Gratitude

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Discussion by: Jay G

Hello:

Religious teachings include inculcating a sense of gratitude towards the "Creator".  Priests/Rabbis tell people that they ought to be grateful to God for the gift of life and this beautiful universe we are a part of.  Many prayers (at least the ones I know from Judaism) express a deep sense of our debt to our creator.

When one comes to understand that the world was not "created" by an intelligent creator and that life on earth is the result of the operation of blind, purposeless forces, that does not necessarily do away with the sense of gratitude.  A person might feel an overwhelming sense of wanting to give "thanks" for the gift of life, even if there is not "creator" to thank.  After all, as Richard has put it more than once, the fact that we are alive makes us the lucky ones. 

My question is, what does an atheist, or agnostic, do with the sense of gratitude?

I am NOT asking as a theist trying to punch holes in atheism.  I am asking as an agnostic and genuinely seeking honest responses.

Thank you

36 COMMENTS

  1. My observations come a bit from the other side. I was raised as a child with the task of fitting into society, and I think that is a universal duty conveyed to humans because of our social nature. In the US since the ’80s (when I was adolescent), our society has implied (and recently expressed) some harsh extremes of this obligation, that if you don’t earn enough money to sustain yourself (no matter your circumstances, no matter the state of the economy) that you don’t deserve to live. Our civilization has become such that only those services for which someone will pay a monetary value are regarded at all.

    I for one, try to model after my cats who clearly do not feel the need to justify their existence. They exist and therefore they should have the means to exist, and they will fight for it if necessary, but will not feel guilty whenever someone like me provides a free lunch. My current cat is clearly grateful, having been a rescue and having some perspective. But previous cats of mine were completely content to being sociable.

    Gratitude implies someone did us a favor. The popular gods who allegedly created us did so for their purposes, not ours. A philosophical prime mover does not come by default with the property of sentience, let alone compassion or even interest in our affairs. And an unfeeling universe cares neither way.

    My parents, likewise, bore me for their own purposes, not for mine, and this was revealed in how ill-equipped they were for raising me. They were humans, doing what humans do, for the purposes that humans do. Our awareness of our existence is incidental.

    In my case, I’ve had a long hard-fought journey to a space in which it is good to be alive, and I am grateful to be alive. But I am grateful to no-one in particular.

    I like to say that freethinkers of my ilk (I consider myself a naturalist, but whatever) like our truth hard and straight and sometimes bitter. In fact, I welcome the bitter because it reminds me that truth is not sweetened with (as Sagan put it) comforting fables.

    • In reply to #3 by A3Kr0n:

      If being alive makes us the lucky ones, where are the unlucky ones?

      One of the most pervasive myths in Western thought (not just in religious thought) is the idea of drawing ‘lots’ (long sticks, short sticks) and having your state of existence assigned to you by the Gods. The ‘unlucky ones’ don’t exist and yet have a relation to the metaphysical notion of existential possibility in this exact fashion of not having been lucky enough to have their lots assigned. Weird, but utterly standard.

      And then there’s another philosophy, of course. Spinoza, Nietzsche …. But that’s a difficult secret.

  2. Don’t worry, no holes were punched. #1 on my list of ideals I attempt to live by is: “Strive to have a deep and pervasive appreciation for all aspects of your life no matter what the situation or how “unfair” it may be (or seem to be).” Since leaving my make-believe ideas behind nearly 15 years ago, I have found it is still very easy (perhaps easier) to be grateful and to be filled with joy, wonder, and a sense of appreciation for many aspects of my life without feeling the need to direct those feelings toward some deity. Then, when I add in the fact that I can now attempt look at things as they truly are unbound by the shackles of having to make excuses for some all-powerful deity that has chosen to do, for reasons I’m not supposed to understand or question, some pretty sick things for being all-powerful, well — for me at least — it provides me even more gratitude.

  3. This is a great topic, I look forward to reading the responses.

    In truth, as you note, there should be no sense of gratitude for being alive. Even Dawkins’ statements, themselves among a plethora of others from scientists keen to impart how interesting and important we are in a naturalistic sense, only work from within a retrospective anthropocentric idiom. It’s true, for example, that we have a chance to alter our evolution, and are almost certainly the only animal on Earth to have figured nature out to such an extent, but that in actual fact doesn’t matter. Our higher functions are no less natural than our lower functions. Talking about our minds is just a more complicated way of talking about our bodies (I believe this is well-known but I guess it doesn’t carry into parlance), so what difference is there between natural forces pulling my strings to pull some “other animals’” strings, and natural forces pulling my strings to pull my own strings? It’s just something that matters ‘for us’, where that means that we understand our causality incompletely (i.e. at the complex human social level). Genetics is just as purposeless as survival of the fittest.

