You Can Be Grateful If You’re An Atheist

Rockefeller Center via Flickr

Not so long ago Fargo Forum columnist Roxane Salonen wrote a column with this headline:

Can those without God be grateful guests?

“Moving about this big, beautiful world, we all have a chance to enjoy the thoughtful gestures of God. And yet lack of recognizing the true giver misplaces our gratitude, makes it incomplete,” she wrote in the column. “As a grateful guest, I concluded that those without God would by default be capable only of being an ungrateful guest, or at best, one half-hearted in appreciation.”

Salonen’s column prompted a lot of reaction, as Kris Kerzman details in a follow-up column. Some of it was thoughtful. A lot of it was angry and belittling to Salonen, which is unfortunate, though to be fair her column was pretty insulting to those of us who are atheists.

And yes, I am an atheist, which surprises a lot of people who assume that all conservatives subscribe to one flavor of faith or another. It’s not something I write much about, but it does come up now and then.

“I came out to my wife as an atheist tonight,” a SAB reader wrote me years ago after I wrote about being an atheist here on the blog. “You helped shake my image of atheists as a bunch of immoral communists many years ago.”

“I came out to my wife as an atheist tonight,” a SAB reader wrote me years ago after I wrote about being an atheist here on the blog. “You
helped shake my image of atheists as a bunch of immoral communists many years ago.”

My goal has never been to recruit atheists, but that message made me happy. I’m glad something I wrote could help someone be a more honest version of themselves with those they love.

When I read Salonen’s column I was disappointed in its tone. Instead of assuming that we atheists live incomplete lives for a want of faith, she could have sought some of us out and asked.

I live a happy life. I have a healthy, loving family. I have a job that I enjoy, and which brings me a great deal of fulfillment. I aspire to be a good person, and I think most of the time I get there.

I was raised a Lutheran, so I’m familiar with church and faith, and while I can understand why those things are important to some I’ve never felt like spiritual belief was something missing from my life.

So yeah, I bristle a bit when someone suggests that I might not be as happy or as grateful in my life because I don’t have the same faith they do.

That said, it would be nice if the spiritual and secular alike stopped assuming things about one another.

There is a certain sort of militant atheist who believes every person of faith is a bible-thumping theocrat set on bending the world to fit their religious philosophy. I cringe when I see these twits holding forth with their blinkered view of the faithful.

These people are why atheists rank alongside rapists on the trust scale.

But when it comes to presumption, there is plenty of blame to go around.

In general people need to spend more time focused on bettering their own lives and less casting aspersions at those believe differently than they do.

There are many paths to happiness. We live in a country which generally allows us to pursue that happiness along the path of our choosing.

How about we take joy in that, and cut one another some slack now and then.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from 1-2pm weekdays.

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