Tuesday, November 24, 2009
It seems hard to believe that it's already the week of Thanksgiving. This is a unique holiday, in that it's unique to our country. It's a time when we celebrate by eating (of course!), gathering with family, and pausing to give thanks for all the blessings we enjoy. There's usually some football in there somewhere, too.
I was thinking about Thanksgiving this past week (actually a little more than usual since I was on tap to preach at our community Thanksgiving worship service!), when I read an interesting article about atheists becoming more of a presence on college and university campuses.
Even though most of us would probably view college campuses as places where a lack of belief in God has not been hard to find - or maybe it's the actual practice of faith that's so hard to find. I've known a number of people over the years who have found college campuses a rather hostile place for Christian faith, particularly the secular institutions. For a long time there have been campus religious organizations like Campus Crusade for Christ, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship as well as denominational organizations like Baptist Student Unions, Catholic organizations, Wesley Foundations, etc. And, of course, as the religious landscape has become more diverse, you have groups for people of other religions like Jewish and Muslim groups, for example.
But now there are arising organized atheist groups like Secular Student Alliance, Atheist & Agnostic Society, etc. These groups have the same discussion groups, cookouts, fellowships, movie nights, etc., but for those who share in common a lack of belief in God. Why should believers have all the fun? And some of these groups even celebrate rituals. A group on one campus celebrates "HumanLight, a secular alternative to Christmas and Hanukkah."
That got me to thinking, how does an atheist celebrate Thanksgiving? Thanksgiving has as an inherent part of it (at least for me as a follower of Christ) giving thanks to someone - to God. But when you don't believe there is a God, to whom do you offer your thanks? Doesn't there have to be somebody to thank? Now I'm not so naive so as not to realize that there plenty of folks around who may have some nominal belief in God but don't really have any kind of relationship with God, and for whom Thanksgiving is just a nice holiday to not have to go to work and to spend with family enjoying a nice meal. Come to think of it, there are plenty of people who attend church who really aren't much into worshipping God, but are there to see other people (or in some cases to be seen), to enjoy the music or an interesting sermon (at least on occasion). Some even appear to come for the purpose of analyzing closely what takes place so they might find something to complain about.
I plan to enjoy the food, the fellowship (the time off!), but I also plan to reflect on my blessings and offer thanks to the God from whom I believe I receive all of them.
Have a happy Thanksgiving!