Thank Goodness Not God on Thanksgiving

What it means to feel thankful without acknowledging a higher authority.

When I gaze in wonder at a starry sky, or the waves crashing on the granite shores of Maine, I am not just thrilled to be alive on this wonderful planet; I am grateful. But to whom?

There is no person who created the universe, or the planet, or the biosphere, so there is really nobody to thank for that.

(A God who is not a person is not an appropriate recipient of thanks. Or should we thank the Law of Gravity and the Second Law of Thermodynamics for all they make possible? I don’t think they care, do you?)

But there is a suitably responsible cause of my health, my security, my freedom from want and from fear, and it is composed of, and the achievement of, persons. I can thank goodness — the wonderful fabric of excellence created by individuals working together in human civilization to make this planet a better place.

I can thank the creators — literally, not figuratively or symbolically — of a bounty of goods and services, arts and sciences, government and justice.

And instead of trying to repay this debt with burnt offerings, or prayers, or expensive ceremonies, I can repay it in kind, by dedicating myself to trying to add to the stock of goodness in the future, for the benefit of others. We nonbelievers have no difficulty with Thanksgiving; we just Eliminate the Middleman and give thanks directly to the real, ongoing, human project of making the world safer and better for everyone.

 

 

Lead image courtesy of Ruocaled.

Daniel C. Dennett
Written by

  • Katrin

    So what’s so horrible about life in Europe? Last I checked, most Europeans seemed happy enough – perhaps happier than us in some areas, on the whole. Problems in Europe with (in particular Islamic) religious minorities come not from excessive religious tolerance, but from efforts to suppress _individual_ religious expression (rather than simply allow it to exist free of government influence or favoritism, as we do), and in large part from the inability to integrate immigrants into full civic life (something we as Americans have historically been very good at).

  • John

    If the strongest argument you can make for religion is that we need it to keep people in line and/or to one-up the other guy’s beliefs, that doesn’t say much for religion, does it? Shouldn’t we focus on whether it makes any sense or not? Take hell for example. What sort of god would set up a place where sentient creatures would undergo eternal torture for the crime of not being worshipful enough? That doesn’t sound like anyone I’d want to spend eternity with.

  • candide

    Of course there is no God, no Blue Fairy. It is not to be endured that millions of Americans are so stupid, deluded, fearful, and foolish as to believe in him/her.

  • candide

    John: the notion that religion is necessary for the masses lest they run amok is very old. Voltaire believed in this as well as countless others. But while religion can threaten and the state if united with it can punish, there is no real evidence that without compulsion people act in a more desirable way if they are religious. Religion is not barrier to murder, genocide, theft, deceit, or just plain nastiness — if anything, religion usually makes these results more likely.

  • Phoenix

    Katrin -VERY well stated I thought. I don’t perhaps completely agree with your analysis but your conclusions are right on. I think in the future those politicians/leaders who lean towards religious tolerance will find they have a lot of support.Fear can only drive someone- it cannot, once it starts- change direction. I believe certain leaders who inspire fear rather than work towards harmony would do well to realize that mass hysteria can always go badly amiss.

  • James

    John – are you saying you’d rather spend eternity suffering in Hell and completely separated from God merely because you don’t think he is very nice? Without even getting into a theological debate your rationale seems rather unreasonable at the most basic level of a secular world … self preservation.

  • Canyon Shearer

    Dear August Berkshire, and John,In all love, I want you to know why there is drought, flooding, disease, death, and Hell. It is not for not worshipping God or calling Him by the right name.Death is a result of sin, and the punishment for sin is Hell.Those sins are the sins of lieing, stealing, adultery of the heart(lust), a heart capable of murder(hate), coveting, blaspheme, and worshipping gods made in your own image.I am trying not to preach at you, I just want you to know what Christians believe about death, sin, and Hell.

  • Doug

    What if I decided I didn’t believe in you? Does that mean you don’t exist?

  • Anonymous

    Doug: Well said, man…well said.

  • Anonymous

    First, I’d like to start off by saying I am agnostic. I think being an atheist is worse than being a believer, since atheists seem to think they are “rational.” However, absence of proof does not mean proof of absence, and the only logically consistent position is to say it (existence of God), though admittedly unlikely, is beyond our ability to know. Second, belief in God is subjective, no matter how strong and certain one’s belief. The question, therefore, is whether people’s belief in a benevolent God has a positive societal affect. Perhaps, there is. Imagine if we don’t have a belief in God. Yes, faith is probably a crutch, but we’ve all needed a shoulder to cry on in our lives. And religion does give society a set of shared values and rituals (e.g., getting together with family at Thanksgiving of X-Mas). The thing we have to be careful of is when people try to impose their own religious beliefs on others. I still remember one of the pastors in a church I went to as a young man telling me about going out into the community to talk to people to go to church. He said that it is much more important to live your own life well than to spend time trying to tell people how to live theirs (even if you know that you are right). Those people will much more readily convert or come to church more frequently when they see that being a good Christian means living life well (through your example) than any amount of talking can achieve. There is common ground for believers and non-believers alike here. Isn’t the purpose of faith to be able to meditate and reflect on how to live life correctly? If religion gives us a template, then great! It would be wasteful (and monumentally difficult) to reinvent the wheel everytime. However, organized religion, like any other organization in society is competing for people’s attention and resources (i.e., time and money) needs oversight. And it is each our responsibility to use our (God-given?) common sense and careful study to define what living life correctly means. And that can mean challenging your pastor or rabbi or whoever, or at the very least debating key issues in an open-minded way. If you are agnostic like I am, then I hope that you will see that such debate can be fruitful. If you are a true believer, and you are certain in your beliefs, then what is the harm in good, open-minded debate?

  • Tony

    Are Americans closer to God than others? What religion is God? If I’m Catholic, does that mean I’m going to Hell if it turns out that God only likes Southern Baptists? Surely, Islamists are all going to Hell. Or are we Americans going to Hell because actually Allah is the true god? Seeking enlightenment.Happy Thanksgiving to all (including you Islamists out there).Tony

  • Kevin Bright

    I thank God for this season. It’s always a blessing to know that no matter where you find yourself, God is in control.Wars, rumors of wars, pestilence, idolatry…many more things that make you think that all is vanity. There’s one thing I’ve learned in life…wear this life loosely, and learning to be.We’re called human beings, not human doings. That denotes a consistent state of awareness. This nature was not something that evolution was responsible for, nor is it anything that can just be conjured up of our own free will. God is called the great I AM. When I AM reveals his plan to men and women who receive Christ, powerful things take place. This has nothing to do with religion, but relationship. To know Christ is to know the way, the truth, and the life. Many are afraid to proclaim this, because of the “all or nothing” sentiment. It’s really that simple. Is it fair? I didn’t make creation, only trust in the God who did.Each day, the sun rises and sets…the earth continues to spin on its axis…birds continue to sing their songs…children are still created through intimacy of two people. There are so many things that denote order, it must force you to ask…there must be someone or something causing these things to be consistent. As for me, I’ve discovered that God is loving, and He desires relationship with His creation, namely us. We have been made in His image, and to deny that is to deny life itself. Nothing just happens. We may not know why things happen, but it’s certainly not random.There’s a time and place for everything under the sun. Many are crying out to know why they have been created. Only the one who created you can tell you why you are here. We really have to work hard to deny that there is a God who loves us unconditionally…love that will not make you love him in return. Without choice, there can be no love. God has given us options, and you see people exercise them daily. Choose life, or death. Pretty simple.We are a summation of all of our decisions, good or bad. To deny that fact is to live in a place of ignorance, willingly.For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes on him should not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16. Life has many uncertainties. What is certain, is God’s love for His creation, and His justice and righteousness. Sin must be dealt with, and for us to believe we can pay for it with ANYTHING in the earth, as to bribe our way into His presence, is not going to get us there. There’s power in agreement. The question is, what are we agreeing to? Do we agree that we just exist, and that’s just about it? Do we just fizzle out, with no real reason for laboring, having families, without purpose, or direction?EVERYTHING HAS A PURPOSE, INCLUDING PAIN AND TRIAL. Wisdom comes from pain and trials, I have learned. We must find an occasion to seek the Lord in the trial, so as to grow from it, not be destroyed by it. As a man thinks, so is he.

  • Kevin Bright

    I thank God for this season. It’s always a blessing to know that no matter where you find yourself, God is in control.Wars, rumors of wars, pestilence, idolatry…many more things that make you think that all is vanity. There’s one thing I’ve learned in life…wear this life loosely, and learning to be.We’re called human beings, not human doings. That denotes a consistent state of awareness. This nature was not something that evolution was responsible for, nor is it anything that can just be conjured up of our own free will. God is called the great I AM. When I AM reveals his plan to men and women who receive Christ, powerful things take place. This has nothing to do with religion, but relationship. To know Christ is to know the way, the truth, and the life. Many are afraid to proclaim this, because of the “all or nothing” sentiment. It’s really that simple. Is it fair? I didn’t make creation, only trust in the God who did.Each day, the sun rises and sets…the earth continues to spin on its axis…birds continue to sing their songs…children are still created through intimacy of two people. There are so many things that denote order, it must force you to ask…there must be someone or something causing these things to be consistent. As for me, I’ve discovered that God is loving, and He desires relationship with His creation, namely us. We have been made in His image, and to deny that is to deny life itself. Nothing just happens. We may not know why things happen, but it’s certainly not random.There’s a time and place for everything under the sun. Many are crying out to know why they have been created. Only the one who created you can tell you why you are here. We really have to work hard to deny that there is a God who loves us unconditionally…love that will not make you love him in return. Without choice, there can be no love. God has given us options, and you see people exercise them daily. Choose life, or death. Pretty simple.We are a summation of all of our decisions, good or bad. To deny that fact is to live in a place of ignorance, willingly.For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes on him should not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16. Life has many uncertainties. What is certain, is God’s love for His creation, and His justice and righteousness. Sin must be dealt with, and for us to believe we can pay for it with ANYTHING in the earth, as to bribe our way into His presence, is not going to get us there. There’s power in agreement. The question is, what are we agreeing to? Do we agree that we just exist, and that’s just about it? Do we just fizzle out, with no real reason for laboring, having families, without purpose, or direction?EVERYTHING HAS A PURPOSE, INCLUDING PAIN AND TRIAL. Wisdom comes from pain and trials, I have learned. We must find an occasion to seek the Lord in the trial, so as to grow from it, not be destroyed by it. As a man thinks, so is he.

  • Kevin Bright

    I thank God for this season. It’s always a blessing to know that no matter where you find yourself, God is in control.Wars, rumors of wars, pestilence, idolatry…many more things that make you think that all is vanity. There’s one thing I’ve learned in life…wear this life loosely, and learning to be.We’re called human beings, not human doings. That denotes a consistent state of awareness. This nature was not something that evolution was responsible for, nor is it anything that can just be conjured up of our own free will. God is called the great I AM. When I AM reveals his plan to men and women who receive Christ, powerful things take place. This has nothing to do with religion, but relationship. To know Christ is to know the way, the truth, and the life. Many are afraid to proclaim this, because of the “all or nothing” sentiment. It’s really that simple. Is it fair? I didn’t make creation, only trust in the God who did.Each day, the sun rises and sets…the earth continues to spin on its axis…birds continue to sing their songs…children are still created through intimacy of two people. There are so many things that denote order, it must force you to ask…there must be someone or something causing these things to be consistent. As for me, I’ve discovered that God is loving, and He desires relationship with His creation, namely us. We have been made in His image, and to deny that is to deny life itself. Nothing just happens. We may not know why things happen, but it’s certainly not random.There’s a time and place for everything under the sun. Many are crying out to know why they have been created. Only the one who created you can tell you why you are here. We really have to work hard to deny that there is a God who loves us unconditionally…love that will not make you love him in return. Without choice, there can be no love. God has given us options, and you see people exercise them daily. Choose life, or death. Pretty simple.We are a summation of all of our decisions, good or bad. To deny that fact is to live in a place of ignorance, willingly.For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes on him should not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16. Life has many uncertainties. What is certain, is God’s love for His creation, and His justice and righteousness. Sin must be dealt with, and for us to believe we can pay for it with ANYTHING in the earth, as to bribe our way into His presence, is not going to get us there. There’s power in agreement. The question is, what are we agreeing to? Do we agree that we just exist, and that’s just about it? Do we just fizzle out, with no real reason for laboring, having families, without purpose, or direction?EVERYTHING HAS A PURPOSE, INCLUDING PAIN AND TRIAL. Wisdom comes from pain and trials, I have learned. We must find an occasion to seek the Lord in the trial, so as to grow from it, not be destroyed by it. As a man thinks, so is he.

  • An Elf

    I am crushed that Santa doesn’t believe in Thanksgiving!

  • Justin Buzzard

    I appreicate the discussion here. For what it’s worth, if you’d like to read one Christian dude’s attempt at a humble response to Dennett’s post/the Thanksgiving question, I’ve written such a post on Buzzard Blog. Please feel free to share with me any comments or questions on my blog.

  • Justin Buzzard

    I appreicate the discussion here. For what it’s worth, if you’d like to read one Christian dude’s attempt at a humble response to Dennett’s post/the Thanksgiving question, I’ve written such a post on Buzzard Blog. Please feel free to share with me any comments or questions on my blog.

  • Justin Buzzard

    I appreicate the discussion here. For what it’s worth, if you’d like to read one Christian dude’s attempt at a humble response to Dennett’s post/the Thanksgiving question, I’ve written such a post on Buzzard Blog. Please feel free to share with me any comments or questions on my blog.

  • James

    Tony – a non-believing American is no closer to God than a non-beleiving European, Asian, etc… Nor are Catholics any more wrong than Soutehrn Baptists. The ultimate quesiton is whether you have accepted Christ as Lord over your life and have chosen to follow him. (Matthew 16:24). Don’t get caught up in denomoinational tags, but focus on the flawless Word of God.

  • David

    What is “goodness” if there is no God? The word is empty, meaningless if there is no existence after death, no ultimate justice. Sure, thank goodness, if you’d like. In fact, if there is no God, do whatever you want. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. However, if you seek you will indeed find. God is still there.

