Tuesday, November 23, 2010

All From God

I’ve always wondered how atheists celebrate Thanksgiving Day. I mean, it’s a good excuse to eat lots of food, but what does that day mean for them? Do they go around in a circle saying “thank you” to nobody in particular? Austin Cline, an atheist writer for, answered my question in his article “Godless Thanksgiving: Do Atheists Have Anyone to Thank?”

There's a popular belief among some American Christians that the American Thanksgiving holiday is necessarily religious. Aside from the apparent desire to turn everything into an expression of their religion, the primary reason behind this seems to be the idea that the whole point must be to give thanks to their god - not any other gods, just theirs, thus making it a Christian holiday too. If this is true, then it makes no sense for non-Christians, or at least non-theists, to celebrate Thanksgiving.
…There are many people whom we should thank because of how they help us either live at all or just live better. A common thread in these cases is precisely the fact that it is humans who are responsible for that for which we should be thankful, so it is humans whom we should be thanking. At no point are gods involved; even if they exist, gods aren't responsible for that for which we should be thankful, so there is no point in thanking them. On Thanksgiving, don't waste time with prayers, poems about gods, or empty religious rituals…
Sad, right? But I’m afraid that it’s not just atheists who feel like they have a right to the good things they enjoy, apart from any god. Many of us as Christians have started to live like we deserve to have a nice suburban life with a happy family. We have a right to a good education. We deserve to enjoy this beautiful weather. We understand that we don’t deserve heaven or salvation, but a consistent job or a warm cup of coffee is a totally different matter.
Although different than grace that brings salvation, the good things we enjoy and talk about around the Thanksgiving table are nevertheless gifts of grace. We’re here. We’re living. We’re breathing. It rains. The sun shines. Few people call that grace though, because as Jeff Hutchinson, pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, succinctly put it: “So few believe in common grace, because the human heart will not admit that a world without common grace is what we deserve.”  
In Psalm 53, David writes: 
The fool says in his heart, “‘There is no God.” They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good. God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.
All of us have said "there is no God" in our hearts or have at least lived like it, making gods out of ourselves or our things. Nobody is good. All are corrupt. Nobody seeks God. But when man wasn't interested in God, God was pursuing us. Instead of wiping us off the earth, He poured out His wrath on His Son and poured out grace on us, His enemies. What we really deserve is instant wrath. Thus everything is an undeserved gift of grace from God. The good things in my life that I enjoy are totally undeserved, because I should be getting only wrath from Him. That's grace.  
So when you enjoy beautiful weather, good food, a free country, a good education, laughter, a warm house, don’t ignorantly believe that these are simply things you deserve. Thank the God who by His grace has given you this day.
-Lauren Reavely  


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