“But You Believe in Love!”

Every once in a while, somebody will float the idea that atheists believe in love without evidence, so accepting that god loves you without evidence shouldn’t be a problem. I have several issues with this “argument”.

I don’t believe in love without evidence. If someone doesn’t show by their actions that they care, or at least assert it with their words, I quickly become unable to believe that person loves me. Nobody is exempt from this rule, not even my parents or boyfriend. I admit that I can’t prove their love, necessarily, as their could be ulterior motives, but there is still evidence there, even if it is insufficient.

Even if I couldn’t see love in the actions of those around me, I would still have available the scientific evidence that shows love is based in chemical, hormonal activity. People gain feel-good drugs in their brain from simple hugging, which is why we hug. In short, love is completely explainable by natural causes; no faith required. It’s an evolutionary adaptation that allows children to take longer to develop, giving them greater intelligence and survival skills.

The existence of an emotion that allows us to reproduce more effectively does not imply the existence of a being without a body who possesses that “emotion” (not the perfect word, I know) without measure for every human. One might just as easily say that the fact anger exists implies the existence of a judgmental deity who sends the majority of humans to eternal torment. Both beings I just described are Christian doctrines about their god (and I hope it is easy to see how contradictory they are, but that’s another issue). If everything is evidence for your hypothesis, in this case the existence of the Christian god, then nothing is. Hypotheses that are not falsifiable are meaningless.

Those who I believe love me are people whose existence I can empirically verify. I may not be able to prove they love me, but I can prove they exist, or at the very least that they are part of our shared illusion that we mistake for reality. In other words, I can prove they exist as much as I can prove anything exists. I have voice clips, photographs, video in some cases, social media profiles, extended text conversations, handwriting samples… and if nothing else suffices, I can introduce you to these people. I have yet to find anyone willing and able to introduce me to their god, just as I have not been able to find any evidence for any god. It is therefore asking two leaps of faith, from someone who hasn’t even made the one you assume, to ask me to believe god loves me because I believe that other people love me.

Loving beings who can prevent child rape do so. Loving beings who can prevent children from suffering brain cancer do so. Loving beings who can prevent women from suffering multiple miscarriages when they want children do so! I could go on, and on, and on, probably for years, but you get the idea. This world is filled to overflowing with horrifying injustices and untold unnecessary suffering that a god who cared could stop, and yet they continue unabated until we humans step in to interfere. If you can reconcile the fact that innocent toddlers the world over are suffering and dying by the thousand every hour with the idea of a loving god… you have a very strange definition of love. As Sam Harris says, any being who would allow that either can’t stop it or doesn’t care to. In this world, there can be no such thing as a loving god, especially not a powerful one.

P.S. I do accept that a loving god could co-exist with some suffering, just as a loving parent would not do their child’s homework for them even if the child was struggling. What I do not accept is that a loving god could co-exist with child rape or many of the other unspeakable evils that can be empirically verified.

3 thoughts on ““But You Believe in Love!”

  1. I like the P.S. part because it isn’t unreasonable. It illustrates the problem of suffering and evil that really has never been sufficiently answered without presuppositionalism or weird mental gymnastics.

    1. I don’t believe I’ve seen any apologist try to argue against the problem of evil I put forth here. C.S. Lewis in particular only tried to answer the argument of “a loving god can’t co-exist with any suffering”, which is just one reason I found his book on the subject entirely unimpressive.

      1. I think that Alvin Plantinga responded to some version of it. Can’t be sure if it is like yours.

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