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11/18/2007                                                                                       View Comments

My newfound freedom this Thanksgiving

By Sharon

Now that I’ve escaped the cult of Christianity and am becoming more aware of my freedom and my choices in life, I have to make a decision about Thanksgiving and what it means to me. I want to picture this Thanksgiving 2007 as separate from all the others. I want to ask myself, “What does Thanksgiving mean to me?” Maybe if I put all the other Thanksgiving’s in a big pile and set them aside in my mind, I’ll be able to focus on this one as an Ex-Christian.

All the other ones were about being thankful to God. They were about sitting around the table with loved ones and saying grace with hands clasped around the table. The person who offered the prayer would always call God “Heavenly Father.” Now I cringe at the thought of it. “Heavenly Father,” ugh! “Heavenly Father, we bow to you and humbly thank you for all the things you provide for us, because we’re afraid you might take them all away in a terrible natural disaster if we don’t!” That’s really what was meant. That’s not humility, that’s humiliation. “We are so tiny and weak, and you have every right to crush us!”

So, prayer was an important part of the day, even the night before if I went to a Thanksgiving Eve prayer service. Oh how holier-than-thou I felt on the years I did that! Now I hate prayer. Admittedly, there’s something about prayer that seemed healthy. It slowed my breathing, it sometimes even took away physical pain and soothed anxiety. But mindfulness and breathing exercises do those things just as well. What about prayer as a tool for helping me to focus on something outside of myself? Well, I can focus on something outside of myself without prayer, too. I can focus on nature. I can focus on the universe, regardless of whether it was created by some great being or not. What about the holding of hands? That was nice. We didn’t reach out and touch each other at all any other time in my family. Maybe this Thanksgiving I will hold hands with my partner and have a moment of silence, just to experience the balming effect of touch and feel the sensation of the connection between two human souls.

What about the giving of thanks? To whom would I give it, or does that matter? In summertime, I’m fond of tossing pennies in the fountain in the park and silently giving thanks to whomever or expressing an intention or a wish to whomever. The fountain in the park has become my new altar post-Christianity. I give thanks to whomever (or whatever, for that matter) year-round, even when the water’s not running. But I only give thanks when I feel like it, not because of a feeling of constraint to give thanks every day because “the Lord” loves it when we give thanks.

So, I’m glad for my newfound freedom this Thanksgiving. My freedom from the humiliation of the ritual of the dinner prayer. My freedom from the compulsion to attend the Thanksgiving Eve worship service for the especially righteous. My freedom from the expectation of holding hands with people who never hold my hand any other time of year, except maybe around the table at Christmas. My freedom from the expectation of giving thanks to God instead of giving thanks in my own way, whenever I want, however I want, and to whomever or whatever I want. And I will put all the other Thanksgiving’s in a great big pile to the side, and celebrate this Thanksgiving just for me, just for myself, focusing on what Thanksgiving means to me.

9 comments:

resonate11 said...

Nice! Good for you! You now have the freedom to be true to yourself and truly thankful.

fjell said...

Really lovely sentiments, Sharon. I enjoyed the positivity of this article mightily.

Giving thanks when one is thankful will always trump, in moral terms, giving thanks because one feels one ought. And you are example enough that a woman who does not believe that an uncreated creator manifested the universe may still enjoy the pleasure of thankfulness indeed.

Best wishes to you this Thanksgiving. I laud your providing this community with a positive message from which we all may benefit, and I encourage you and everyone else to do so in the future, as I am of the opinion that articles shining with positivity such as yours contain more utilitarian nourishment, in the end, than ten anti-apologies.

Yes, I feel quite strongly that messages of positivity from non-Christians will produce the greatest cumulative tug of all in the eventual rending asunder of that religion than much of the (well-deserved) sneering, since Christians are all too inclined to confuse hurled challenges from dissenters for proof of their delusions.

I know the pure philosophical war must be free to run its intangible course, but Sharon, I want you to know that I treasure a piece such as yours, which simply elucidates how an individual may navigate her life in a positive manner after leaving the mind trap of religion in her wake.

Much respect and good wishes,
fjell

AtheistToothFairy said...

Sharon said:
They were about sitting around the table with loved ones and saying grace with hands clasped around the table. The person who offered the prayer would always call God “Heavenly Father.” “Heavenly Father, we bow to you and humbly thank you for all the things you provide for us, because we’re afraid you might take them all away in a terrible natural disaster if we don’t!” ......
It slowed my breathing, it sometimes even took away physical pain and soothed anxiety"

----
Sharon,
As a boy, we didn't really say-grace in my home, but we did when visiting religious relatives or religious friends. Perhaps it was because it wasn't typical in my home to say grace, that it made me VERY uncomfortable when I was required to participate in that odd ritual to thank some unseen force of the universe for the food on the table; that a human had prepared and/or bought.
(It wasn't like it just appeared from heaven...LOL)

Even in my adult lifetime, I would find myself once again having to participate in this tradition.
When I still believed in some form of god being, it still made me uncomfortable, and unlike the soothing effect it had on you, it did quite the opposite to me. Alas, I went along with it, mostly out of respect for those I was in the company of.


Today as an atheist, the whole concept of thanking some make-believe god for anything in my life, is a concept that is beyond the ridiculous.
Where this thanking ritual once merely made me uncomfortable, it now has the same feel to me that talking to the dead turkey and expecting it to answer me, would have.

Perhaps something like this......"Oh thank you Mister Turkey for sacrificing yourself to help feed my empty tummy and thank you for not complaining too much while enduring the toasty heat of my blessed oven"

At this point everyone is very quiet, waiting for the spirit of the turkey to respond in some sacred gobble-code, assuring us it didn't mind becoming part of our feast.

Thanking this fantasy god is just no different than talking to the dinner turkey at thanksgiving!!


ATF (Who thinks turkey gobble-speak, is harder to understand than the Klingon Language)

Brent S. said...

Sharon,

Those of us here who do not believe in the divine ATM machine probably still have things in our lives for which we are grateful. Perhaps we here should think of the day not as giving thanks, but more a celebration of those things in our lives that give joy and comfort.

It is a toast to that which has made our lives worth living.

Sharon said...

Thanks, Brent S. “A toast to that which has made our lives worth living.” I raise my glass with you. My life is so very much worth living. I don’t know why my life is worth living, I don’t know how my life is worth living, I just know that it is, and so I will celebrate the fact. Whether feeling thankful for anything or not. Whether feeling happy or not. Holidays are for nothing more than celebration. Funerals and Memorial Day are for observing, and a person can put too much thought into holidays, instead making of them opportunities for intellectual angst.Thanks again.

twincats said...

Some of the things I'm thankful for are right here.

Thanks everyone!

Melissa said...

Great post Sharon!

Here, Here! to the toast
"to living" and twincat's expression of thanks for the wonderful people here.

There are more reasons to be thankful for the life giving Thermohaline circulation and the Humboldt current, than for any extraterrestrial spook in the sky.

Now, pass the stuffing and gravy...

whateverlolawants said...

Beautiful article- thank you!

Perhaps I will celebrate Thanksgiving by actually thanking people to whom I am grateful, instead of just giving "God" some generic thanks that I struggle to think up.

(And now that I'm a vegetarian, I can feel okay about myself when I see cartoons about nervous turkeys before Thanksgiving!)

Ayo Aladejebi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.