  • david

    Part of your post tries to touch upon the existence of G_d. It is arrogant to assert that G_d doesn’t exist unless you yourself are omniscient. Neither you or anyone can assert this or state it as a fact. You only know what you have sensed, I exist even though you or I have never seen or sensed each other. Your ingnorance of me doesn’t make me nonexistent. What you are stating is that : Since you don’t know then it doesn’t exist. You and I both stand on the shoulders of those that have come before and through their faith in G_d and endurence have begotten our society. Do you think yourself wiser and more sensible than our founding fathers because you were born into a modern society, because you can type on a computer and press a button to turn it on? I can bet that you don’t have the faintest idea of how this marvelous invention even is possible yet you attribute it’s grandeousness to yourself because you know how to use it. You are in a body that itself lives without your concious management – I ask you is this not a miracle? Did you wake up this morning and crank your heart this morning to make sure it runs for the rest of the day? No, how does this happen, all without your oversight? G_d’s gift of life to you and all. I can only give you my personal testament – I have prayed and reasoned concerning the existence of G_d. I have felt His love and His compassion in my life, I know He lives and loves us all. My interactions with G_d have impressed upon me in the very core of my being a undeniable and unmistakable witness of Him. The waves of the sea, the earth that is just the correct distance from the sun to make it possible for us to be here, the stars and thier order, the very nature of the universe and how each body – sun, moon, stars, and planets all compliment each other. I would ask of you – Have you ever tried for at least a season to search for G_d? I invite you and all who think themselves wise and very scientific to search for G_d and His Son Jesus Christ whom He has sent to this world that all through Him might find peace. Take a moment in the midst of all the hustle and bussle both physicall and technological – to kneel in prayer, if you sincerely seek G_d you will find Him. I testify it to you!

  • Tonio

    This is not meant as a slam on Dennett or anyone here…if Dennett is thankful what he sees the kindness shown by his fellow human beings, and others are thankful for what they see as the work of God, why should anyone else raise an objection? Certainly a person’s religious beliefs may have some influence on the person’s actions. But as long as those actions don’t harm others, then why should anyone else be concerned with the person’s religious beliefs?

  • Sal Volpe

    Those who refuse to believe the truth doesn’t make said truth any less true. A ridiculous example of this could be someone who refuses to believe that human beings need oxygen to survive. Not believing that humans need oxygen to live doesn’t void the truthfulness of the statement that humans need oxygen to live! So it is with God…not believing in Him doesn’t cause Him to not exist. God exists whether or not people choose to believe in Him.As for me and my family, we will be giving thanks to God this Thanksgiving (as we do every other day of the year as well).Jesus said “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you…”. For those who don’t believe in God…may I recommend that you sincerely and genuinely ask God to reveal Himself to you and in time see if He doesn’t answer.

  • Kevin

    Yes, Tonio, I agree with you.I would like to believe there is something other than our human condition.Reverence for the earth and all of creation is a good thing.I wish people would focus on more of the positives and not be so righteous to claim their god is going to judge me or you.I also like the song that Natalie Merchant sings that is out of the public domain called “Let the Mystery Be.”She says “I believe in love and live my life accordingly.”That is what I try to do.Peace.And I like having this conversation. Even if I have to put up with people saying I am going to burn in hell. I wonder what their Jesus would say to them after hearing them condemn others?

  • DREW

    I can’t believe that so many people want to infect Thanksgiving with such a pious religiousity about god. Thanksgiving is one of the best holidays that we have in this great country precisely because it resists religious affiliation, and can instead be a celebration of good fortune, family, and friends. If for some reason you believe in a “Lord God Almighty” and happen to see his work everywhere that is fine for you. If you want to believe that saying “grace” over your thanksgiving dinner is somehow necessary than that is also fine for you. However, please don’t try to force religion into a national holiday that, like our country, should be free from the needless interferance of religious zealots. There are many people who are tired of the empty and hypocritical Christian rhetoric in this country which has gone too far. I, for one, will make sure that for this Thanksgiving my happy home is free from the superfluous and unnecessary interference of anybody’s god.

  • Robert

    David,What is goodness if there’s no god? How about human beings living peacefully together? That seems like a worthy goal and something worthy of being called good.Do whatever you want? If your belief in eternal torture is the only thing that’s keeping you from raping, robbing and killing, then I’m glad you have religion. Me? I refrain from those things because I want to get along with my neighbors. I want to live a long, healthy life and raise my children in a peaceful environment. I want to contribute to the good lives of the next generation. And I can do all of those things without religion.

  • John Aguilar

    I’m always thankful for moments where people are asked to be thankful for living in such a great country, and yet have it disturbed by Christians who always see the need to convert others who really neither believe nor accept Christianity. Maybe we can remember the first Thanksgiving where the natives saved the Puritan Christians from certain death, only to be repaid by having their food stolen, graves robbed and be treated like animals. Maybe their time would be served better by helping the poor than using these holidays to shove beliefs down everyone’s throat. Thankfully, Thanksgiving is not a Christian holiday, because I’d rather not remember the deeds done by Christians on this holiday to those who they were supposed to show brotherly love.

  • nonbeliever

    You can believe in all kinds of fantastic beings like God and Unicorns and Fairies and in all sorts of imaginary places like haven and hell so long as you are clear in your mind that it’s just your belief, even if you share it with so many others. You have all the right to do so, but do not expect the others to share your ‘faith’.The only concept of God that may have any validity is one who is unknowable. The Christian and and Islamic God is too personal to survive any logical and rational line of enquiry.

  • rationality

    I’m just curious: Why is it that people think that only religion can stop people from doing bad things to other people? Have you heard of the abortion-clinic bombers? Have you heard of the church deacon in Kansas who killed umpteen people over several years? The Catholic priest pedophiles? The Islamic terrorists? Justifying altruism is trivial on a rational basis as social glue. Religion on the other hand almost always will attempt to enforce altruistic behavior in terms of reward/punishment terms and attempt to propagate itself by defining the boundaries of believers vs. heathens. As those of us with children know, reward/punishment discipline leads to a weak social compass which goes awry as soon as the reward/punishment scenario isn’t present. And as for defining boundaries, it leads to conflicts and discrimination. As most scientists will tell you, rational thinking is best based on probability theory. If the probability of something is small enough a convenient shorthand is to say it does not exist. So an atheist is merely pointing out on the basis of many interesting facts (e.g. the number of pathologies that newborns can unfortunately be born with, etc.) that if there is a God, it is a closer approximation to think that this is a heck of a malevolent and vicious dude than to think of it as a kind and caring entity. But of course you could just read the old testament to figure this out. I was brought up religious, I will not let my children be so afflicted and fearful. No rational person would attempt to reinforce social behavior by threatening a five year old with hell and damnation. The Catholic Church on the other hand spent centuries debating what happens to children who die between birth and baptism. Are rational people supposed to take this kind of cant seriously? What’s so hard about living with the consequences of your actions?

  • Doug

    Drew, do you think that history began the day you were born? Thanksgiving began as a religious observance. It was a day of celebration to thank Almighy God (the God of the Old and New Testaments) for His provision.No one is trying to “infect Thanksgiving with such a pious religiousity about god.” Please don’t try to force us to celebrate this national holiday without reference to God.

  • Mat

    Where does the “goodness” come from?Sounds very unscientific to me.

  • Doug

    I meant “Almighty” not “Almighy!”

  • Rob

    After reading through the quite a few of the posts on this board I am slowly reaching the drawn closer to the point of view that there is no such thing as an atheist. It seems that most atheists posting will accept or acknowledge that there is some overarching concept of good and that it is desirable and a worthy goal to have everyone attain it and share in it.I submit that that goodness is God, whether you envision God as a being or not.

  • Pat

    Belief in God or a lack of belief in God has no impact on people other than christians. God is a belief created by Christians for Christians and not others. Thanksgiving is not about religion but having appreciation for self and others. I enjoy Thanksgiving for what it is worth, Giving Thanks and no more. No judgement just appreciation for self and others happiness. Both good and evil are virtues of people and no more. Evil or goodness should nmot be attributed to any external source other than self. Be responsible for the good or evil you create in othrer people’s lives and there is no need for a God.

  • Jim Carlson

    While thanking god (rather than a farmer) for putting food on the table, it might be instructive to look at the other side of the coin – does that mean that god has abandoned the millions of people that go to sleep hungry each night? What does that say about god?

  • DC

    Not sure how sincerely thankful (either to ‘goodness’ or God)or truly enlightened one can be who somewhat limits their ‘thanks’ only to those, for instance, that ‘create’ on this earth (ie humans). This is mankinds major flaw from the beginning…to realize and pat themselves on the back on how they can create things, yet be so bold and presumptuous to think that nothing could have created them. Perish the thought. God is not gone. He has just been forgotten… or at best – ‘created’ in man’s image. My suggestion is to re-read mans history with a more open mind. No society of these wonderful human creators has ever stood the test of time. Not one. So, dont forget to pass along thanks to the creators of atom splitting. And now, the illustrious followers of that creator are increasingly creating a world that will self-annihilate. Interesting, Jesus Christ foretold that if he didnt intervene in world affairs, no flesh would be saved (saved alive, that is – check the Greek).

  • Tim

    It seems a extremely arrogant to think that the human mind can comprehend something as large and complex as the meaning of life, or to articulate what God is and wants.I wonder why people are so willing to accept what is written in a book (Torah, Bible, Quran…) as absolute truth. Existence is not a riddle to be solved, but a mystery to behold.

  • Anonymous

    A counter-example and a plea for reasoned discussion, not knee-jerk reaction: What if my child believed the tooth fairy existed? What if I believed? Does that make the tooth fairy real?More generally, to make assertions that cannot be argued for or against in any logical way (or cannot be objectively proved or disproved) goes against the kind of fair-minded disourse that Daniel Dennett proposes. To quote the Bible to say that God exists is not unlike quoting a fairy tale book to say that [insert your favorite fairy tale character here] exists. We cannot say that that is an objective, reasonsed argument. However, if your personal faith is based on the Bible (or any other inspirational book or teaching), then that is your personal belief. Just don’t offer it as **proof** that you are right and others are wrong. Why can’t we say we are entitled to our own beliefs and move on? If God is real to you, then great. But there is no need to push your version of faith on others, and there is no need to be insulted when people say that there is no **objective** proof of God. Actually, there isn’t. But if you think God matters in your life (and you are a better person for it), then God does exist as far as you’re concerned, and that is what should be important to you.I guess for those you who are so intent on determining who is **right or wrong** perhaps we’ll have a definitive answer when we die, but not before.

  • Tim

    You don’t have to have a concrete idea of what this all is (is there a God?), in order to be thankful for all that is good. Moreover, you don’t have to believe in God in order to treat others with respect and compassion. Maybe God is nothing more than the idea of love.Maybe not…

  • jc

    Thank you Daniel Dennett! I think you hit the bullseye about Thanksgiving. There is nothing religious about Thanksgiving. If you are religious, feel free to pray before dinner but it is not religious. I absolutely love Christmas time. I love the nostalgia and the kindness I see but it has no religious meaning to me at all. To me Christmas is another Christian holiday stolen from the Pagans. Let’s not try to steal a national holiday and make it a religious affair.

  • Dave

    The very notion that there is a god watching over us as we consume this planet and judging us on an individual basis for playing out our lifes with personalities that are handed to us is foolish and trivializes spirituality. Thank goodness for Daniel!

  • Tim

    When individual spirituality merged with politics, it formed the most unholy of offspring: religion.

  • Holliday

    If God is God, then God is not a male or female but a great wise creator. Though if God were to appear to me – how would God do it? Tis silly that God must be a he and I do not suggest that God is a she. That would be equally fallible. Funny though how God’s image of “himself” in Jesus is a white man.

  • David Garti

    Daniel should be able to thank who or whatever he wants!!! I don’t care if you are thankful to God, or Buddha, or the law of gravity. To me, Americans should put aside these differences on Thanksgiving, be thankful, and get stuffed with pumpkin pie!

  • Brian S.

    This goes along with some other posts above, especially, by Rationality. To think that a concept like ‘righteousness’ or ‘good’ lose all meaning if there is no absolute, or no God, is absurd. That’s like saying that lightning lost meaning when we found out that it wasn’t God being angry. It’s not the it *lost* meaning, but rather the meaning is refined and more objective. For instance, we know through society that killing causes destruction in a society; people get afraid, society won’t function if murder is rampant, etc. If we say that there is no God and that you won’t go to hell for murder, does that mean that we can’t recognize the destruction it will cause. Thus, righteousness is not done away with, but rather the divine aspect of it is erased from the idea?Furthermore, the religious fail to understand one crucial thing. If there is no God, then something natural had to create the idea of God. In other words, cultural (or even biological) evolution could have found it beneficial to create the idea of God to have *some* stability in the idea of God. However, if we follow the history of religion, each religion *attempts* to start a cultural revolution against the previous faulty and harmful religions. It is, I believe, liberalism in religion that kept pushing religion to more *tolerant* views. But now one problem arises. We have a view that overrides religion, which is science. We are able to do away with the bias and non-experimental methodologies of religion that are fruitless. We can understand morality (and religion) in terms of how the brain works and, for morality, how society functions the best. The founders of this country gave us something great; separation of church and state. Unfortunately, we have politicians who do not understand that important concept and try to force religious holidays and religious symbols into the schools. The founders did believe in God, but it was not Christ. Also, even if they believed in God, it does not follow that they wanted everybody to believe in God (since many of them knew and were friends with the athesists of their day) and want God in the public arena.Anyway, I am thankful for that this country gives us the opportunity to put religion where it is, in the home. However, there is plenty of work to be done to eliminate it from social interaction. Time will only tell if this occurs. Time will also tell if people will finally realize many of the absurdities, like our founders did, of ancient myths that are contradicted by science. Again, if one has a choice between science and religion, science should shape one’s faith, not the other way around.

  • DREW

    Doug: As I satated in my post… I have no problem with your religious celebration if you choose to have one. I simply expressed my interest in a holiday unfettered by the pomp, circumstance, and traditional rhetorhic usually reserved for the holiest of holy days. My very catholic parents will be attending Thanksgiving in MY house this year, and that means no god. If they can deal with it, so can you!