    I for one do not think that anyone really understands what it means to be part of a life-giving chain of events, such as being a father (like me). I do know that parents care very much for their children’s gratitude, no doubt because they feel bad about raising them (think about it), but I also know that I don’t expect my daughter’s gratitude and personally I find it a bit weird. The gratitiude toward God is like this parental gratitude, and in fact they’re lumped together – such as in the 10 commandments – and they support and reinforce each other ideologically. Indeed, there are incredibly important books on the repressions and oppressions and tyrannys of the family, and how such modes of familial life is required by Christianity (and other world religions, with adjustments for theological differences), and even the need for the family in training capitalistic consumers and etc. (I digress).

    Reading down a bit I agree with what Uriel has said (as long as I can amend his statement that he feels grateful to be alive to say that it’s nice to have a life you can appreciate, which I’m sure is what he means.)

  4. I suppose gratitude would have to be replaced with other feelings. A sense of awe and amazement, in all matters of scales and complexity. But there is no need nor desire to personify it, or ritualise it. As they say, Life is its own reward.

  5. I have never quite understood RD’s “We are the lucky ones [to be alive]“.

    First, many would argue that they might have preferred to not be born at all. So in that sense, “lucky” seems like an over-generalization of one’s pleasure/wonder/whatever at being alive.
    For many, being born might be most unfortunate, and philosopher have argued that much.

    Second, this implies that there was some sort of “Richard Dawkins” essence that was selected among many others to be “born” or “actualized”. Thus the “lucky one”. But there was none. RD was not the sperm, nor the egg. No “I” vs other “I’s”. So there is no lucky one. It seems to me that this is religious, essentialist reasoning creeping in.

    Now to the question of gratitude, which I believe is very different. Gratitude doesn’t require an object. You don’t have to feel grateful “to someone” (or someone conscious) for your existence. However, there is plenty to be grateful for, even in naturalistic terms. Look at the struggles and efforts of our predecessors through the long chain of human (and pre-human) history. How much they have endured so that we, today, can live in relative peace, comfort, freedom, surrounded by knowledge, art, etc.

    In that sense, everywhere one looks around, past or present, there is great gratitude to be felt, and many and much that we are indebted to.

    • In reply to #9 by coherent:

      there is plenty to be grateful for, even in naturalistic terms. Look at the struggles and efforts of our predecessors through the long chain of human (and pre-human) history. How much they have endured so that we, today, can live in relative peace, comfort, freedom, surrounded by knowledge, art, etc.

      In that sense, everywhere one looks around, past or present, there is great gratitude to be felt, and many and much that we are indebted to.

      I wonder how you can’t apply the same reasoning to this opinion? Surely if we don’t necessarily feel lucky to be alive, as you argued on the other point, why should we necessarily feel that history has provided us with incredible freedom and culture? I for one feel sold down the river regarding recent history, and that’s pretty significant with regard to my life. I really don’t feel grateful, would you rather argue that I should?

      • In reply to #10 by Stardroid:
        “I really don’t feel grateful, would you rather argue that I should?”
        No. I was trying to answer the initial question of “Jay G”. And trying to show that there is plenty to (potentially) feel grateful about/for without referring to a supernatural being.

        Now (and this might be a separate discussion), I don’t know what your situation is and would certainly not want to generalize, but I have found that “counting one’s blessing” is a healthy thing to do: far too many things (like not having bombs drop over one’s head, not being forcefully recruited to go on a crusade, or being administered an injection of lidocaine at the dentist before an extraction, etc) are often taken for granted.

        • In reply to #16 by coherent:

          In reply to #10 by Stardroid:
          “I really don’t feel grateful, would you rather argue that I should?”
          No. I was trying to answer the initial question of “Jay G”.

          I know, that’s why I’m here too. Do you want to discuss it? This is a discussion. You’re welcome.

          And trying to show that there is plenty to (potentially) feel grateful about/for without referring to a supernatural being.

          Only in principle.

