I was out walking a while back, contemplating that love thing. I found myself considering it in terms of the Christian belief: that god is the only source of love for humans; man is a fallen animal and is redeemed only through the love of a specific supreme being. Many of us are brought up with this mindset (myself included, which is probably why my thoughts came here). Yet, once we figure out that science debunks the myths we’ve created in order to explain the mysteries of nature, religion and its gods become a dying paradigm as well. But what about that love thing? Part of the process of leaving the confines of religion is dealing with this notion of a divine love. Do we have an innate need to be loved by some creator? Is there something wired within us that seeks to feel loved specifically outside of our own reality? If I declare myself an atheist am I forfeiting an omnipotent attachment? This was some serious contemplation.
As I let my mind wander around its landscape I eventually ended up with a fairly basic question: Why did we need to invent religions in the first place? Did we create them because we needed to feel loved by some unseen force? Was there some place within us that can only be filled by a benevolent deity? What was the impetus for creating these early cultural narratives?
It turns out that our need to create religions and their heroes wasn’t because of any craving for divine affection. Instead, we constructed our myths and gods as a means to explain our world. We invented them because we have an insatiable curiosity to understand how the universe works, and in the absence of scientific information, some wild stories ensued; Helios in his chariot driving the sun across the sky comes to mind, or a magical dirt act that created humans.
I recalled as well that many religions are sprung from specific socio-economic and political soil, as a means to cope with oppression or chaos. The prospect of an all-saving messiah must’ve sounded really good to an entire populace who had been suppressed for centuries by foreign rule. The early international town of Medina and its surroundings was fraught with a materialistic, lustful lifestyle – a voice of strict religious tactics that sought to bring order to both home and government was welcome to many. Islam also provided an important common ground and unity to the various tribes of the Arabian Peninsula, who were more often fighting amongst themselves previously. Confucius’ sage words were a reasoned response to the inconsistency and injustice of the political climate of his time. There is no quest for love in these religious histories, only the attempt to bring a sense of control to the current social environment.
Our religions were composed around worldly issues for their ability to provide answers to our curious questions and comfort to our social plight, not for the need of supernatural attention. I decided that leaving a religion didn’t mean I was giving up some vital element to my being; it merely meant accepting a more logical answer to the questions of the Universe. My need for love was provided more than enough by my mother, siblings, friends, children, and spouse – not to mention an unusually large helping of self-esteem.
I contemplated a little further. I considered the lives of those of my family and friends who live without religious influence, just to make sure I wasn’t alone, and I examined the love they exhibit as well as the love they accept. This completely unscientific observation allowed me to witness that we are capable of immense depths of unconditional love entirely on our own. This makes sense though, if we consider the fact that many other species in the animal kingdom share a sense of caring and compassion. And if we consider that Homo sapiens have a tendency to perfect that which is evident throughout the animal kingdom, it is no stretch to assume that we humans are also capable of perfecting those traits of compassion and caring into…..that love thing. We don’t require an outside source of adoration; the lives we lead provide us the opportunities to fill that need perfectly.
By the end of my walk I concluded that there is no inherent need within us to bond with an unseen power. That love thing is a wholly human notion, not something instituted by a mysterious deity. Leaving behind a religion didn’t mean I was losing a source of mystic compassion, the reality in which I live provides all that I need thanks to those wonderful people I am privileged to share this time with.
Serious contemplation, over……for now.