Love. What can Animals or Atheists Know of It?


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.

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7 comments on “Love. What can Animals or Atheists Know of It?

  1. Nice post and just like you i do think animals can love…and also just like you i do think god is not love because their is no god obviously.
    But you mention soul quite a number not sure in what sense you use it.

    • Bear in mind I was a Christian for over thirty years of my life. It is hard to separate sometimes what I’ve been conditioned all my life to assume is true, vrs. what the facts support. I am not totally certain there’s no afterlife. There are no facts to support there is one, and nothing to disprove it either. So I maintain that the possibility could exist that some kind of self-awareness be entwined with the energy all of us carry around with us, that departs our bodies when we die. Where this self-awareness floats away to, or what happens to it, who knows? I loved the movie with Robin Williams, “What Dreams May Come” and I tend to think if there is some kind of after death existence, it might be rather like that. But then again maybe we just cease to exist when we die, and maybe the whole concept of a spiritual soul or spiritual existence after death is just as much an invention of religion as sin is.

      I wasn’t clear in this post what I meant by soul, and I did go back and tweak it last night to try and make my meaning clear. What I’m saying here is that if such a thing as a soul does exist in human beings, certainly it also exists in animals.

      • Yes i do agree with you should the whole concept of Souls be true then also animals do have souls. Sadly i really think it doesn’t exist to a great certainty, though i may be wrong.

        Your words…”So I maintain that the possibility could exist that some kind of self-awareness be entwined with the energy all of us carry around with us, that departs our bodies when we die. Where this self-awareness floats away to, or what happens to it, who knows?”
        Somehow if i get you right, you entertain the idea that some part of us floats into a afterlife in some way something personal of sorts, I will use the word life force for lack of a better name. I dont tend to agree with this because i reckon we are our brain and when we die we lose that, so to all personality is lost.
        Hope i have made sense english is not my first language but i do try,.

        And i became an atheist when I was 18 roundabout i used to be a practicing roman catholic devout at that.

      • You do very well for someone who does not call English their primary language. I have nothing but admiration for anyone who can comprehend or write more than one language. Anyway, I personally think it very unlikely as well that there is some kind of life after death. I guess my point is, if such a thing did exist, why would animals be exempt from it? See, that’s what I disagree with. The tendency for religion to set humankind as God’s special creation, something apart from the natural world, with the environment and life struggling to survive within it there only to serve our purposes. See, I believe all life has equal worth. I believe the great apes and honeybees and polar bears and frogs and song birds and Siberian Tigers and (etc. etc.) all have a crucial role to play to maintaining the balance of nature. We’re all connected. I feel that religion has tried to put humans outside and above everything else, given our needs priority over the needs of other life. This whole bit about animals not having souls…I think its rather akin to Hitler’s claim that Jewish people aren’t really human. It’s a way to justify eliminating that which has gotten in the way. The Jews are in the way, thriving too well or too much for Hitler’s liking, so he calls them sub-human and a scourge on society and orders them mass-exterminated. Animals found dwelling in an environment we decide would better serve our needs as farmland…it’s okay if they’re driven out and go extinct because they’re not human either. They’re just animals.

        I don’t think souls exist. I don’t think there’s a life after death. I think we die and return to the Earth and live again as dirt, or grass to feed deer who then are slain by whatever carnivore preys on them. That’s the natural order of things, that yes even we humans are a part of.

        Sounds to me like you and I are in agreement. And yes, for 30 + years I did entertain the lofty idea that I had a soul. But even when I was a Christian, I also believed animals had souls. I have always thought if there is a heaven, animals would go there as well. But now as an atheist like you, I find the whole thing very unlikely. It’s more magical thinking. Millions of people might believe in it, but that doesn’t make it any more true.

  2. In more ways than one i agree with you we are all connected we are all one. and as i like to say all the wise men (both women and men) or geniuses that have been around realize this to great extents. This realization is the secret we Humans have to realize for ourselves then and only then will we know true peace and happiness.

    Yes religion has put Man on a pedestal in terms of nature and his environment and also to a certain extent western ideology has also helped this notion along. In summary i like to say i did not come into this world rather i came out of it….just as an apple tree apples(produces apples) the earth or rather the universe peoples(produces people).

    • It doesn’t take genius. Common sense, that’s all it takes. If people would just put as much time and thought into selecting what beliefs they’re going to committ their entire lives to as they do picking out that next car

      Anyway, well said. I like the apple tree analogy very much! 🙂

  3. I got the Idea of the universe peoples from a great “spiritual entertainer” Alan watts worth a Google.

    I do think it takes more to realise we are all one we are connected. More often than not you may just know it as an idea but you do not feel it, definately most people do not feel it(am not saying you are either i do not know your case). I think there is a difference between knowing we are all connected and feeling the connection down to your core.
    Eastern/oriental Philosophy helped me understand this.

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