Most are thankful to God. I am thankful to man — specifically, to those individuals who (over the centuries) have created the countless things I need for survival and enjoyment: automobiles, plumbing, mass produced food, medicine, electricity, computers, televisions … the list is endless. I know who many of those inventors are, and I can see, feel and enjoy the benefits of their inventions in my daily life. There are many inventors whom I don’t know about — some of them unsung heroes who never obtained the credit they deserve — but whose contributions to the wealth and comfort around me are evident all the same.
Most feel that the proper expression of thanks is faith — in what is not exactly clear, just “faith” in some unknown and never-named source or entity. My expression of thanks is expressed through something entirely different: reverence for reason.
Reason represents the best of the human spirit. It is a capacity that virtually all human beings possess to one degree or another. Yet it can only be exercised through choice. The computer I type on now, the lights which illuminate my office, the health I enjoy — all of these came into existence because of countless choices made by different individuals at different times in history (coupled with many of my own choices, and the choices of those close to me). From Thomas Edison to the less well-known heroes (in business) who market and distribute products in our (semi-) capitalistic system — I am grateful and thankful to them all. I am thankful not that they exercised faith or went to church or worshipped a mystical entity — or spent a few hours at a soup kitchen, feeding the homeless — but rather that they chose to use their intellects in a way from which I (and many others) could benefit.
Life — and all that life has to offer — is the ultimate reward of goodness. Goodness enhances life; it does not destroy or take away from it. Anything or anyone who contributes to life — my life, your life, or life in general — deserves thanks. I understand that my benefit was not their goal — instead, their work and its rewards were their goals. Their quest for financial and/or intellectual profit was, quite properly, their goal. I like it when people are selfish in this sense. The more selfishness people possess, the more (in the exercise of that self-interest) they create and produce. That’s the means through which the world becomes a better place.
I look around my office, around the country, around the world, and I see the best and the worst of mankind. I wonder if at any time in history we have seen the presence of such heroic genius and unspeakable evil on one and the same planet. I feel love and gratitude when I look at the benefits of rational, productive, and capitalistic civilization. I despise only those who seek to destroy it. My enemy is the last person I would ever love; I only seek his annihilation — from my presence, if he’s not violent, and from existence, if he is.
I don’t want to live in a world with more humility, more “compassion,” or more faith. The platitudes most of us will hear today are unbearable. I will not turn on the television and listen to the Pope, the President, or the local homeless shelter manager preach them. This is why I offer you the opposite message: I want to live in a world with much less faith, humility and selflessness, and much more reason, productivity, and quest for profit (material, intellectual, or both). Let reason, freedom, and material prosperity flourish — and the rest will follow.
If only others shared these ideals, how different the world would be. How much our enemies would fear us, rather than spit upon and seek to destroy us.
Nevertheless, I am delighted and grateful that I live in a world where reason and capitalism and rational self-interest have gained as much ground as they have. For this I am indeed thankful — though only to those who, through their own choices, helped make it possible.