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.