Friday, December 18, 2009

Love, Love, Love

As I traipse through my blog feeds, I make sure a take a little time for the folks with whom I disagree. From secular neoconservatives to fundamentalists to atheists, it's important to stay in touch with perspectives that challenge your own...particularly if those perspectives come from folks who are literate, intelligent, and articulate.

One that I hit a couple of times a week is Hemant Mehta's blog, Friendly Atheist. Mr. Mehta is the atheist who "sold his soul on e-Bay" a couple of years back, promising to at least attend the worship services of the faith that put in the highest bid for him. He went for a little over $500, by the way. The blog alternates between "isn't religion doofy" snark and interesting reflections on non-theistic ethics. Hemant himself seems like he would be entertaining company.

In a recent post, he put up a list one of his Christian friends had written, in which he laid out the responsibilities Jesus people have towards everyone they encounter if they expect to establish a sense of unity and gracious presence. What interested me was the response of Mr. Mehta's mostly atheistic readers to the the last question on the list:
  • Do I love all beings, and if not, am I willing?
Of the three dozen commenters who responded, some noted that this ethic seemed to result in people whose lives were filled with a radiant amount of peacefulness. A larger number, particularly those who felt compelled to directly respond to the question, replied with: "No, and I'm not willing."

Recognizing that love for all beings is really, really hard for human beings, it is nonetheless the roots-rock central ethical core of Christian faith. It has it's ground in our understanding of both the nature of God and the essence of God's expectations for us. Absent that mystical ground, though, is there a basis for loving all beings...meaning one's enemy, humanism? Not respecting their intellectual ability. Not tolerating their difference. But loving them, caring for them, and being disposed positively towards them even in the face of radical difference?

I think it's possible, but saw little evidence of it over at Friendly Atheist. What thinkest thou?


  1. Great post...another that I'll be sharing on facebook.

    I read blogs such as that one from time to time myself for the same reason you do. To be honest I find them pretty hard for me to read, because I don't particularly enjoy reading a bunch of people making fun of how stupid they think the things I believe in are. That usually doesn't instill love for my fellow man within me, just as little stunts like "Blasphemy Day" don't really fill me with warmth and love...but I try to read and understand because I want to understand those I disagree with and view them as people with hearts and souls.

    When those types of blogs aren't all about making fun of people, they seem to concentrate on how horribly oppressed atheists are. Some of the time they have a point. Other times I kind of want to say "waaah waaaah waaaah!"

    Just from these comments that I have made about atheist bloggers, I realize that it is against my nature to love everyone, but I try anyway. I do know that its possible without belief in some higher power, because I've seen one of my atheist friends act that way. In fact, there are times that I wish I could be more like her towards "the least of these." I think its harder though. I don't know when I try to read these atheist blogs, I see mostly a lot of angry bitter people. I know that not all atheists are like that.

  2. I think one could argue for love for all beings, including enemies, on the grounds of our shared humanity with them. One doesn't necessarily have to believe in God to look at horrible people and see also the potential for good in them as well (Hitler and the Volkswagon come to mind) and trying to find ways to bring that out. It's sort of what diplomats do when they try for peace talks between two warring nations.