Fact: There is not enough love in this world.
Which leads me to understand why people grasp on to religion, even if religion fails to live up to its loving reputation more often than not.
One of my seminary professors was a native Spanish-speaker who wanted us to understand that the Bible says different things in different languages. He told us that, in English, it is perfectly acceptable to love cheese, love your children, love your spouse, and love your god. In Spanish, it would be absurd to use the same word to describe these four things. But there is one duplicate in the set of four; the intimate, life-changing, self-altering love you feel for your spouse is the same word you’d use for what you feel for your god. He told us that he felt this same love for Jesus, and I believe him. I believe him because I recognized the emotion. I know, from the inside, what intimate, life-changing, self-altering love looks like. It’s hard to fake.
And I understand why you’d want to love Jesus so, so much. Unless you are very lucky, there is no one else who would die for you. There are days when the world is unbearably lonely to live in. Maybe you’re trapped on the freeway, boxed into your little metal container and surrounded by hundreds of strangers who you can’t communicate with because they are also boxed into little metal containers, and the alienation you suddenly feel — the fear that, omg, this is life — needs to be kept at bay by any means at all, even by a tacky “Honk if you ❤ Jesus” bumper sticker.
We (non)believers do believers a disservice when we assume that “Honk if you ❤ Jesus” can’t indicate an intimate, life-changing, self-altering love. We (non)believers do ourselves a disservice when we assume that such love is so easily found that we can cavalierly tell believers that they don’t need to go to Jesus for it. Where are (non)believers finding love? Do you immediately know? And do you have any ideas how to offer atheistic reassurance to your fellow human beings in the middle of a traffic jam? Personally, while I enjoy a nice Darwin fish, I don’t find it to be existentially calming.
Mark 4:39 is existentially calming, even if I don’t believe that the very elements obeyed a man named Jesus from Nazareth when those words were spoken.
(Non)belief means not offering a pat answer. It means finding ways to enhance human life that are more reliable than fairy tales. Building community, developing personal relationships, offering assistance to people you don’t know, helping people who don’t deserve your help are tangible ways to increase the amount of love in the world. Resisting violence and systems of domination are acts of love. #BlackLivesMatter is love.
Love has to be demonstrated to be felt.
I want to live in a world where there is more love. Don’t you?