  • Tim

    I have often wondered what would happen to Jesus if he were alive in this day and age. As a long-haired, Semitic, pacifist, who rejected religous dogma in favor of personal spirituality, I think he would be just as revolutionary today as he was back then. I think the Catholic Church would deny his Christian credentials for rejecting its dogma.Just a thought though…don’t want to assume too much

  • A different Tim

    Have you noticed… the more “vehement” athiests have a deep need to denounce the Christian God, but not anybody else’s? They start off alright with, “if you need to believe in god, go ahead, but don’t tear anyone else down for not believing.” Then they proceed to tear down believers. You cannot have it both ways where you demand tolerance for not liking god, but are unwilling to tolerate those that do.Why can’t we all just agree to be thankful, and just leave it at that? Use your own silent mind to fill in the whoever or whatever, and let the rest of us do the same?Why the need to tear down believers?Unless you are afraid of their God…

  • Tonio

    Good post, Tim.I’ve noticed that all these debates seem to come down to two contradictory views of human nature, the pessimistic view and the optimistic view. Personally, I do not understand how the pessimistic view can be reconciled with the idea of self-esteem. If one believes that human beings are evil and worthless, then how does one not believe that one is personally evil and worthless? Instead, I prefer the idea that humans are capable of tremendous good and tremendous evil, simply because we will never be perfect creatures.

  • FRIEND

    I am thankful for my existence and the chance to contemplate that.Peace and love to all.

  • mnlg

    I am European and my “religious” opinions are, apparently, somewhat closer to solipsism.I have not been convinced, so far, by the churches and religions (I tend to divide these two entities) I have run into.I think everyone has a right to pursue their own quest towards spiritual enlightenment (possibly being well-disposed towards an open and peaceful debate). This does not mean they are entitled to enforce it to others.I find gratification in constantly looking for an absolute truth, which would, I admit, simplify a lot of stuff and possibly help me understand a lot better what I perceive to be around me. I haven’t found any so far, though.I do not divide between good and bad: I divide between what I like and I don’t like; I am fascinated by the idea of a community working to facilitate its preservation and well-being, and therefore I tend to avoid disrupting such plans. I know I don’t like being wounded or threatened; when in doubt, I assume nobody likes that, thus I try not to act in that way. I like being treated with kindness and I try to do so to others.I do not celebrate thanksgiving; if I really had to thank someone, I guess I would thank those who dedicate their time and efforts to improve the quality or richness of everyone’s life. Through my work and the sharing of my thoughts I hope I can be considered a member of that group.Thank you for your attention.

  • A different Tim

    Ummm… Funny how those who profess God does not exist then want to postulate how Jesus would be a socialist… or whatever… today.IF God never existed, neither did Jesus, who was His son. Therefore you cannot postulate that He would act in such a way so as to fulfill Marxism.How’s this for a radical idea… Jesus was nOt (is not) a pacifist. He destroyed the moneychangers’ temple and will come back to destroy the forces of the Anti-Christ. So says Revelations.You cannot do those two things and be a pacifist. Further, he taught that if a man comes to your home to do you harm, it is acceptable to slay him in self-defense.Gasp… Jesus not a skinny, scrawny, foppish, blond-haired Englishman. How outrageous!

  • Tim

    And one more thing:Uncompromising athiests are just as close-minded as fundamentalist Christians, Muslims, Hindus….There is nothing wrong with keeping an open mind…

  • Rob

    To a Different Tim -There does seem to be a certain hypocrisy in the athiest arguments presented here, doesn’t there? Perhaps athiests and believers aren’t that different after all.

  • A different Tim

    From a bumper sticker…Dog is my co-pilot.

  • Timothy B

    Re earlier posting — the posting starting with “let me make this simple” is mine (Timothy B) who is different from the other Tim who made other postings including one starting with “I have often wondered what would happen to Jesus…”I, Timothy B, am clearly an atheist. The other Tim is some variety of believer. FYI

  • Realist

    Obviously the previous poster has not read the New Testament and the hope that it brings. Christians change their behavior based on their love for God, not some concept of reward or punishment.Probability theory tells us something does not come from nothing. Where did the universe come from .Atheism is NOT rational.

  • A different Tim

    The following refers to every athiest I have ever encountered, no matter how “tolerant” they claim to be. If there are exceptions, I apologize to them in advance.Even athiests are believers in something. That something happens to be their belief that there is no God.They then proceed from there to declare themselves enlightened for disbelieving, which makes them believers in their own superiority over others.From there they go on to judgmement over others and a demand that they not be judged.All in all, not very tolerant.

  • Timothy B

    I grant that Rob is a believer. I think it is only reasonable that I conclude that he knows the contents of his own mind and that includes a belief in a God or goodness of some overall sort.Fine. I don’t. While Rob also certainly has the right to assert that no other mind could lack such a belief, that seems, at a minimum, presumptious. I don’t presume to assert anything about Rob’s mind other than what he tells us. I order my mind to the best of my abilities by the evidence of my senses and the conclusions of my reason. The contents of my mind do not include any idealized notion of goodness that controls all.

  • rationality

    To `A different Tim':Atheists would be happy to leave religious people alone. Certainly it’s laughable to think of atheists afraid of god. The problem is that rationality so threatens religious people that they insist on trying to propagate their religions at all possible places, including in public schools. So I have to detoxify my little children from the idiocy of hell and heaven repeatedly. That irritates me a great deal since I would rather spend the time discussing interesting things with them. I don’t denounce anyone’s god/gods. Everyone has a right to their own delusions, as I tell my parents. On the other hand, no one has a right to demand equality between rationality and delusion.

  • Anonymous

    To “Rationality”Your comment “rationality so threatens religious people” assumes religious people are not rational.The remainder of your comments indicate a belief that they are somehow defective and delusional.If you were really rational, you would see that this IS denouncement of their God/Gods.Again, tolerant athiests are not that tolerant after all.

  • The Believers

    If for nothing else, I am thankful someone has the right to print something that doesn’t shove “God” or belief in a “God” down my throat. Thank “God” or whatever you wish, for the right not to be forced to believe in something like “God.” Would only that I believed such rights were safe from the Government and the Dominionists. They are not, and we must continue to fight for them.

  • David

    Anonymous,Now whether you want to give credit to this empirical evidence or not is totally up to whether you want to believe in it – even the numbers. You also believe and infer that there is not a superior being based on your trust of those providing the stats you want to give credit to. You believe in a fairy tail also – but you have no name for it.And if you are trusting in objective proof to infer that there is a G_d then go no further than yourself, you are a phenomena that probably shouldn’t be alive – looking at the probability of all the chances of something preventing you from living. There is no **objective** proof that G_d doesn’t exist, also actually there isn’t. My question is have you yourself sought G_d? If you or Daniel Dennett do not believe in G_d please don’t try to convert me to your faith and believe in your no named fairy tale. I invite you to search G_d for a season and find out for yourself whether or not He exists. I have sought and have found. This is my sober testimony to you.

  • Tim

    Some clarification:I think most historians (of all faiths) would agree that Jesus was a historical figure, regardless of whether one thinks he is the son of God. There is a difference between a revolutionary and a Marxist. In fact the word “revolutionary” was not meant to imply any political affiliation including Marxist. Rather I was only trying to express my belief that Jesus was not a fan of dogma (including the words of Revelations). As far as the pacifist title is concerned, I was basing that assertion on the idea of turning the other cheek.It also seems a little rediculous to quote the Bible as if it is the definitive word of God, or a direct qoute from Jesus. Lets not forget that this book was written by fallible humans over the course of hundreds of years following Jesus’ death. If you choose to embrace the Jesus that ruined temples and slayed his neighbor, go ahead.I prefer the Jesus that embodied compassion. But I am no Christian, so what do I know…?

  • Steve

    I will continue to thank God for the sunsets and the beauty of this world, as human goodness had nothing whatsoever to do with it . . . surely a professor of philosophy can recognize his own fallacious reasoning.Historically, Thanksgiving has always been a religious holiday (read William Bradford’s journal and George Washington’s orginal proclamation in 1789 . . . “Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour . . . “). Believe what you wish about God, you are welcome to your own opinions, however the reality of Thanksgiving as a religious holiday is factually grounded and you are not welcome to your own facts.

  • FRIEND

    I am thankful that I am not alone in my passion in the investigation of my origins. I know that there is suffering in this pursuit and I am with you.I hope all will check their sources, read books on other religions, other views in their own religion, philosophy, science and the philosophy of science.

  • Mark B.

    I am familar with Mr. Dennett’s views, which for all his efforts to find common ground through an abstraction, “goodness,” are actually based on a materialist bias – as much as an authentically spiritual person’s worldview is based on a trans-material perspective (please, no medieval religious strawmen…).Mr. Dennett’s actual position, however, is that he does not believe that trans-cognitive perception is possible, or existant, and notwithstanding that he has no evidence that it does not exist (which means he should be an agnostic, not an atheist…).But, if Mr. Dennett was to peer back for a moment through evolutionary history, he would see that levels of cognitive perception have been continually transcending themselves: from mytho-magical to concrete operations to formal operations. In this progression he would also see that the mind’s temporal constructive abilities are also evolving.Now, if all evolutionary progression shows a contiuum of cognitive deveolopment, then isn’t it reasonable – even empircally valid – to reach a conclusion that evolution beyond formal operations is possible. And if possible, isn’t it just as reasonable to say that such perceptive abilities would be ineffable to a person stable at the formal opetrations level – like Mr. Dennett (i.e. producing category errors; as in, one can’t describe the color purple to a blind man blind since birth)?To people like Mr. Dennett any evolution beyond his own level of perception is necessarily a mytho-religious regression. This is a convenient categorization that allows Mr. Dennett to not engage an injunctive of investigation of the limits of his own cognition (itself a symptom of his attachment to his given level), to illogically categorize any level beyond his own as non-existent, and, basically, claim, quite irrationally, that evolution is stagnant.There is “goodness” – and “beauty” and…all the same things at their ground – and they did not appear only when the first Homo sapiens sapiens thought of them…

  • Joel

    I thank God that I have the intelligence to see through man-made doctrin, televangelists, peer pressure, and reject the notion that ANY human is qualified to represent the notions of God to me, or my needs to Him… That goes for Atheists, too.You who follow preachers, Imams, Ministers, Rabbi’s, Monks, and Priests without question are turning off your brain and accepting another human’s ideas instead of taking the risks found in forming your own…or worse.. succumbing to peer pressure and mob mentality.God is offended when you turn off the perfectly good brain He gave you. God is offended when you insert religion into politics. God is offended when you use religious arguments to make a point.Go forward and be a good person. Love thy neighbor. Help the sick and pity and help the homeless. Don’t hate. Don’t kill. Stop lying.Remember that business about being free from sin as a qualification for casting the first stone?Yeah – that.I can see why this fellow thanks goodness instead of the published notions of God printed up and sold by men to control other men.

  • rationality

    To `realist':The history of the new testament is interesting. Perhaps you should start by comparing the Jewish old testament and the Christian old testament. The reordering in going from one to the other is quite interesting and you should find out more about when and how this reordering took place. It might shed some light on the new testament from a different perspective. The religious notion that there would be mayhem and murder on the streets except for the restraining fear of perdition is just too funny. Or perhaps religious people are afraid that everyone else is also practicing restraint just like them and therefore there would be mayhem and murder if everyone out there gave in to the impulses that religious people feel but suppress? All in all, never having had such an impulse, I can’t really see the case for religion restraining me. But that’s just me. Have a happy Thanksgiving. Any chance to spend time with people one loves is a happy occasion.

  • Tim

    Amen to that Joel!

  • Julie

    I think it’s pretty clear why some atheists feel the need to “tear down believers” just as some Christians feel the need to “spread the good news.” People of all backgrounds think that their views are right and that they are even more right if they successfully convert other people to their side. Many people think that they are so correct or intelligent or enlightened or downright happy with life that they really think they can help other people by convincing them to live life their way. It is a sense of righteousness that is as prevalent in atheists as believers in my personal experience.Alternatively, others who don’t feel the need to proactively spread their beliefs may sometimes respond defensively. When you feel someone is coercing you, it can provoke a defensive response that may be hurtful. I know my Christian friends think that my life is lacking because I don’t have faith in Jesus Christ like they do. Sometimes I feel almost insulted that they think my life is less “good” or “meaningful,” prompting me to attack their faith with my logical reasoning. I don’t really care that they believe and I don’t, but I instinctively feel the need to defend my views. In general, I try to have a “live and let live” attitude.To the point of the original article, I never thought of Thanksgiving as a religious holiday. It never even occurred to me that people think of it as a Christian holiday, but there is room in the world for all perspectives. I give thanks to my family for their love and support and to the vineyards for all the wine I drink during the holiday!Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Axel Foley

    “Certainly it’s laughable to think of atheists afraid of God”? Oh really, your knowledge of twentieth century history is poor at best. For example, why don’t you investigate what Cuban, Soviet, and Chinese policies have been towards religion, to name but a few. However, let’s not limit it only to openly declared atheistic ideologies. The French Revolution persecuted religion just as strongly and it was not until Napoleon’s Concordat and the codification of the Church’s position in French society that this great element of strife ended.

  • yestme

    I don’t believe there is a single same person that doesn’t believe in God. God is not what faith is all about. Faith comes in levels.1. Faith is in the minister that claims to know what God wants and demands of us.2. Faith is in the Bible, that it’s God’s word.A combination of the two are required for one to believe in what is being sold by religions, that they and they alone have the formula for more life after this life. Religion threatens people with the greatest terror possible, burning in hell for all eternity. Therefore all such religions are terrorist organizations that claim a license to terrorize from God, as God is identified in the Bible, based upon the errorenous claim that the Bible is God’s word.Once one understands faith then God drops out of the faith altogether. Everyone has faith there is more than this life and especially that there is more knowledge than anyone has at the present time. Therefore, there must be a higher entity, not necessarily a being. God?

