It’s common practice in the United States for families to gather on Thanksgiving and, as part of their dinner ritual, go around the table and name some of the things that they are thankful for in their lives. This isn’t a bad ritual: it is important to spend time appreciating the goodness in one’s life.
I listen to the answers of friends and family as they take turns around the table. Some are thankful for health, some are thankful for material prosperity, still others are thankful for close emotional ties and love between friends and family.
But my heart begins to pound as the turn-taking approaches me, because all I can hear in my mind is a loud voice screaming, “Who, exactly, am I thanking?”
As a Satanist, I don’t believe in God, so I certainly am not thanking it. I also don’t believe in Satan, either, and although it would be funny and mischievous to thank Satan at the family Thanksgiving dinner table, I want to participate in this ritual in solemn good faith.
So what can I say I’m thankful for, and still be honest to my Satanic beliefs?
I am certainly pleased that I have good health, financial stability, and loved ones with whom to share the holidays. But these are not things that were “given” to me, they are things that I worked for or that were put upon me by circumstance and luck, or (in most cases) a combination of both of those things. But whom would I thank?
I am certainly appreciative of the positive aspects of my life. But is that the same as being “thankful”? I’m honestly not sure. I suppose I could cast “thanks” in a more abstract way, and simply state that I am thanking circumstances or “the universe”. But part of me is uncomfortable with that: it seems to deviate from common parlance, and do damage to the way “thanks” is normally understood. Usually you would “thank” a willful agent, a conscious entity. You don’t normally “thank” inanimate things.
To me, it makes no sense to say I’m “thankful” of these things.
Which is fine as philosophy; however, the unstoppable procession of answers that moves around the Thanksgiving table has almost reached me. What do I say?
So I turn the question on its head. Instead of asking, “What am I thankful for?” I ask myself, “Whom should I thank?” Suddenly, the answer becomes much easier.
My turn arrives. “What are you thankful for?”
“I’d like to thank all of you for having me over today,” I say, “And for such amazing food and good company! I’d like to thank my partner and the love of my life for being there for me, encouraging me, and caring about me. I’d like to thank all of the people I work with on a day to day basis, whether at my job or any of the other communities I’m a part of, for helping me to be happy and creative and productive as I strive to reach my goals and make my community a better place. I thank all of you for being part of my life, and contributing to my experiencing a journey in life that is happy and healthy and free.”
I smile. Everyone around the table approves.
And I whisper silently, under my breath, “….hail Satan.”