It is hard to feel a sense of gratitude for an inanimate, mechanical world proceeding inexorably in accordance with eternal laws of nature and blind chance. And this is a great spiritual loss, for it is through gratitude that we acknowledge the living powers on which our own lives depend; through gratitude we enter into a conscious relationship to them; through gratitude we can find ourselves in a state of grace.
All religions provide opportunities for giving thanks, both through simple everyday rituals, like saying grace before meals, and also in collective acts of thanksgiving. These customary expressions of gratitude help to remind us that we have much to be thankful for. Each religion has its own way of recognizing the living powers on which we all depend and of establishing a relationship to these powers through thanksgiving.
For those for whom traditional religious practices seem empty and meaningless, there are three possibilities: first, to recognize no living power greater than humanity and hence to recognize neither a need for gratitude nor a means of expressing it; second, to feel such gratitude privately but with no means of public expression; third, to find new ways of expressing gratitude collectively and new conception of the life-giving powers to whom thanks are due.
–Rupert Sheldrake, The Rebirth of Nature: The Greening of Science and God, pg 219