The goodness of human beings…sad thing is so many of us are taught from infancy that we are born evil, corrupted, inheriting a burden of sins from our parents and their parents before. We are a wrong in the eyes of some supposedly benevolent God until we lay down our lives and say “here, God, take me,” and only then are we saved, only then are we whole and good, beautiful creations.
I beg to differ. It is not this sacrifice that cleanses us and makes us kinder, gentler, more loving, more forgiving, more gracious, generous, no. I have walked “in the light,” and I have walked outside it. I have not been any more of these things as a Christian than I am now, as an atheist. I still love my fellow humans. I still care very deeply for my friends. I still think myself capable of throwing my life away to save a friend’s life. I think if I saw someone dear to me in danger, I don’t think I could think beyond my desire to keep them safe, because they are so special to me. And that means I love them. I love my friends. The same can be said for the animals that come to love us. How many times have we read or heard of a trusted pet saving his master, even at the cost of that animal’s own life?
But some Christians will say God is love, and some even say that people can’t know love until they are Christians. So what does that mean then? If the godless are able to love, if those of us separated from the wellspring from which all love must flow, are able to love, where does it come from? How do we get it? Is it not love to care for someone so much you’re pretty sure you’d die for them, do something crazy like jump in front of a car to save them–when under normal circumstances you’d be too afraid?
My feeling is if a being can love another, that being has worth. I see love for me shining in my cats’ eyes. They are cats, and some Christians would say they are soulless and there is no place for animals in heaven. Like their loving and gracious God would create soulless living, breathing shells for us to do with as we please, disposable life that has less value than we do for us to use up and throw away.
Can human beings love deeply, and in some cases love as deeply as some love children, something soulless? I can say I love my car, or my motorcycle, or the coat I just got. I can say I love the new shiny nick-knack on my shelf, or I love my new cell phone, or my IPAD. But would I hurt in my heart for days or weeks or even years if I lost these things? Probably not. Do these things come to me when I’m hurting and press against me, comfort me? Definitely not. So why do we respond so differently to animals than we do to these other things? Could it be because animals do have souls and love us back? And there’s that L word again that we godless are not supposed to understand or know about.
Honestly, I think anyone who has had any kind of close attachment to animals knows better. if there’s such a thing as souls, certainly animals have them just as we would, because they can love, and in many cases it seems animals know more about how to love than some human beings. Animals don’t question love, and aren’t shy at or embarrassed about showing it. It simply is for them. And I’m pretty sure animals don’t attribute their ability to feel love to any deity. They love what matters to them or cares for them, what makes them feel loved, what holds them and nurtures them, just as people do. They learn about love from being loved, just as we all do.
I think love comes from our hearts when we are given the things it takes to grow it. i don’t think it comes from any god, or any sacrifice of ourselves we must make first. I think all people have the capacity for love, and to love, but I think some of us have more than others. Just like some people can run faster, or jump higher, or lift more weight, I think some of us can love more completely, more deeply, more lastingly, than others.
I know I love my friends. I know I have never been able to stop loving anyone; even friends who have turned on me or betrayed me, always down the road I find room in my heart to forgive them and care still. This is my strength, and not everyone understands it. And certainly it has caused me some trouble in the past, trouble letting go of a friend dear to me. But it’s a part of me, my capacity to love, and I have not lost one bit of it, or any other so-called “fruits of the Spirit,” by becoming atheist.