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By Diogenes (bio - articles ) | Nov 28, 2005

This story ran in the NYT last Thursday. So where do you direct your gratitude on Thanksgiving Day, when you don't believe there's Anyone to thank?

If almost half of all Americans say grace in their daily lives, as a Gallup poll found in 1999, that means half do not. So for those who say grace only as often as they gather around a turkey, deciding what -- if anything -- to say is always a challenge.

"I never say grace during the year," said Henry Wenzel, a software designer in Lenox, Mass. "My father always said grace at Thanksgiving; now that he's gone there's always a moment of terror when I remember that I am the head of the family and it's my job."

You can be intransitively happy, I guess, but you can't be intransitively thankful. If you see your endowments as blessings, as opposed to dumb luck, then you have to cast around for a Bestower to whom your "grace" is addressed. No wonder panic sets in when the addressee line comes up blank.

Some families struggle with religious differences, others with religious indifference. And in a year that has been marked by war and natural disaster, the simple task of giving thanks may be more complicated. Yet saying grace remains the most significant remainder of Thanksgiving's religious roots.

The Pilgrim's religion had religious roots? Astonishing. Well folks, we soon fixed that:

"I tried one year to have everyone just go around the table and say something they were grateful for," said Caitlin Rosenberg, who grew up in Buffalo. "But it started a fight about who exactly they were grateful to, and one of my cousins said he was most grateful for Jim Kelly" -- the former Buffalo Bills quarterback -- "and my uncle started talking about the Big Bang, and I was so mad that I left."

Surely some mistake here. We all know it's religion that's divisive, and therefore the absence of religion must conduce to tranquillity, harmony, and respect for diversity. At least until the stuffing is served.

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