Atheist gratitude

Richard Parncutt

November 2018

I am grateful for many things. A long and healthy life, a wonderful family (many different people in many places), the privilege of modern food, travel, and medicine, a nice place to live, a secure job, enough money, freedom of speech, a peaceful, prosperous, beautiful country to live in, and music.

To whom I am grateful? The people of the past and present who made this good life possible, of course. Those who defended human rights and democracy, often to the point of self-sacrifice.
The parents, school teachers, philosophers, religious leaders, and politicians who taught people about moral principles and how to translate them into action. All those who contributed to the development of modern social-democratic states and the rise of the middle class. The pacificists who have always spoken out against war and violence of all kinds, and continue to do so. The feminists who fought and still fight for equality of opportunity and representation, and an end to domestic violence. All those who identified and continue to identify cases of racism, antisemitism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination and take action to prevent them. The medical researchers who developed new ways to cure diseases and the politicians who made it possible for everyone in modern social-democratic states to have access to good health care. All those struggling to create a fairer global political and economic system, in which poverty is eliminated and the wealth gap is under democratic control. Thousands of people worldwide who are devoting their lives to running NGOs, contributing in many different ways toward a positive future for humanity -- one in which more and more people can enjoy the privilege of a modern middle-class lifestyle -- even if at the moment things are looking rather grim in that respect.

There is also a general feeling of gratitude to no-one in particular. Something out there. Perhaps the universe, although what could that mean exactly? Many people give a name to that big virtual no-one: god.

I am not an agnostic, sitting on the fence. I am quite certain that the human-like god of monotheistic religions does not exist. God is an invention of the creative human mind and patriarchal society. But people can be forgiven for making such an outrageous mistake, because it often feels like god exists -- even if you are an atheist. Atheists reject this feeling because it is inconsistent with modern science. But is it really? I have a theory to explain where that feeling comes from, see my academic contributions on the origin of music and religion. That theory allows me to believe in the feeling without believing in any corresponding physical reality or the cultural baggage that comes with it. It also alllows me to accept and value the global diversity of religious beliefs, traditions, and rituals.

The problem is not limited to god. Many people believe that they have a guardian angel that is hovering above and behind them in everything thing they do, loving and protecting them. From a scientific viewpoint, this is nonsense in the same way that a humanoid, universe-creating, all loving, all knowing, omnipresent, rewarding and punishing god is nonsense. But I too have the feeling that someone or something of that kind is there with me in my daily life. He, she or it seems to be
hovering above and behind me as I write this text! If that feeling exists, it is not completely ridiculous to think this way. Again, it is possible to explain scientifically where the feeling comes from (see the previous link).

Speaking of gratitude, I hope you enjoyed this text and thanks for reading and sharing it.

The opinions expressed on this page are the author's personal opinions. Readers who know and care about this topic are asked to contact the author with suggestions for mproving or extending the content: parncutt at gmx dot at. Back to Richard Parncutt's homepage