fact that life ends with death and there are no second chances. This makes me appreciate what I have now and gives me hope that my life on this earth will be of value to the next generation; that my child will have the benefit of a better world and that we, eventually,  will learn to appreciate life as the wonderful chance we all have to make a difference.

—Lupy Bruestle

I am thankful for all the usual – health, a loving family, life in a democratic country, how fantastic and beautiful the universe is. But specifically, on Thanksgiving Day, I’m thankful not only for all the food, but for the farmers who grew it, the teamsters (and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters) who brought it to my city,  and the grocery workers and clerks who stocked the shelves and rang the registers. To believe that it was all done by a god is an insult to many fine people.

—-James Anderson, Louisville, Kentucky.

At my house I am constantly thankful for my family, the love, honesty and relationships we have.  I am also so thankful for the lifestyle that is afforded by our access to clean air, clean water, electricity, healthy food, clothing and shelter.  I am grateful for the efforts of those who work to bring these basic necessities to those in need.

—-Krisula Moyer, Huntington Beach CA