Do Atheists Believe in Love?

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Published on Nov 11, 2017
Do Atheists Believe in Love?

Hemant Mehta (, ,

I can't believe people ask this question, but I've heard it many times: Do atheists believe in love?

The argument here, I think, is that we don't believe in God because we can't see Him or hear Him or touch Him. There's no tangible proof. Love is also something we can't technically see or hear or touch. So we must not believe in that either, right?

No. Of course atheists believe in love, and there is proof of that.

There's a sentimental answer, a non-sentimental answer, and a scientific answer.

The sentimental answer here is that we know love exists because we see what people do when they're in love. They would do anything for their partner. They would take a bullet for their kids. They feel awful when they think about certain people who are no longer in their lives. They treat their loved ones better than they treat themselves. That's what love does to people. And by the way: Unlike religious experiences, we don't have to take other people's word for it. We can experience it ourselves. Hopefully. If you've ever been in love, you know what that does to you.

The non-sentimental answer is that love is an idea for all of us, religious and non-religious people. It only exists in the way we act and feel. And saying love is real is very different from saying "I believe in Cupid and his arrows." There's nothing supernatural going on when you say you love someone. Atheists have emotions, too. Sometimes.

There's also a scientific answer to this question. When I love someone and I'm around them, my hormones act in different ways. The way chemicals react in my body changes in response to my emotions. Different parts of our brain act up. So, yes, you can essentially measure love in the lab.

But religious people might say the same thing about God, and they'd be right.

I think the big difference between love and God is that when people say they believe in God, they're not talking about how they feel in response to their faith. They're referring to some Higher Power that they think actually exists. They think that God hears their prayers, and watches over them, and wants what's best for them. They think God speaks to them. That's now what we're talking about when we talk about love.

If someone said God is nothing more than a euphoric feeling -- the sort of thing some secular people will tell you they experience during meditation -- okay, we could compare that to love.

But there's no comparison between the feeling of love and a God that watches over you.

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