After the Thanksgiving holiday is over and the peace-inducing triptothane chemicals from the turkey have worn off, hopefully you are reflecting on some heart-warming times with family and friends. Being thankful is good for our bodies and minds, so good that it's worth adopting a thankful lifestyle for health reasons alone. Even so, what the scientific studies reveal are some deeper implications that reality, in all its facets, has an underlying order and that order points to God's existence.
A study by Duke University's Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy has shown a scientific connection between being thankful and enjoying significant mental and physical health benefits. Dr. Doraiswamy, head of the division of biologic psychology at Duke University Medical Center, stated, "If [thankfulness] were a drug, it would be the world's best-selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system." A second study, as published in the Navy Times November 25, 2011, shows that personal guilt from wrong moral choices leads to very serious health problems: "A leading cause of post-traumatic stress disorder is guilt that troops experience due to moral dilemmas faced in combat, according to preliminary findings of a study of active-duty Marines." The first study offers evidenced that there are extreme health benefits for something so simple as being thankful. The second study offers that there are serious negative side effects from moral errors, such as serious combat mistakes, that is, killing innocent civilians. In both the positive example and the negative one, there is the implication that an underlying objective moral order exists.The following thanksgiving apologetic is based on evidence showing that a cause-effect relationship exists between moral decisions and health. The simple decision to be thankful has both profound health affects and profound meaning. It underscores the reality of objective morality and God's existence.
A Thanksgiving Apologetic
1. In society, not offering thanks when someone does something special for you is considered wrong.
2. Questions of right and wrong are moral questions.
3. Therefore, giving thanks in society generally has a moral basis.
1. For atheists, values and moral decisions do not have an absolute, objective basis.
2. Giving thanks and feeling guilt relate to values and moral decisions.
3. Therefore, health effects from values and moral decisions do not have an objective basis for atheists.
1. For theists, values and moral decisions have an absolute, objective basis in God's existence.
2. Giving thanks and feeling guilt relate to values and moral decisions.
3. Therefore, health effects from values and moral decisions have an objective basis for theists.
1. Proven health benefits for thankfulness and negative results for moral guilt imply a cause-effect relationship exists between moral behavior and health.
2. Theism has an objective basis for values and moral behavior and the positive cause-effect relationship between morality and health, while atheism does not.
3. Therefore, God's existence and Theism as a true condition offer the best explanation for the scientific test results on thankfulness, morality and health.
Part I. In the day-to-day workings of society, people generally expect to hear the words "Thank you" when they do something special for someone else free of charge. This is a question of of politeness and manners, but also a question of morality. We know this because people intuitively sense it is wrong to receive sacrifices from other people without offering a word of thanks. There are different degrees of being thankful. You can have a general thankful attitude about life and you can offer specific thanks to specific people for specific reasons. The more specific you are, the more meaningful your expression of thankfulness is. If someone gives a gift and there is no sign of thankfulness whatsoever, this would register at the bottom end of the scale. If someone received a gift and the person was thankful, but did not express thanks specifically to the giver, this would be in the middle of the scale. If a person received a gift and expressed thanks to the giver for that specific gift, even describing how it helped him or her and the feelings it gave, this would be the highest expression of thanks. By simply being thankful for your existence you are mildly participating in the divine moral order of the universe and you will reap some health benefits.
Part II. Most atheist philosophers believe there is no universal objective basis for morality. Those who have attempted to prove that there is an objective basis without God's existence have not presented any notable examples that have held up to the scrutiny of debate. After I critiqued Erik Wielenberg's argument for atheistic objective morality, one of the atheists who debates at my blog seemed to abandon the possibility of objective atheist morality altogether. Wielenberg has not responded to my requests to address that critique.
|A note of personal thanks.*|
Secondly, people who meditate on the idea of thankfulness as a New Age technique imply that there may be a certain mystical reciprocity in the Universe. But is this mystical sense logical? Does it really make sense to thank abstract forces and laws that cannot acknowledge our thanks? Would you thank a wall each day for holding up your house?
