Hnn | HNN Articles

Spreading Holiday Skepticism to Thanksgiving

 

By Jason Torpy

The Christmas season is coming up, much to the chagrin of, well, basically everyone. There's a strong contingent of Christmas-loving atheists and humanists, but for the most part, precious few of us overlook the Christian history.

Some say, "Family, charity, songs, and a bit of good cheer. What could be wrong with that?" In response, some atheists want religion out of culture. Skeptics say kids are duped into one more mythical hero. Various partisans advocate for HumanLight or Solstice or Kwanzaa or Hanukkah. Christians want the Christ back in Christmas. Some Christians want to take the Christ OUT of Christmas. Tom Flynn, head of the Council for Secular Humanism, purposely works on Christmas every year and wrote the book "The Trouble with Christmas." Retailers wonder how they can push Christmas shopping into the Halloween season without creating mass confusion.

But with all this criticism of Christmas, why not point a finger at Thanksgiving? Why hate Thanksgiving? Well, there's the wasteful tradition of feasting with resources and funds that could alleviate hunger. The mass slaughter of turkeys, pigs, and turducken shall make vegans like me cry foul (get it?). We vegans shall rend our garments with equal horror at dining monstrosities like tofurkey. As a culture, we value the feast more than we value our health or our charitable natures. Let's come together in our families, eat a healthy meal, and if we can, let's help those in need enjoy a meal as well.

During this season, we suffer a whitewash of the Native American heritage of our land. We imagine a bountiful harvest in a peaceful land. We forget important lessons regarding the religious and racial prejudice most settlers held regarding Native peoples. We forget enslavement, conflict, and disease brought to this land. We forget the Native culture of democracy and agriculture lost and overlook the repercussions felt today. The impact of European settlement in America on the Natives seems less than the impact of slavery on African Americans only because so few Native Americans live today to tell the story. November is Native American Heritage Month, and let's dedicate our Thanksgiving pageants and plays to tell the story from the Native's perspective.

John Rodwan, Jr wrote in Humanist Network News in 2010 about the historical and religious errors reinforced during the Thanksgiving holiday. "Regardless of when, where or how they [gave thanks], the grateful didn’t thank goodness or luck; they thanked God."

So lastly, Thanksgiving begs the question to whom thanks should be given. The popular answer is to give thanks to God, such is our religious heritage. We should jettison that misguided gratitude. Choose people to whom you are personally grateful: family, doctors, teachers, and maybe even a few politicians. Meet in person and write letters. The CNN Heroes project runs annually near Thanksgiving and provides an admirable example of directing thanks to those people who make our world a better place. Gratitude is a secular value that should be practiced in daily life, and Thanksgiving should include well-placed gratitude.

Many are quick to criticize Christmas, but Thanksgiving deserves the same scrutiny. Thanksgiving is a fine holiday, but it could be so much more if we distill it to progressive humanist values. We humanists should be able to celebrate secular Christmas of charity and family rather than consumerism or supernaturalism (even if we prefer to call it HumanLight). We'll also be better off if we celebrate a secular and humanistic Thanksgiving of proper gratitude, family, charity, and honest lessons from history.

Jason Torpy is treasurer of the American Humanist Association. He serves as president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF).

blog comments powered by Disqus

American Humanist Association

The AHA has a new LGBTQ Humanist Council Coordinator! Everyone, please welcome K...

8 hours ago

American Humanist Association

Humanists were among the hundreds of thousands of people who participated in the...

13 hours ago

American Humanist Association

Is there a blatantly religious song that you love? We have some. Tell us yours!...

15 hours ago

American Humanist Association

Attention New York area Humanists! Tonight beginning at 6:30 pm at Nuyorican Poe...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Humanist Magazine editor Jennifer Bardi, spoke this past weekend at the 9/11 Uni...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

DC Area Humanists! Join the DC-Area Meetup for a night with Roy Zimmerman Live!...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

In his latest article for The Huffington Post, AHA Executive Director Roy Speckh...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

God may rest on Sunday, but not the AHA! We were notified that the Ocala (FL) Po...

2 days ago

American Humanist Association

We're excited to participate in the People's Climate March in NYC today, which i...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

The Openly Secular Project has launched! Its mission is to eliminate discriminat...

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

Happy Friday Everyone! Find more humor at: http://goo.gl/vMqskv

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

This is a great info-graphic explaining the nature of morality. For more inform...

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

AHA's Merrill Miller will be at the 2014 Religion Newswriters Association Confer...

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

Apparently it is impossible to fly an airplane without believing in God. Do you...

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

We're looking for a web developer to implement design improvements to our Darwin...

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

Who will be at Apostacon this weekend? From Friday the 19th to Sunday the 21st,...

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

The American Humanist Association joined with 35 groups recently in supporting R...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Fox News and The Kelly File cover the United States Air Force's decision to reve...

6 days ago