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I’m Not ‘Blessed.’ I’m An Atheist And I Don’t Need God To Give Thanks Or Show Gratitude

prasad1

Well-known member
This is a thought-provoking article.
I would not have written this article but I can appreciate it very much.


Though the chapel has a vaguely druid quality, it too closely resembles a church from the organized religion I gave up many years ago.
I came to give thanks, but the chapel asks me to kneel, to pray, to light a candle, and that no longer feels authentic to me.
How does one give thanks outside of religion?
I thank my friends, family, strangers who make my coffee. But I am also thankful for a goodness that can’t be assigned to mere mortals ― a goodness, I feel, that is bigger than we are. Sure, I’ve accomplished things myself that contributed to my happiness, but I don’t feel I can take all the credit. So what deserves that credit? The universe? The energy around me? The earth? It’s not clear. But what is clear to me is it’s not a deity.
I came to the chapel to say “thank you,” but instead, I say, “No, thank you.” I close the door, turning my back on the stone structure built into the side of the hill.
I prefer neither the Christian symbols nor those of any other belief system. I no longer believe in a superior being, much to my mother’s disappointment. She is a devout Catholic and tried to raise her children to be the same. Our Catholic community was a meaningful part of my childhood; for those memories, I will always be thankful.
But thankful to whom? No one, I guess.
I don’t believe pop stars win awards because they pray more than others. I don’t believe football players make touchdowns because God has chosen them to.
As a child, I would thank God. I would kneel on the ground, fold my hands together, and look up to the sky. “Thank you for keeping me and my family safe,” was part of my daily evening prayers. The other part was my asking for something: more protection, more love, more patience. “Please, God, help me to...” I would say. If I didn’t receive what I asked for, then I would feel it was my fault. I had failed to please God. I wasn’t worthy to receive what I desired.
In America, God and thankfulness are often intertwined. When people are thankful, they frequently use the word “blessed.” God has blessed them, blessed their lives, has chosen for whatever divine reason to shower His good graces on them. And in return, they worship Him ― unless they are ungrateful, and then, we’re often told, they deserve to go to hell.
I don’t use the word “blessed” anymore.

Instead, I say “lucky.” I don’t believe in luck, exactly, only the arbitrariness of my good fortune. My life is merely a smattering of circumstances. If any of those circumstances had been changed in any way anywhere along the way, so would my life be changed.
I prefer this view. I will not believe in a God who gets to choose which people suffer. If people suffer, it’s because circumstances of life happen, and whatever those circumstances happen to be either end up causing suffering or they don’t. Likewise, I do not believe that good people get rewarded for being good. I don’t believe pop stars win awards because they pray more than others. I don’t believe football players make touchdowns because God has chosen them to.
I don’t think there was a day where I woke up and decided that I was an atheist. It happened over time, as I experienced more inequalities in the world, as I learned more about science, as I witnessed more suffering. My parents mourn that I won’t one day join them in heaven, but the only place I’ve planned on going for a while now is the ground, where my body can nourish the earth and my energy can give life to something else.
We believe in what gives us the most comfort. For my parents, eternity is their comfort. I personally like the idea of a more definitive end. It gives my time here on earth more meaning to know I only have the amount of breaths I take every day to be the best person I can be. And since I’ve given up God, I feel more satisfied being the best person I can be for me instead of following anyone else’s instructions for living.
I wish to show my appreciation for everything I have and all the things I’ve learned so far. But how? And to whom or what do I give thanks?
As I hike across the prairie, away from the stone chapel, I consider the upcoming holiday designated to giving thanks. I think of my family — my brother, our spouses, our children, and my mother — soon to be gathered around a table full of delectable foods.
Our Catholic upbringing ingrained in us since childhood that dinner is off-limits until we hold hands, bow our heads and my mother recites “Bless us, O, Lord, and these, Thy gifts,” or my brother offers a freestyle list of how we have all been blessed by God. I hold their hands, but instead of bowing my head and closing my eyes, I simply wait. I appreciate that they are thankful, and I’m thankful for the same things they are. But sitting at the table, eyes open, mouth closed, I appear ungrateful to them.
And then Christmas arrives soon after. Some people go out of their way to remind us that “Christ is the reason for the season,” and insist the proper way to greet people is with a “Merry Christmas” instead of the more inclusive “Happy Holidays.” Their insistence that all gratitude and celebration must be devoted to a Christian God excludes not only people of other faiths, but atheists like me; it inflicts a guilt of sorts on those who just want to enjoy the snow, the trees, the twinkle lights. They dismiss our perspective by telling us it’s not enough to wish each other a happy holiday season ― thanks are always owed to God.
But my experience after leaving Catholicism proves otherwise.
Even when God is gone, gratefulness remains.
Without God, I’m more aware of how my actions affect others and affect my surroundings.
Without God, I’m more aware of how my actions affect others and affect my surroundings. I don’t expect God to save our planet, so now I’m more careful about what I throw away and I eat less meat. I don’t expect God to save humanity, so now I speak out against hate and try to be more patient and loving with my fellow humans. When tragedy comes, I don’t send thoughts and prayers; I give hugs and meals and help where I can.
I sometimes mourn not being part of the big Christian community in this country. It usually feels like I’m in the minority rather than the majority. But then I remember that now I’m part of a bigger community — the human community, the earth-dwelling community. Since I’ve cut God out of my life, I have so much more room for everyone else.

