Dangerous thought #7, “Love Does Not Require a God”

rogers
IS LOVE POSSIBLE WITHOUT GOD?
ABSOLUTELY.

I did not choose to become an Atheist.
It just happened.

But in that Godless void, I felt a powerful need to rebuild my beliefs from the ground up. Rather than fashion a new religion to replace the old one, I sought more reliable information and evidence.

And then I spotted this photo by Jim Judkis of the great Fred Rogers and a little boy
and I felt a little lost. I had a soft spot for Mr. Rogers. And there is such love in this picture. It is especially beautiful.

An Atheist sees the world without god glasses. And even something like ‘love’ looks different.

And when I stumbled upon the photograph it broke my heart. Instead of being inspired by its beautiful message, I felt left out. And I wanted to understand why.

It challenged me because I recognized this photo as a ‘religious’ moment – I had no better term – and it was stirring something in me. Their gaze toward each other was an expression of the purest love. I thought, “This is what life is about. Even for an Atheist.
I must have that pure love and joy in my life.”

I knew that Fred Rogers was a devoted Christian, a Presbyterian Minister – and this forced me to think. Was a God’s love present in that photo? Am I denying something beautiful and obvious in plain view?

I wondered if I could ever experience that ‘religious-like’ love again.

Fred Rogers might have said, “Dear Atheist, such love is what God is all about. Accept it.”
He might have advised me that praying to God is the only way to align the mind to receive and give such love. It seemed to work for him, after all.

It is a tempting argument. To a point.
If true, it would be a real problem for me as an Atheist.

Mr. Rogers was a wonderful example of decency and humanity.

To my mind, he was the best advertisement Christianity ever had
on Television: loving, generous, inclusive, patient, gentle, willing to give something of himself for the benefit of children – he was the embodiment of the best version of Jesus ever described; the Prebyterian Jesus. What kind-hearted person could reject this?

First, I wondered, does his example validate Jesus? Could it convince me to become Christian again? No. It did not rekindle my belief in a god. I had already done that analysis.

Second, I realized that I do not reject how Fred values the Jesus he believed in.
I cannot believe Jesus is real – but I don’t reject the values of love which Fred saw in Jesus.

So I wondered what to do.

Must I fake a belief in an imaginary, Divine, loving Jesus in order to have love?
I had not ruled it out. But I had already examined which Jesus might be the TRUE Jesus and found none which I could believe in. And picking Presbyterian Jesus for these emotional reasons wouldn’t be honest.

IS PRAYER NECESSARY
FOR SUSTAINING A LOVING OUTLOOK? 

So I was still a bit stuck. I needed to look at this another way.

What I see in the photo as love might really just be complete happiness. I know that doing good deeds for others makes me happy. The subject of prayer comes to mind.

Religion offers a way to do the easiest good deed of all – to pray for good things to happen to others. This creates a framework, an excuse, (though ineffective as a deed to the recipient) to believe that one is actually doing good when one prays for someone else.

Though I’m quite sure prayer does nothing else –  it may be good for imagining that one is successfully accomplishing a kind deed. In that limited way, prayer can lead to a happier state of mind for the person doing the praying.

But Atheists have lost that fundamental belief. Praying won’t work for us. There is nothing to pray to.

Atheism can meditate. But Atheism (by itself) prompts no injunction to wish others well, no command to express love in the mind’s eye – as it were. It is an interesting observation.

For that reason among others, Atheism by itself is not enough.
Of course, beliefs about Gods don’t always lead to love, either. The believer, like the Atheist, must decide to be loving. And in this little thought I discovered a big message.

“YOU ALWAYS HAD A HEART” – The Wizard of Oz

So I reasoned a simple answer and it works perfectly. The prompt was always there!

My desire for this love as expressed in the photo must have been given to me by Evolution.
In other words, my desire for this joy which I see so clearly in the photograph is already within me along with other traits which are non-god designed; my fingers, toes, emotions, lusts, etc.

It was there all along.
Like when the Wizard of Oz said to the Tin Man, “you always had a heart.”

So my drive for love is not evidence of a god. It apparently exists regardless of which, if any, gods are real and whether I believe in them or not.
This natural desire to want love and to give love is already within me. It was there when I saw the photo and it will be with me always.

All I have to do is act on it. It is in my own hands.

GOOD WITHOUT GOD

I’m grateful to know these Evolutionary traits are the source of my desires. I now have an understanding of this drive to love and be loved – and it is based on Evolutionary evidence and not supernatural claims.

Furthermore, I can thank Evolution without apology – as I can rest easy that my search for love is natural way and more reliable than actively “faithing myself” to behave a certain way because of a god.

Finally, my desire to be as patient and loving as Mr. Rogers
isn’t evidence that God exists or that Jesus was ever required.
Instead, it is proof that love exists and will be an important part of my life whether there is a god or not.

