This is my first holiday season as a solid non-theist. Last year I was still clinging to the remnants of a liberal Christianity that was the result of trying to eliminate falsehood and bias from my belief system. That’s the troubling thing about honestly searching for truth…it leads you places you may not expect or even want to go. I never was very good at hanging onto beliefs that don’t fit what I know of reality. Perhaps I’m just too sensitive to cognitive dissonance.
The holidays can be a difficult time for secular people with religious families. They’re literally “holy days”, held sacred by various religious people, some of whom will get mad if you say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” (because apparently Christmas is the only holy day that matters). Of course, there’s little of the sacred left in our mainstream celebrations, which in true American tradition tend to focus more on greed and exploitation. Behind the saccharine ahistorical story of the “First Thanksgiving” lies a much broader story of the greed of Europeans, and exploitation of the natives and their land. We’ve changed so much and yet so little.
This year I am thankful for the people who deserve recognition and gratitude.
I’m thankful for honest and courageous thinkers who dared to ask difficult questions throughout history, who discovered new truths by challenging old traditions. I’m thankful for the hard work of people who built on the knowledge of those who went before them and developed modern science and technology. I’m thankful for the people who are responsible for the existence of cars, computers, everything electric, and the concept of democratic freedoms. Hardly a single moment of my life passes that is not affected by the work and discoveries of those countless invaluable members of humanity.
I’m thankful that through a long process of scientific discovery we have finally reached a point where we have the knowledge and resources required to eliminate starvation throughout the world, if only we would make it a priority. I’m thankful for the thousands of people involved in producing the food I eat every day, the farmers, the workers at processing plants, the transportation employees who keep everything moving, the single mothers earning minimum wage to stock shelves at grocery stores. Many of them will no doubt be working on Thanksgiving, because greed and exploitation never sleep.
I’m thankful that I can write and say the things I do without fear of being imprisoned or killed for it. I’m thankful that I do not exist merely to heap praise on an undeserving narcissistic deity, but rather to explore and know the universe that produced me, to enjoy my planet and love my people, to use my perspective and skills to hopefully create more beauty and happiness in this world.
I’m thankful that there are many things we don’t know, because it means there is more exploring to do.