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Love - Truth or Illusion?

by P. Engelbert Recktenwald

"At the evening of life, we shall be judged on love", says St. John of the Cross. It is therefore love that gives value to our being and doing. Love is the most significant reality of our life. This is because it is the most important reality of all: God. Twice in the New Testament, it is explicitly stated that God is love.

Classical philosophy defines God as being-in-itself. Every being that is outside of God exists only thanks to the communication of being through God, who exists as being out of itself. His being was not given to Him, but He is intrinsically being Himself. And this being, as we know from the revelation of the New Testament, is love. Love is the primal source of all being. It is the solely relevant reality that gives splendour, beauty and weight to our lives. Without love, we are weighed and found too light. Without love, we become insubstantial. The real reality of our life is this splendour, which is a reflection of the divine primal reality.

As we contemplate love in the way described, we adopt a perspective in which love is theologically explained "from above".

Materialistic atheism reverses this relationship. Accordingly, the real reality is matter, which in and of itself is indifferent and value-neutral, that is, valueless. Hence love is merely a genetically conditioned behaviour that evolution has brought about in the service of the conservation of species or of group fitness. The fact that it appears to us to be something beautiful and valuable is a trick of evolution to induce us to altruistic behaviour and to curb egoistic behaviour which is detrimental to the conservation of species. Such is a common explanation of moral behaviour by many evolutionary biologists such as Dawkins. That splendour of love, the beauty of good and kind behaviour, is mere illusion. Love is explained biologically "from below".

What appears from the one point of view as a basic reality which gives value and meaning to everything else, appears from the other point of view as a mere epiphenomenon whose value is exhausted in the mere functionality of an indifferent evolutionary process.

With the help of this kind of evolutionary theory, atheism disenchants the world. Everything that seems beautiful and valuable to us is transitory illusion. The real reality is the indifferent matter. Life, moral behaviour, love, goodness, etc. are products of this matter and therefore participate in its indifference.

It is obvious that this also puts an end to the dignity of man. If man is not the image of God anymore and no longer participates in the goodness and beauty of God, his dignity can no longer be justified. Consistent atheists therefore drop the idea of ​​human dignity. In 2012, scientists Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva called for the legalization of the killing of newborn babies, for example in the event that the mother feels psychologically distressed. That is simply consistent. If evolution is the only productive force, then only its laws apply in the struggle for survival, only the right of the stronger applies then. And when the stronger has realized that love is just a trick of evolution, he will not be dazzled by its brilliance any longer. Morality is then, as Nietzsche opined, only something for the weak. The strong, on the other hand, grits his teeth in order to suppress the twinges of conscience.

But what does "strong" even mean when everything is subject to transience? Any victory in the struggle for existence is just a temporary victory. The strength of the strong is mere illusion. In reality, everyone and everything is at the mercy of the inevitable eventual decay. There is nothing that is permanent. Everyone is on the losing side. Everything becomes futile.

It is very different when God exists. Love is strong as death, according to the Bible. Even if the lover dies, he lives on with God. The loving person participates in the immortality of love. He lives forever. The martyr seems to succumb to his enemies; in reality he wins the victory. The weakness of the lover is mere appearance. In reality he participates in the eternal omnipotence.

Just as in the case of atheism man's life becomes completely indifferent, because love has no meaning and everything is subject to transience anyway, so in the light of Christian faith everything in life gains an eternal meaning when it happens out of love. Nothing is indifferent. The smallest action, performed out of love, finds its echo in eternity. Nothing is lost. Everything is recorded in the Book of Life.

The life of the atheist as life in a world without God is meaningless, no matter how much he struggles to make sense of his life. The life of the Christian, on the other hand, is filled to the brim with meaning as long as he has a share in the divine love through sanctifying grace.

At the end of our lives, we will be judged on love. Atheism eliminates the judgment, not only because there is no judge, but also because there is nothing to judge. One of Germany's vocal atheists claims that there are neither good nor bad people, just like there are neither good nor bad mice. Free will, responsibility and morality are mere illusions. When such convictions spread, it comes as no surprise that there are people who draw their own conclusions and only behave morally if it promises a benefit. In this case, the moral behaviour of man is no longer moral, but it is what classical ethology calls moral analogical behaviour in animals: it only looks like moral behaviour; in reality, it is a behaviour that stems from the acumen of evolutionary logic. Consequently, love is also put under general suspicion: it is actually calculation. Thus atheism leads to a loveless world. If at the beginning there is no love as the primal source of all reality, then all attempts to implant it later as a relevant instance come too late. Love no longer has a chance to assert itself in a world of blind and cold legality. Without God, love remains a mere illusion.

Zum deutschen Original

Engelbert Recktenwald: Is Morality without God an Illusion?


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