Do we prevent somebody being hurt by superstition or faith by rejecting and challenging those things? 

Is it mistaken to support organised religion in membership or donations?

If people do good because they are human, not because God prompts them then is it right to risk giving God any credit when they alone own their good?

Patrick H

Gratitude - is this feeling behind people's sense of the importance of God?
The essentials: Gratitude is recognising that something is good. It does not need good to be intended. In fact there is more gratitude in good being just there unintended than there is in somebody making it their own by intending it. After all unless good is there whether intended or not nobody can intend it. Intention is not everything for if a mad or hypnotised person thought they were doing us a favour by killing us we would be far from grateful to that person.  The goodness of their intention would be the very reason we give them no gratitude whatsoever in our heads or heart.


The honour that is gratitude cannot be given.  It is earned so it is not a gift to the good person.  They are getting what they earned.  So despite that we give it as a gift.  It follows that we can be grateful for all that is good in our lives even if it has nothing to do with God or any person. Gratitude is what we do for ourselves for it is nice to feel grateful.  To argue that we need a god to be grateful to forgets that gratitude is not logical but illogical.  Gratitude is good for us for it is us being better than the truth by mastering it.  We are grateful despite it.  Gratitude can be stirred as long as something benefits you and it does not matter if gratitude makes sense.


Gratitude is a form of joy mixed with surprise.  Gratitude is not so much about the fact that somebody cares but about that somebody benefited you.  If God for some reason cannot do much for you his good intentions and love will mean little or nothing to you.  He only gets gratitude when he is able to help and has helped.  Gratitude does not fit the idea of a God who is to be loved for his own sake.


Gratitude is an attitude. Professor Robert Emmons, University of California, Davis, states "Gratitude is an attitude not a feeling that can be easily willed. Even if you are not satisfied with your life as it is today, if you go through grateful motions, the emotion of gratitude should be triggered. It is like improving your posture and, as a result, becoming more energetic and self-confident - Attitude change often follows behavior change. By living the gratitude that we do not necessarily feel, we can begin to feel that gratitude that we live."  Lesson: it is work that makes you grateful not self-hypnosis or even a happy event and certainly not God or belief in God.


Thanking God or anyone for being good means you really thank goodness not him in the sense that he lined up with goodness and sacrificed his own will to line up.  So though we thank people we really mean we thank goodness. 


Love is no good without gratitude so gratitude is fundamental and love is not.



The components of gratitude
Gratitude comes when you think you don’t deserve something nice and you get it.


Gratitude comes from being helped by a being that might spitefully refuse to help you but helps you anyway.  Gratitude to a loving God who never sins or harms is an oxymoron.  Its a self-righteous pretence.
Not deserving something could mean getting something nice though you deserve to get something bad.
Not deserving could mean that you are given something and the giver does not care what you deserve or if you deserve.
Being happy that somebody has given for and to you comes from the assurance that others care about you and makes you feel safer. It is this that matters more than the fact that you received something without deserving. The fellow-feeling expressed towards you is what matters to you more than the gift.
A woman knows she is totally hated by her son's boss. She goes and asks the boss to give her son a pay rise for his sake not hers. The boss reluctantly agrees. The woman will still be grateful. The point is that gratitude is a response of joy to something going right. She is able to feel tremendous gratitude for a favour that is not done for her as if it were done for her. The favour is an insult to her in the sense that it is given without any respect for her. But she is still grateful.
Gratitude is not very rational which is its charm. Believers who say you need a God to thank are making it too rational. If you do that, you will rob gratitude of its power and value.


Gratitude that is based on you getting something good when you feel you should get something bad or nothing is not healthy and is pathetic.


Gratitude that is based on you getting something from somebody who does not care what you deserve has a sting.  Part of of it is about feeling you should get something bad.


Gratitude that is based on you getting something from somebody who is not even thinking if you deserve is the best.
The paradox
Good and random are not mutually exclusive.
The paradox of gratitude is that if a person does good to you and this person exists by pure chance and is good by pure chance and has chosen you to be good to you by chance that enhances the sense of gratitude. It is as if the role of chance makes you able to appreciate the person maximally.
It is a paradox for you think that good has to come from an agent in order to be good. But if chance creates the agent then chance is more important than the agent.
The little things
Gratitude should be an outlook on your life not a response. We should not wait until somebody does something nice for us before we feel grateful. See each moment as special even if it cannot be seen as a gift at all.
It is more important to be grateful for little things than big things. It is because the wonderful little things will always happen and they happen often. Your joy in them builds up when you keep noticing them and make the effort not to take them for granted. It would be a waste to be grateful for nothing but the big things.