          Now (and this might be a separate discussion), I don’t know what your situation is and would certainly not want to generalize, but I have found that “counting one’s blessing” is a healthy thing to do: far too many things (like not having bombs drop over one’s head, not being forcefully recruited to go on a crusade, or being administered an injection of lidocaine at the dentist before an extraction, etc) are often taken for granted.

          Like when your mother says “eat your food there’s children starving in the world”. There’s always someone worse off, and that should make you feel better. I always found that sentiment deplorable. Conservatives usually cite the protections of society, recognized in all their importance, as more than sufficient motivation for wanting to get your thoughts in line (the political version, supposedly, of eating your greens). I find ‘counting one’s blessings’ to be a mixed bag of genuine feeling and being shat upon from a great height.

          Also.
          The lack of proper dental treatment would be a terrible loss to people in need of dental surgery, but what is more important is that dentistry is a cynical profession full of failed doctors who do whatever they like with you. If you happen to like your dentist I have other examples.

          • In reply to #20 by Stardroid:
            “being shat upon from a great height”, dentistry is a cynical profession full of failed doctors who do whatever they like with you”, etc..

            Well well…
            Perhaps this thought can be useful: the main victim of one’s resentment is oneself.

            In reply to #20 by Stardroid:

          • Just a minor point but that reminds me of my childhood experiences with the Lord’s prayer. The line ‘gives us this day our daily bread’. Something we were apparently encouraged to be grateful for. Interesting experience as a very young child going to a bakery and not noticing anything unusual.

            It’s now known that if not for our daily bread most of us would not require dental treatment. So maybe some traditional gifts of god are something we should resent rather be thankful for.

            In reply to #20 by Stardroid:

            Also.
            The lack of proper dental treatment would be a terrible loss to people in need of dental surgery, but what is more important is that dentistry is a cynical profession full of failed doctors who do whatever they like with you. If you happen to like your dentist I have other examples.

  6. Forces have purpose or not? The dichotomy creates a problem. Why do we have to see things in black and white when we have color vision on top of greyscale? What’s to blame, classical logic? (Appears Aristotle realized he had a problem with the “excluded middle”, maybe had no idea what to do about it so developed a theory that was a lot better than nothing for a long time. Unfortunately no one did anything more until the 20th century. The USA still can’t deal with the metric system, how long before we can deal with anything beyond 2-valued logic? Try teaching THAT in the bible belt.)

    We have to give credit to our ancestors who managed to survive and care for their offspring well enough that we ended up being here living in better circumstances than they did. Maybe traditions of ancestor worship or veneration make a lot more sense and are a lot more appropriate than they once seemed.

    Maybe if we gave credit to ourselves for what we had instead of handing over credit to a dissociated part of the psyche we would’t be so profligate with it or the life in it.

  7. I’m sure Richard Dawkins is speaking figuratively when he urges us to consider ourselves ‘lucky to be here at all”. This turn of phrase serves to counteract the religious notion that we are only special because god chose us to be. An example of fighting fire with fire , I should think.

    What I really love about the writings of RD, is his ability to mix scientific fact with metaphors and colorful allusions. Many science writers share this art ( recent articles in the New Scientist are almost poetic in their choice of words). However, many are more sparse in their text, giving the impression that science is cold and removed from human feelings.

    Gratitude is an emotion, when its all said and done, so it’s not actually required, but if one feels it I suppose a suitable recipient would be to our own brain, for the capacity to even contemplate such things.

  8. I feel lucky to be alive and live in a comparatively civilized nation, but I have never felt a sense of gratitude towards any of the many natural processes that caused me to be. These process don’t have thoughts, ambitions, or goals and it would be silly to have any feelings for them at all.

    I reserve all my gratitude for the actions of people who consciously choose to help me.

  9. I am grateful to the millions of our antecedents who gifted me their knowledge and gave enough of a damn about me when I wasn’t yet born to not take too much from the planet for their pains. True wealth makers and conservers.

  10. I’m grateful to everyone who struggled to make the world the better place which I live in.

    But I never understood giving thanks to God. Even “grace” before meals is weird if you think about it in the context of the billions who are going hungry. What are you saying?

    “Thank you God for not being a tyrannical bastard and letting me and my family be hungry like all the others you are letting be hungry. You are so wonderful and glorious.”

    Stockholm syndrome.

