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Celebrating Thanksgiving Like An Atheist?

Updated: Nov 18, 2022

What are your plans for this Thanksgiving Day? Many Americans will enjoy the day of leisure by sleeping in, and then possibly watching portions of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on their television. After all, that parade, started in 1924, has become almost synonymous with Thanksgiving in America.

Then, about noon, many Americans will enjoy a large turkey themed meal with all the fixings and possibly some pumpkin pie for dessert.

After a meal with the family, many people will let their food digest while watching the NFL’s Detroit Lions play football. Lions’ games have also become synonymous with Thanksgiving in America as they have played every Thanksgiving Day since 1934.

After Americans are bored with watching football, the turkey will have its effect, and now it’s time for a nap. While some people are in a turkey coma, others will glance over the sales ads to prepare for Black Friday shopping specials.

While all of these activities can be healthy and relatively wholesome, if you are a Christian, there’s something obviously missing.

After all, many atheists and humanists celebrate Thanksgiving in America as well. They do all the same things. They will enjoy watching the parade with their family. They will eat a fantastic turkey dinner. They will even doze off and catch some zzzs while watching the Detroit Lions struggle to avoid another defeat on a nationally televised Thanksgiving Day game.

Humanists purport themselves to be just as thankful as any other American.

The big difference is that instead of being thankful to God, humanists are thankful to each other.

Staks Rosch, a Huffington Post contributor, describes himself as "a vocal atheist, humanist, and progressive.” He said, “The way I see it,Thanksgiving is a Humanist holiday. We should be thanking people all the time. Thanksgiving is a great time to remember to do just that.”

Please notice that the humanist shows his gratitude to other people, the creation, instead of thanking God, our Creator.

Don’t get me wrong. As Christians, we should be thankful to each other, but we must recognize that the people who are a blessing to us are “Channels Only” as the hymn-writer said. It is GOD who uses people to be channels of blessing in our lives.

While atheists and humanists are thanking each other for their blessings this Thanksgiving, I would ask the humanist, “Who do you thank for the sun, moon and stars?”

Famous atheist Richard Dawkins once explained what he feels when he looks at the Milky Way or the Grand Canyon: “It’s a feeling of sort of an abstract gratitude that I am alive to appreciate these wonders,” he said. “When I look down a microscope, it’s the same feeling. I am grateful to be alive to appreciate these wonders.”

The question is, to whom does an atheist like Mr. Dawkins express such gratitude? The obvious answer is that he thanks no one.

The Christian faith explains what happens when you take God out of Thanksgiving. You become a fool. Romans 1:20-22 states, “The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”

I want to say to the humanist and the atheist, don’t be eternally foolish; trust Jesus today!

And, I must say to the Christians, make sure that your Thanksgiving Day is distinct from the nonbeliever’s. Don't leave God out of your Thanksgiving. Be sure that you don’t just thank people, but that you thank God for those people that He has used to be a blessing to you.

Make sure that your Thanksgiving Day is not just a day for parades, turkey, football, shopping, and family, but be sure to pause with your family to thank God for the “One who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” - 1 Peter 2:24

With the Gospel of Jesus Christ in mind, the Christian can manifest Thanksgiving all 365 days a year.

The above article was written by James C. Johnson. He is the pastor of NorthStone Baptist Church here in Pensacola. To offer him your feedback, email him at


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MORE SFL: "The Throne of Grace" By Pastor James C. Johnson


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