Blessed, Thankful, and Grateful: Three Words I Refuse to Surrender to Christians

god is my strengthEvangelicals use all sorts of words to describe various aspects of their religion; words such as saved, faith, salvation, grace, redemption, and spirit, to name a few. When unbelievers use these words in other than Evangelical ways, Christians object, saying that these words are theirs; that they have specific meanings and no other meanings are permitted. Never mind what the dictionary says. These words must always be defined according to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.

Blessed, thankful, and grateful are three words that Evangelicals think belong only to them. However, I refuse to surrender these words to Fundamentalists. Every day, I am blessed, thankful, and grateful to be alive. I am blessed to be married to Polly, and I am double-blessed to have six wonderful children and eleven grandchildren. I am grateful my car started today, despite below-zero temperatures. I am thankful that I can still coherently and thoughtfully write for this blog. Every day I am above ground, I have much to be thankful for, all without the need of mentioning the name of the Christian God.

Therein lies the problem for Evangelicals. They cannot conceive a life of thankfulness and gratefulness without God. Why does the use of these words require a deity? Unlike the Alabama and Georgia football players last night who repeatedly gave God credit for their wins, I choose to express thankfulness and gratefulness to the people who actually do the work. When I sat down today to each a lunch of pork chops, roasted red potatoes, and Brussel sprouts, I didn’t bow my head and thank Jesus for the food. I thanked Polly, the person who labored in the kitchen to prepare this scrumptious meal. The car Polly takes to work wouldn’t start today, resulting in me doing a fair bit of cussing and complaining. Once I got that out of my system, Polly contacted our mechanic son and asked if he could get a battery and install it for us. He gladly said yes, even though at that moment he had four cars up on lifts at the shop and had been installing new batteries all day long. After working ten hours, our son came to our house and by flashlight installed a new battery. I am grateful that he had the skill and time to do it. Who did I thank for our son’s labor? The Christian God? Of course not. He’s never fixed a car for me — ever. I thanked Jaime for taking care of the old folks. He did the work and he alone deserves the praise.

When I use the word blessed, I don’t mean it the same way Evangelicals do. Christians wrongly think that all blessing comes from God. Countless Evangelicals grew up singing The Doxology:

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; Praise Him, all creatures here below; Praise Him above, ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

Told over and over that all blessings come from the God who supposedly has the whole world and itty, bitty babies in his hands, Evangelicals become confused when atheists such as myself tell them to have a blessed day or a blessed New Year. They often ask me blessed by whom. I reply that I used the word “blessed” to mean good or happy and that goodness and happiness do not require a God. Billions of good people walk the face of this earth who don’t know or worship the Evangelical God. Billions more live lives filled with love, joy, peace, and happiness, all without giving a tip of the cap to God.

Of course, Evangelicals turn to the Bible for proof that everything we have in life comes from the hands of the Christian God. Verse after verse tells them that it is God who gives the strength and ability to do what they do in life, and that without God they can do n-o-t-h-i-n-g. Of course, when a snarky atheist such as myself says, fine and asks does this mean that God is also responsible for all the bad that happens in the world? Evangelicals are quick to say, oh no, it is we humans who are totally responsible for bad behaviors — thus showing the inconsistency of their worldview.

We humans are responsible for most of what happens on planet earth. Good things and bad things alike flow from our minds and hands. Sure, there’s not much we can do about the weather, but outside of that we (or other humans) are pretty much in control of what happens in our lives. There’s no need for any of us to invoke the name of God. Give credit to whom credit is due, and do the same with blame. My children will tell you that one of the things I drilled into their heads was personal responsibility. YOU are responsible for your behavior. It is YOU who are in control of your actions.  My grandchildren are now “blessed” to get this same instruction from their grandfather. When one of them says, I can’t find my shoe/sock/coat/barrette/toy, they know I am going to say, who had it last? 

I hope you have been blessed by what I have written in this post. If you have, please express gratitude or thankfulness to whomever wrote it. If you think God typed this post, by all means, thank him. If, however, you are a person of reason and common sense, feel to thank the author and finisher of this awesome piece of prose — yours trulythe Pope of Ney, Ohio.

I hope each of you have a blessed day. Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I am grateful for your continued support. And just think, I wrote those three sentences sans God. I can’t think of one thing I have done today that required God. Blasphemy? Yep! My New Year’s resolution? Blaspheme more, giving all praise, honor, and glory to the gods of skepticism and reason.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

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  1. kittybrat

    Indeed! I’m also grateful, thankful, and blessed… No ceding these words, thank you! I can be fantastically grateful without gods.

  2. Neil

    Christians don’t seem to understand the difference between being thankful and grateful TO and being thankful and grateful FOR. There is, as you say Bruce, much in life to be grateful FOR without any need to direct this gratefulness TO any mythical being.

  3. Lynn123

    Thank you, Your Lordship! And good luck with your resolutions; I made some too.

