IS LOVE POSSIBLE WITHOUT GOD?
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.