James Croft asked an interesting question in a public Facebook post.
Interesting question which came up at this Clergy Care Summit: what is a Humanist version of “Know that God Loves you?”
There’s a string of comments offering substitutes but they’re not fully convincing. My answer is that there isn’t one. (Ian Cromwell’s is good though – “We’re all in this together”. That has the advantage of being true, along with the disadvantage of being not nearly as comforting as the original.)
There can’t be a humanist or Humanist version of “Know that God Loves you” because people are free to project onto this imagined god the most perfect satisfying consoling love possible. They’re free to reconcile mutual impossibilities – God loves everyone infinitely, but/and God’s love for me is total and undivided and not distracted by God’s love for my siblings or my best friend or those people I hate or anyone. God doesn’t love God’s own self more than God loves me.
Humanism doesn’t work that way, so it can’t possibly offer anything equivalent to that.
It seems silly to pretend otherwise. We just can’t do the consolation thing the way religion does, because we’re constrained by reality.
Blanche Quizno says
Some sciencey guy recently published something or other where he suggested that certain qualities indicate a higher level of evolution than others. One of these is the ability to regard complete strangers as fellows, as “in one’s tribe” or “extended family”. The more primitive tendency is to regard strangers as “other”, as “enemy”, as “foreign”. More and more people, especially in the younger generations, are displaying this tendency to be concerned for the poor, for the disenfranchised, the powerless within society, which is consistent with that “more evolved” characteristic. That so many young people are concerned about social justice issues bodes well for our species’ survival. In the limit, “We’re all in this together” is as empowering, comforting, assuring, consoling, protective, and engaged as we wish it to be. If we want to feel beloved, we can always find confirmation, especially if we’re willing to delude ourselves.
I personally don’t find “Know that God loves you” comforting in the least. You might as well be promising me the Easter Bunny’s love. But at least there’s a chance I’ll get some chocolate out of that…
I agree with you. Reality is not there to make you feel better. It simply is. So you have to deal with it in the best way you can.
“Reality is not there to make you feel better.”
Not necessarily. It depends which reality you’re talking about. One that humanism refers to is the reality that humans make. If, IF, we established free, fair, equal rules — and that’s entirely up to us — and IF we kept those promises to each other — also entirely up to us — it would be a very very very comforting world to live.
For real, what’s more. Not in Easter Bunny land.
I think that makes “We’re all in this together” a good equivalent to “God loves you.” One just has to remember the second clause, “and we can make it good.”
The Universe doesn’t give a fuck, so it’s up to you!
I guess my version is “No god is out to get you”. That has been very comforting to me, the idea that bad is either human caused or random chance.
An equivalent? How about, “According to someone’s standards, you’re above average.”
This is equivalent because it’s just as true as the theistic quote is from the perspective of a believer, and it should be just as (not) comforting. Universal love is meaningless. It necessitates awful standards. That guy who loves you? He also loved Hitler. What’s the comfort in being loved by a Hitler-lover?
I think humanism can do way better than that. Cromwell’s quote is nice for its brevity. I would suggest something along the lines of, “As long as you’re trying to improve the world, there are good people out there cheering for you.”
It might still apply to Hitler, though, so it’s not perfect.
Blanche Quizno said:
Are you perhaps talking about Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature?
If so, I sure hope he didn’t claim that “certain qualities indicate a higher level of evolution than others,” because that’s not science; that’s gobbledygook.
Individuals of a species can’t be “more highly evolved” than each other. Not, that is, if by “evolved” you’re talking about evolution by natural selection. Your racist, Catholic-hating, xenophobic grandmother is every bit as evolved as her open-minded, Doctors-Without-Borders-supporting atheistic grandson/daughter. Having empathy toward strangers is certainly a trait that seems like it would keep humans around on the earth longer, but that has precisely zip to do with our evolution.
Look, you can have your dreams
That gossamer net over schemes
That covers every hole in your heart
Giving a sense of love apart
But all of it isn’t really true
There is no God to love you
By look at the faces all around
Listen to the voices and the sound
Hear the spring cry of birth
Declaring another arrival on earth
The summer childhood dance
Each moment another chance
In autumn fullness to beget
What winter cannot forget
You are not as alone as you fear
Because it is real and it is here
Smell the garden hear the birds
Touch the air more real than words
And as you look at it all remember
That you are a part and a member
There is still a you to love
Like none could from above
Harald Hanche-Olsen says
Behind that “know that god loves you” is the everpresent threat that maybe, just maybe, he loves you so much that he will grant you an eternity of agony to really make you regret not having loved him equally in return. I don’t find that thought comforting at all, and am glad that there isn’t a humanist equivalent.
“You are worthy of love.”
Marcus Ranum says
certain qualities indicate a higher level of evolution than others
Anyone who says that doesn’t understand one fucking thing about evolution.
I vote for “No god is out to get you.” (iknklast #5)
IOW, nobody planned your difficulties, there was no malign intelligence thinking of ways to hurt you, nobody “up there” is chortling over your pain or planning worse. Nobody is trying to “teach you a lesson”, or “hitting you with a two-by-four to get your attention”, as many Christian teachers claim.
It all just happened. No blame, no promise of future agonies if you don’t shape up in some unspecified way.
That’s a great comfort, right there.
Harald Hanche-Olsen says
Okay, “no god is out to get you” is good, but it isn’t an equivalent – it’s an anti-equivalent. Which is fine with me.
John Morales says
Anyone who says that doesn’t understand that not all uses of evolution refer to biological evolution.
John Morales says
I see James Croft as a religious person (though certainly not a goddist!) who thinks in religious ways.
So, the interesting thing is whether he really thinks there might be a humanistic equivalent.
(I too like iknklast’s @5)
SC (Salty Current), OM says
I’ve written a response. My conclusion:
Dave Ricks says
For John @14, I still agree with Marcus @10.
• In your link to many meanings of evolution, which have concepts of higher versus lower? Starting with the first example of beach evolution, I see 1) no concept of beaches having higher or lower levels, and 2) no principle of beaches evolving from lower levels toward higher levels. This is what Gould meant by evolution is a bush, not a tree.
• Of the many types of evolution in your link, which relate to morality? Your link has a link to spiritual evolution, but do you really mean that to top Marcus? That link to spiritual evolution says, “All of them can be considered to be teleological to a greater or lesser degree.” This is not something you would mean.
But to give you a nod, your support for inklast @5 prompted me to transcribe this from the movie “24 Hour Party People” (scene 13, “Low Point”) where the panhandler under the bridge says:
(Maybe too long for a T-shirt or bumper sticker)
Elspeth Morrison says
“You are a child of the Universe, you have the right to be be here,”
Phoniest line in the whole phoney Desiderata but oddly comforting and works in most situations where a believer might say “Know that God loves you.”
WithinThisMind‘s “You are worthy of love” has been my long standing favorite (even if to my ears it has always sounded a bit like “you are not as horrible as you think … perhaps”. Sorry, I can’t help it.) Still, obviously it’s not an equivalent of “God loves you” and I agree with Ophelia that “we just can’t do the consolation thing the way religion does”.
Actually it’s more than a mere agreement on my part: just to read it admitted so openly, without any attempt to soften or to camouflage the message, feels like a breath of fresh air.
My answer is that there isn’t one.
I’d say there are multiple different answers that depend on the context. You’d normally say God loves you to someone who feels alone or depressed or something similar. In which case the reason behind that makes a difference
“It gets better” would be a response to a bullied youth.