I’m sorry. I used to challenge the veracity of your love and doubted your understanding of it on a regular basis. I believed you didn’t really know love, or understand the fullness of love, because you didn’t know Christ like I did. At times, I’ll admit, I wondered if that hurt you—but to be honest, at times I also hoped it did. I figured that if you felt that way than somehow that would discomfort you enough into seeking what I considered to be the source of true love—Jesus.
But, I also did it for selfish reasons. I boasted of some proprietary rights on love because I considered that to be my greatest evidence toward the existence of an invisible being. That feeling inside my chest was really the one true “tangible” piece of truth I could sort of really hold on to. Let’s face it, not much else can truly be proven between Genesis and Revelation.
1 John 4:8 reads, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” This theme is narrated and strongly pushed forward at most Christian assemblies. They’ll preach and sing that, “They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love. They will know we are Christians by our love.” The most quoted bible verse of all time reads, “For God so loved the world…”. This persistent focus on the love of god made me and other Christians believe a number of things:
- That we had proprietary rights on love because our god gave it to us
- That we possessed a moral high ground because we truly knew love
- That any love outside of Jesus’ love is inferior
- That real love outside of Jesus’ was impossible
- That anyone who wants to experience true love must convert to Christianity
This produced an arrogance over our ironclad hold on love. But also a fragile faith on a lifeline connected to that hold. We saw non-Christians as eternally incomplete, and our emotional mechanism overworking itself as it tried to compensate for lack of evidence to our faith.
The more scientific discovery tried to convince me to listen to my mind, the more I made an intentional decision to quiet my thoughts and “only listen to my heart” because that’s where “god spoke to me.” You see, when life got hard, that’s when I struggled most to see evidence of my god’s existence. Facts were troubling and they were debilitating. But love had always been, though at seasons rare, able to lift me and give me a second wind on faith.
So I preached love as a tool to win an argument, and also as a way to maintain myself in this hope of a better life. When I testified of “Jesus’ love” I was holding on to a rope hoping that my public declaration of faith would lift me off the cliff of doubt I was in. I built my support system so strongly around it that the mere thought of losing it felt like a threat to my very existence.
And I wasn’t alone. Sermons were preached every Sunday about it. Posts on social media flooded our timeline as we thanked Jesus for giving us love, blowing our own horns of a special connection with him—through love. And I constantly assured you that you wouldn’t know “true love” unless you converted to my religion—I mean—“relationship.” At times I said that I respected all religions, or lack their of, but in reality I was preaching my faith with a pretense of respect for diversity.
But this public display of understanding of love only powerfully furthered a bias towards people who don’t ally with such belief—not just for atheists; but for Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, and other members of the human family. This belief further promoted stereotypes and prejudice against those who believed differently because if ‘God is love,’ and ‘Jesus loves you,’ than if you are not a Christian you must not know true love or how to truly love. But I didn’t see that then.
I understand that some people use religious belief to further their value and love for humanity—I’ll take that any day over the atrocities done in the name of deities every day. But there is a point to be made about the virtue of being able to have such value and love for humanity, not because a deity told us to, but because it grew naturally from our connection to each other as members of this family floating around the universe in a pale little cosmic rock.
If someone chooses to believe their love comes from a creator—that is their choice and they have every right to make that choice. But human history has shown us that we don’t need gods to act in love or hate, though often religion will intensify both of these. Furthermore, breaking from the belief that love can exist just as powerfully and real outside of Christianity is threatening to Christian belief because:
- It supports the troubling hypothesis that a belief in Jesus is nothing more than a preference (as preferring red over blue) and NOT evidence for a creator
- If non-Christians can love just like they do, they lose their upper hand and claim on morality
- It would bring a weakening unbalance to the emotional health many Christians are holding on to dear life
Believing in an all-powerful god who sent his one and only son to die for the sins of humanity is a beautiful story. It really can be inspiring in the voice of a powerful speaker. Christians admit that they’d rather believe they are the creation of a loving deity than the result of some “cosmic accident.” But preference doesn’t produce causality. Choosing to believe we arrived at work riding a magic carpet than by taking the bus may be uplifting. Fantasy is certainly more alluring and awe-inspiring, but it doesn’t make it real. Quite the opposite. The fact that love and value for humanity exist just as greatly outside of belief in Jesus only strengthens the challenge that you do not need such belief to love or to value people.
As human beings we do need beautiful stories. It’s called inspiration and we need that as motivation. But I also feel it is beautiful to ponder that of billions of solar systems, and an even greater number of planets, we were the astoundingly lucky ones who got a crack at life. And not just life, but a diverse, colorful, and complex one at it.
I now value people because they hold me when I cry, because they cheer for me when I win, and because they give me a second chance when I fail. I hope my value and love for humanity is judged by my ability to do the same for another, and not over my preference of belief in a mystical source. Love is not Christian, it is human. Let’s act like it.
Also published on ExChristian.Net on 12/10/2017