  • Rob

    Tim-You wrote: “We function in the world with notions of goodness and decency formulated by human beings before us that equip us with tools to better order our lives to our liking.”I would argue that this is not true. The different societies in our world have vastly different notions of goodness and decency. I condemn what Stalin did or what Hitler did or what the 9/11 bombers did, but I’m sure that they believed and the societies from which they sprung believed that they were doing good and decent things.Now is there that universal truth out there that says ultimately that these acts were good or bad? I believe there is. Now is that truth Jesus, Allah, Zeus, Odin, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, I have no idea.Now you may choose not to believe. Fine. I’m interested in what you have to say anyway. I am on the quest for that universal truth. What I do not appreciate is you stating that I am delusional or am devoid of reason simply because I believe in a higher power. I am not interested in what I know to be true or what you know to be true. The measurable has been measured. I am interested in the unmeasured. More than that, I am interested in the unmeasurable, in the infinite.

  • Joe

    Has anyone ever considered that monotheism seems to imply that there is only one state of being higher than being human? I find that patently ridiculous on its face.I consider myself an agnostic, and God to me is the evidence of purpose and direction that I see evident in this universe as it gathers itself into ever more complex forms of matter and life.

  • Cal Gal

    “Canyon Shearer: I think Canyon Shearer has to do a little more reading about the Founding Fathers and their insistance that God NOT be brought into our government, and the Enlightenment ideas that really DID inspire them.Another Christian co-option, along with the Yuletide holiday and the spring equinox. (I mean, really, what do the Easter Bunny and eggs have to do with a dead guy coming back to life after three days?)

  • know_name

    Our founding Fathers were not religious. If you have read anything about them they were mostly Masons and were very skeptical of Christianity. The Constitution nor our legal system have anything to do with Judeo-Christian values as is always purported. They are based on the secular beliefs of the German philosopher Kant (for the most part). Also, if you need a Religion to give you a sense of community and a sense of a shared beliefs and values I feel for you. Values are intrinsic to the continuation of a society and are based on reason and not some Religion which dictates for you what what should be known to all as common sense. There is also the fact that there are a great number of Religions in this world and many do not share any of the same beliefs and therefore by celebrating Thanksgiving as a Religious holiday you are actually not celebrating a sense of community, but a sense of group mentality with others who believe what you believe. At the same time you are demeaning what every other religion believes (sounds like Christmas, Easter, and any other religious holiday for that matter). So in closing…give thanks that you are alive and have the chance to live on this earth and leave Religion at the door when you go to Thanksgiving dinner. Eat Up!!

  • Doug

    Drew, (and any others who care)I appreciate that this is a free country and you may want to celebrate Thanksgiving without God. I have no problem with that. But, when you begin saying things like (and I quote) “Thanksgiving is one of the best holidays that we have in this great country precisely because it resists religious affiliation, and can instead be a celebration of good fortune, family, and friends.” and then say, “However, please don’t try to force religion into a national holiday that, like our country, should be free from the needless interferance of religious zealots.” what you are really doing is trying to force God out of my celebration of Thanksgiving.By not allowing my free exercise of religion, you are violating the very 1st amendment you hold dear in your free exercise of non-religion.

  • Brian R

    Thankful:Cruelty in the book of Luke 1. God strikes Zacharias dumb for doubting the angel Gabriel’s words. 1:20 2. Those who fail to bear “good fruit” will be “hewn down, and cast into the fire.” 3:9 3. John the Baptist says that Christ will burn the damned “with fire unquenchable.” 3:17 4. Jesus heals a naked man who was possessed by many devils by sending the devils into a herd of pigs, causing them to run off a cliff and drown in the sea. This messy, cruel, and expensive (for the owners of the pigs) treatment did not favorably impress the local residents, and Jesus was asked to leave. 8:27-37 5. Jesus says that entire cities will be violently destroyed and the inhabitants “thrust down to hell” for not “receiving” his disciples. 10:10-15 6. Jesus says that we should fear God since he has the power to kill us and then torture us forever in hell. 12:5 7. Jesus says that God is like a slave-owner who beats his slaves “with many stripes.” 12:46-47 8. According to Jesus, only a few will be saved; the vast majority will suffer eternally in hell where “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13:23-30 9. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man goes to hell, because as Abraham explains, he had a good life on earth and so now he will be tormented. Whereas Lazarus, who was miserable on earth, is now in heaven. This seems fair to Jesus. 16:19-31 10. Jesus believed the story of Noah’s ark. He thought it really happened and had no problem with the idea of God drowning everything and everybody. 17:26-27 11. Jesus also believes the story about Noah’s flood and Sodom’s destruction. He says, “even thus shall it be in the day the son of man is revealed … Remember Lot’s wife.” This tells us about Jesus’ knowledge of science and history, and his sense of justice. 17:29-32 12. In the parable of the talents, Jesus says that God takes what is not rightly his, and reaps what he didn’t sow. The parable ends with the words of Jesus: “bring them [those who preferred not to be ruled by him] hither, and slay them before me.” 19:22-27and that’s just in Luke…

  • yestme

    Daniel, I agree with “thank goodness.” Let’s thank a few people too, Franklin, Jefferson, Madison and above the bunch, John Adams.While we’re doing the thanking maybe we should thank the native Americans for sharing their country with us.

  • Cal Gal

    P.S. The Flying Spaghetti Monster is furious that people don’t eat spaghetti on Thanksgiving.Be warned.

  • Indira

    Thanksgiving is about giving thanks. It could be to god or to man kind or whatever… I am sure that the pligrims and the Indians did not have this discussion. They were just thankful for the food and to be alive.

  • rationality

    The fact that the `religion’ of communism was terrified by other religions doesn’t say anything to alter the fact that by definition an atheist is not afraid of something that he or she doesn’t believe exists. Political structures are often threatened by competing political structures. So what? Communism makes assumptions of natural human behavior that are just as untenable as any religion’s, from a logical point of view. If Marx had spent more time collecting data and less time in `thinking’, perhaps he would have produced a political philosophy that would not have brought harm to untold millions. The same could be said of the design of any religion, be it one that fosters jihad or one that fosters crusades or inquisitions.

  • Aaron Zisser

    A fantastic HUMANIST view. I happen to believe that the “God” of the Bible is merely a metaphor for “goodness” or the positive space in the universe created by the good relations between and among individuals. Indeed, there is language in the Bible that says God comes into existence only through such happy relationships. It is human beings who are full of the dignity and potential for good that construct blessings for which we can and should take a moment to reflect and be grateful.

  • godma

    There have been several posts here that state either something along the lines of “goodness comes from God” or “goodness is God”.Regarding the former, we don’t need the supernatural to explain our moral intuitions. There are more compelling, common-sense explanations that are purely naturalistic (evolution provides a genetic influence, and cultural memory (books, stories, etc.) provides a way for life experience to be passed on and improved on over time). Neither of these requires the supernatural.Regarding the latter “goodness is God”, you can, of course, concoct whatever personal definition of “God” you like, but:

  • jc

    kudos cal gal. From what I understand, Easter is another Christian holiday stolen from the Pagans. They used to celebrate around Easter time because of the coming of spring. The egg symbolized fertility.

  • Rob

    And as to the original question. Well duh … Thanksgiving is a holiday with very Christian roots. Thanksgivings were expressly for giving thanks to God.In the modern world, Thanksgiving has taken on a much more inclusive meaning. So have a happy one and remember to thank God, Mother/Father Earth, Mom and Dad, or Joe the Butcher for what they have done for you.Thanks for the enlightening discussion, everyone.

  • Michael Pate

    Hmmmmm….”Or should we thank the Law of Gravity and the Second Law of Thermodynamics for all they make possible?”Isn’t goodness a violation of the Second Law?

  • Anonymous

    To Anonymous:-Muslims are not the “Monster” you and other narrow-minded doomsday warmongers are leading us to believe: China’s population alone outnumbers the whole so called “Islamic world,” so is the total number of Christians in the world and India’s population is getting there. In Europe, Muslims number about 15 million out of over a population of 300 million, so who is winning your more imagined than real so called “Demographics’ War”? Or do you mean Muslims are winning that “War” after the decimation of Bosnia’s Muslim population: 250,000 Bosnians were slaughtered in the heart of Europe while the whole world looked on. Remember that Bosnian Muslims are European Slavs who happened to be Muslims. Thanks to America for intervening and saving whatever was left of Bosnia’s Muslims.Add to this Bush’s war in Iraq where over 700,000 Iraqis have been killed as well as close to 3,000 American soldiers; the daily and systematic decimation of the Palestinian population by Israel for no reason except resisting Israel’s 60-year brutal occupation where aggressive grapping of Palestinian land continue to knaw on the idea of a “viable Palestinian Sate “as not much land and water is left.What good is a starved, besieged and desperate Palestinian population? And which false and imagined “Demographics War” are you claiming and who pushed millions of Palestinians out of their homeland?Muslim’s have a crystal clear and a well established Values System both religious and human: they believe unequivocally in the God of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed and their values including the Ten Commandments and all human and civilised values; Islam never imposed its values on any non-Muslim society-it’s simply unislamic to do so, here are some examples:The violence we witness here and there by some fringe radical Muslim groups is essentially political due to deep-felt socio-political grievances both internal and external: internal from essentially political oppression and due to the absence of Democracy in Muslim lands and External grievances such as the creation of Israel on Palestinian land and the vulgar western support for it, the Bush war on Iraq, the denial of self-determination for Muslims in Kashmir and Chechnia…the decimation of Bosnia’s Muslim population and heritage etc….Violence has no colour and no religion…Wherever you have oppression, occupation and grievances you are bound to have violence especially where no democracy exists.Overall Islam should not be judged by a small desperate and disfranchised groups but by the absolute overwhelming majority of Muslims who- by Quranic definition and injunction-are and has to be Moderate and are peace loving and law abiding and are determined to make a contribution to human civilization in general and to the societies in which they live especially in the West.

  • know_name

    Thousands of people do not believe in a higher power or life after death or any of that. Faith, Religion and “god” seperate us from ourselves, pure enjoyment and the people who are special to our lives. All of the above let people put off their lives on earth where they can enjoy life and instead have them hoping and praying that their is something better after death. I feel badly that they put themselves through misery during the only life we know so that they might have something waiting for them in “heaven”?? BTW…all monotheistic religions are atheistic to all gods but their own. True athiests just take it one god further

  • Barney

    The only way I can pin a label on myself is as

  • Jordan

    Well, fortunately in contradiction to what a couple of you have said, the founding fathers were not Christians. And more likely, a few of them were atheists entirely. The Puritans and the first few settlers that showed up here are responsible for propagating that rumor. All of the intellectuals showed up a little later and wrote the constitution. If you can find the word “God” in it, let me know. Regardless, Thanksgiving is more of an opportunity to show your thanks to your family by spending the time with them and suppressing all the superstition and witchcraft for one day, at least.

  • Rudy

    To Timothy: You have come to know God and even if all of your life you choose not to believe you will never forget. He will come back for you. “But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracioushand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceifulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.” A. Lincoln, March 1863

  • Jordan

    By the way, James……has your desire for self-preservation compelled you to find a relationship with God? Isn’t that more along the lines of slavery? That doesn’t sound very fulfilling to me. Believe, or die.

  • Rudy

    “It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my Fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”A. Lincoln, October 1863

  • Aaron Zisser

    To Godma–I am not saying that “God” is “goodness” or trying to define “God.” Rather, I am contending that the literal readers of the Bible give too narrow a definition of “God.” You’re right that we should use other terms–“moral sense” or “love” are good ones. I think Dennett uses other ones–human project, fabric of excellence, etc. The COLLECTVE goodwill might be another. That’s all the same thing–love IS a moral act, after all. I think it’s just a shame that religion, at least recently, has a monopoly on terms like “morality,” “dignity,” and even “God.” Thanks for your thoughts and openness, Godma.Aaron

  • DC

    I give great thanks for God’s 10 commandments.I challenge anyone to deny the inherent love ( God toward man, man toward God, mankind toward each other) behind each one of them. The intelligent, rational, reasoning person knows that no human being could have ever compiled anything comparable.Many ask..’So, where is God?’ Well, the big kids really dont care where He is…they just want to be left alone with their own wisdom. But as some believe that He is not there…some of us believe He is there. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

  • a different point of view

    The argument that no person created the universe so that there is no one to thank is flawed. I am surprised a well-regarded philosophy professor would succomb to such a flaw. The premise is based on the idea that people are the only sentient beings. However, the concept of God is based on the premise of a non-human sentient being. Therefore, God could be aware of the thanks given and might even appreciate it. By other examples, rewards are often ways to express thanks. We see animals being given rewards for actions they perform. If a stray dog saved a person from an attacker, that victim may take the dog in as an expression of thanks. The dog may not make the connection, but that doesn’t dimish the fact that the victim has a means of expressing thanks for the action and that the dog won’t appreciate the expression of thanks (a new home and loving owner) even if it doesn’t recognize that action as thanks.

  • ANONYMOUS

    JESUS DOES EXIST, HE LIVED IN EARTH AND HE BECAME A SMALL CHILD AND THEN WAS CRUCIFIED. HE WAS NOT ACCEPTED BY A LOT OF PEOPLE IN THAT TIME AND I SEE IS STILL NOT BEING ACCEPTED BY A LOT OF PEOPLE OF THIS TIME. I JUST PRAY THAT HE COMES AGAIN LIKE IS WRITTEN IN THE BIBLE THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE DON’T READ. ALSO IF YOU READ THE HISTORY BOOKS, YOU WILL LEARN THAT THE LORD JESUS IS REAL. MANY WILL BE SURPRISED WHEN HE COMES AGAIN. GOD WILL GIVE YOU THE CHOISE TO FOLLOW HIM, AND GIVE YOU A LONGER LIFE. ANYBODY THAT DOESN’T ACCEPT HIS GIFTS AND BLESSINGS WILL MISSED A LOT OF HAPPINESS.

  • zatch

    As an atheist, it’s not that I don’t “believe” that there is no god, or ponder it at all. There is no god. Not a thought, thus not an issue.It strikes me as kinda silly, that in a galaxy with billions of stars and in a universe with billions of galaxies that people still subscribe to belief systems that are frankly medieval. (to be kind) Take some personal responsibility and think for yourself for once. Grow up and take a look at the vast wonder that surrounds us in this miracle of a universe we live in and relegate your antiquated beliefs and old books written by fallible men to the dust bins of history where they belong.

