Thanksgiving Non-Prayers for Humanists

Need a secular grace this Thanksgiving? HNN readers and AHA members submit their own Thanksgiving “non-prayers” that can satisfy both religious and non-religious family members before the big meal!

Thanksgiving is a holiday many Americans can enjoy. But what should humanists do if they’re asked to say “grace” before the meal? Many may choose to keep the peace and lead the family (especially if the family includes very religious members) in a traditional prayer. But for those who desire a non-religious option, here are several “Thanksgiving Non-Prayers” for the holiday!

Van Curren submits these two non-prayers. He is president of the Humanists of Idaho and became a Humanist Celebrant in 2006. He’s also authored three books; the latest is Dissecting A Bible: A Critical Analysis of the Holy Scriptures

Corn and grain, meat and milk
Upon our table width and length
With loving thought and careful craft
Through so many hands have passed
Essence of life, fruits of our labors
Bringing sustenance and strength
To ours and all our neighbors
May we all be grateful for all we have
And compassion for those without.


From the freshly baked breads
To delicious meats and treats
This meal is the work
Of many hands
For all of us to share
From the seeds in the field
And animals in the barn
To this table of family and friends
Hard work has provided us
A bounty of tender, loving care.

In HNN’s Thanksgiving Issue last year, we published a “Nonbeliever’s Grace” by Paul Diamond, who was inspired by a column in Ann Landers where an atheist asked what to say when asked to say “grace” before a meal.

I offer my deepest appreciation and my most profound apologies to the plants and animals whose lives were forfeit for our good health this day.

We give thanks to the ranchers and the farmers, their workers and their hands whose skill, sweat and toil have brought forth this bounty from the Earth.

We are grateful to the workers in the fields who pick our food, the workers in the plants where our food is processed, the teamsters who carry it to market and the stockers and the checkers who offer it up for our selection.

We are particularly appreciative for those at this table who have prepared this food with love and affection for our enjoyment and nourishment this day.

We remember fondly those who the miles and circumstance keep from joining us today as we remember those who are no longer with us and are grateful for the time we have shared with them.

We enjoy the warmth and fellowship that surrounds this gathering as we share the fervent hope  That people the world over can share the good fortune, warm feeling and conviviality that  embraces this gathering.

This non-prayer was composed by the Red Bank Humanists and submitted by HNN reader Bruce Fowler last year.

As we come together at this special time, let us pause a moment to appreciate the opportunity for good company and to thank all those past and present whose efforts have made this event possible. We reap the fruits of our society, our Country, and our civilization, and take joy in the bounties of Nature on this happy occasion. Let us also wish that, some day, all people on Earth may enjoy the same good fortune that we share.

HNN reader Kris Punke offered this simple grace:

As we eat, let us turn our minds to every individual we know, and wish them plenty, love and comfort on this day and every day. As we sit together, let us turn our minds to those we do not know, and wish them plenty, love and comfort on this and every day.  As we celebrate, let us turn our minds and hearts to love, always love, of everyone on this world.  Finally, let us turn our  minds and hearts onto ourselves, make our wishes into action: sharing love and comfort whenever we can, with whomever we can, wherever we may be, and be thankful for the opportunities to  give, love and comfort. In this way, we give thanks and are thankful in return.

Finally, another HNN reader who goes by the handle skeptic150 offers this modified version:

Let us be thankful to those who planted the crops, cultivated the fields, and gathered the harvest; for the plants and animals who have given themselves so that we can enjoy this meal together;  and to those who prepared this meal, those who served it, and those who will clean up afterwards.         

Let us remember those who have no festivity; those who are alone; those who cannot share this plenty; those who are hungry, sick, and cold; and those whose lives are more affected than our  own by injustice, tyranny, war, oppression, and exploitation.

In sharing this meal, let us be thankful for the good things we have, for family and friends, for warm hospitality, and for good company.

Do you have a Thanksgiving Non-Prayer you’d like to share? Leave a comment below or email us at!

  • Doubting Thomas

    I always just liked “Good bread, good meat, I’m hungry, let’s eat!”

  • youredumb

    These are wonderful, thank you. I’m hosting 11 people this year of all different backgrounds and faiths, including my husband and I who are non-believers. I will definitely be reading one of these before dinner as well as sharing on social media.

  • Katrina

    We always go around the table and each person says a few words about what s/he is thankful for. My whole family is agnostic or atheist or pagan or freethinker.

  • David Kimball

    Let Us Learn From That First Thanksgiving

    Let us learn from that first Thanksgiving
    The concept of acceptance.
    For it was the Indians who graciously accepted
    The foreigners without proper visas.
    For they realized that acceptance was moral
    Whether it was legal or not.

    Let us learn from that first Thanksgiving
    The concept of tolerance.
    For it was a holiday of mixed religions
    Both Christian and Indian.
    For a celebration among different people
    Is a celebration of humanity, not theology.

    Let us learn from that first Thanksgiving
    The concept of learning from other cultures.
    For without learning how to harvest,
    The English non-farmers would have perished.
    So also, if we do not learn to learn from other cultures
    We too will perish.

    David Kimball

  • GotScience

    I don’t want to denigrate, but the rain on the parade looms. What of those who planted the seeds foisted on them by Monsanto. Those who harvested the crops drenched in pesticides and herbicides. Those whose corn subsidies tore out the means of living from small growers in Southern Mexico.
    I am sure that everyone gets my point. So unless we blind ourselves to things we could not possibly be grateful for, what is left? I think that being grateful implies grateful to someone who actually performed gratuitously a deed that helped us. Thus giving thanks to the noble and civilized, benevolent natives who kept your community from dying makes perfect sense. Making a tradition of it by giving thanks to generalities while eating a monster meal does not seem very useful to me. How about DOING something good.
    I wish all the gratification brought by good deeds done year around without fuss to all my fellow humans.

    • TJLeeWilliams

      Wow. I bet you’re everyone’s favorite Thanksgiving guest.

      • GotScience

        Apologies for having an opinion which does not square with your sensitivities.