For religious people, the standard setting for the giving of thanks is entirely incidental to the meaning of the occasion. The family around the table, the turkey or ham, the football game — all of these are just props and ritual. None is essential to thanking God.
What for a religious person, though, is just the setting of Thanksgiving is for the atheist the entire celebration itself. Family and fun, and marking the change of the seasons, is its only meaning and significance.
I suppose that to a religious person an atheist Thanksgiving must appear a thin thing, lacking reverence and grandeur. But then, again, a person who reveres a grand God must feel diminished in her own eyes. Giving thanks to God must engender in the religious the sense that they are powerless supplicants to a higher reality. Another thing we atheists are happy about, then, is that nothing at all depends on the will of a spirit in the sky.
The quote above is from Mark Mercer, chairman of the Philosophy department at Saint Mary's University, Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Submitted by J. M. Green