  • James

    David,Like you, I am also eternally thankful for the Grateful Dead (G_d)!Eat lots of Turkey and have faith in the Fat Man!

  • jc

    to ANONYMOUS: as I said before…Xmas is a holiday stolen from the Pagans.

  • Rudy

    “It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and trangressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord.”Abraham Lincoln, 1863

  • David

    James,

  • Mark

    All that we call human history–money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery–[is] the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.A creature revolting against a creator is revolting against the source of his own powers–including even his power to revolt…It is like the scent of a flower trying to destroy the flower.Atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning.

  • Doug

    Zatch,How can you call this universe a miracle, yet deny the supernatural God that miraculously created it and sustains it?

  • Barney

    To all my fellow heathens out there: By all means,

  • Asim

    To Thankful:What are U trying to prove? and why are U focusing on the issue of “apostosy”if U are not a muslim? And how many Muslims that U know of that have been killed because they changed their faith? Am a Muslim and have never met,known or heared of a Muslim being killed because he changed his faith.If U were so humane and concened about Muslim lives, why not discuss the countless Muslims slaughterd in Palestine, in Iraq or the ones that were murderd en masse in Bosnia? I suggest that U focus on Muslims being killed, murdered, decimated because they are Muslim and not on the non-existing Muslims being killed for changing their faith.Clearly U are an Islam Basher and Hater…

  • Asim

    To Thankful:What are U trying to prove? and why are U focusing on the issue of “apostosy”if U are not a muslim? And how many Muslims that U know of that have been killed because they changed their faith? Am a Muslim and have never met,known or heared of a Muslim being killed because he changed his faith.If U were so humane and concened about Muslim lives, why not discuss the countless Muslims slaughterd in Palestine, in Iraq or the ones that were murderd en masse in Bosnia? I suggest that U focus on Muslims being killed, murdered, decimated because they are Muslim and not on the non-existing Muslims being killed for changing their faith.Clearly U are an Islam Basher and Hater…

  • Asim

    To Thankful:What are U trying to prove? and why are U focusing on the issue of “apostosy”if U are not a muslim? And how many Muslims that U know of that have been killed because they changed their faith? Am a Muslim and have never met,known or heared of a Muslim being killed because he changed his faith.If U were so humane and concened about Muslim lives, why not discuss the countless Muslims slaughterd in Palestine, in Iraq or the ones that were murderd en masse in Bosnia? I suggest that U focus on Muslims being killed, murdered, decimated because they are Muslim and not on the non-existing Muslims being killed for changing their faith.Clearly U are an Islam Basher and Hater…

  • Anonymous

    I thank God. Not the blue fairy or the grey hair man in the sky, or whatever you think the religous think of God. Yes, you can accept reality as it is and conclude God is. Your wounder that you describe promises something but leaves me cold like a machine. The Big Bang, matter, Stars, planets earth evolution, humans are not accidents. But I thank God for your goodness as much as I thank God for any good in my life. So let me say to you: Thank you for your post.Paul

  • Ron

    “The Islamists, on the other hand, are winning the war of demographics (everywhere but USA), and seek to impose beliefs that they are willing to die for, kill for, etc., on a weak society that has no strong sense of identity and values. This is Europe, Russia, and other parts of the world are self-destructing before our very eyes”You need to ask yourself, if this is true,what have Christians done to incur God’s wrath so that He lets this happen, or, since you worship the same “God of Abraham” as the muslims, are you backing the wrong Prophet?

  • Phil

    The question Mr. Dennett raises in my mind is: who (or what) ought we thank for putting goodness into the people we ought to thank?Happy thanksgiving everyone :)

  • A Hermit

    Atheism is a religious belief in the same way that baldness is a hair colour, or not collecting stamps is a hobby.

  • imatoski

    Hi, I just want everyone to know that I recently found Jesus…..he was behind the sofa the whole time! Lighten up, a little levity can’t hurt. My personal journey of knowledge/discovery began many years ago watching Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, and reading his books like “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors”. He begins with the “big bang” and walks you through the billions of year’s right up to modern day. That was my first real introduction to evolution and I found it absolutely awe inspiring. If one could imagine a fast running stream dividing believers and non believers, evolution would be the rock in the middle of the stream allowing access from the land of faith and religion to the side of science and reason. It pretty much only works one way folks. I can certainly understand now why the Intelligent Design/Creationist crowd try so very hard to equate evolution with atheism. Evolution blew such a hole in my catholic faith at the time that the only room left for belief was this…..”ok, well at least a supreme being could have started the big bang and then left the building.” My conclusion at the time was why bother with that skimpy kind of God. It is very very difficult for one to reconcile evolution with the bible, etc. without becoming some kind of contortionist. Not to pile on, but as a lay person I ultimately had to ask what do the most brilliant modern minds on the planet think about the question of God?–the scientific community. In a survey of the national academy of sciences, the elite scientists including the top biologists were all atheists! Are their some scientists who are believers, of course, but I am convinced the overwhelming majority of scientists working in the top universities and doing research in the field are non believers. Moreover, the believing scientists readily accept the big bang and evolution…the Discovery Institute and ID people excluded. As Carl Sagan said when writing about God and religion…”you are far better off to face the harsh realities than to embrace a reassuring fable.” Simply put, I trust Carl and his exquisite reason/logic more than my parents or any priest I have ever met including the Pope.

  • NONBELIEVER

    Actually it’s quite simple. If you cannot think for yourself or if you feel that your thoughts are monstrous and injurious to other people and living things, by all means subscribe to a religion that prescribes the way of life that you must follow and lays out the steps in great detail.If, on the other hand, you trust in your capacity for decrimination between good and evil and in your ability to do the right thing, whether God exists or not is completely irrelevant. If you do good, no God will send you to hell even if God and hell exist and you refuse to believe in them for lack of proper evidence.

  • Mona

    I’m with Zatch on this. I was sitting on a beach in Florida last week looking at the trillions of stars and galaxies out there thinking how strange it is that humans think that there is a being somewhere who is concerned with whether they are going to church on Sunday or kneeling on a prayer rug 5 times a day or not eating pork. I’ve never understood it.My belief is that we can all learn how to live life morally and ethically. We should love one another, love ourselves, love our planet, love the other creatures who live on it. Other than that, those of you who want to believe in God certainly may, but stop thinking that people who don’t believe in God are missing something. We can live our lives just as well or just as poorly as religious people do. And, of course, Jesus lived. He was undoubtedly a GREAT man who demonstrated for us all a wonderful example of moral living, just like Ghandi, Mohammed, and many others. That Jesus has been turned into a god over time is not too hard to understand. People were powerless back then (as many still are today) and powerless humans tend seek out others with “authority” and “leadership” in whom they can believe and follow. They feel that such a person can lead them to safety.

  • David

    IMATOSKI,You are a believer, you trust Carl and “his reason logic”. He is your god. I trust God. You follow him and take his every word and conclusion as a matter of fact not realizing that science also evolves and is inconclusive, since better tools and insights are always ahead, and that it is tainted with peoples own beliefs and prejudices. You are a person of faith, you give your confidence to a mortal, finite, man. Have you done the same research or examination to arrive at your own conclusion, or did you just watch a video and decide to let someone else do the thinking for you? You believe in carl just as much as any man ever believed in God under the same conditions. You are trusting someone else. Don’t believe everything you see.

  • wiccan

    Thanks to the Stars of which we are made.

  • pearlie

    Thank you for your cogent expression of what I believe. I believe in the value of goodness and morality for the sake of humanity, not as an edict from a “higher power” without which I could not behave well. It’s tiresome to so often hear there would not be morality without religion.

  • Doug

    Imatoski,Honestly, “the most brilliant modern minds on the planet” don’t reject the probability of a creator. There are a lot of molecular biologists, astronomers, physicists, etc who have rejected the idea of evolution outright. One simple refutation of your Carl Sagan example is the “big bang.” If he is so smart, why can’t he tell us where the primordial ball of gas came from and what caused it to condense to the point where it eventually exploded?Science can never have an answer to the question of origins because science deals with verifiable phenomena and repeatable experiments. Neither of those have anything to do with the question of origins because no one was there to verify anything and it can’t be repeated to test the theory.Technically speaking, evolution is not even a scientific theory. According to Wikepedia, “In science, a theory is a proposed description, explanation, or model of the manner of interaction of a set of natural phenomena, capable of predicting future occurrences or observations of the same kind, and capable of being tested through experiment or otherwise falsified through empirical observation.” The Big Bang, and evolution, is not capable of being tested through experiment or empiracle observation.

  • Another Anonymous

    To Asim:”why are U focusing on the issue of “apostosy”if U are not a muslim? “Are you saying that it is not okay for a nonMuslim to criticize those Muslims, rare as they may be, who believe that killing someone who changes their religion is ok? If you are saying that it is not our place to criticize that, you are way out of line yourself. I have every right to criticize commands to kill people over things like changing religion.”If U were so humane and concened about Muslim lives”Obviously, someone who is concerned about the killing of people who change religions from Islam is not concerned about just Muslim lives, but about human lives, because someone who changes religion from Muslim isn’t Muslim anymore.There are people being killed all over the world for a lot of different reasons, Muslims included, and that is wrong. But that doesn’t mean people should ignore things like commands to kill over religion change and focus only on the killing of people who share your religion.Also, this is a non-starter: “And how many Muslims that U know of that have been killed because they changed their faith?”Maybe the threat of being killed if you change your religion reduces the number of people with the guts to change? Maybe the fact that here we have laws against killing for change of religion (unlike some places) is a factor? This might be why you’ve never known someone who was killed because of changing his faith. There’ve been a bunch in the news from other countries, so it does happen, just not here.If the best you can do to show someone is a hater is to pick on their concern about religious reasons for MURDERING people who change their religion… maybe you need to look in the mirror to find the real hater.

  • Gary Masters

    One can divide the universe into two domains, one that we control and understand and one beyond our domain. Think of a fire in a wilderness. We can see and control a small sphere and all that is beyond the light is outside our ken. Of course, the degree of control we have in our sphere is limited at best. But our religion is an effort to deal with all that is outside our domain. The atheist is sure that nothing is there. Agnostics do not know. I like to pay my respencts, but do not know either way. I do not deduct from evidence, since the set is too limited. Perhaps later in my life I will have some ideas.

  • Zatch

    Hi Doug – No offense intended, but thinking that the only reason for our wonderful universe’s existence is because a “god” created it is lazy thinking, pure and simple. Just because an answer is easy, it doesn’t always make it true. Regardless of our disagreements, happy thanksgiving.

  • Anonymous

    Al praise to Divine Toad Sweat.

  • Another Anonymous

    To Ron: “You need to ask yourself, if this is true,what have Christians done to incur God’s wrath so that He lets this happen, or, since you worship the same “God of Abraham” as the muslims, are you backing the wrong Prophet?” Maybe they let people in places where they are or were the majority leave the faith without killing them, letting millions go on to believe it is okay to have small secular families, or no kids at all.That’s looks like the really big Christian “sin”, adopting your “logic”.

  • Another Anonymous

    Oh, and read my above post considering that I’m not a Christian. But I am at least thankfull that Christians aren’t telling me it is off limits for me, as a nonChristian, to criticize murder of apostates.

  • Anonymous

    Mumbo jumbo… Curse “god” that the genocidal psycho invaders didn’t starve to death that winter. Why do such bad things happen to a good planet? They’re still at it, too.

  • Anonymous

    No David, you took what I said out of context. Carl is only one of thousands of scientists who apply the scientific method to questions. I trust in SCIENCE and just happen to think Carl is pretty good representative of that group. You are correct I do not do the scientist experiments myself…or, voila, I would be a scientist! I do, however, subscribe to several science journals and read the peer reviewed articles pros and cons. In addition to non stop reading of science books and science blogs. BTW, what exactly is your personal research and who do you read and trust…be specific now? Apparently, you are one of those that confuse science with belief…errr, science is not a belief! Further, atheists do not believe in any God. As you jabber on about taking every word as a matter of fact…that simply is the opposite of what science is. If a scientific theory is disapproved by further study and better evidence, Sagan would have been the first to call up the scientist and say bravo, bravo young man, you have raised the bar and greatly added to the knowledge base. I am also very much open to hear your evidence to the contrary of what I wrote. It is entirely too convenient to simply say god is outside of space and time and therefore trumps all laws of nature, scientific theories, etc. End of story, I certainly can not say anything about the supernatural. You win; you have the ultimate trump card. David, why can’t you simply enjoy the beautiful garden without imaging fairies at the bottom?

  • Anonymous

    Curse the homo sapiens and pass the gravy.

  • Imotoski

    Doug, How about a few names of these molecular biologist, etc…if you say Behee, I’m going to have to puke…I excluded the Discovery looney tunes remember. Of course, the big bang is a theory but I think you will find most scientists give it a lot of validity, including Sagan, as we keep going back closer and closer to the beginning of the expansion. You are also correct evolution is not technically a theory…it is a FACT. or as close as you can get in science. The how of evolution, natural selection, is the theory part and so far the only explanation that seems to work.

  • William Nathe

    I fully agree. There is no God but most people do not want to hear that. It is a good Thanksgiving when voices of the thinking can be heard. I guarrantee that more of the thinking will be heard in the days, months and years to come. America will be Free!

  • Anonymous

    For the sentient, the problem of Thanksgiving is not the “god” nonsense; after all, one has to put up with that noise day in and day out. It’s the genocidal conquest of the planet by Europe that defines the accursed millennium. We’re supposed to celebrate the greatest calamity in planetary history? One can only don one’s blinders and enjoy the day with loved ones, good food, autumn comradeship, and good cheer. Any attempted rationalization is nothing if not revolting.

  • Anonymous

    As a native american, with mixed emotions I might add, everyone have a very very merry turkey or vegan holiday. It is another one of those days you can get drunk and not be too embarrassed. Don’t forget football too!

