An Atheist Gives Thanks

So last week, I had the chance to thank, in person, the guy who saved my son’s life this year. Well, one of several people–this person was the head of the ambulance team. And I exaggerate (but not by much) to say “saved his life”, but hey, there was emergency care and a hospital stay, and lots of needles and tubes.

But I’m not thankful for any of them.

I’m thankful TO all of them. And to a great many more people over the past year. And, currently, to the makers of my migraine medicine, which is why I am going to cut this one short. Today’s verse is one of my earlier ones from the old blog, and it is, in my opinion, clunky and awkward. But it’s a Thanksgiving poem, so here it is, after the jump.

It’s late November, time for giving thanks–
But thanks to whom? For me, this question ranks
Among the more important we can ask;
To answer, I’ve assigned myself the task.
Tradition holds we should give thanks to God.
In fact, your average person finds it odd
That anyone would even think to question
Whom to thank–but still, my bold suggestion:
Thank the ones who really did the stuff
That God gets credit for. There are enough
Deserving people we can thank, without
Inventing gods to steal their praise or pout.
“Thank God for all the bread we have to eat.”
Instead, I’ll thank the ones who grew the wheat,
And ground the flour, baked and sold the bread;
Why God, when I can thank these folks instead?
(Is God behind it all? I rather doubt;
So many other farmers suffered drought,
And watched their crops disintegrate to dust;
A God like this is not one I would trust.)
“Thank God my sister’s cancer’s in remission!”
Absolutely not. With no contrition,
Thanks go out to doctors, and to nurses,
To those who opened up their hearts and purses,
Friends who volunteered their time to cook,
Or feed her cats, or bring a favorite book
For her to read. Oh, yes, and thanks
To perfect strangers who gave blood–the banks
Would not be there without your precious gift;
By thanking God, we’re giving you short shrift.
I’m thankful to (not for) the ones who taught
Her doctors what they know. I also ought
To thank those who invented the machines–
Like X-rays, MRI’s–that gave the means
To find the lump before it was too late.
It’s people whom I thank. Not God. Not fate.
“Thank God for soldiers fighting in Iraq,
And keep them safe from enemy attack.”
Remember that they’re fighting those who kill
Because they disagree about God’s will.
If anything, this God should take the blame
For all the crimes committed in His name.
I do give thanks to soldiers–to, not for–
Their sacrifice–not God’s–the cost of war.
“I’m thankful for my friends, both near and far.”
I’m thankful to you–you know who you are–
For being there at 2 AM to talk,
For movies, beers, for joining me to walk
Along the beach to watch the rising tide
And setting sun compete–which one would hide
Our footprints first? We stayed to watch the moon
Rise over silver waves–then left, too soon.
I can’t thank God for that, when it was you
Who made it such a lovely thing to do.

I could go on, and fill a book or two
With thanks. I won’t, ‘cos this will do.
One more is all–if you have read this far
Then thanks to you, no matter who you are,
For reading. Let me leave you with a thought:
This Thanksgiving, thank the ones we ought;
Thank your friends and family–those you love,
Before you thank some made-up God above.


  1. procrastinator will get an avatar real soon now says

    Thanks for the enjoyment you provide with your poetry and thoughtful commentary. Hope you enjoyed turkey day.

  2. Cuttlefish says

    Thanks! No turkey today for me, though–Thanksgiving doesn’t arrive here until Sunday. Calendars are for suckers, I say.

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