I turn onto a gravel path that takes me to a valley. In that valley, a labyrinth has been carved out in the tall grasses. It’s the perfect autumn afternoon to meander through the maze.
As I walk, crispy stalks of hay sway in the breeze, brushing my hands and my cheeks. I collect dried leaves on the toe of my shoe and kick them so I can hear them rustle. I feel my cheeks glowing with redness from the nipping air, so I stop and turn to face the sun. I raise my face, close my eyes and let the sun’s rays thaw my chilled cheeks. Then I continue on, a smile across my lips.
When I reach the clearing at the labyrinth’s end, I find a bouquet of dried flowers tied together with twine resting on a rock. An altar.
I feel compelled to kneel before it, to wrap my hands together, to give thanks for this splendid day of perfect beauty, for being allowed to observe it and appreciate it.
I do fall to my knees, but instead of folding my hands, I plant them on the earth, then allow my forehead to follow. I hug the ground, and instead of sending my prayers up to heaven, I whisper them into the grass.
Jennifer Furner holds a master’s degree in literature and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with her husband and daughter. She is a freelance writer and editor, works at a library and is working on publishing her first memoir. You can find more of her writing on her website, jenniferfurner.com, and on her Medium page.


 
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renuka

Well-known member
Each person goes through phases in life..from hard core fanatic to atheistic and finally finding our true calling.

The problem is when we pen down the phases for others to read it might not be the best choice cos we could be indirectly influencing others in not too positive ways.

Actually atheistic people are of 2 kinds..one who are unable to get open their minds to other possibilities and another kind who are capable of enquiry.

In other words..one is asleep and the other in waking state.
 
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zebra16

Well-known member
The entire writeup is full of "I"s, "me"s, "my"s - that doesnt seem to come from a lucky or evolved soul. No wonder she is confused about whom to express gratitude to :)
I am reminded of another quote:

Millionaires do not need astrology
But Billionaires do.

The case of moderately successful ones giving "gyanam" to the world when more accomplished ones do not enter into the field of metaphysics is just amusing.

HuffPost was not even paying anything to the writers till it was acquired by AOL. But now they pay some amount to a small percentage of staff who write, though bulk of the writings are by freelance writers.

As long as you have "left leaning anti-establishment views" and know how to approach HuffPost it is possible to get most of the posts appearing even on this forum on it. All it requires is access to its almost non-existent editorial board and that board must be convinced of the embarrassment the articule would cause to the ruling dispensation.
 

seeking

New member
The entire writeup is full of "I"s, "me"s, "my"s - that doesnt seem to come from a lucky or evolved soul. No wonder she is confused about whom to express gratitude to :)
As long as one is looking for some God on the outside, one can easily reach the conclusion that the atheist Jennifer has. That is why the fundamental Hindu principle is Aham Brahmasmi (I am God, there is God in me). That is the God we acknowledge when we say Namaste! I bow to the God in you (that is also in me). When our Rishi's went away to the jungles to meditate (do Tapas) it is not because God was hiding there. One meditated in order to break down the sheaths of ignorance resulting from the 6 enemies of man (woman, too, for the record) - kaama, krodha, mada, lobha... It was easier to focus on Godly matters when there were fewer distractions and bonds in the form of family, society etc. One did not get the address of God in a jungle. Of course, there was no body there, only oneself. And one went to find oneself, the God in Aham of Aham Brahmasmi.

When we pray, either at home or at a temple, we instinctively close our eyes, because we know that that is where God IS. In the few seconds that we close our eyes, we hope to find, address that God to offer prayers (or make a wish, more often). The gesture (mudra) for aavaahayaami is the folded hands extending from the heart to the deity in front of us. There is no GOD in that clay, metal or other deity. We infuse the life force (praaNa pratishThaapana) from the God that is always resident inside us into the deity, and offer Her prayers (e.g. shodasopachara - 16 types of services, right from offering a seat - all the way to offering food). At the end we make the gesture to take that God back into our hearts - punaraaganaayacha.

As long as one looks for God on the outside, She can't be found.
 