  • Schlotz

    I once witnessed something:

  • Robert

    I read a good number of threads between believers and atheists. What seems abundantly clear to me is that most believers cannot, CANNOT, really understand what it means to be an atheist. All the time I hear them say things like, “You just put yourself in the place of god,” or “Dawkins/Harris/Sagan/Science is your god,” or “You’re just afraid of god.”None of these are true. What is true is that atheists view god, all gods, as fictional characters; no different than the easter bunny, Santa Claus, Darth Vader, or Mickey Mouse. And that’s the only belief that atheists necessarily share. There is no dogma, no liturgy, no ceremonies to observe. I know this is a very hard concept for most believers to get their heads around, but it’s true.If you’re a believer and you want to debate atheists, I think the first thing you need to do is make sure you understand what they believe.

  • Anonymous

    Thanksgiving in Massachusetts Bay Colony = Wounded Knee, Auschwitz, Hiroshima, My Lai, Falluja.jehovah = tooth fairyHave a swell day.

  • Jesus, the Christ

    If there were a just god hiding in the underbrush somewhere, she would never in tarnation have created Homo sapiens sapiens. That was a downright dirty trick.

  • SM

    Tonius,It’s not that science changes all the time. It’s that our human understanding of the laws of nature become more and more refined (i.e., fit the data better and better).What religious people have a hard time getting their heads around is that for a scientist accepting uncertainty is not the same thing as accepting ‘defeat’. Scientists understand that we are asymptotically developing better and better models for how the universe works and that such models are already good enough to reasonably conclude that there is no need for a ‘God’ actor to explain the organisation of matter and energy.

  • Mike

    Notice the strong correlation between those who hate religion and those who hate America?let’s hear it for those wonderful secularists who want us to turn into Europe, the continent of hoplessness and despair.

  • Joshua son of God

    i HATE america. it makes me so mad! i hate you for your freedom!

  • Anonymous

    I hate America and I hate all this God stuff too! Viva la desesperanza! See you in Geneva for some fondue.

  • USA

    Europe not good! God bless America ONLY!God number 1. USA number 2, but very close of course.

  • Ted Swart

    Doug:Of course evolution is not a theory it is a fact Its occurrence is not in doubt. The fossil and DNA evidence is available for all to see. To talk of THE theory of evolution is to talk nonsense. There is no such unique, unambiguous and complete theory.Evolution is no different than Galileo’s observation that the earth revolves around the sun and the moon revolves around the earth. Newton’s theory of gravity came later and Einstein’s theory came still later and yet more theories are waiting in the wings. You don’t have to wait to accept a fact because the theories associated with it (Darwin’s theory or what have you) are incomplete. So why don’t you just accept the occurrence of evolution and get on with your life.Thank goodness virtually everyone now accepts the truth of Galileo’s observations and even the Catholic church has finally apologized for their unjust treatment of him. Let us hope that it will not be too long before virtually everyone accepts the occurrence of evolution.

  • Andrew

    As an American citizen who is also a long time resident of Tokyo, I am always amazed by the argument that a lack of gods equals a lack of morality. I live in the largest city in the world which also has perhaps the lowest violent crime rates in the world. Further, I could drop my wallet and have complete faith in the people around me to return it untouched. And less than 2% of the whole population believes in a god. They built the society they have themselves and they know it. And if we talk about responsibility to others, than I would rather be responsible to all my neighbors then to any can’t-be-disproved grandfather in another realm. How much better it is to be responsible to those around us, and as Mr. Dennett offers; to goodness itself.

  • Peter Jackson

    Thank Goodness Not God on Thanksgiving. William James spoke of a ‘constant stream of consciousness’ most of which were inner, subjective thoughts, inner feelings, behavior having an inner subjective meaning (body language).Now God is a Spirit: not a physical being.Up to the present science has not paid much attention to non-physical objects and non-physical experiences. So it is safe to say science does not know much in this area of life.However Roger Sperry has opened up a new area of downward causation, convergence, freedom, mental entities, and consciousness. The next step involves the subjective self and its consciousness. To understand their organization and workings in daily living.Even as to the meaning of the subjective messages themselves we will find that many highly educated Ph.D.s over the years have greatly defined and classified their meanings.Their meanings are in a book called a dictionary or a thesaurus.And of course in this process we will find the evolution from physical science through the self to the arts.

  • Bobby

    Thanks to God, we have agnostics and atheists. Think about it……

  • Jack

    Kevin Bright is not, not bright that is. Actually, what I want to say is that Kevin is an idiot. People like him are the source of so many of our problems that it is not funny. Try believing in the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus my dear Kevin because to the best of my knowledge those who believe in those ephemeral entities do not bring wars and death upon us in the name of their beliefs.Jack

  • Dhiyaa

    I’d like to thank the American people for voting Republicans into minorities in Congress. Bush and his junta are a danger to the civilized world, on a much larger scale than Bin Laden can ever dream of. Want proof? The best Bin Laden could do was murder 3000 innocent people on 9/11/2001. On the other hand, how many innocent lives have been taken directly as a result of Bush’s actions? In Iraq alone, they are saying 650,000. Ok, ok, let’s say that’s over-kill, literally. But how do we accept even 100,000 or even 50,000, or even 10,000, or even 1000, or even 100 innocent people killed without someone having to answer for it? Obviously, without the illegal Iraq invstion and occupation, all that would not have happened. America needs to realize the transgressions of its leaders, past and present (from Native Americans, to African-Americans, to Japanese in the 1940’s, to Hispanics, and finally to Muslim Americans now being subjected to torture, humiliation and discrimination) and accept that these horrible mistakes were and still are being committed. Maybe then, and only then, can we eat a humble pie instead of the current self-righteous, “we are the best”, “we are the strongest” kind of attitude that so many seem to have. The black and white world of Bush and Bin Laden is just a product of the imaginations of these poeple. People of intellect should realize the real world is mostly gray, with little black and white here and there.

  • anti-anti

    So depending on which religion from Western Asia you believe in, God is the person who sent Moses, or Jesus, or Mohammed to people of your religion. When it comes down to the nitty gritty you either fear or hate people of the other two religions. If you read any of the so-called holy books, it is clear that none of these Gods understood even a fraction of the small amount that we have learned of the Universe through scientific exploration (there are no diagrams of the solar system, equations for black holes, the double-helix, biological evolution, nerve cells, etc etc etc etc). Believing in the God of any of these books as omniscient is patently absurd. So for argument’s sake, God is turned progressively more abstract. If this gives you solace, try to figure out how an abstract concept like “goodness” could choose one tribe as its favorite and send Moses to rescue it, or have a son named Jesus, or a prophet named Mohammed. You will probably have to give up this absurd quest without success.

  • Edward

    Whether people wish to believe it or not, it is a fact that nobody created him or herself. God did it. And God placed in the heart and mind of every human being this fact. Not believing in God does not make Him go away–it often makes for windy, dismissive, or angry outpourings of ideas, but it does not nullify God, nor does it wipe out the knowledge that He made everything; not does it wipe the knowledge of that fact from anyone’s heart or mind.

  • Dhiyaa

    To Mr. Thankful and other Islam/Muslim Bahsers:Please stop!! Even a novice of Islamic jurisprudence knows that apostasy which is punished by death penalty is one which accompanies treason against the Islamic state!Now treason is punishable by death in most of the “civilized” world and no one seems to object. Besides, those with a history of Joan of Ark and Inquisition should be the last ones to find faults with other religions. It’s true that the apostasy thing is prone to being misused and it has been misused, but that’s not Islam’s fault. Neither is 9/11. Neither is terrorism. These things have their own root causes. I’m not apologizing for anyone, but imagine a world in which there is no occupation of Palestine, no monopoly of power, no monopoly of UN, no hegemony of the stronger countries over the weaker ones…. and it’s a safe bit there would no bin ladens or al-qaedas. It’s so painful to see the likes of Steve Emerson, Daniel Pipes, etc paint all of Islam and Muslims with the broad brush of extremism and terrorism. That would be the exact equivalent of blaming Christinity for WWI (almost everyone involved was Christian), WWII (again non-Muslims, mostly Christians), the Cold War, Oaklahoma bombing, IRA terror, the current destructive Iraq war…. etc. But all sane people know Christianity is not the cause, as case by case, these wars and crises all have root causes of their own. If somehow or another, religion is used to strengthen the position of parties, don’t blame the religions, please. Want to know about Islam? Don’t ask Emerson or Pipes or corporate media. Go ask your Muslim co-worker or neighbor, they won’t hide anything about their religion from you.

  • mwallin

    Wow. Lots of ghoulish people in here. Who knew that thanksgiving could look so much like Halloween. Those of us who don’t rely on the divine for guidance have a much larger moral obligation than those who attempt to dictate values and morals for others. The world is indeed simple and obvious when every aspect of your life is external to you, yet strangely focused on you. How satisfyingly narcissistic it must be to think that the attention of the vastness of the universe has culminated in…YOU and whether you will live a “sinful” or “godly” life. It’s unfortunate that religious moralists overlook the thing that they should be most thankful for: that we, as a species have developed the ability to express our perspectives, argue our positions and forge our own paths by language and reason. Most mono-theistic religions despise precisely those things that allow us to negotiate morality, to council and create purpose through consensus. For those who subscribe to the “biblical” narrative for their sense of purpose and reason for being, our ability to reason and interrogate is an expression of our fallen nature – a result of our sinful flirtation with the tree of knowledge (Knowledge bad! Ignorance in the bosom of God is good!)I really enjoy watching people dodge the complexity of human experience with simple answers (like “anyone who doesn’t believe in god might as well just go and kill people because without god there’s no morality.” C’mon. really.). Look where simple answers have gotten our president! He has lots to be thankful for – as long as he can’t see a foot beyond his turkey dinner.

  • Parker

    Andrew,Great observations about Japan and the low rate of Christians or Muslims among the total population. If ever there was a ‘controlled study group’ that demonstrates that people can be good to each other without the need for a belief in Christ or strong faith/religion, Japan might just be it, at least recently.I am still trying to resolve the horribly destructive senkoku period and the rise of the militant Buddhist sect, Ikki-Ikko, in the context of religious extremism. I think it can easily be explained that it was a matter of survival and a lack of social justice that brought about their militancy, rather than irrational belief in ‘religion’ (certainly not the same as the Crusades, for example, and the huge death toll racked up in the name of Christianity). It was literally a kill-or-be-killed period among the warrior class with peasants and farmers suffering. At the ordinary level, people were still good to each other without the need for a unifying religion as most Christians seem to feel is mandatory to have a ‘moral’ nation.One could say more about Japan in WWII but no need to go any more off-topic than the above.

  • Don Mikulecky

    Daniel Dennett,

  • Don Mikulecky

    Daniel Dennett,

  • Don Mikulecky

    Daniel Dennett,

  • Anonymous

    One problem with not believing in any higher power is that it creates a weak society based on minimal mores of mush ideas, that are hard for people to agree on and defend.The Islamists, on the other hand, are winning the war of demographics (everywhere but USA), and seek to impose beliefs that they are willing to die for, kill for, etc., on a weak society that has no strong sense of identity and values. This is Europe, Russia, and other parts of the world are self-destructing before our very eyes.So on Thanksgiving, the thing I will be most thankful in America is for those who have a strong sense of values, of identity, of purpose, and of understanding in a higher calling and deity beyond our lonely mortal lives – so that America has the strength to maintain an identity in the face of conquerors who seek to rule the world.

  • Phoenix

    I must say that although I pretty much agree with most of what you said, it seems very idealistic to say- much less practice. I have to wonder why it seems idealistic and crazy to think this way when it is probably the sanest most sensible post I have yet seen on these boards. Sadly, when religion is involved even the most sensible people act senselessly.

  • spero

    It is amazing and amusing that there is so much ignorance, arrogance, and pomposity in this world evinced by theists, deists, agnostics and atheists. I am always impressed that so many people feel compitent to discuss religion, psychology, evolution etc. without never having read a word of scripture,Plato, Freud or Darwin. Everybody, eat your stupid turkey, shut up and hit the books.

  • Canyon Shearer

    If I were you and weren’t to put my thanks in God directly, I think I put my thanks in the founding fathers, for their great faith in God which has created the society which you are thankful to be living in.If you are not thanking God directly, you should be thanking the idea of God and righteousness.

  • Phoenix

    I agree with Anonymous about the unsurity of belief will allow for uncertainty in the face of dangerous and militant invaders (from ANY source). However I do not believe the USA will fall to such invaders- regardless of who here believes in what higher power if any. Why do I believe this? Because I like many…many other Americans have a strong sense of pride in our freedom and our country. Although that has not stopped other countries from succumbing to outside influence, Americans have proved to have a strong sense of unity and resourcefulness in the past and I have faith (yes FAITH) that we will continue to do so. I do not believe that my belief or non-belief in a ‘supreme being’ has anything to do with my patriotism.

  • August Berkshire

    If we go back to the original Pilgrims, my understanding is that they were not only thankful to a god but to the Native Americans who helped them survive. Thus, there was always a secular component to the holiday – and what could be more secular than a huge pile of food! So let’s give thanks where it is due – to each other – and not to an imaginary god who, if he existed, would also be responsible for drought, flooding and disease.

  • August Berkshire

    If we go back to the original Pilgrims, my understanding is that they were not only thankful to a god but to the Native Americans who helped them survive. Thus, there was always a secular component to the holiday – and what could be more secular than a huge pile of food! So let’s give thanks where it is due – to each other – and not to an imaginary god who, if he existed, would also be responsible for drought, flooding and disease.

  • August Berkshire

    If we go back to the original Pilgrims, my understanding is that they were not only thankful to a god but to the Native Americans who helped them survive. Thus, there was always a secular component to the holiday – and what could be more secular than a huge pile of food! So let’s give thanks where it is due – to each other – and not to an imaginary god who, if he existed, would also be responsible for drought, flooding and disease.

  • Anonymous

    Phoenix -But look hard and seriously at ultra-secular Europe and where it is going to see what our future could be if we weaken our shared values and mores. Belief in a higher force provides a lot of binding of the shared values and mores of Americans today.