    Michael

  11. Sometimes I feel the sense of gratitude, to which you allude, Jay G. I think to myself: “If I were a theist, I’d be saying – ‘Thank “God” for ~ such and such ‘ “. I think to myself: “In my position, theists would probably be saying – ‘Thank God for ~ such and such ‘, about this”.

    But I am an atheist, and so I just feel pleasure and happiness about whatever it is, and realise how fortunate it is that such and such is the case/truth, (or apparent case/truth). I also have a sense of satisfaction that as an atheist I realise that I am a feeling person, who can appreciate goodness and good fortune, and respond to that in a humble and grateful way.

    It lets me know that I am not heartless or unemotional, and can enjoy some experiences or thoughts or ideas, and respond to them in a way that is really being a not always entirely rational but more fully alive human being.

  12. To think about the amount of organisms that had to get eaten alive to select out those genes and the amount of my ancestors that had to survive long enough to pass on gametes or just divide (in the case of bacteria). How can I feel anything but lucky. That’s before we even get to the cosmic odds that could well have ended up with someone else something else being here or nothing at all. So I’m incalculably fortunate.

    But I’ve read enough of these scriptures to get a different sense. The sense I get is a combination of ranting, groveling and seeking god to destroy enemies. Just started on the Koran and that so far is even worse. I get that in a violent society that this may well have been their thought processes, to feel safe with this combination of appeal and groveling may have been of psychological benefit. However, I’m safe, educated and am fortunate enough to be able to think that I’m made of atoms generated in the death of stars, and a member of a species the end result of the non-random breeding before deaths of uncounted ancestors so I feel lucky. Additionally to be alive now at the pinnacle of our society, for that and grateful for those people who pulled us out of the wretched past in which we felt we needed to beg and plead to a god, to solicit his help in destroying enemies and enslaving their children (those we didn’t murder). I think that sort of gratitude in misplaced.

    That’s in the mood I’m in now. Give it an hour and I might say something completely different.

  13. The problem with being grateful is that it compels you to be satisfied with how things are, and not try for something better. I appreciate how fortunate I am that me, my family and friends all have good physical health, and live in a nation that has free health care, clean & safe drinking water, etc. But most people in the world don’t have these things, and it is NOT being ungrateful to ask “why not?” That, IMO, is how we can take the sense of gratitude and make it into something useful.

  14. @Jay G

    I assume that by a sense of gratitude you mean in the economics sense of a debt that needs to be reciprocated, either out of innate fairness, goodwill, conformity to social expectations, or the acquisition of maintenance of social status.

    You may not have the option of reciprocating equally but fortunately social psychology and economic theory indicate that valuations are subjective which means that there need be no identical, comparable, or equivalent objective valuation required to match the original transaction to cancel out its reciprocal. Perhaps something as simple as a suitable card with a thank you note would suffice. Should be at least as effective as prayer.

  15. This is a beautiful song called Gratitude. It is what I want played at my funeral because it expresses how I feel: gratitude for all the good things in my life and for my life. Not to anyone in particular but just an expression of how I feel.

  16. I recently had eye surgery. The scalpel coming at my eye (while i was awake) was terrifying. Before the surgery, about 40% of the light entering my eye was getting to my retina (I had a really nasty cataract and needed the lens replaced). After the surgery I can see!!!! It is so so so cool. I am grateful. I am grateful to the SURGEON. His excellence is what I am happy about.

    • In reply to #27 by crookedshoes:

      Very good illustration. And even more so when you think of the many years of hell these surgeons go through before they can practice. And the hell they go through daily baring such high responsibilities and often dealing with grief and grimm. OK, some make a lot of money. So what? I say, very well deserved, and in many instances, a very poor gratification (thank goodness, many surgeons don’t do it – merely – for the money).
      That’s why I’m so unimpressed with JC’s purported miracles. Any surgeon, today, has saved more lives, comforted more souls, and achieved more “miracles” than all the prophets and Saints combined.

      I recently had eye surgery. The scalpel coming at my eye (while i was awake) was terrifying. Before the surgery, about 40% of the light entering my eye was getting to my retina (I had a really nasty cataract and needed the lens replaced). After the surgery I can see!!!! It is so so so cool. I am grateful. I am grateful to the SURGEON. His excellence is what I am happy about.

    • In reply to #27 by crookedshoes:

      After the surgery I can see!!!! It is so so so cool. I am grateful. I am grateful to the SURGEON. His excellence is what I am happy about.

