God Loves You. God Loves You Not.

 

We’ve all heard these ubiquitous sayings before: “God loves you unconditionally.” “He loves you so much he sent his only son to die for you.” (Wait, what? I thought we were all his sons and daughters?) “He gives his love freely.” “He will never leave you.” “He will love you eternally.”

But let’s be honest. “God” doesn’t love you. And if you’re a believer, you don’t really love God.

It’s you that you’re loving. You love a projection of yourself.

(I can hear it now: You can’t tell me how I feel!)

Right. How I feel. It’s all about the self. Those feelings humans call love—the affection, excitement, longing or desire–they’re an intangible cocktail mixed by the chemical bartender in your body. They don’t go anywhere or serve any purpose other than to motivate you to meet a need, to incite you to actions or behaviors that will preserve your body and perpetuate the faceless, voiceless genes inside.

I know. It’s all become so complicated.

The commercialization of love over the past few centuries has made the concept lucrative and even more convoluted. Think of the many businesses that thrive on love: wedding planners, jewelers, greeting card companies, florists, churches, divorce attorneys. It’s big business.

Religion is no doubt the biggest—it’s been reaping the rewards for thousands of years. It employs a god or gods, along with an entire cast of loving-inducing characters, including, but not limited to, Mary, Jesus, the Saints and guardian angels. Religion sells hope, community, comfort and, most importantly, love. God is really the only “person” who loves you unconditionally; no matter what you do or say, he loves you.

(Well, he still might send you to hell or a holding tank. Forever. Where you will be tortured. Forever. But never mind that.)

You can always count on God right? You just have to talk to him, and he listens. Well, my pillow listens, too, and responds in the same way as God.

Most people know that we cannot have a relationship with Prince Charming or Cinderella. These are imaginary people. They’re the embodiment of our wishes and hopes, our ideal selves. Relationships are only born when two conscious, breathing people have similar feelings in parallel. Does it make sense to “love” God?

Even more problematic, how would God love us as his “children”? If he were real, he’d simply be loving his own creation, not his offspring but his product. We would not be any more a part of God than a painting is a part of an artist, than Frankenstein’s monster is part of Dr. Frankenstein.

This way of looking at love may seem very dark and sinister, but it’s not. It’s nature’s genius at work. It’s how we protect and honor ourselves and our fellow man.

Understanding gives us power. From this perspective, love is not fickle or blind. We’re recognizing that what binds us is not the feeling of love but the commitments, duties and obligations we have for each other. Love is a reasonable and rational process of how we meet our own needs as well as those around us. It is not abstract; it is a feeling that inspires concrete actions. We can see and hear love. It means that we keep our word; we speak softly and kindly; we honor the commitments we make.

Love is about us, but also, not about us. We have an obligation and a duty to make the world a better place, to be our best selves and to continue to progress as a species in both our understanding of our psyches and of our place in the world.

God loves us not. But we are no better or worse for it.

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22 responses to “God Loves You. God Loves You Not.

  1. Deb, another great post. In my religion class, we talk about the evolution of God as a need-fulfiller. It begins with early tribes need for fertility and food (thus the fertility goddesses and the worship of earth as a great mother). By the time you get to our generation, you have god the life coach, god the addiction counselor, god the BFF, god the political activist. God is what we need him/her to be. There’s a great book by a religious scholar Jarslov Pelikan called Jesus Through the Centuries that outlines the ways in which early Christians and medieval Christians shaped their understanding of Jesus to fit their needs. I think he also did a similar book about Mary, the mother of Jesus.

  2. If only everyone realized the great potential of loving themselves and not relying on some imaginary friend in the sky to do it. I truly believe the world would be a better place. The day I decided to love myself was the day I loved everyone around me. I can only depend on me in this world, so I must sing my praises and lift me up.

  3. “God is really the only “person” who loves you unconditionally; no matter what you do or say, he loves you.”

    He apparently Hates gays, though.

  4. Great comment, Patti. You always add so much more. I would love to take your class sometime! I will add that book “Jesus Through the Centuries.” It sounds very familiar. Just in the last few hundred years, we’ve seen the xtian god morph from a punishing (Puritanical) deity to a softer, friendlier creator. He’s like a piece of clay that we shape and form to our needs. (I like that: “God the BFF.)

  5. I recently read an interview with a woman who left her cozy job to be a Peace Corps volunteer.The journalist wrote: “Her travels took her all around the world, beginning with a Peace Corps stint in Kazakstan. She showed up where God gave up.” In the intro email that enticed me to read the complete article, the journalist used the phrase “She showed up where God left off. ” Either way, we get the picture. As you said, Debbie, God loves us not. :)

    Robert Johnson is a Jungian psychologist who has written books like “He,” “She” and “We.” It was through him and his writings that I came to understand the romanticism of love and how we look to someone else to be the ‘everything’ for us. During the romantic honeymoon stage, the person is actually mirroring back our own love but eventually, we wake up and see the person for who he/she is: just another human being like ourselves. To ask another person to be our end all, everything, savior, lover, etc etc, is just not right. No one can live up to those ideals. We can’t and we shouldn’t expect someone else to either. As I recall Johnson’s explanation of this “romantic” love and then consider what you have written, I see that “god” is simply yet another personified projection of our “romantic” love wishes. Thanks for the elucidation!

    • @Trishia Jacobs Great comment. Yes, I think this is really true: “During the romantic honeymoon stage, the person is actually mirroring back our own love but eventually…” I read some where that we should wait at least two years before getting married for that “phase” to pass to be certain that we really like the person we’re with. Psychology is interesting stuff!