  • Kevin

    As an agnostic, I give thanks to all people and living creatures for where we have come from, where we are and where we are going.I believe that compared to only one hundred years ago there is much progress in the world to be thankful for. Medical science has made living life longer and easier. Though it may have made the dying process harder, slower.The closest to my understanding of god would be that of the image in the movie Contact. Where god takes the form of human to make the human comfortable and to communicate with a human. That sounds interesting and more plausible to me than the complex understandings of the various religions.I also believe in love. And I am a very moral person. I don’t feel I need a religion or religious leaders to keep me in line. I have no desire to hurt others, to kill others or to be greedy and bad. I find a lot of religious people who need guidance and a sort of enforcer to keep them from acting on temptations. I am fortunate not to have much more than a temptation to have sex sometimes. And I do not think that sexual gratification is immoral.I want to give thanks for all of the good people in the world. I think most people are good and given their circumstances are trying to do good. I do not think that the “other” is bad. I don’t need someone else to blame.Thanks to humans for feeling love. That is my definition of god. The fact that humans can love and need love.Happy Thanksgiving.

  • Tonio

    At this time of year I am thankful to live in a country that has religious freedom. There would have been religious freedom in colonial Massachusetts if it weren’t for the Pilgrims and their fellow extremists, the Puritans. Despite the romantic myths that we learned in school, the Pilgrims already had freedom in Holland to worship as they pleased. As soon as they arrived in America, they set up what amounted to a theocracy. Members of the community who spoke out against minsters were punished through exile or imprisonment. Jews, Quakers and Catholics can give thanks that they didn’t live in colonial Massachusetts, which granted freedom of worship to those groups some decades after the other colonies.

  • Tonio

    Kevin, your Contact analogy has a great deal of appeal for me. I believe there’s some merit to looking up to something greater than one’s self, whether it’s deity or nature or the universe. Joseph Campbell talked about myths of various religions as metaphors that embodied certain understandings of life.

  • Ryan Riley

    Dr. Dennett wrote:My question is why? Why bother being kind? What prevents someone who does not believe in any god from doing whatever he/she pleases? How do you stop from descending to nihilism and anarchy? I’ve heard of the idea that morality has evolved into us, but I have a VERY hard time buying that when the majority of humanity tends toward violence, whether in thought or deed. How do we not have more Ivan Fyodorovich Karamazov’s running around out here? Should we expect them soon?

  • Dave

    Sorry to join this so late but I thought I’d answer Imotoski’s challenge to name “molecular biologists” who are believers. I’d rather go with Georges LeMaitre, an astronomer and physicist who proposed what he called the ‘hypothesis of the primeval atom.’ Einstein and Eddington found the notion unpleasant, and Fred Hoyle coined a scornful name for it… he called it the “Big Bang” hypothesis, a name that’s still being used. And Georges LeMaitre was a Roman Catholic priest. Happy Thanksgiving. P.S. Eventually there was some kind of reconciliation among these scientists, which might be a model for us.

  • The Real Realist

    Andy,I ask you a question: Who **is** controlling your thoughts? Be honest with yourself when you answer!

  • Ryan Riley

    Anonymous,Yes, I think that if I were to learn that everything I believed was false and that this could be proven to be wholly true, I would certainly question why I do things. In fact, I cannot take credit for upholding the golden rule (to the extent that I do, for I am certainly not perfect) of my own accord. There is nothing I have learned that proves to me that I should treat others a certain way. In fact, I have learned quite the opposite.I was part of a psychology experiment in college in which groups were placed in teams and given the choice to work with the team or to go our own way, without the benefit of actually communicating with others in the team. Mathematically, we all did very well if everyone worked together, but if you decided to go your own when everyone else held together, you always did better. I stuck to the team the entire time and got screwed. The lesson I learned was always be the first to screw over your fellow man, for in that way, you will always at least have a chance to win.That philosophy would certainly describe the majority of how I lived my life up to the point where I became a Christian. And no, I did not change overnight. It happened in broad daylight; I experienced a very great change within moments. I am still not perfect, nor do I think I know everything; please do not misunderstand.However, if I were to take a logical approach starting from the basic assumptions of a godless view of life and humanity, I could only find Nietzche to be right and all the rest of the philosophers and scientists that say we have some built-in moral code or set of “inalienable rights” to be quite ridiculous. All my own experience in the real world proves wholly opposed to such a notion. I think the Communist experiments show this better than almost anything else. Communism, in theory, appears to logically answer the majority of life’s dilemmas; however, it does not seem to have helped the people it promises to help to any real degree.Hence the question remains as to why there are some who devote their lives to the golden rule while the majority of others modify it to suit their needs (how many really treat others as well or better than themselves?) or oppose it completely. Something must drive this, and I simply cannot believe there is anything within human nature that naturally serves this function.Now I know a lot of people who neither believe in God nor are nihilists. They are generally “good” people, but I would also deny that they live by the golden rule. I know very few in fact, including myself, whom I would describe as living by the golden rule, but the few I do who seem closest to this are all Christians, true Christians with whom I have lived and shared trials. So many ask for evidence. What then is my own experience? Does it count for so little, especially such is the substance of science itself?

  • The Real Realist

    Thank Goodness for Goodness!And thank goodness Dan’s OK because I’m sure he’s still got a lot of deep insights to share with the rest of us.There’s still a few people here who think people Thanks for the great example Andrew! I’ve been to Japan. The people are very considerate and polite. Most of them don’t believe in God and haven’t read the Bible. I never felt afraid or uncomfortable in Japan even exploring Yokohama at night.People are the same all over the world. There are good people, bad people, smart people, stupid people. Most people are basically good. It’s the way we are. If you can get your heads out of your Bibles long enough to actually take a look at the real world, you’ll find lots of cultures and lots of different beliefs many of them totally different to your own. Go and visit another country if you can. Talk to some people who have different views to yourself! Try and understand why they believe what they believe. It’s a big fascinating, interesting world out there. You might actually learn something.Without God, Goodness actually makes sense! It’s worth something. Without God, people can be good for sensible reasons, not because God has made up some bizarre rules for his own amusement and has threatened to torture you if you don’t follow them.The Christian God seems to be obsessed with people’s sex lives – at least thats what most of the US preachers want you to believe. What does God care about your sex life? It doesn’t make sense!You should care about your sex life because you respect and care about yourself and the people you have relationships with – that’s a sensible reason for being responsible about sex.I treat my children well because I love my children and I want them to be happy – what parent doesn’t? I treat my parents well because I’m grateful for all the things they have done for me.I’m kind to my neighbours because I like them and respect them, and I hope they will treat me the same way.Where does goodness come from? It’s part of human nature, along with all the bad things like cruelty and selfishness. Where does human nature come from? Evolution! (I can see most of the believers cringing.)Evolution explains where goodness comes from and the rest of human nature as well. As social animals, caring about each other is useful for survival of our genes.Aggression against those who are different from ourselves is also useful for the survival of our genes. I’m not advocating aggression, but evolution explains why we are aggressive. Note I didn’t say aggression was useful for **us**. Aggression is useful for our genes because in a world with limited resources, our genes are competing against other genes for survival. Evolution is just probability – it’s really not that hard to understand if you actually bother to try and undersand it.Fortunately, people are intelligent enough and rational enough, well some of us anyway, to understand that it is better to cooperate with each other than to kill each other. We have to learn to deal with the aggressive part of our nature and get along, because together we can build a much better world for ourselves. I think one of the reasons we invented religion was as a means to do just that.For those who still believe that Goodness comes from God, despite no real evidence in favour of that view and despite all the evidence to the contrary, I ask you this: What sense does it make for God to be good? What possible reason would God have for being good? (Maybe this explains why Yaweh is such a cold blooded murdering monster? Sorry, but if you disagree you haven’t read your Bible.)Before God made the universe (I won’t go into how absurd it is to consider what God was doing before time existed), who would he be good to? Being a solitary creature, the concept of good would make no sense at all to him? Goodness only makes sense in a social context.Of course the real creator of the universe, his divine Noodlyness, can make up any nonsense he pleases!I’m having Pasta for thanksgiving!RAmen,

  • The Real Realist

    Thank Goodness for Goodness!And thank goodness Dan’s OK because I’m sure he’s still got a lot of deep insights to share with the rest of us.There’s still a few people here who think people Thanks for the great example Andrew! I’ve been to Japan. The people are very considerate and polite. Most of them don’t believe in God and haven’t read the Bible. I never felt afraid or uncomfortable in Japan even exploring Yokohama at night.People are the same all over the world. There are good people, bad people, smart people, stupid people. Most people are basically good. It’s the way we are. If you can get your heads out of your Bibles long enough to actually take a look at the real world, you’ll find lots of cultures and lots of different beliefs many of them totally different to your own. Go and visit another country if you can. Talk to some people who have different views to yourself! Try and understand why they believe what they believe. It’s a big fascinating, interesting world out there. You might actually learn something.Without God, Goodness actually makes sense! It’s worth something. Without God, people can be good for sensible reasons, not because God has made up some bizarre rules for his own amusement and has threatened to torture you if you don’t follow them.The Christian God seems to be obsessed with people’s sex lives – at least thats what most of the US preachers want you to believe. What does God care about your sex life? It doesn’t make sense!You should care about your sex life because you respect and care about yourself and the people you have relationships with – that’s a sensible reason for being responsible about sex.I treat my children well because I love my children and I want them to be happy – what parent doesn’t? I treat my parents well because I’m grateful for all the things they have done for me.I’m kind to my neighbours because I like them and respect them, and I hope they will treat me the same way.Where does goodness come from? It’s part of human nature, along with all the bad things like cruelty and selfishness. Where does human nature come from? Evolution! (I can see most of the believers cringing.)Evolution explains where goodness comes from and the rest of human nature as well. As social animals, caring about each other is useful for survival of our genes.Aggression against those who are different from ourselves is also useful for the survival of our genes. I’m not advocating aggression, but evolution explains why we are aggressive. Note I didn’t say aggression was useful for **us**. Aggression is useful for our genes because in a world with limited resources, our genes are competing against other genes for survival. Evolution is just probability – it’s really not that hard to understand if you actually bother to try and undersand it.Fortunately, people are intelligent enough and rational enough, well some of us anyway, to understand that it is better to cooperate with each other than to kill each other. We have to learn to deal with the aggressive part of our nature and get along, because together we can build a much better world for ourselves. I think one of the reasons we invented religion was as a means to do just that.For those who still believe that Goodness comes from God, despite no real evidence in favour of that view and despite all the evidence to the contrary, I ask you this: What sense does it make for God to be good? What possible reason would God have for being good? (Maybe this explains why Yaweh is such a cold blooded murdering monster? Sorry, but if you disagree you haven’t read your Bible.)Before God made the universe (I won’t go into how absurd it is to consider what God was doing before time existed), who would he be good to? Being a solitary creature, the concept of good would make no sense at all to him? Goodness only makes sense in a social context.Of course the real creator of the universe, his divine Noodlyness, can make up any nonsense he pleases!I’m having Pasta for thanksgiving!RAmen,

  • The Real Realist

    Thank Goodness for Goodness!And thank goodness Dan’s OK because I’m sure he’s still got a lot of deep insights to share with the rest of us.There’s still a few people here who think people Thanks for the great example Andrew! I’ve been to Japan. The people are very considerate and polite. Most of them don’t believe in God and haven’t read the Bible. I never felt afraid or uncomfortable in Japan even exploring Yokohama at night.People are the same all over the world. There are good people, bad people, smart people, stupid people. Most people are basically good. It’s the way we are. If you can get your heads out of your Bibles long enough to actually take a look at the real world, you’ll find lots of cultures and lots of different beliefs many of them totally different to your own. Go and visit another country if you can. Talk to some people who have different views to yourself! Try and understand why they believe what they believe. It’s a big fascinating, interesting world out there. You might actually learn something.Without God, Goodness actually makes sense! It’s worth something. Without God, people can be good for sensible reasons, not because God has made up some bizarre rules for his own amusement and has threatened to torture you if you don’t follow them.The Christian God seems to be obsessed with people’s sex lives – at least thats what most of the US preachers want you to believe. What does God care about your sex life? It doesn’t make sense!You should care about your sex life because you respect and care about yourself and the people you have relationships with – that’s a sensible reason for being responsible about sex.I treat my children well because I love my children and I want them to be happy – what parent doesn’t? I treat my parents well because I’m grateful for all the things they have done for me.I’m kind to my neighbours because I like them and respect them, and I hope they will treat me the same way.Where does goodness come from? It’s part of human nature, along with all the bad things like cruelty and selfishness. Where does human nature come from? Evolution! (I can see most of the believers cringing.)Evolution explains where goodness comes from and the rest of human nature as well. As social animals, caring about each other is useful for survival of our genes.Aggression against those who are different from ourselves is also useful for the survival of our genes. I’m not advocating aggression, but evolution explains why we are aggressive. Note I didn’t say aggression was useful for **us**. Aggression is useful for our genes because in a world with limited resources, our genes are competing against other genes for survival. Evolution is just probability – it’s really not that hard to understand if you actually bother to try and undersand it.Fortunately, people are intelligent enough and rational enough, well some of us anyway, to understand that it is better to cooperate with each other than to kill each other. We have to learn to deal with the aggressive part of our nature and get along, because together we can build a much better world for ourselves. I think one of the reasons we invented religion was as a means to do just that.For those who still believe that Goodness comes from God, despite no real evidence in favour of that view and despite all the evidence to the contrary, I ask you this: What sense does it make for God to be good? What possible reason would God have for being good? (Maybe this explains why Yaweh is such a cold blooded murdering monster? Sorry, but if you disagree you haven’t read your Bible.)Before God made the universe (I won’t go into how absurd it is to consider what God was doing before time existed), who would he be good to? Being a solitary creature, the concept of good would make no sense at all to him? Goodness only makes sense in a social context.Of course the real creator of the universe, his divine Noodlyness, can make up any nonsense he pleases!I’m having Pasta for thanksgiving!RAmen,

  • Anonymous

    Ryan Riely:You wrote:”What prevents someone who does not believe in any god from doing whatever he/she pleases?”So if you woke up today and found out that your existing religious belief was completely and utterly false [the aliens land and inform us that this was all just a high school biology experiment of theirs that went astray] — how would you change your life? Would you abandon the golden rule? Would you no longer want to be kind to your family, friends and fellow man?Not even having met you, I still think more highly of you than that. Have a great Thanksgiving.

