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So, Who Do You Thank? - Elf M. Sternberg
So, Who Do You Thank?
The atheist community has been passing around Pastor Alin's sad little The Misery of Atheism: Who Does an Atheist Thank? blogpost and answering him.

When I first read it, what struck me is this bit:
God has been very gracious to me. I have a wife, I have a house, I have food and a computer, I have a bed and clean water. And when I think on these things I am thankful.
It reminds me of the always-relevant, always-trenchant point made about folks who survive disaster ending their stories with "Thank God." Other, fellow human beings didn't survive. The message that always came across to me was "Thank you, God, for sparing me, unlike those other people." Why didn't God save them? What did they do wrong? Surely not all the sinners were killed, and all the saints preserved, after that plane crash or tornado or tsunami. Pastor Alin is thankful to God for giving him those things, but seems utterly unable to consider what North Koreans, or Somalis, or Guineas suffering with Ebola, should be thankful for.

I'm very thankful, to other human beings. I'm thankful to my wife of 25 years for her love and affection, and for putting up with me. I'm thankful to my employer for seeing my contributions and helping me make them valuable. I'm thankful to my friends for their sometimes fascinating, sometimes vexing contributions to making my life interesting. This week, I'm thankful to my older daughter for making her younger sister's transition to high school so easy and successful. I'm thankful to the younger kid for toughing out that difficult transition. I'm thankful to my parents for giving me a ton of educational opportunities they didn't really understand or appreciate at the time, but which gave me the tools to make it in the 21st century.

That last one has an asterisk beside it. Because my well-being today was contingent upon theirs. And theirs upon their grandparents. And theirs upon a whole host of events, some serendipity, some atrocity, that add up to comfort and wealth and privilege. I'm distressed that we have yet to address our inequality, and ashamed that Pastor Alin shows no interest in the essential humanity of those who aren't with him.

When it comes to privilge, contingency, and humanity, poor Pastor Alin is blind. Motes, beams, eyes and all that. Also: whales. Pastor Alin, like Jonah, would never have gone to Nineveh; he's content to stay in his comfortable home, put distance between himself and suffering, only to rant from afar about the wickedness he sees.

Let us be thankful to Pastor Alin, for being a bad example.

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1 comment or Leave a comment
gipsieee From: gipsieee Date: September 7th, 2014 05:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you for putting this down. It is useful food for thought given that I am a pessimist who is drawn toward religion, but really doesn't like many of it's underlying assumptions or its politics.
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