It may not be a universal thing, but to paraphrase GK Chesterton, atheists find themselves in a dilemma when they find themselves overflowing with gratitude for existence but having no one to thank for it. if somebody is grateful for something, they are grateful to somebody. Nobody can be grateful to themselves for a gift. Neither can anyone be grateful to the “universe,” because that too is a gift which presupposes a gift giver. Moreover, if somebody thinks that nature is itself is the gift giver, that person is referring to nature as a person, using nature as a euphemism for God. I heard the story of an atheist who cried, “thank you,” out of a surge of wonder and awe over a beautiful sunset – – in that moment she ceased to be an atheist.
Ultimately, everything, all the blessings that we have received come from Almighty God. The next breath we take is a gift. Even the power by which we do good works is a gift – – all is grace. All begins and ends with the grace of God. Grace comes first, God always takes the initiative in reaching out towards us and we respond. He thirsts for our love and so generously makes known the his love towards us; we respond to that love with our love. This is the model for prayer outlined in the Catechism.
This Thanksgiving (and Indeed, every day) I have a lot to be grateful for. Just to be alive, number one. The mercy of God always taking me back even after a relapse (which should be avoided)—And for keeping me from even worse sin, by his grace. His willingness to transforming into an image of his Son. To have a loving family and friends who support me and make life more pleasant. The list goes on, this is just the beginning. I think of the New York Times best-selling book, “One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are” by Ann Voscamp, in which the author makes such a a list.
In short, gratitude makes us happier. We have an innate desire to give thanks. It is right and just that we do so. Where is this gratitude to be directed if, ultimately, not to God?