Thirdly, to simply be thankful for life, without thanking a force or anyone or anything in particular, becomes a bit self-centered after a while. For example, a person could mediate and think, "I am thankful for life...I am thankful for love...I am thankful for the snow, and so on." But because there is no personal focus or object to give thanks to, the focus automatically shifts back to the subject, which is the continuous "I" who becomes the main emphasis simply by default.
While at first thought it may seem that selfishness brings happiness, the opposite is shown to be true. There have been studies showing people with a lot of money tend to be happier, but the studies generally don't ask what the people actually do with their large incomes. A study that was more specific showed that people who are generous and not selfish with their money are much more likely to be happy. Again, these types of results help to show that an atheism-evolution paradigm is out of sinc with reality. These results support the principle outlined by Christ: "It's better to give than to receive." According to these examples there is no compelling reason why being thankful should have exceeding and significant health benefits for atheists. Though there is no objective, logical basis for practicing this lifestyle for atheists, in participating in thankful meditations atheists can participate somewhat in the spiritual principles of life outlined by Christ and the scriptures.
Part III. In accordance with Theism, there is a logical sense of duty to acknowledge and thank the Creator for the incredible world we live in. Imagine an architect designing a house and managing the construction only to find the client move in and say. "I'm not going to pay you because you did not do any real work, you just had some ideas and that's about it. The construction workers did all the work." Under the circumstances, there would probably be a lawsuit. In a similar manner, people tend to short-change the greatest designer of all. People see and acknowledge the incredible designs in nature and the fine tuning of the universe perfectly suited for life and yet say "There is no reason for a designer, the laws of physics and natural selection have done all the work." Atheists will acknowledge, however, that natural selection technically can begin only after biological life has begun, and there is no definitive explanation as to how the complex designs of molecular bonding and the first DNA or RNA-like information units could have possibly come into existence. Nevertheless, there is an insistence that an Intelligent Designer is out of the question.
|Good design doesn't 'just happen'.*|
Part IV. Scientific tests show that being thankful is exceedingly healthy and breaking moral principles is exceedingly unhealthy, no matter if the actions are big or small. This implies there is a strong cause-effect relationship that exists between moral behavior and health. Theism offers an objective basis for moral behavior and strong reasons for the positive cause-effect relationship between morality and health, while Atheism does not offer compelling reasons for these benefits. According to these observations, Theism offers a better explanation of reality. Gallup polls have shown that people who are highly religious are the healthiest and happiest people group of all. This tends to confirm the logical argument here.
There is a subtle irony in that objective morality only exists if God exists, yet we can only approach God by faith because God is spiritual and we cannot see God. This principle was exemplified by the account of Cain and Abel. Cain's offering of thanks to God was rejected because he did not offer it by faith. Hebrews 11:4 states, "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain." The logic of giving thanks is ultimately based on acknowledging that life has meaning and purpose because God exists. Giving thanks with sincerity is ultimately an act of faith. The moral order of the universe is based on the spiritual order of the universe, the spiritual foundation of reality. In a previous article I showed how there is a logical and spiritual order underlying the universe that atheists cannot assume due to discoveries in quantum physics. Theists can assume this logical order because our identities are ultimately spiritual, not physical.
Nature itself testifies of God's existence as the Designer and when we refuse to thank God we are out of step with this obvious reality. If it looks like a design and functions like a design, then it probably is a design. Atheism has to be learned through indoctrination, and, unfortunately, that is precisely what the public schools are doing today. Richard Dawkins acknowledged the obvious appearance of design in the very beginning of his book, The Blind Watchmaker, “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” He clarifies this thought: “We may say that a living body or organ is well designed if it has attributes that an intelligent and knowledgeable engineer might have built into it in order to achieve some sensible purpose… any engineer can recognize an object that has been designed, even poorly designed, for a purpose, and he can usually work out what that purpose is just by looking at the structure of the object.” In his book, Dawkins ultimately appeals to "little flights of fancy" for the origin of life, as outlined in a critique by Dallas Willard. In his book, The Origin of the Species, Darwin referred to divine agency for the origin of life: "There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one..." and in the 6th edition Darwin specifically referred to the creator as the generator of life: “…having been originally breathed by the creator into a few forms or into one..." Though technically he called himself an agnostic due to his wavering faith, Darwin apparently did not see a way around divine agency as a means for the first impulse of life. Thus, if Darwin had been feeling a strong period of faith in his life and he happened to have been sitting at your table during the recent Thanksgiving Day celebration, it is highly that Darwin could have said the prayer of thanks for the Thanksgiving meal.
