I admit it. 

I interact on facebook sometimes.  Several friends and family members do the thirty days of thanksgiving thing-- each day during November they mention something they are thankful for:  Living in the U.S., their spouses and children, really fun flea market finds, nice weather, fall colors, modern conveniences like washers and dryers...  I suppose most of them don't specifically say they are thankful to "God" for these "blessings", both important and trivial, but it seems that is implied. (On the other hand, if they're simply "singing" with Julie Andrews that "These are a few of my favorite things', then I get it.)

However, the comment about being thankful for finding "really fun flea market bargains" just somehow stirred me up.   Here's what I posted:

Many of you list things you are "grateful or thankful" for during the month of November.  Many people I know "thank God" for blessings every time they sit down to eat.  Serious question here:  What does "gratitude" mean in any of these cases?  Aren't all of you just the random recipients of incredible good luck?  If you have been delierately granted or blessed with these trivial and pleasant niceties that you are grateful or thankful for, then others on our planet must likewise have been somehow "deliberately" cursed with horrors that we can't even begin to comprehend-- for starters, the more than ten thousand terrified human beings just killed by a typhoon in the Phillipines.  With this in mind, I will say that OFTEN in my life I feel "fortunate", but NEVER do I feel "grateful" for being fortunate.  My good fortune is random and... looking at all the creatures on planet Earth... statistically improbable, just as I believe yours is.  Perhaps a subtle distinction... but seems anything but subtle to me.




1) "I do admit having trouble being grateful for bad things, but in those cases I am grateful that I don't endure it alone." 

(I pointed out that many of the "ten thousand" probably DID die alone and uncomforted...)


2)  "I believe we're better off appreciating the good that results from ALL things.  As one person said, 'When catastophes occur, look for the helpers'. " 

( I think Mister Rogers said that, and his thought probably does give comfort to children and adults trying to come to terms with horrible events, but sadly there were no helpers to comfort the ten thousand who drowned.)


3)  "I don't worship or serve a God who curses individuals.  I am saddened by that disaster and am moved to share my $$ with UMCOR because I know that 100% of my gift will go to the cause.  I think that life happens to all of us...I have chosen to look for good in all the ways I can...The God I serve is saddened by these disasters just as much as He is by the loss of even 1 sparrow." 

(I was sort of with this person up to the "sparrow" comment.  If God is saddened by all the carnage in nature even if NOT 'as much as' by the drowning of thousands, then this person's God is one sad god!!    However, one poster said of the "I am saddended by that disaster" comment above that God has BLESSED that person with with excellent communication skills!  So which is it-- is god in control, randomly handing out flea market bargains, fall colors, typhoons, and communication skills, or isn't s/he?)


4)  And here is my favorite (last one):  "God is merciful and His children are most important to Him.  Is it easy to understand God and His actions with this little bit of intelligence we have?"  (I won't even comment on this one... Sigh.)

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is god in control ... or isn't s/he?

In When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Rabbi Harold Kushner told how he came to believe in a God that's actually not in control -- he couldn't accept suffering and tragedy that were deliberate parts of some "mysterious plan".

I wholeheartedly agree about knowing the difference between recognizing our good fortune and thinking there must be "someone" to thank for it. (Our social/emotional "old mammal brain" doesn't analyze and know things in the same way!)

Wonder why Rabbi Kushner couldn't take it a step farther and conclude that god is a myth.  He must have done amazing mind tricks to come to a different conclusion.

As for our "old mammal brain", I think it also causes us to be desperate in our powerlessness in the face of the random blows that existence can deliver.  If we could JUST believe that something cares--is watching out for US-- that someone is hearing us and granting our wishes and will (maybe) not let us get cancer or let our child die, will save us from financial tragedy.  And so, when we feel that our fortunes are good, we want to gratefully thank someone or something in hopes that our good luck won't run out.  We are vulnerable and scared and grasping at straws.

The family tragedy that brought him to question his beliefs (his son had progeria, and literally died of old age in his teens) seemed to have led him to a partial recovery from some of the mind tricks he had had before. That book did help the evolution of my own thinking, years ago.

He remained a theist, though, writing Who Needs God? and arguing that he does, and that he hopes the rest of us do.

His book When Everything You've Ever Wanted Isn't Enough works with or without a god, proposing that we're not so much afraid of dying as of not having lived a life that made a difference.

"...we're not so much afraid of dying as of not having lived a life that made a difference."

That could be very true.  As a secular humanist, in addition to just looking around in awe at being here at all and marveling that there is something rather than nothing, I believe my chosen "purpose" might be to reduce suffering for as many creatures as possible.  So far I haven't made much of a difference in that regard, and that could be related to my resistance to the reality of ultimate personal extinction.  Maybe.

I try to stay away from Facebook and use the Nexus instead. On this site I don't have to filter through all the nonsense.

Thanks for posting your experience.

I could write a book called "Why Good Things Happen To Bad People."  Just take god out of it, and there you are. "It rains on the just and the unjust" and how many people have screwed that scripture up to mean something totally different that it said in the first place?

BTW, staying away from Face***k is a very good idea. You might become "un-friended" and somebody could get killed.

I like that. I know a number of bad people who always seem to come out on top.

Sometimes human effort has a lot to do with it. Sometimes, as Kushner correctly observed, there simply is no "why". On a lighter note:

"The rain it raineth on the just
And also on the unjust fella.
But mostly on the just, because
The unjust steals the just's umbrella."

(I don't remember where that's from.)


Charles Bowen  but the fact that you remembered that is amazing.

I'm with you booklover.  How can some people hold so much stupid??

Thoughtful post. I have not thought about the difference between feelin fortunate, vs. feeling grateful.

I feel fortunate for many things. When stuff gets me down, I try to comr up with a positive side. That poeitive side mske life more livable.

you are right about the horror of dying in the typhoon. As far as being thsnkful to gods.... There is something in my mind I try not to say.... birth control is forbidden, catholic control of the country, masses impoverished, infrastructure stresses, thousands places in harms way in an area with frequent natural disasters.... not god, but religion, exacerbates the tragedy. There, I said it.

Back to gratitude. There is much to be grateful for, good people doing good things. That includes friends on nexus.

Thank you for posting. Thoughtful topic.

Sorry for typos. my big fingers on small keypad.




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