In the US, there are 6 basic holidays, days that you are virtually guaranteed to have off from work. Unless, of course, you're a policeman, firefighter or convenience store clerk. Three of these holidays, Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day, are purely secular in nature. New Years Day is arguably secular, but hasn't always been so. Christmas, as we all know, was at one time a pagan festival of the winter solstice, co-opted in the 4th century CE by the Catholic church to help boost membership. Thanksgiving recalls the feast of thanksgiving held by religious separatists in 1621, making it the only truly Christian holiday in the US.
As an atheist, you might think that I wouldn't observe Thanksgiving, but you'd be wrong. It's not simply a matter of continuing a family tradition of over-eating and watching football, but that happens too. As a living, breathing, productive and moderately successful member of the human race, I have plenty to be thankful for, I simply don't find it sufficient to thank an imaginary deity for these things. There are plenty of real people and institutions more deserving of my gratitude.
So, what do I have to be thankful for? Plenty:
I am first thankful to my parents, for, well, me. And for instilling in me a healthy sense of humor, ethics and responsibility, but not necessarily in that order.
I am thankful to my wife's parents for, well, her; and to her adoptive parents for raising her. And to my wife for being funny, loving and supportive, and for putting up with me. It can't be easy.
I am thankful to people like my brother, a former Marine, and current firefighter, who do jobs that are clearly necessary, but that most people, for obvious reasons, don't want to do.
And of course, to my brother, for being my life-long best friend.
I am thankful to my doctors, and to the medical community in general, for saving my life on at least two occasions, probably many more.
I am thankful to the state of Texas, the University of Texas system and to the University of Texas at Arlington for making available to me an excellent education at a manageable cost.
I am thankful to the founders of my church and to its members, for restoring in me the sense of community I feared I had lost when I became an atheist.
I am thankful to Abraham Lincoln for countless difficult decisions, which ultimately not only preserved the Union, but made it stronger than it had been prior to the Civil War.
I am thankful to the 1st Congress of the United States, and particularly to James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, for the 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which all at once allows me not to profess a belief in a supreme being, and also gives me the right to write this blog without fear of political reprisal.
I am thankful to the 80th Congress of the United States for the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
And finally, I am thankful to you, reader, for reading this far.