Sense of entitlement


If you lack a sense of gratitude then you feel that all others do for you and all you get in life is owed to you. You have a high opinion of your value. Its about you which means you devalue everybody else. Religion says it makes you devalue God for you are virtually calling him stupid if he loves others as much as you.


You may think you are owed nothing but good for your goodness is inherently so exceptional. No matter what you do you are wonderful just because you are you. You are just good in the way a diamond is. That is being inherently precious. What if you think you are good in the sense that your good deeds are exceptional? You think you deserve better than everybody else. If there is a choice between you winning the one billion dollars and Johnny down the road then it should be you.


It is possible to think life owes you nothing but wonderful things and think it is the same for others. Though Christianity’s “Love your neighbour as yourself” is not saying to think like that, that is how it is interpreted. That is what Christians want to mean by it and mean by it. That is still involving a sense of entitlement.

God does not have any needs. So he can indulge you and its nothing to him. For that reason the doctrine that God exists in some form even if he is not love is enough on its own to give you a sense of entitlement WITHOUT the ideas of deserving good things etc being involved. What if you are willing to embrace suffering for God? You feel entitled to support and so the sense of entitlement is still there. 


The notion that God has strange unknown and obtuse ways can mean that the good things in your life that you see as coming from him can be seen as your entitlement for some reason that you cannot fathom.


You can have a sense of entitlement not for yourself but for those who are part of you like your children.  So you can seem good and caring and still lack gratitude for all that is done for your children is done for its owed to them.


Gratitude is consistent with having a universe of luck and chance.  It makes no sense in the light of belief in God.
Gratitude is about you
Gratitude comes from your ability to honour yourself alone for making you what you are.
Gratitude is the feeling of joy when somebody expresses love to you in some way. It could be that they tell you they love you. It could be that they simply do something nice for you.
Gratitude tells the other person, "I am glad you helped me or did this for me." It praises the other person. The other person feels praised merely by seeing your grateful response.
Gratitude links you to other people and them to you.
Gratitude is the most important emotion of all. It is so good for mental and physical health. Love as in the emotion is impossible unless gratitude appears first.
Gratitude and God

There is a link between gratitude and forgiveness.  You will not forgive x unless there is something about x to be grateful for.  And what about being grateful for the opportunity to move on?  The idea of God being grateful to us is mad but is implied by how we ask him for forgiveness and love.  Religion says he can't be grateful for he gives us all that we have.  And yet without the stirrings of thankfulness how can we learn to love God or forgive or ask his mercy?  Christian love for God is really a disguised love for a humanised version of God.  Its an idol and we are pretending that we don't think we deserve anything from God.  In fact we think God should be about us.  We think God owes us everything.


God does not have feelings or passions for feelings and passions are what happen to you so you are passive in a real sense. But God as creator, maker of all from nothing, is self-sufficient and is always active. Nothing can happen to him but only because of him.  Would you thank a robot that has no feelings even if it simulates them or pretends it has them?  You would be damaged or crazy if you did.  The idea of thanking a being who has no feelings and who cannot understand or experience feelings shows that believers are not thanking him at all but an idol version of God in their heads.


People who give thanks and praise to God are typically congratulating him for managing to be so good.  But in fact there is no managing with God.  He is good and his good is not good by his choice but is just his nature that he cannot choose or change.  Thus there is no real thanking and praising for this entity is not like a good human being who has to win a high standard of moral goodness.  It is as impersonal as thinking somebody's maths question was answered well.


Some believers, especially Deists, think that you should never ask God for anything for he never tampers with nature but you should simply give thanks to him for all the good things that come your way.  He has created all things and does not fiddle with the creation but it is still his gift - it is the gift that is a set of infinite gifts.


God does not benefit from our love or goodness.  So if we are grateful and feel grateful for how he has helped us to be good and given us the chance to be then the gratitude is irrational and happening in spite of faith and not because of it.  And what about rapport?  Rapport helps the grateful learn their gratitude from those who are grateful to them.  That cannot happen with a God who cannot be grateful to us.


