Thank Who?

Question from Omar:
Hello there, I find myself in a little situation and I’m here asking for your help. I’m an atheist, been for a long time now and as of late I’ve noticed that I can’t find and expression that substitutes the so famous thank God. It’s not such a big issue as you may notice it’s just that it’s really frustrating not being able to come up with a new phrase.
People ask me how I’m doing and when I answer I would like to have the opportunity to say something like “I’m fine thank ….” Obviously not God because that would be a huge lie on my behalf and I could not forgive myself.

So the thing is I’d like to ask you what phrase do you use or heard being used if that’s the case.

Thanks in advance.

Answer by SmartLX:
The language lingers long after the belief has gone, doesn’t it? From personal examples like this to the days of the week named after Norse gods, the lexicon is constantly influenced by passing religions.

I often say “…thank crap” just because it sounds kind of funny. Here in Australia I know several people who say “…thank f**k” because they’ll use any excuse to throw in the f-word. Others in my circle are just happy with “…thank God” or “…thank Christ”. If people are feeling particularly mild, they’ll dig out the ancient bowdlerism “…thank goodness”. An atheist in an activist mood can even make a point of using an obsolete god:
“Thank Zeus!”
“Zeus? Why Zeus?”
“Well, why God?”

Gratitude for the workings of the universe is essentially a theistic idea, and as baseless as any other theistic idea if there’s apparently no deity in control of our destiny, so thanks aren’t appropriate except in the straightforward cause-and-effect sense, e.g. “I’m fine, thanks to that bucket of water that was right next to the stove.”

Without thanks, what you have available are simpler statements like, “I’m fine, luckily/fortunately/so far/touch wood.” Or you can just stop short and give the gratitude to the person who asked you how you are: “I’m fine, thanks.”

You’ve got lots of options, and they’re not limited to the above. Take your pick.

2 thoughts on “Thank Who?”

  1. I tend to say “thank goodness” or “thank randomness” depending on my mood.
    I reserve “thank god” for people who I know are religious and are expecting a curtsy to a deity. Not too keen on imposing my self on such people, unless I’m in a mood for fomenting trouble (in which case I usually thank chance or randomness or the normal distribution)

  2. After I finished this answer, I found a speech by Richard Dawkins at the 2010 Global Atheist Convention in Australia. Towards the end of it, he confronted the fact that he and other atheists regularly express gratitude for such things as their own existence and good fortune. This may be because some apologists had implied that it meant he had to be thanking some sort of god (example quoted here on his site).

    His explanation: the feeling of gratitude may be a by-product of the mental “debt calculator” we’ve evolved to maintain fairness and reciprocity in social groups. It’s nothing to be confused about as an atheist, because it’s just part of being the social animals humans are.

    This is a transcript of that part of his speech. The speech itself and the following Q&A session are on YouTube (in one piece, amazingly).

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