An Atheist At Thanksgiving

An atheist at Thanksgiving helped open my young mind to God. Let me explain. When I was a child Thanksgiving week was usually spent with my paternal grandparents on their windswept northwest Texas farm. My grandfather, a veteran of World War 1, was a man I loved and deeply admired. He was an attentive, loving grandfather, and was a gentle man in all his ways. As an adult I never enter the Thanksgiving season without remembering him, and his atheism.

He participated in all the Thanksgiving family gatherings. While he would politely discuss his unbelief at other times, he always refrained from such discussions during the holidays. But I would see a slight change come over him during these times. It wasn’t anger or irritation I saw… the best I can describe it is a look of loneliness, or perhaps emptiness. This was very uncharacteristic of him at other times.
I once asked my grandmother if grandpa was OK, she replied that the holidays can be difficult for someone “who thinks like your grandpa”. Grandpa’s silent struggle at Thanksgiving actually caused me to think more about God than I normally would on any other occasion. The coldness of God’s absence from his life on days set aside to celebrate His presence moved me. To believe there is no God to thank for all of this seemed so awkward to me, so… empty. All this was going on in the mind of a boy who claimed no religion.
My grandfather’s atheism on Thanksgiving inclined me to sort of let God in… and He did come in… I haven’t spent a Thanksgiving without God in my life for almost forty years. But if my grandchildren ever see a change come over me on Thanksgiving day, it is not an empty loneliness they will see, but sadness at the memory of my Grandfather who never experienced the warmth of a real Thanksgiving. Strangely it was his emptiness that pushed me toward God. God is always at work… even where atheists dwell. And I am thankful.


  1. Good food for thought on Thanksgiving! I'm stuffed and have no desire for the physical now, but this spiritual roll was sweet.

  2. As an atheist, I found this story to be very respectful and it sheds a light on what connects you (as I'm sure many others) with faith in a god. Some times it's easy for me to become angry or upset when I read about Christianity or Islam and the polarization and divisions of humanity. I may not believe in your faith, but I admire your tolerance in this story and I hope that your stances on all things involving humanity are equally tolerant. Have a great day.

  3. Thanks Brian, Although I am not always successful I try to be respectful in all my communication, especially in matters of difference. Thanks for reading and for the comment.



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