When something nice happens by chance you feel grateful.
When you fall off a cliff and survive you are grateful.
Richard Dawkins thinks this feeling is behind the popularity of God. Religion says that the atheist when he feels grateful has no God to thank. They say its natural to want to thank a higher power.
Religion cannot just simply settle for feeling grateful. It has to think of a God to be grateful to. It argues, "Why be grateful if there is no God?"
They accuse grateful atheists of believing in God and denying it.
They say they should not feel grateful if they really believe there is no God.
Those implications are quite nasty. They prove there is something wrong with religion's argument.
Even believers and unbelievers who feel that God is not influenced by prayers can and do feel grateful and their feeling grateful for feeling grateful increases their joy more and more. To be able to be grateful you need a firm belief that good and bad come around more or less randomly most of the time. The good that isn't random in itself comes from good that is random.
If there is a God then nothing is genuinely random. Even when we sin we do it because of him not in spite of him for he creates all things. So if there is a God feeling grateful to him makes no rational sense. Any version of God that is not creator and in control of all things is not a God.
And as he is the origin of people who are good to you you cannot feel grateful to them either!
What the believers are trying to do is condition your feeling of gratitude so that you want to be grateful to God instead of just being grateful. There is something ungrateful about not wanting to be just grateful instead of looking for a religious reason to be grateful.
The gratitude we feel when we are lucky is actually consistent with atheism and inconsistent with belief in God. Religion says that God has a purpose. If he saves your life, it is not for you it is for the purpose. So if you thank him you think you know better than him what his purpose is and that it is about you!
If you get something nice from God, you don't care if it is given as part of a purpose or not. Gratitude to God would actually depend on opposition to his plan.
It is churlish when somebody does you a kindness and you are more interested in thanking God for it than the person. Do not degrade a person by putting a faith hypothesis first.
Also, God is eternal and timeless and perfectly happy. Thanking him does him no good. Religion says we should thank him anyway. If we should thank this God when it does him no good then surely it is okay for atheists to be grateful when things go well for them. The atheists intend their gratitude not for a supernatural god but just for the forces of chance.
To say, "Thank God for it is good for you even if it does him no good" is to talk silly. The whole point of thanking another is to do them some good and to thank a God like that is as impossible as thanking a stone that you were born into great wealth. To thank somebody mainly or just to better yourself and to feel good is manipulative.
If thanking God or nature is pointless as far as they are concerned but good for us then we should do it anyway.
Feelings are not under the complete control of reason. The atheist and believer both experience that. Thus it is wrong to say, "If you are grateful for your blessings you should believe in God and thank him." That is assuming the feelings have logic to them. Both atheists and believers feel gratitude towards their cars for starting up spontaneously when they seem to have broken down.
God is not like people - he does not have to wonder what the future will bring. He already knows. He cannot be surprised. When we say God loves, we mean that something acts as if it cares about us. But God does not have emotions. How can you really be grateful to a being that is so unlike you? God is not even a moral agent for heaven's sake. God cannot be a moral agent because he needs nothing but himself and morality is about needs and rights. If atheism stops you being grateful, then so does faith!
Feeling grateful has nothing to do with belief in God. If the two things are put together they are just two separable things put together. It is not true that the atheist suffers from having no God to thank. That claim misses the point.



Personal gratitude and mere gratitude


What about the argument:


We might be grateful for the lottery balls falling in our favour though we see it as random and mechanical, but why not say that there is such a thing as personal gratitude?  What is that?  The gratitude for the lotto win is different to what you feel for a person who does good to you.  You can only be grateful to a person if that person does something good for you when they might not because you deserve something bad or because they might not for they are indifferent towards you or hate you.  That is personal gratitude.  Such gratitude can only happen if the good deed is wholly unnecessary and if the benefactor could have done something terrible to you instead.  Even if you deserve the good deed for you have been very good to the person you can be grateful to them if you feel they would be bad enough to give nothing back to you.  You can feel grateful to things and coincidences as well.  Human nature easily treats non-things as if they had the characteristics of people.  The thing to remember gratitude has another side - it is judgemental and says, "I am happy you did this and in a sense it is surprising you have this good in you.  You would easily do something bad or do nothing instead."


The argument shows that gratitude to things is more important than gratitude to people for you don't need help all the time - you need good luck all the time.


It shows that believers in God who are grateful to him are in fact saying he could and might do complete evil to you and you are grateful that he does not and in fact does good for you instead.  Gratitude is incompatible with belief in a God who cannot do wrong or who has no power to do or become great evil beyond any horror we can imagine.


Other proofs that gratitude to God is bad


The argument that you need a God to be grateful to is nonsense and dangerous nonsense.  It is dangerous in itself to tell people they need what they do not need.  A need is not like a want.  A need is an important thing.   And if you believe in God for the sake of having something to be grateful to then there is something wrong in your life. You need a crutch and end up with a broken crutch. Too many crutches are enabled by people as good things when they are in fact wobbly.  You do not really care about God as God if you are using the God idea in order to feel grateful.