      I think that it is the essence of moral gratitude, in offering gratitude to the right people.

      If you remember the rescue of some miners a year or two back, there were priests (of various cults) taking centre stage leading others in offering gratitude to their versions of god, when the rescue was carried out by engineers using technology devised by scientists, and funded from elsewhere!

      There was also this example:- http://old.richarddawkins.net/discussions/643046-thank-god

  17. Hi Jay G.

    In my opinion, atheism is a stance that does not declare any value, it may not tell us how to be nice to our neighbour or how to be grateful, but it gives us the freedom to be nice and grateful in so many ways religion would not allow.

    To me, atheism is not a creed, but it’s defence against religion. I assume that like me, a lot of other atheist have the privilege to know how to express their feelings through more than one type of ritual. I, for one, am fortunate enough to come from a culture rich with rituals and I am familiar with a few others because I was a very curious kid and I still am.

    If you would allow me to be presumptions, I think you are partial to the practices of Judaism. If it fulfills your need, I don’t see why you should abandon it. Rituals are just devices created by humans to fulfill human needs. I don’t see why we should abandon it just because it’s tainted by religion, atheists don’t become devils when they stopped believing. Last time I checked, prayers and holy water don’t burn us.

    Also, just for your interest, there is a movement called Christian Atheism, it is an ideology where the belief in God is rejected but the moral teachings of Jesus is followed. Perhaps if you can find enough like minded people, you can also create something similar.

    Yeah, I know, it sucks to be non-believers because they have to build everything back from scratch. I think this is just transitional pain because the non-religious movement is pretty new.

  18. we could have a Big-Bang-Day of some sorts and celebrate that day/ moment to be grateful for our lives.. we only have to set a date for it (do we for instance know when Jesus was conceived? if ever there was a big bang it was when she got banged by the big Him…)

    on a more serious note… I sometimes hate the fact my parents did not use a condom in first quarter of 1973 (yes, I was born in the last quarter of that year…) because life isn´t always that effing great, on the other hand, life is a wonderful gift we should all enjoy and have the freedom to experience without anything or anybody raping us with their will and making life a misery. I have never felt the need though to thank my parents for this gift, which may not have been intended as such by the way. I surely do not feel the need to be grateful for living to anybody or anything else for that matter.. I think that if you live your life as you want to, you could be grateful to yourself for having the freedom to experience life to the full and express yourself as you are..

  19. I guess I show thanks by making a deliberate effort to appreciate the life around me, and by appreciate I do not mean merely being grateful for it, but thinking about its existence.

    I’m also not opposed to offering thanks to the universe plainly, just like believers might to their god.

  20. I’ve had to sit through numerous prayer classes extoling our duty to feel grateful to our creator, but even before I realized he probably didn’t exist, I decided we owe him nothing. Essentially, God reduces to a mad scientist who creates some creature in his lab with the idea of making it do his idiosyncratic wishes, and spends his time subjugating and tormenting the poor creature. Of course, the creature can also have a good time, but its creator does not allow it to. In my opinion, the creature has no reason to feel gratitude towards its creator, though it should be glad of the opportunity of life and express it by trying to have a good time.

  21. I agree that there does not need to be someone at the receiving end of your gratitude. Gratitude doesn’t mean you have to “give thanks” or want to give thanks – just that you feel a sense of appreciation. There doesn’t need to be an action attached. (GIVING thanks can probably be termed something else, or is an action resulting from feeling grateful. You can give thanks without feeling grateful or appreciative.) I can feel a deep sense of appreciation from someone helping me or even the weather being ideal. I can feel grateful for being in a certain situation – realize that gratitude is in and of itself – it’s simply an emotion or sense of being. People help people so it is wise and considerate to SHOW appreciation towards someone else. Give credit where credit is due. Even animals show joy when you do something positive for them. (Whether they feel this joy -directed towards you is uncertain. But this is off topic.)

    Gratitude is an emotion and we can only analyze it so much. Naming and clarifying emotions can sometimes be difficult. We can clump in actions that result from the emotion but it is not the emotion. We are likely wired to feel grateful, the actions we take or avoid are learned.

    You ask – “What does and atheist … DO with a sense of gratitude?” Well that all depends on the atheist. Sometimes, I don’t do anything but let myself feel the emotion and sit with it for a while.

