What is “true love”?

I’m not someone who is easily offended, but if there is one thing that really gets under my skin, it is being told that I am incapable of “true love” without Jesus. Of all the religious rhetoric that I have heard involving Hellfire, damnation, eternity, souls, virgins, crucifixions, resurrections, faith and all the rest of it, nothing irks me more than being told with absolute certainty that I am incapable of love.

In a conversation on Twitter, I was referred to 1 John 4:8 NIV, because “God is love; U must know God to know love“. So I dutifully researched the aforementioned verse and found that it actually said “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love“.

These two statements are not the same. The first one, from an alleged preacher on Twitter, says that in order to love, you must know God first. The second, taken directly from the Bible, says that if you do not love then you do not know God. It clearly states that love is a precondition for knowing God, not that God is a precondition to love.

I realize that I have not had any formal training in bible interpretation study, but the meaning still seems quite obvious to me. Furthermore, I would like to offer the conjecture that “God” in this statement does not necessarily refer to an elderly bearded gentleman sitting on a cloud, but is actually rather more poetic. In line with the God of Einstein, the God in this Bible verse could very well be a metaphor for the euphoric feelings that love can engender.

However, semantics aside, the real issue here is the grossly offensive view that atheists are incapable of true love. I wrote about this in an earlier article, but since this ridiculolus notion continues to be propagated, I felt compelled to tackle it again.

Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that God does not exist. Barring the sudden introduction of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, atheists have already arrived at this conclusion to one degree or another. Let us further assume that since these people do not involve God in their relationships, that love is somehow different for them, when compared to theists. They do not share their love with a supernatural third party, so perhaps their love is more “natural”, simpler or straightforward. As the old proverb says, “Two’s company, three’s a crowd”.

Contrast this view to that of the religious person, convinced that Gods love is shining through them. Who knows, perhaps it is… after all, most non-believers readily admit that they would accept God, if concrete evidence of His existence presented itself.  (Richard Dawkins himself, in his book The God Delusion, admitted that “…reason alone could not propel one to total conviction that anything definitely does not exist”)

But here’s the real question: What if God really doesn’t exist? What if the atheists are right? Then how do you explain the feeling of being in love with Jesus? What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit? It would seem that in this scenario, the non-believers are actually the ones experiencing “true love”, while the faithful are experiencing something else entirely. It may feel like love, but if the object of your infatuation can be proven not to exist, then something else is going on inside your head.

One could even go so far as to suggest some degree of mental illness. After all, most psychologists would tell you to get out of a relationship where the other person was completely oblivious to you and unresponsive in every way. In my opinion, hearing voices in your head and being overly obsessed with a person who died 2,000 years ago is a very strong indicator for being one brick short of a full load…

On the flipside of course, is the case that God does exist and the atheists are wrong. But if that is true then I guess the non-believers will burn in Hell forever. And that will really show them the meaning of “true love”, right? Because after all, God will send them to Hell because he loves them and gives them what they really want:

Well, religion – If that is a demonstration of what you call love and compassion, I for one am extremely glad to have no part in it.

I know what “true love” is. But the real question is, do you..?

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3 Responses to What is “true love”?

  1. Daniel says:

    You are certainly not incapable of true love, and the scripture did appear to be misapplied. I can see why you were offended. I am sure you have people you love very much. I believe God gave that ability to love, and he uses that to draw us toward him. God is the greatest love of all. We love God because He loved us first. We know this because He gave us his Son. We know He is real because He transforms our lives. He transforms our lives by filling us with his spirit, that we allow him to do His work through us, that we put aside sin, and we love each other. Of course no one can be perfect. Jesus was the only perfect man to walk the Earth, and because he was perfect, he took all our sins upon himself, and was punished for us. He died for all of us– That is great love, I would even call that true love. Indeed, many have suggested that Christians were insane, as you do. They were tortured, beheaded, fed to lions, and burnt alive. But they would not renounce their love for Jesus. That is not a made-up love, nor is it insanity. And it happens around the world today. Fortunately here in this country we have that freedom, but elsewhere, Christians are persecuted to death.
    Jesus does not want anyone to “burn in hell”. He offers all a chance to be with him forever, in heaven. Yet, many reject Jesus. They choose not to be with God. Absence from God, is hell, whatever form it takes. To reject God, on the basis that there are consequences for rejecting him, doesn’t make sense. But God gave us a choice! Satan will plant lies in your head, but don’t believe them. God loves you. True love is with God.
    I believe you and I are having some positive words. Thank you for allowing me to respond to your posts. If you have any questions, email me jesusmessage2012@gmail.com

    • Ezekiel says:

      I understand the scripture as you have outlined it, but I must again disagree with you. I find that there are fundamental leaps of faith that must be taken that I simply cannot perform. I am required to fully abdicate all logical reasoning and place my trust in a mythological figure who died 2,000 years ago, absolving all humanity of any “sin” that they are inherently born with, because a woman (that God himself created) was disobedient and ate from the wrong tree after a talking snake (that God also created) told her to.
      I simply cannot do it. Occams Razor won’t allow me to place any credence in such a tale.
      A simpler, more elegant solution to the question of love, is that it is an evolutionary adaptation to ensure the survival and propagation of the species. Quite simply, couples that are chemically “in love” are more likely to stay together and take care of any offspring.
      Similar behavior can be seen in many other animals that bond for life. They may not have the same level of cognitive reasoning as humans, but the evolutionary process has favored offspring with two parents to tend to them. Quite simply, this behavior ensures that the young are more likely to mature and eventually reproduce, while those with a single parent may not be able to compete and will die before reproducing.
      I suppose the feelings that the devout may have for Jesus could be viewed as real love (as far as a soup of hormones and proteins can concern themselves with ‘”love”), but it is a false positive. The chemical reactions in the brain are being confused with genuine love, in much the same way as an optical illusion will confuse our eyes into seeing things that are not there.

      • Daniel says:

        What you have spoken is true, faith is 100% required. I on the other hand, view the human spirit as much more than chemical reaction. I appreciate your respect of my position. Still, I hope to continue this conversation.

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