God is love

I was minding my own business when without having had any other recent conversation even remotely related to the topic, I received the following text from my mother. “Where do feelings of love come from if there is no God?”

On the surface, this is a very simple question, and one that has a very interesting answer. But as I thought about how I would answer it, I realized what it was she was really asking. She wasn’t interested in discussing evolutionary biology. She wasn’t interested in discussing brain chemistry. This wasn’t a question she wanted answered. This was, in her mind, proof of God. After all, since God is love, it only follows that the undeniable existence of love proves the existence of God.

I love the tautologies of religion. And by “love,” of course, I mean, “despise.” The Bible is true because the Bible says it’s true. We must have faith that God exists regardless of the evidence because God wants us to have faith rather than knowledge. Prophets speak God’s truth, but only when they are speaking as a prophet. Or, as my mother once told me, “I’ll only stop believing in Joseph Smith after I die and Joseph Smith himself tells me that he was a fraud.”

God himself could come down and tell these people that he doesn’t exist, and they still wouldn’t believe it.

I ended up answering her question the only way rhetorical questions can be answered. By silence. She didn’t want to engage in a philosophical discussion about God. She only wanted to prove to me that she was right. And I didn’t need to prove otherwise to her. So I said nothing.

If this had been your mother, what would you have done?

18 thoughts on “God is love”

  1. If it had come from anyone other than my mother, I would be very tempted to point out how ridiculous the question is. That’s like asking “why do kids lose their baby teeth if there is no tooth fairy?” But if my mom had asked me that question, I suppose I would answer with a very brief text saying simply that scientists who study evolution can provide plausible explanations for why humans developed feelings of love.

  2. Excellent post! I love the idea of Joseph Smith telling your mum in an afterlife that he’s a fraud. I had to google ‘tautology’ and it may become my favourite new word.

    If my mother asked that question, I’d have to talk about dogs in an attempt to demonstrate that strong bonds of ‘love’ are a necessary feature for group survival in social animals. Difficult in a text conversation. Unfortunately I have a need to point out logic, and can’t even let my mum off the hook.

    1. See? I need to hold my mother’s feet to the fire like the rest of you are wont to do. I’m just too afraid that I’d be the ungrateful child if I challenge her beliefs too severely.

      1. So, my jury is out on the existence of God. But when dealing with the question of what I would do, and also the notion that you’d be an ungrateful child if you challenged her beliefs too severely, a few things come up.

        Let me say that I’m a member of a Unitarian church that actually lives by the creed “we don’t need to think alike to love alike.” Apparently, about half our congregation is atheist or agnostic. But one of the readings that we’ve had a few times recently reminds me of your “ungrateful child” theory: http://www.katsandogz.com/onchildren.html

        However, it’s all well and good if you believe this…it seems getting your mom to, as well, might prove challenging. But maybe it’s not a matter of getting her to believe what you believe. Instead of going at it from the perspective of challenging her beliefs, maybe just share yours by answering the spirit of her question?

        With my own mother, I’m fortunate enough to have a mother who considers herself a Recovering Catholic, so she’s pretty open to things. Were she to ask me that question, I would probably reply with my opinion that feelings of love come from people, from experiences, from appreciation of life. ANd also that I believe love is not just a feeling…it’s an action. My personal definition of love is actively working towards the well being of another person.

        YMMV. 🙂

        1. To be understood and accepted is all I ask. I don’t have a need for my mother to change her life according to my beliefs.

          The spirit of her question, though, isn’t “where does love come from?” It’s “can’t you see how wrong you are to disbelieve in God?” I don’t know how to answer the spirit of that question.

          In general I like the idea of a church where a belief in a god isn’t a prerequisite. I often feel a loss of community in my life now. But at the same time as I feel it would be great to join that type of community, I also feel an overwhelming sense of pointlessness in it. But you know what? Maybe I’ll see if I can track down a unitarian church around here and at least pop in once. You know, just to see.

          I really admire and agree with your view of what love is. I wish everyone could have that perspective.

          1. “The spirit of her question, though, isn’t “where does love come from?” It’s “can’t you see how wrong you are to disbelieve in God?” I don’t know how to answer the spirit of that question.”

            Fair enough. I once had a friend who was very troubled that I didn’t accept Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior…because she really wanted to see me in heaven. There’s not a really good way to work with that.

            I understand the feeling of loss of community; it’s what led me to the Unitarian Church. I moved to a Southern state from the tri-state area last year and I knew that church was a good way to meet people. However, there was -no- way I was hitting up the Baptists or any other community that would require me to believe in a certain thing or a certain way.

            As for pointlessness, I go to connect with people. To sing in the choir. To be reminded of my connection with everything and everyone. To help and be helped. And it’s amazing…the people actually practice the whole “we don’t need to think alike to love alike.” I took a chance and told a choir friend about how my first marriage ended, which meant that I had to tell her about being polyamorous and bisexual. She said she didn’t have any experience with either, but that it didn’t matter and she was sorry that things ended the way they did. And she’s still a friend. No shunning. No telling me how wrong I was/am. No calls to repent or whatever. I’m grateful for this church and it’s members. I hope that if you look for one in your area, that it’s as accepting and awesome as this one is.

  3. I can’t imagine my mother ever asking a question like that, despite the fact she believes quite strongly in Mormonism.

    In fact, she’s pretty accepting of my, and my sibling’s, atheist viewpoint. She reacted in the best way possible, given the situation, to my brother’s homosexuality.

    I’m pretty lucky, I guess. :3

    1. It’s wonderful to have accepting family. I think that’s what the church teaches that we should be like. Unfortunately, it’s probably not the normal reaction.

  4. Interesting post. I don’t know how I would have answered my ol’ lady if she was to ask that question.
    My problem with this question now is that whoever is asking has not asked themselves what the word god means and what the word to love means and to equate god to love is to say one ambiguous thing represents another ambiguous thing.

  5. My mother once asked me, “Do you believe that Jesus is the son of god?”
    I replied , ‘No!, to which she said, “Then we have nothing to discuss.”
    Ouch! That was nearly thirty years ago.
    So religion is a topic I NEVER discuss with my mum.

    Your silence spoke volumes, and I believe you chose the best option.

  6. I don’t think there is an answer to a question like that, either. It’s like trying to argue politics with extremists from either side of the aisle. You can’t win.
    I’ve never had that type of question proposed to me by a loved one, but I have had them question other life choices I’ve made. I think silence, especially in the context of a texted question, was your best option. You might want to have a prepared response for if or when she asks you the question face to face.
    I think I might say something like, “I am glad you have such a loving presence in your life. Since I know you love me so very much, I’m sure you’ll wish me the best on my journey.”

    I attended a seminar on personal growth once and the presenter said, “No matter what comes out of your mother’s mouth, what she is really saying is, “I love you and I want the best for you.”

    1. That is a beautiful thing to remember. A mother’s disappointments come not because she is necessarily displeased, but because she fears her child will not have happiness.

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