|True Thanksgiving history is discussed in a Ukrainian school.*|
In my Thanksgiving presentation, I described the optimism of the group that celebrated the Thanksgiving Day holiday in 1621. After 47 people had died from the General Sickness of the first winter (1620-21), the survivors were still thankful to be alive. There can be a sense of optimism and thankfulness in all circumstances because the more we understand who God is and what God has done, the more we understand that we have a good future in our relationship with God. Our ultimate reality, if we repent and receive Christ's atonement, is to experience God's peace and presence for eternity. And we realize that whatever God allows to happen in our lives will ultimately be used for a good purpose. If you meditate upon these things as a believer you will be encouraged. If, however, the underlying truth you base your life upon ultimately rests upon subjective speculation and "little flights of fancy", as is the case with Richard Dawkins, there probably won't be a strong sense of confidence or hope in your life, and quite a bit of logical confusion. The central truth of life is the evidence and logically cohesive truth of God's existence, and this truth will set you free, as outlined in John 8.32.
The ABC News article covering the wonderful health benefits of giving thanks was published on November 23, 2011, the day before the US Thanksgiving holiday. In the entire article there was no mention of the theist God who was the central focus of the first Thanksgiving holiday. Instead, after a brief pause, the article automatically transitioned into into a video clip about meditation techniques. While I appreciate the factual information in Mikaela Conly's ABC News article, it was unnecessary to censor-out the central focus and the primary meaning of giving thanks during the First Thanksgiving celebration. What we choose to focus on in our lives will tend to make a big difference. The philosophical basis of giving thanks is as important, if not more so, as the psychology and physiology of giving thanks. It's never healthy to obsess about food and to eat too much. It's always healthy to focus on the giver of all good things and to be thankful.
 ABC News, Thankfulness Linked to Positive Changes in Brain and Body
 Navy Times, Guilt a top cause of PTSD, study shows
 Templestream, A Moral Argument as Proof of God’s Existence
 Templestream, Dawkins-Craig Debate, Genocide, Israel's Occupation of Palestine (http://templestream.blogspot.com/2011/10/dawkins-craig-debate-genocide-israels.html)
 Journal Watch, Giving Brings Happiness, (http://general-medicine.jwatch.org/cgi/content/long/2008/527/4)
 Templestream, Gallup Polls Highlight Happiness, Health and Logic in Spirituality, (http://templestream.blogspot.com/2010/12/gallup-polls-highlight-happiness-health.html)
 Templestream, How Identity, Logic and Physics Prove God's Existence
 Dawkins, Richard, The Blind Watchmaker, 1996, p. 1 (http://www.creationism.org/heinze/AppearanceOfDesign.htm)
 Ibid p. 21. (http://www.creationism.org/heinze/AppearanceOfDesign.htm)
 Willard Dallas Reflections on Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker (p. 155 in Watchmaker)
 Darwin, Charles, The Origin of Species, Chapter 14 final paragraph, (http://www.literature.org/authors/darwin-charles/the-origin-of-species/chapter-14.html)
 Darwin, Charles, The Origin of Species, 6th Edition, Chapter 15 final paragraph. (http://www.literature.org/authors/darwin-charles/the-origin-of-species-6th-edition/chapter-15.html)
 Darwin Correspondence Project, Darwin to John Fordyce (http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/entry-12041) Darwin's letter to John Fordyce, 7 May, 1897: "It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent Theist & an evolutionist. ...In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God.— I think that generally (& more and more so as I grow older) but not always, that an agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind."
Image of Christ giving thanks is a reinterpretation based on William Kurelek's mural on the wall of the chapel of St. Thomas More College in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. William Kurelek was a self-taught Ukrainian painter of the Canadian prairies.
*Credit for photo of thank-you card to Hellojenuine at Flickr Creative Commons.
*Seattle architecture, sales profile.
*Photo of class by Olga Warden, November 24, 2011.
How Identity, Logic and Physics Prove God's Existence