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renuka

Well-known member
As long as one is looking for some God on the outside, one can easily reach the conclusion that the atheist Jennifer has. That is why the fundamental Hindu principle is Aham Brahmasmi (I am God, there is God in me). That is the God we acknowledge when we say Namaste! I bow to the God in you (that is also in me). When our Rishi's went away to the jungles to meditate (do Tapas) it is not because God was hiding there. One meditated in order to break down the sheaths of ignorance resulting from the 6 enemies of man (woman, too, for the record) - kaama, krodha, mada, lobha... It was easier to focus on Godly matters when there were fewer distractions and bonds in the form of family, society etc. One did not get the address of God in a jungle. Of course, there was no body there, only oneself. And one went to find oneself, the God in Aham of Aham Brahmasmi.

When we pray, either at home or at a temple, we instinctively close our eyes, because we know that that is where God IS. In the few seconds that we close our eyes, we hope to find, address that God to offer prayers (or make a wish, more often). The gesture (mudra) for aavaahayaami is the folded hands extending from the heart to the deity in front of us. There is no GOD in that clay, metal or other deity. We infuse the life force (praaNa pratishThaapana) from the God that is always resident inside us into the deity, and offer Her prayers (e.g. shodasopachara - 16 types of services, right from offering a seat - all the way to offering food). At the end we make the gesture to take that God back into our hearts - punaraaganaayacha.

As long as one looks for God on the outside, She can't be found.

Agreed sir, but in acute danger..no one will scream "Aham BrahmAsmi" everyone would scream "Raksha mAm".

So finally it would be back to Dualism when life is at danger and everyone would do the Gajendra and call out to God to save him from the jaws of danger.

Jesus Christ who spoke extensively of "I am the Father are One" almost an Aham BrahmAsmi concept ..but when he was crucified he cried out "Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani"(My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me" )...at that time Jesus was calling out to God outside of Him.

Sometimes I feel the Vaishnavas got it right(though I am not a Vaishnava)...cos the reason is the human intellect might proclaim Aham BrahmAsmi but the heart prefers a God one can seek outside.



I have a question though...why did you use SHE for God if its an Advaita concept?

Any specific reason?If you are using She that shows you have a feminine force in mind..so thats already deifying the concept of God..a deity or a Prana Prasthistafied entity isnt inside of us..its very visibly outside...Prana Prasthita is full of Agama Shastra injuctions of a Do and Don't kind...its very very much outside though its meant for "charging and reloading" us with Prana..so why do we still want to think that its Aham BrahmAsmi when its "Tat Pratima Asi" ?
 
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KRN

Active member
The problem is when we pen down the phases for others to read it might not be the best choice cos we could be indirectly influencing others in not too positive ways.

Actually atheistic people are of 2 kinds..one who are unable to get open their minds to other possibilities and another kind who are capable of enquiry.

In other words..one is asleep and the other in waking state.
The problem I see here, is not with atheism - we Hindus have great regard for our own atheists who disbelieve in God but who stand foremost amongst us due to their adherence to the Vedic way of life, living a life of restraint, unselfishly, for the common good. The problem lies with her readiness to worship / express gratitude to "nature" and in her words, not to any "imaginary deity". But nature is just circumstantial. If I am a blind person, my sense of nature will be different from that of a person with normal eyesight. A cat or a dog will again see nature differently from a man. Each moment, our bodies and minds change, and with it, our perception of nature too. Essentially she is getting rid of one imaginary deity from her altar and installing a worser imaginary deity there. Nature stands for materialism which gives only short term happiness (and in my view, long term misery)
 
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KRN

Active member
There is no GOD in that clay, metal or other deity. We infuse the life force (praaNa pratishThaapana) from the God that is always resident inside us into the deity, and offer Her prayers (e.g. shodasopachara - 16 types of services, right from offering a seat - all the way to offering food). At the end we make the gesture to take that God back into our hearts - punaraaganaayacha.

As long as one looks for God on the outside, She can't be found.
Sir/madam,
Well written, and I agree with most of it, except the above part quoted above. God is present everywhere. It is a fundamental dictum with us, that "Ishavasyamidam Sarvam". He/She is certainly not confined to a clay or metal or stone, alone. But when invoked there through the prayers of a devotee, God readily accepts the prayer in whichever form desired by the devotee. The clay or metal is just a matter of convenience of the devotee. God is omnipotent, it is well within his power and mercy to make himself present in clay, or metal or whatsoever and thereby, satisfy the yearning of his/her devotee.
 
