Why Do Atheists Celebrate Thanksgiving Day?
A frequent argument which shows up from lots of apologists (including my E-mail) is what do atheists have to be thankful for on Thanksgiving Day?
This question is posited as an argument for God. Arguments of course are not evidence. Aside from that, the argument assumes that atheists cannot be thankful.
It attempts to show atheists as hypocrites (a similar argument is used for celebrating Christmas Day). Thanksgiving Day is essentially an end-of-harvest day. In the hagiography of the day in American culture, it was celebrated between colonists in Massachusetts Bay colony and Native Americans in the area in 1621, though there is little documentation this event actually occurred.
There is good documentation for the event in Virginia. The 1619 arrival of 38 English settlers at Berkeley Hundred in Charles City County, Virginia, concluded with a religious celebration as dictated by the group’s charter from the London Company, which specifically required “that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned … in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.“ (courtesy of Wikipedia)
The day is a Federal holiday in the United States, the fourth Thursday of November (today). US states celebrated the day sporadically on different days, though Evacuation Day was popular (the day the British Army was evacuated after the Revolutionary War). President Abraham Lincoln called for a national day of Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November in 1863. It was not celebrated during Reconstruction (the occupation of the rebellious states of Dixie following the end of the Civil War).
The day as it exists on the Federal calendar now only dates back to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939, when he changed it from the last Thursday to the fourth Thursday by proclamation. It was fixed by Congress on that day in 1941.
So what do atheists have to be thankful for, when we don’t believe in any god? Why would we be thankful, and to whom?
I am thankful to live in a nation which is mostly at peace. I am thankful for those who help maintain our society (whether police or teachers, military or doctors, &c).
For a bountiful harvest, and those who toiled long and hard to produce that (ranchers, farmers, farm workers, migrant workers, &c)
For those who bring that bounty to market (harvesters, transport drivers, stockyard and grain elevator workers, &c)
For those who make that bounty available (butchers and bakers, grocers and those who work in all those industries).
For my family, from whom I am separated over this holiday but love (my mother and step-father, my sister and my son).
For my friends, who agree and argue with me and have been supportive throughout my life.
But most of all for my wife, who is my partner-in-crime, my strength and support, and my love for as long as she’ll have me.
This is an article I wrote which was published last year. The original is at Noesis (the journal of the Mega Society) as a PDF. Feel free to share if you wish, though I would ask that you provide a link to Noesis or to this post at Little Green Footballs.