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About Atheist Max

I'm a former Christian who became Atheist in middle age. My blog is a journal of how I lost religion and discovered a better life. For Peace, Civility and the Separation of Church and State
This entry was posted in agnostic, Atheism, godless, love, Nonbelief, Positive Atheism, religion, unbelief and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Dangerous thought #7, “Love Does Not Require a God”

  1. nuclearkumquat says:

    I’d first like to clarify that I by no means believe that an atheist is incapable of being morally upright and loving. I would like to point out, however, that the definition of love that atheism leads to may not quite be the one you’re experiencing in the photo and are looking for. In atheistic views, a human organism has no soul. Thoughts, feelings, and memories are no more than a firing of neurons in the brain and a series of chemical reactions throughout the body. That is to say, “love” is not really what you’re setting it up to be. It is (by evolutionary reasoning) no more than a natural process of chemical reactions that occurs due to psychological perks granted by the other party. So when you say “I love you mom” what you really mean is “Mom, you’ve taken care of me and granted me numerous benefits such as shelter, protection, and nourishment. It is for these reasons that my body as released a chemical that forces me to experience pleasure in your presence, as an incentive to make me stick around and continue experiencing these benefits.” When you would tell your child “I love you” it is only because evolutionary processes have formed you in such a way that you want to pass on your genetic materials. Because it is evolutionally good to spread these genes and because evolution has developed this method of doing so, your body provides incentive through the use of various “feel-good” chemicals to continue to care for the child. This, however, is not what I would say I experience through love. I do not find this to be a sufficient definition of love, and I believe if you’re honest with yourself then this definition will prove to be troubling to you as well. It also begs the question, and fails to explain why precisely we love those who provide little to no benefit for us, and why such traits did not die out ages ago. I think these are things you should consider before so readily accepting your views.

    Like

    • Atheist Max says:

      I think the evidence shows that ‘LOVE’ is just chemical.

      But why should it be any less wonderful for that reason? Instead of thinking “too bad love is only a chemical reaction in our brains” we should be amazed at how wonderful that we have evolved such a wonderful process which we can experience so easily.

      Love is no less awesome simply because it is ‘chemical’. There is no evidence it is anything other than chemical.

      A good glass of wine is just a chemical too.
      But that doesn’t mean you will turn it down, though, right?

      Like

  2. nuclearkumquat says:

    I would say that there’s plenty of evidence that love is not “just chemical”. Love is a very intense and deep feeling unlike anything else. We feel love for a numerous amount of things. Love for our family, love for our friends, or even love for animals. What is intriguing is that there’s not really much reason a lot of times for these feelings logically. You love your parents long after they’re useful to you. Men often love their wives quite some time after they’ve stopped being useful for reproduction. We even love people when it isn’t rational to love them, and sometimes may experience love though our minds are clouded with anger. Love is something more than just a chemical attraction, and something about it seems stronger than an evolutionary trait. For example, let’s suppose that person A is in a romantic relationship with B. A and B get into an intense argument. Everything in both A and B’s chemistry is screaming with rage, their brain exhibits no signs of a “chemical love”. Rationally, there’s no real reason to stick together either, as they both know that they could find another potential partner easily and they don’t have any shared possessions, so there’s nothing to lose. However, Love binds them together and despite all of this something internally calls them to reconcile with one another. This to me seems like quite a bit more than just a chemical process. Furthermore, though many of our thought processes can be traced by chemicals transmitted between neurons, that is not evidence enough to say that these processes, or emotions, are caused by said chemicals. When I share a special moment with a friend or relative, or when I’m looking at my significant other on a starry night, there’s a lot more going on inside than just a jumbling around of chemicals.

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    • Atheist Max says:

      “there’s a lot more going on inside than just a jumbling around of chemicals.”

      It only feels supernatural – but it is only material.

      I don’t see any evidence that any emotion is more than a chemical reaction.

      We know from stroke victims that when certain parts of the brain die we lose our abilities. Some stroke victims lose a lot of their brain permanently – they completely lose their personality and some emotions become impossible.

      That means it is all chemical.
      But there is no reason not to enjoy it!

      Cheers!
      (Chemically speaking)

      Like

  3. Todd says:

    Love is chemical? You’ll have a hard time proving that beyond co-incidence. Which comes first in the human body, the affect or the chemical after-effect?

    Fred Rogers was a Presbyterian minister. Not a Jesuit. Good on your soft spot, though: Fred Rogers was a saint in my view.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Atheist Max says:

      Hi Todd,
      Thanks so much for the correction – I loved Fred Rogers.

      Like

    • Atheist Max says:

      By the way, Todd,
      if you see anything else on my blog which is incorrect please let me know.

      As for chemical love….
      We experience everything through our brains which show every sign of being material. Our brains create chemicals we need for survival – dopamine being one example.

      When people have strokes we see partial brain death and it leads to changes in the ability to manufacture the right chemicals in the brain. Certain areas of the brain are responsible for emotions and when those areas die or are injured people are completely disabled – they lose their ability to have empathy and compassion – they can become completely different people.

      This is evidence that the brain is material and love is chemical. To know this is not to denigrate love. But to deny it is chemical is to not understand the brain. We are material beings in a material world. No supernatural appears to exist – in fact, the claim that something supernatural is responsible for something like ‘love’ is unfounded.

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