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Why Do I, As An Atheist, Hate It When You Thank God For Things?
1. Thanking God for your blessings is an action that Christianity puts into a moral structure that exalts that choice and, thus, your moral standing before others, and this claim to superiority over those who don't express as much gratitude to God is often cloaked in humility. I would prefer raw, prideful superiority that openly stated, without humility, that the practice of thanking God for your blessings was better than not doing so -- or raw humility that did not claim there was any superior moral value in praising God for blessings. Embracing pride and humility simultaneously by humbly thanking God, while pridefully insinuating that thankfulness is better than complaining and a lack of gratitude to an imaginary being, seems self defeating and confusing; I would prefer clarity.
2. Furthermore, thanking God for blessings localizes the past, present, and future cause for your satisfaction in life on a nonexistent God instead of other people, yourself, and your environment. This has a few problems.
How would your view of people and yourself change if you thanked only people for the way they helped you instead of God?
- It can cause the person thanking God to trust in a nonexistent God as opposed to themselves, other people, and their environment, which is analogous to performing a "trust fall" with no one behind you.
- Focus on your own blessings can and often does keep you from realizing the lack of blessings in others
- Ascribing your "blessings" to God -- who supposedly gave them to you with purpose -- as opposed to your circumstances obligates people to use those "blessings" for God, instead of freeing them to use them rationally in the context of those around them, themselves, and their environment. Use of these blessings would, theoretically (as God does not really exist) be restricted by a God with a rulebook, and rational objections to the rules in said rulebook would be eradicated by notions of faith (which, I realize, you see as rational, while I don't).
"The individual who claims to be blessed by poverty and malnutrition, especially when holding it (or allowing others to hold it) as a beacon of his or her moral character, is doing a major disservice to the many who are struggling."
3. Saying God blessed you with something is a way of claiming a right to it that other people, whom God hasn't blessed in the same way, don't have. The implication may be that one person has been "blessed" with riches while another has been "blessed" with poverty and malnutrition -- and the subtext is that each should be grateful for what he has.
Given this implication, the individual who claims to be blessed by poverty and malnutrition, holding it as (or allowing someone else to hold it as) a beacon of his or her moral character, is doing a major disservice to the many that are struggling. Indeed, the act of claiming to be blessed by things usually seen as unfortunate aspects in life should not be seen as something extraordinary for a few reasons:
- People tend to have different natural states of happiness, so that some remain highly optimistic under circumstances normally seen as depressing. Much of this happiness is due to chemical balances in the brain (just as depression is). Seeing such people as on a higher moral level than most effectively puts "normal" or chemically "imbalanced" people (who God theoretically made that way in the first place) on a lower moral level in ways that don't really seem justified to me (if you do not accept this and wish to discuss this more, you can address it directly).
- If one person who is suffering from malnutrition (or some other negative experience), praises God for it, and is then lauded by the well-fed for doing so, the well-fed are privileging the nonsuffering (those who see malnutrition as a blessing -- a small minority) above the suffering (those who rather dislike malnutrition and beg God and/or other entities they see as being able to do something about malnutrition to take it away). This perpetuates the problem of those suffering from malnutrition and it allows the rich to block off a part of the world from empathy -- or at the least, see a certain section of people as morally inferior simply because they have a normal reaction to experiencing malnutrition (or other analogous forms of suffering).
- Because it makes us feel good when people "praise God" for suffering, people may be encouraged to lie about their suffering -- saying they are feeling blessed when they are not, just to "belong" and be accepted. This happens quite a bit -- Mother Teresa went through this, for example. The more people who are honest and raw about their suffering, the more we as a society will be forced to see their suffering (instead of focusing on those who are OK with it) and thus do something about it.
“I spoke as if my very heart was in love with God — tender, personal love… If you were [there], you would have said, ‘What hypocrisy.’” -- From Mother Teresa's posthumously revealed private letters
4. Oftentimes, when someone is suffering there is a sign that something is wrong, and the lie that they are obligated to be thankful for their situation can mask symptoms of deeper, more serious problems. For example, before the housing crisis, those predicting the collapse often were laid off and told to look optimistically at the situation. Had they been free to express anger and cynicism, we might have known the housing crisis was about to happen, but because they were encouraged to be grateful for their situation their objections were silenced. If we make thanking God for everything a virtue, we silence natural, rational reactions to suffering in society that may be symptoms of serious problems. This is no small matter and often results in serious consequences on small and large scales.
If you complain about your suffering, you may validate the suffering of others in the process. Which is better than obligating them to be thankful for their suffering by saying it's proper to be thankful for yours.
5. Being thankful for your own suffering also extends to being thankful for OTHERS' suffering, especially when it is entertwined with your own. This makes you an faux-authority over their suffering, making it harder for you to see their real pain and the reasons for "negative" emotions because you think they should be grateful (as you strive to be) for (even their) suffering, and this judgment can diminish your understanding of their situation.
1. Jesus wept and the Bible tells us to mourn with those who mourn -- thanking God for blessings does not underprivilege sad people.
Response: I think this is even more cruel -- people are expected to always rejoice in God and thank God for everything THROUGH the tears. It seems cruel to me to tell someone they can cry for something bad that happened in their life but that they eventually have to give thanks to the entity who allowed that to happen and see it as a part of His love (under severe social pressure, especially in Christians who prey on the suffering).
2. This is just a WAY for people to get over their suffering. Why would you have a problem with it?
Response: It's usually not presented as a way out of others -- it's presented as THE way to handle suffering commanded by Almighty God, and I don't think one size fits all here, so to speak. It's also false and comes with a wide variety of beliefs (often including a wide variety of political positions that are taken on faith and have very real consequences in the lives of people) that can do damage to the person who holds them and to others who don't -- thanking God for blessings often requires allegiance to an unevidenced blueprint for interacting with and navigating existence.
3. What you say here is disrespectful to people who are suffering and are grateful, in that suffering, to God in ways that encourage other people, and who use that gratitude to help others.
Response: While I'm glad that there are suffering people who have found ways to help others in their suffering, I know from experience that stories of their happiness are often used as guilt-trips for "bitter, angry, and cynical" suffering people by Christians who "encourage gratitude in one another." I don't think such guilt trips are rational or healthy. It's one thing to help somebody; it's another to "encourage" them by saying that they are morally obligated to respond to suffering with gratitude.