Gratitude to God is blasphemous because it judges God and it is selfish.  Grateful people love getting things from X regardless of how many other people X just hates or refuses to help even if they deserve to be helped.  A subconscious judgement or subliminal one it may be of God or others but those are the worst.  Gratitude sees the good deeds you receive as random and so the person doing them for you is not being seen as good but as lucky for you.  Then because it is a kind of surprise that is why you feel the joy we call gratitude.


Because of the problems with establishing that God exists gratitude then is a step too far.  The problems with being grateful to God are too serious for believing in God lightly.

Thanks and gratitude are only possible if generosity is possible. Generous means giving people and God what you do not owe them. The Church likes to appear as generous and to have a generous God to warm people to its doctrine and to get their money and their children in baptism. But when God was generous to us and we owe him alone all the good things we have and he has generously given us the gift of eternal life in Heaven which we cannot deserve something very unattractive follows. It follows that we cannot be generous because we owe God all the good we do and are meant to do all we do chiefly and solely for him so what good we do for others is necessary even if it looks as if it is not. Generosity then is a scam for getting people into the Church. It is a very serious contradiction in Church dogma and exposes how unattractive the religion really is. Even if there is a God, the God people worship is just a fantasy playmate version.


Jesus and Gratitude


Jesus assures his hearers in the sermon on the mount that the plants of the field are arrayed better than Solomon and that no bird drops dead without Heavenly Father knowing about it. He paints a rosy picture about the pointlessness of worry. But in those brutal times worry was sane and inevitable. He was clearly trying to give the people a placebo and put a rosy filter over their perception of reality. Realistically, humans who have a good life are a tiny minority when you consider how many people have lived in horror and suffered and got maimed and died young. The picture gets terrible when you include animal suffering. He endorsed gratitude but there is something warped about one person thanking the king for giving him bread when he knows thousands are going without though his majesty can feed them too. There is no real thanking where there is no possibility of thinking, "I thank you for you could do wrong and often do terrible things to others and for that I do not thank you but condemn you." Thanking and the possibility of not thanking but attacking the giver go together. Thanking means recognising the person could hurt or neglect you but does not. It is not about you and your thanking is making it about you. Thank him for your smug arrogance? Go ahead! 


Thank people not God


The huge majority of the good things that happen to us, virtually all, are down to how somebody used their free will. The rest is down to benefiting from the indirect results of how others used their free will. When you thank God you are thanking him for how others decided. The things that others do for us freely are the things that are most significant to us.  Even if God gives you the faculty of free will that does not mean he can take the credit for what you do with it.  Thanking God not people is ingratitude and superstition.
Gratitude as in action not feeling
You may not be able to feel grateful for what somebody does for you but if you would return the favour that counts as being grateful in the sense that you recognise the good they have done.
Ingratitude and complaining
You have to do something. Either complain or be grateful. Complaining recognises that you feel you should have something to be grateful for. Gratitude is a default. You do not need or anything else in order to feel it or practice it. It is a faculty.
Self-gratitude - gratitude towards yourself


People forget that gratitude can be you being grateful to yourself for what you have made yourself and for your achievements. In fact, unless you are grateful to yourself you will never be able to welcome the gratitude you get from others. If you can love yourself, why can't you be grateful to yourself? You can have compassion on yourself as if it is one person being compassionate towards another. Your mind is able to treat you as it would another person.

People can and do feel grateful to themselves. When time passes, it is like the you a minute ago was a different person. You cannot control your past self any more. All you have is the present self. Being grateful to yourself makes sense.
And you have to be grateful to yourself in order to allow yourself to be grateful to anybody else.
Before you can accept a gift or accept anybody's love for you, you have to feel grateful! Gratitude is not meant to appear only WHEN people are doing good for you or AFTER.
You know that you can find good in all that happens - even if it tiny. So be thankful for that good before it happens. Your joy in life will then come easy.
It is more important to be thankful for your wisdom and power to take that approach than it is for anything in particular.
Be grateful for being able to feel grateful. You don't need faith in a God for any of that.  The natural response when somebody thanks you for helping them to become happier is to say, "You did this yourself.  It was not really me."  God cannot say that so we cannot really relate to God.

APPENDIX - "Grant me the gratitude"

"Grant me the gratitude to accept what I can't improve, the ingratitude to try to improve what I can and the wisdom to know the difference."

I'd change it to, "I can and will grow the gratitude to accept what I can't improve, the ingratitude to try to improve what I can and the wisdom to know the difference."

Instead of thinking there is a God and that we should be grateful all the time for when evil happens we should be grateful like we would be to the poor woman who can only give us a dreadful and burnt crust to eat we should cultivate a virtue of ingratitude.  Serenity would be inappropriate then.  And stupid!