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KRN

Active member
In other words, if we puny mortals, perform certain actions (calling it prana prathishta) and then believe that thereby we have infused our "life force" into a piece of clay, that is just a flight of our fancy, and the piece of clay will remain unchanged. On the other hand, the Omnipresent God does however exist in reality. Hence if we pray with deep yearning "O God, I know you are omnipresent, all powerful. But due to the weakness of my senses I am unable to perceive you. Hence I am constrained to worship you in this small piece of clay. Be merciful to me and deign to place yourself in it while I perform my worship. You are my sole source of support and solace O lord. Kindly do not reject my prayer" then the lord will definitely accept that clay form and offer his/her blessings to the sincere devotee :)
 

seeking

New member
I have a question though...why did you use SHE for God if its an Advaita concept?
Renuka-jee

I use She as the universal pronoun, we (men) had it too good for toooo long, let us make way for women, at least when we write, no less otherwise, too. Secondly, although God does need a gender (we do, that is the limitation of the language, perhaps our own perception, too) I prefer She to It for God. That does not prevent me from doing Lakshmi pooja or my daily Archana according to strict SriVaishna tradition.

I am myself a SriVaishnava but I am not averse to the fundamental to the Hindu concept of Aham Brahmasmi. My own interpretation is that "we ALL have the potential to realize that God in all of us", not that we are ALREADY God. This latter assumption is a result of exaggerated ego, I feel.

KRN: True, there is God in THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE. But when we pray we infuse the God in us into that deity (I never use the word Idol) to bring Her to life.
 
True. God is omnipresent. It reminds me of an incident in the life of Swami Vivekananda. An atheist wrote in a noticeboard God is nowhere. Our Swamlji wrote the same words like this. God is now here. So it is the mindset and the belief one has within himself decides the presence of God.
 

prasad1

Well-known member
Kabirdas said:

Jaise Til Mein Tel Hai, Jyon Chakmak Mein Aag
Tera Sayeen Tujh Mein Hai, Tu Jaag Sake To Jaag



Translation
Like sesame contains the oil, fire in flint-stone
Your temple seats the Divine, realize if you can
 

prasad1

Well-known member
The thread has moved away from the original intent.
It has become more about Atheist vs theists.

The original post was about GRATITUDE.

She Says:

I wish to show my appreciation for everything I have and all the things I’ve learned so far. But how? And to whom or what do I give thanks?
As I hike across the prairie, away from the stone chapel, I consider the upcoming holiday designated to giving thanks. I think of my family — my brother, our spouses, our children, and my mother — soon to be gathered around a table full of delectable foods.
Without God (Abrahamic or Active), I’m more aware of how my actions affect others and affect my surroundings. I don’t expect God(again the limited) to save our planet, so now I’m more careful about what I throw away and I eat less meat. I don’t expect God (the limited kind) to save humanity, so now I speak out against hate and try to be more patient and loving with my fellow humans. When tragedy comes, I don’t send thoughts and prayers; I give hugs and meals and help where I can.
I sometimes mourn not being part of the big Christian community in this country. It usually feels like I’m in the minority rather than the majority. But then I remember that now I’m part of a bigger community — the human community, the earth-dwelling community. Since I’ve cut God out of my life, I have so much more room for everyone else.
 
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renuka

Well-known member
Whether God exists or not does not really matter if one can be a good human being.
But I have noticed that many self proclaimed atheists find the concept of God threatening to their very existence.

They just dont want to give in to the idea that there are grey areas about existence that they do not know or its beyond the comprehension of the human intellect.

Its a big blow to their ego and not all can handle crumbling of the ego.
 

a-TB

Well-known member
Whether God exists or not does not really matter if one can be a good human being.
But I have noticed that many self proclaimed atheists find the concept of God threatening to their very existence.

They just dont want to give in to the idea that there are grey areas about existence that they do not know or its beyond the comprehension of the human intellect.

Its a big blow to their ego and not all can handle crumbling of the ego.
There is no agreement as to what God is across the board. Atheist can only deny the version of God put forth by others. So I dont think it is an ego issue.

People tend to project on others what they themsleves feel.
 

Brahmanyan

Well-known member
Whether God exists or not does not really matter if one can be a good human being.
But I have noticed that many self proclaimed atheists find the concept of God threatening to their very existence.

They just dont want to give in to the idea that there are grey areas about existence that they do not know or its beyond the comprehension of the human intellect.

Its a big blow to their ego and not all can handle crumbling of the ego.
Agreed, Honestly I do not understand the purport of the original message.
Atheist or theist are just words. For me, searching for God is waste of time and energy. Since nature has not provided us with the faculty to comprehend the same.
God is a concept, a word, can be described by its attributes only. "God is usually conceived as being omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful), omnipresent (all-present) and as having an eternal and necessary existence." Let us accept the fact that we are born here, and try to lead a life of good human being with compassion and love.
If the person is serious in understanding the creation, let her follow and search for an answer for the question "who am I ?" as the Sage of Arunachala said.

Brahmanyan,
Bangalore.
 
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