Gratitude to Nobody

Question from Alexis:
Who do you thank for all of your good fortunes?

Answer by SmartLX:
If someone is actually responsible for something good that happens to me, I try to thank that person or those people, preferably where they can hear me. If not, I don’t thank anyone, because at the risk of stating the obvious I don’t think there’s anyone to thank.

That’s not to say that I don’t feel some sense of gratitude when I’m lucky, and some sense of being hard done by when I’m unlucky. I think we all do. This is most likely because we’re human, and we have such a keen sense of justice and fairness that we subconsciously review our dealings with the natural world the same way we evaluate whether we got a good deal trading sports cards. It’s a lot like how we see faces in clouds and other random patterns because we look so hard for real faces in everyday life; our instincts work overtime in a harmless but very interesting way.

To me, the more interesting question is to believers: who do you blame for your bad fortune? Yourself and other humans for being flawed and sinful, the Devil (or equivalent) for working against God’s plan or God himself for making you flawed and sinful and/or allowing the Devil to work unchecked as part of His arbitrary plan? The answer says a lot about someone’s personal theology.

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.