  4. Brian

    I thank the Pope of Ney and do so most days as I am blessed to read a few words of reason and of the wisdom built on attention paid to time passing. People seek the extreme relief of sweet baby Jesus because they have suffered in their humanity. They have been sick, had their hearts broken, been the subject of harmful parenting, lack of any parenting sometimes, and all sorts of suffering. They come to Christ knowing that they suffer deeply and feel a victim. Evangelicals lie to them and tell them that Jesus fixes everything and will put them on the meaningful path of suffering and joy in Him. They must only say the sinner’s prayer and turn to Christ, give up an evil, hurting self and fall into Jesus’ arms.
    It is the big lie that we seek in droves, not the reasonable truth and we do it because we have been disconnected from our natural selves through trauma. In the disconnect, we seek relief for our loss of self and turn to all kinds of addictions, all kinds of prescriptions but the simple conundrum is that we are not able to give ourselves the love we were denied or that evaded us via traumatic experience in life.
    The life of thankfulness, of human peace and joy is a byproduct of self-care, very basic self-care. Evil evangelicalism will tell you the opposite, that the self is fallen and evil. They want you to hate the hurt self, the damage done and to join the minions of the Lord who pass Kool-Aid to one another with a smile, This do in remembrance of me.
    I have reconnected with the Me through good luck, the sun rising most days and some therapies that allowed me to open my heart. I have paid the price. This do in remembrance of me, is something I say to remind myself of the old days of denial and suffering, of tearing my nails off to the quick for Jesus, in the half-life of faith. I am so thankful to be free of it all, dear Pope of Ney and so grateful that you are brave and true, You have faced (well, begun to face ;-)) your very trying upbringing and allow it to be without Christian mustard and relish on it and for that I admire you much, oh Pope of Ney.
    This year, I lost my old mom and dad and had an accident that set me back a ways but your blog has been a blessing through it all.
    I like that you continue to reclaim yourself, blessed Pope, and wish you, Polly and the extended family a full set of lungs in the New Year and good health to shout and sing and preach the good word of reconnection, of full humanity.
    (Also, to my blog-others here, my best wishes. Your comments are part of my challenge and joy here at the blog. A wonderful 2018 to you all.)
    And to your POTUS, Donald Trump, I offer the words of our Margaret Atwood in a poem from ( I think) Power Politics;
    “Please die, so I can write about it.”

    1. Rebecca

      Brian, every good thing, peace, joy, and healing for the New Year.

    2. Becky Wiren

      Brian, I’m so sorry you had an accident. Hope you heal fully.

      I think I knew I was on my way out of Christianity and my specific church when I realized I couldn’t heal from a specific problem while being a Christian. I had an eating disorder for around 20 years, ending around 20 years ago. But the messages I got at church made it harder to deal with the problem emotionally/mentally.

      I never went back, and my problem has been in abeyance for many years. (I would say I’m cured except that great stress can cause great problems to come back.) Funny how healing didn’t run through the Christian church, except it’s not funny. Peace be unto you, Brian!

  5. ObstacleChick

    Bruce, thank you for your blog! It’s always a joy to read.

    You are right, we should not allow these fundamentalists to corner the market on words. In our house of agnostic atheists on Thanksgiving, we take turns mentioning what we are thankful for – and that just means we are happy about X, Y, Z, without attributing it to any sort of supernatural powers. Sometimes we are thankful for things that others have done, or things we are able to do, and sometimes we are thankful for health or for having certain people or pets in our lives. We don’t say a “blessing” at mealtimes but we do thank the person/people who prepared the meal.

    We were a bit taken aback at Christmas when my mother-in-law wanted to say a blessing at the meal. We haven’t expressly told her we are atheists, but I think she suspects and this is her way of trying to influence us back into the fold. We let her because it doesn’t hurt us if she wants to thank her deity, but we don’t bow our heads or close our eyes – we just sit in silence and let her say her words. We are thankful, grateful, and blessed, but not because of a deity.

  6. Karen the rock whisperer

    Many thanks, Your Holiness (isn’t that the way one addresses a pope?) for all your wonderful writing.

  7. Karen the rock whisperer

    Thinking more about this, I have to admit I like the word “blessing”. It implies a good thing that comes to someone. Sometimes family or friends can provide blessings. Sometimes fate, or circumstance, or luck, or the universe provide blessings. The ones from the humans (and nonhuman friends, like pets) are often, but not always, intended. But I have a need to be grateful for the good things in my life, even if they come about because of things out of my and other people’s control. Gratitude is a powerful state of mind. It elevates the good in life above the bad in life. It reduces arrogance and reminds on of the interconnectedness of the people and forces of the world. It makes us better humans, in general. So I appreciate and acknowledge blessings, even though none of them come from supernatural sources.

    1. Rebecca

      Karen, I agree that a positive attitude and gratefulness toward life is essential, and definitely impacts a person’s state of mind even if none of this comes from supernatural sources in someone’s thinking.

      There is a huge difference between viewing the glass half empty or half full, so to speak. How we think definitely impacts our emotions.

      However, I think this can be extremely tough when people are facing very difficult circumstances.

      .I’m part of my church’s visitation/care team, so yesterday I visited one of my folks in a local nursing home. I could not believe this older woman’s kind and positive spirit. Here she is with severe heart failure, on oxygen, with all kinds of problems, and still has this open, and grateful attitude/spirit toward life. I don’t know that in her circumstances, I would do half as well.

      It was a humbling experience.


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