  • Andy

    Professor Dennett, why is it important to you to control my very thoughts and feelings? I will not surrender them to you.

  • Jan

    Human nature is what made gods, gods have been around for a long time. But people nowadays like to thank god for everything that is good but few blame him for all the wrongs in the world. Being realistic isn’t cold or heartless, its facing the world for what it is. People need to be thankful for each other when they do good things and realize that bad things happen too and those need to be address for what they are, people doing bad things. Its always a strange thing when people who survive a plane crash thank god for surviving but fail to blame him for those who died. Did god like the survivors better than those who died? Our history is full of mistakes and we have been taught to believe what others wanted us to believe. On Thanksgiving the people who should be thanked are the Native Americans who fed the Pilgrims and kept them alive that first harsh Winter. People will believe whatever they want but should also face historical truths, we had nothing to do with the making of the universe but we made the condition the world is in today not god.

  • Mohamed MALLECK

    To Jeff, Thankful and Rationality,Two or three days ago, I took the BATTLEGROUND GOD Test on http://www.philosophersnet.com and won a third prize. I had done netter when, months back, I had taken the ‘make your own deity’ test.I propose that you take both tests and see how well you do and let allreaders know in your next post. Also, if you can locate it, take another test which exists somewhere on the internet which measures a similar ‘rational morality quotient’ broken down a ‘consistency quotient’ and an ‘empathy quotient’, and further broken down into females’ scores and males’ scores (Yes, you may not like it, but there is a demonstrable gender difference so far as ‘empathy’ is concerced — women score better than men because they are, in Ashley Montagu’s words, “naturally superior” by virtue of the fact that they are the repositories of the survial of the human specie. And that is why Islam recognises their superiority, although there inevitably are ‘paternalists’ who miscontrue this and oppress women just as surely as ‘humanitarian imperialists’ oppress the most vulnerable groups in their former colonies).Finally, let me say that ‘nowruz’ — the equivalent of the Thanksgiving is celebrated in Iran by Muslims, Jews, Zoroastrians, agnostics and others with more spirituality than thanksgiving is celebrated in the US.That much said — yes, long live the US and all the states and nations of the human brotherhood and thank goodness for Thanksgiving.

  • Hobbes

    It is truly baffling that minds capable of logic dispense of it in arguments about the nature of religion. To assert that one’s religion is the only vehicle that can provide a base for moral/ethical concepts, is to dispense of reason.As Bertrand Russell said, every person believes his religion to be the truth and all others damnable heresy.Humanism is a bridge across all the petty, self-aggrandizing religious institutions. Humanism understands that one’s religious opinions have nothing to do with truth, and little to do with morality, but everything to do with where, and to whom one is born. From earliest childhood, one is most likely to believe that which one is taught to believe.Were I born in India, I would most likely have been a Hindu or Sikh. In Iran, a Muslim. In Tibet, a Buddhist. In the United States, a Christian, and, so on. I would have grown up firmly believing what I was taught, and would have believed it with all the fervor of all peoples of all other religions. In any of these, were I taught to be a fundamentalist, I would believe all others are hell bound, or simply lost to whatever awaits unbelievers after death.Such is less the basis of a moral or ethical life than of divisiveness, suspicion, hatred and war, which the true humanist considers immoral, but many (most?) believers consider glorious especially if the opposition is composed predominantly of a different religious belief.The greatest proposition of all is the Golden Rule (which, oddly, is embraced by many religions), to which the humanist adheres, but the fundamentalist believer of any religion, eschews.My thanks to Professor Dennett. It was the best of all thanksgiving comments.

  • Spinsterina

    These “On Faith” comments are so depressing.So much foolishness, arrogance, superstition and sloppy thinking on the part of the religious. It just saps my energy to read the verbal flailings of the “faithful” as they grasp fruitlessly for some rational defense of their beliefs and attack or insult nonbelievers. Dennett’s original post is so lucid, so sensible and appropriate for the holiday. I should have stopped right there.

  • Becky

    I thought Mr. Dennett’s response was very nice- it’s interesting to see how people with different religous views see things. I’m Pagan, but that doesn’t keep me from seeing that people with other beliefs are just as thankful. That you Mr. Dennett for your insite.

  • Real

    I thank progress. Bringing people to a better place is something to be grateful for.

  • Sam Harris Fan

    This is in response to A Different Tim’s question: “Why tear down believers?”Thank you.

  • Richard Dawkins Fan

    I enjoyed what Mr. Dennett had to say about thanking “goodness” instead of God. Well said!Lately, I’ve been wondering whether I should call myself an Agnostic or an Atheist so I looked them up.AGNOSTIC: a person who believes that nothing can be known about the existence of a god or of anything except material things.ATHEIST: a person who does not believe in the existence of a god or gods.GOD: A superhuman being regarded and worshipped as having power over nature and human affairs.Richard Dawkins describes being an Atheist as simply having a lack of belief in a god or gods. This may or may not be different than my dictionary’s definition. You decide.Anyway, I do not believe there is a god influencing human affairs or nature for that matter. Science has very good explanations for human nature as well as nature. I do not rule out the possibility of future scientists finding out more about HOW and WHY our universe began. Based on this, I will consider myself an ATHEIST.However, science can only reasonably explain what happened in the universe going back to “The Big Bang.” I do not believe there is any need for a god post-Big Bang. Pre-Big Bang, I AM open minded about what could have happened. Maybe there are other dimensions, maybe there are multiple universes, maybe some kind of beings, potentially superhuman, created The Big Bang, who knows.I’ve heard about scientists attempting to create a mini Big Bang in a lab. Maybe that will shed some light on the matter.Let me know if you think my logic is flawed, I am a big believer in constructive criticism.Thank you!

  • Jordan

    God is just too big for your small wannabe brain to understand.

  • Raman

    Re: JordanThe idea seems to be when you cannot discuss and win – well… insult!

  • TONY FLENTROY

    WHEN WE CHOSE TO BELIEVE IN, AND TRUST IN OUR OWN FEEBLENESS, AND OUR OWN INTELLECT THAT IS WHEN WE ARE EASILY LED ASTRAY. IT IS UTTER STUPIDITY TO LOOK UPON THE AMAZING WORKS OF THE HUMAN BODY, THE INTRICACIES OF OUR MAKEUP, THE MILES OF NERVES, AND ELECTRODES THAT ALL SEEM TO HAVE A PURPOSE AND PERFORM SAID PURPOSE, AND THEN THINK THAT WE JUST HAPPENED. NOT FROM SOME MARINE-LIFE. NOT FROM SOME FORM OF BIOLOGICAL EVOLUTION. BUT FROM A POWERFUL AND ALMIGHTY GOD WHO PERSONALLY TOOK A HANDS ON APPROACH WHEN HE CREATED US. EVERYTHING ELSE HE SPOKE “( LET THERE BE )” AND THERE WAS.

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  • mch

    Those that pose the argument of existence based on “belief,” as in “if I don’t believe in your existence,do you cease to exist,” need to understand that they are toying with word game gimmicks and not reason.If I tell you I exist you can deny this. Sure enough. You can say I don’t. And does that mean I don’t. Of course not. You can say someone else wrote this, and you might be right. You can say that you’ve never seen me so I possibly don’t exist, but you’re argument is that this is obviously wrong because I know I exist. The problem is, I can if I so desired go to your house, and shake your hand, introduce myself, provide you with a birth certificate, we can go get a blood sample to show Im the same person that has presented themself as such for the last 35 years, then we can go back to my house and I can show you many items with my name and social and pictures of me growing up and you can meet my family etc. etc. and in the end most would reasonably agree I exist. Even if I changed my name, I still exist and I could show you the documents where I just changed my name. But there would be reasonable proof.The basis for non belief as presented here is that though things could exist that we do not know of, and surely do, logically without proof they are a mythological story. It is not the same thing as me saying I don’t believe you exist because I haven’t met you.

  • mch

    Tony Flentroy,Though I have serious issues with what you said I will try to respectfully disagree. One problem with the whole Christian argument behind the word “theory,” in the theory of evolution,like how you used it, “it’s just a theory,” is that in the scientific community this word is used regularly with the notion that it is indeed fact. Just like the theory of Gravity, or plate tectonics. The scientific community can find fact in things, with proof, which stemmed from trying to disprove it as much as prove it, and with the notiong towards forward thinking that all things can be added on to. We might understand them further. So to say that this is a theory in a scientific matter is to say, right now this is basically as much proof and fact we have on the subject. It isn’t based on simple belief or faith. Belief may have started the process but if proven otherwise then it is presented as such. Christian theory however, simply chooses to dismiss those portions of the data that disprove their points, and simply look at those portions that prove their points, and it’s all stemming from several individuals beliefs and faith, and not from systemic trial and error. So please understand that the phrase “theory of evolution,” when used by scientists is not acknowledment of the notion that they just believe because they think so or they grew up thinking so. It is a statement of fact. And if and when proof is found that can change that fact, that too will be called a theory. My friend, you are simply using a word play debate tactic often used by christians when debating this issue. The word itself does not prove your point.On the notion that god does not look for religion is something we can agree upon. Religion is man made, period. Why would god need that? Religion is the tool by which individuals and groups get other individuals and groups to cooperate in their Ethnocentrism(our group is right and true and center of the universe). We can agree here.It is an unfortunate side effect for many that this Ethnocentrism turns into Xenophobia(fear and hatred of strangers)-read Sagan’s Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors for a great discussion of this. Churches, temples etc. are all man made. But if you can see that than you also should be able to see that the very books by which you have learned your point of view were also created in the same vain. Men wrote down rules(which change throughout)to further their ethnocentric goal. If you look deeper you will find much of it is really propoganda against other “relgions or cults” which didn’t agree with them. Is it any coincedence that a caananite symbol of a god, the snake, became essentially the physical representation of evil and the devil in the old testament?

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  • Lisa Bryan

    If you do not believe in GOD, what do you believe happens to you when you die?

  • Alan Kieler

    To all “believers”: Read Sam Harris’ “Letter to a Christian Nation”. You will be enlightened and your core beliefs seriously challenged – if you dare and are secure enough.

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  • Tim

    Isn’t not believing in God just a different form of faith? On what imperical evidence does Mr. Dennett base his belief that there is no God? One thing that Mr Denett surely has right is his desire to give thanks by leading a Christ-like life “adding to the stock of goodness in the future, for the benefit of others.” That is not figurative or symbolic thanks to our creator, that’s living the directive of His words. As for “burnt offerings, prayers and expensive ceremonies” I’d suggest to Mr. Dennett that a more personal, action based relationship with God can be his for the wanting.

  • Tim

    Isn’t not believing in God just a different form of faith? On what imperical evidence does Mr. Dennett base his belief that there is no God? One thing that Mr Denett surely has right is his desire to give thanks by leading a Christ-like life “adding to the stock of goodness in the future, for the benefit of others.” That is not figurative or symbolic thanks to our creator, that’s living the directive of His words. As for “burnt offerings, prayers and expensive ceremonies” I’d suggest to Mr. Dennett that a more personal, action based relationship with God can be his for the wanting.

  • Tim

    Isn’t not believing in God just a different form of faith? On what imperical evidence does Mr. Dennett base his belief that there is no God? One thing that Mr Denett surely has right is his desire to give thanks by leading a Christ-like life “adding to the stock of goodness in the future, for the benefit of others.” That is not figurative or symbolic thanks to our creator, that’s living the directive of His words. As for “burnt offerings, prayers and expensive ceremonies” I’d suggest to Mr. Dennett that a more personal, action based relationship with God can be his for the wanting.

  • Betty

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    Gear up for grub with a tripleheader of pigskin, including a meeting of brothers in Dallas. Everybody knows it’s been a rough year for her, but find out who else had issues

  • James

    Gear up for grub with a tripleheader of pigskin, including a meeting of brothers in Dallas. Everybody knows it’s been a rough year for her, but find out who else had issues

  • Iris

    Gear up for grub with a tripleheader of pigskin, including a meeting of brothers in Dallas. Everybody knows it’s been a rough year for her, but find out who else had issues

  • James

    Gear up for grub with a tripleheader of pigskin, including a meeting of brothers in Dallas. Everybody knows it’s been a rough year for her, but find out who else had issues

  • James

    Gear up for grub with a tripleheader of pigskin, including a meeting of brothers in Dallas. Everybody knows it’s been a rough year for her, but find out who else had issues

  • James

    Gear up for grub with a tripleheader of pigskin, including a meeting of brothers in Dallas. Everybody knows it’s been a rough year for her, but find out who else had issues

  • Iris

    Gear up for grub with a tripleheader of pigskin, including a meeting of brothers in Dallas. Everybody knows it’s been a rough year for her, but find out who else had issues

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    Gear up for grub with a tripleheader of pigskin, including a meeting of brothers in Dallas. Everybody knows it’s been a rough year for her, but find out who else had issues

  • James

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  • Iris

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  • Betty

    Taylor has a home in the Miami suburb of Palmetto Bay that he bought two years ago. The 24-year-old player is in HjJrFiZwfKpezK his fourth season with the Redskins after playing at the University of Miami, where he was an All-American in 2003

  • Iris

    Taylor has a home in the Miami suburb of Palmetto Bay that he bought two years ago. The 24-year-old player is in HjJrFiZwfKpezK his fourth season with the Redskins after playing at the University of Miami, where he was an All-American in 2003

  • Betty

    Taylor has a home in the Miami suburb of Palmetto Bay that he bought two years ago. The 24-year-old player is in HjJrFiZwfKpezK his fourth season with the Redskins after playing at the University of Miami, where he was an All-American in 2003

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  • Mimi

    If you eliminate the middle, you are eliminating the infinite intelligence within you that makes all things possible. He is the infinite goodness that causes you to instantly manifest your goodness to others; without the infinite goodness manifested in you will not know what goodness is and you will not be able to claim it for others; That’s why it is impotant to acknowledge the infinite source by giving thanks first and most to Him. When you do that you connect humanback to its original purpose and intent without it life serves no meaning.