  22. Recently, I’ve become skeptical of the notions behind such non-specific “gratitude”, especially in the service of worship. Firstly, gratitude is extended to a sentient being who deliberately did something to improve your lot, even if it consisted only of being polite, friendly, and reasonable towards you. We feel more grateful the bigger the favour and the greater the cost to the fellow incurring it, culminating in extreme love for the one who sacrifices their own life or happiness for the protection of your own in desperate circumstances.

    But as wonderful as this is, I also think it’s logically suspect and potentially unhelpful to broaden the application of gratitude. For a start, the emotion is based on what other sentient organisms do to you, not the environment or impersonal circumstances. If a rock fell and scared off or crushed a predator that was about to pounce me, I’d be incredibly relieved and feel exceptionally great for this turn of fortune, but there’s no one to feel gratitude towards. For all the rock cares, it could have stayed still all the time or crushed me instead, and the rock has no sentience with which to genuinely care in the first place.

    Next, gratitude is in response to things done to you or for you which would benefit you. It presupposes that you exist and can enjoy any benefits experienced. If I was a rock, it would make no difference to me whether or not you gave me food simply because I hadn’t eaten in a while. And if I didn’t exist at all – if, for instance, the zygote which formed all those years ago was different – then there would be no me to benefit or inconvenience. Indeed, the very way the word is phrased for when I actually am conceived – that “life was given to me” – presupposes that there was a “me” to give life to, and ignores the fact that this “me” can only be a beneficiary of my existence once I actually exist. Even if I granted the logic for the sake of argument, then if I was born and suffered years of the utmost agony, the very idea of calling life a “gift” would be utterly ridiculous in the given circumstances.

    Thirdly, the altruism of others – from simply holding the door open to taking a bullet – depends crucially on the alternatives. I utter a “thank you” to the former, even though I’m perfectly capable of opening a door myself, simply because I acknowledge the good motives of the person in question, but there’s no point in making a ceremony for it because the alternatives aren’t very spectacular (say, slamming the door in my face or neglecting to hold it open for me). The standards change if I’m carrying a heavy load in two hands (i.e. if the beneficiary could gain more), if the person opening the door has to endure an innate physical handicap to help (i.e. if the altruist is incurring a bigger cost), and if I’m leaving a safe or unsafe environment behind me (i.e. if the benefit is vastly more different than the alternatives).

    Also, the logic relies on the necessity of the altruism as influenced by harsh circumstances. A person who risks health or life to save fellows from a danger that would otherwise kill them is doing something necessary but heartily regrettable. A person who risks his life to prevent somebody getting a harmless paper cut or a new hat is doing something unnecessary and stupid. A person who risks his life to save somebody from a predicament the altruist accidentally put them in depends on how harshly we regard their incompetence, and a person who risks his life to save someone from a danger he deliberately put them in is frankly undeserving of admiration and manipulative to boot.

    For reasons like this, I find the notion of extending gratitude outside the social sphere a bit suspect.

    • In reply to #35 by Zeuglodon:

      For reasons like this, I find the notion of extending gratitude outside the social sphere a bit suspect.

      I’m with you here but would probably go further, actively trying to weed out the remnants of spooky gratitude and where possible re-route it to a more deserving recipient.

      Enjoyment of things (aesthetic, intellectual and natural) I often reflect back to the people who taught me the potential rewarding value of them.

      Gratitude is for expression otherwise the feeling being felt is just an aspect of enjoyment coupled with the realisation that things could be otherwise. And it should be expressed to the giver. However, I argue, the giver could be a class or category of people. Diligent teachers or engaged parents are just such. I am grateful too late for some of my teachers and inadequately for my parents (now knowing what they had to put up with!). Directing my gratitude/approval towards individuals within the category who seem like my own givers seems a way of closing the reward gap that exists with such slow-release gifts.

  23. honestly, even before i became an atheist i couldnt help but reject the religious (specifically christian) notion of gratitude. Even as a small child luck always struck me as relative to the fortune and misfortune of others. Gratitude then seemed to depend upon there being people less fortunate than me, so that I could be grateful my life wasn’t as unpleasant as theirs. Add to that the idea that someone is personally responsible for the fortune you experience, and in my eyes gratitude simply became expressing something like “thank you, (insert deity here), for not doing to me what you did to all those poor bastards who are suffering in ways I am not at the moment”

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