  6. Le, snap!

    Trishia, really interesting bit about psychology, but I especially like your comments about the Peace Corps volunteer article. So many people talk about how god has blessed them and they are thankful. Thankfulness is a wonderful approach to life. But thanking god for the good things is also saying that god does not bless others as much as he blesses you. It also seems to suggest that you love god because he gives you good things. Of course, when people ‘lose god’ after a tragedy, the pat answer is that you should not blame god for bad things happening. So we should thank god for the good stuff, but not hold him accountable for the bad stuff? Not very logical. And what about those people who live lives full of bad stuff? I remember a Christmas special when I was a kid that showed Santa visiting kids all over the world and giving them gifts. Even then I remember thinking how odd it was that Santa went to the Middle East and Asia because I knew that Santa wasn’t a tradition there. Does god love the people who have shitty lives? A good Christian would say he loves them the best. But what does that mean really? So he loves them. Why doesn’t he give them blessings like he does the other Christians who seem to love god because he’s given them so much. Can people without lots of blessings be blamed for not loving god when the message seems to be that god gives stuff to people he loves?

    Deb, thanks for the compliment! I can’t wait to be back in the U.S. so I can order my copy of your book.

    • @Patricia Yes, god “wins” either way–he gets credit for the good and is not responsible for the bad. All the inconsistencies and irrationalities around religion always make me wonder about the people who believe these things. What is switched off in their brains around this particular belief system. I think that, someone who believes god is consistently hands-off (or who died in childbirth) has a much better argument than people who believe in a deity who intervenes. IMO, the latter belief just shows mankind’s narcissism.

  7. LanceThruster

    If our lives as experienced (the good and the horrible — certainly for some unfortunate individuals all throughout history) are an indication of this supposed God’s supposed ‘love’…

    …it brings to mind this gallows humor about the Jews —

    “God, if we’re your ‘Chosen People’…, could you please choose someone else?”

  8. Great article, Deborah. The belief in “God” stunts the progression of the human species. It lulls believers into some sort of comfort zone in which they’re unchallenged and safe. I’ve been enjoying the new Cosmos series and although it doesn’t come out and state that religion is antithetic to scientific discovery, it seems obvious to me.

    I can only speak about the christian religion because that’s what I’m familiar with, but I view it as so insidious. Oh, the lure of being loved. It’s what any human wants. Yes, the message has been fine-tuned to get you into the cult. I’m reminded of another recent article of your’s mentioning how people who witness for christ don’t really care about the “unsaved.” No one cares about me except for a select few people close to me. And I think it’s that way for everyone. Not good or bad but just the way things are. Churches should be shut down by the Better Business Bureau for selling something that doesn’t exist.

    • My friend Bernie the Attorney compared it to a used car salesman that isn’t expected to make delivery until after you’re dead.

  9. @Andy Staab Some great points. You’re right–if these churches were like other businesses, they would have been shut down for not delivering on their promised goods. They basically just sell intangibles like hope. They can’t prove they’re providing “salvation” or a second life after death….

  10. Great article and discussion Deb! LanceThruster’s comment about the “chosen people” made me laugh, but also made me think. For many of us, our lives are more comfortable, stable and risk free than at any other time in history. We have less bad things happen to us, or at least we can control those bad things better (better housing to protect against the elements, better medicine to protect against disease, better irrigation methods to protect against drought etc.). For countless generations people must have lived their lives in a constant state of insecurity. Hence the need for an invisible security blanket in the form of a god-belief. Even now, those individuals that are worst off have a greater need for the comfort this kind of security blanket brings. So that might explain why people who live lives of horrible misery don’t blame their god and lose their belief, but cling to belief even more firmly.

    • @Anne Wallman That’s so true, and one reason why empathy and tolerance are needed. We don’t know why people hold to their beliefs; sometimes religion is just a coping mechanism and it’s all they have.

  11. Filipe Colebrooke

    Good nite Mrs. Mitchell, i wanted to ask one question and i hope to hear from you, what are your views on Homosexuality?

    Date: Tue, 8 Apr 2014 16:10:24 +0000 To: a_colebrooke@hotmail.com

  12. Re all the God loves you stuff, it always boils down to wishful thinking. People have so great a need to believe in this stuff that they convince themselves it is so and reject all logical discussion to the contrary.

    Which makes me wonder… If a person has an addiction or a deep-seated psychological need, and the person becomes consciously aware of this addiction or need, what else in addition to that self-awareness is necessary for the person to overcome the addiction/need? I’m thinking that motivation and courage, maybe other things, still have to be there for the person to grapple with the problem.

    Just as a gambling addict can know that the behavior is self-destructive, the impulse to continue the behavior can be stronger than the motivation to overcome it. Likewise, a theist can be shown how illogical and inconsistent with reality that belief is, yet the need for the reassurance and security of a parental figure can be stronger than the logical and common sense knowledge. Which is why (I believe) it is ultimately fear of the alternative that stands as the biggest obstacle to overcoming religious belief.

  13. Excellent point Chris A. To follow your analogy through to its logical conclusion – if we consider religious faith an addiction then the reason the addiction is not broken is that the religious attend weekly meetings that affirm and normalize the addiction. Kind of an opposite AA meeting.

  14. @Chris A & Anne Wallman, Great comments. Yes, it would take awareness, motivation and courage to break free of religion. Religion is a coping mechanism and security blanket. Anne, that is a good analogy. So then “recovering from religion” meetings would be AA.

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