Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Cult to Eros

True enough, more and more people believe that they can live without God. If it is true that God can live without us, that God can even live without our believing in Him, it is probably not true that we humans can live well and prosper without God.

Saying that we can is like saying that we are like God. And that feels like a bit of an overreach.

Still, atheism is trendy these days. Many serious people believe that the best way to assert their superior rational faculties is to claim that they have overcome primitive superstitions, especially the ones that you find in the Bible.

But, do those fervent believers in atheism-- because atheism is a belief system-- also hold that religion and spirituality are merely human constructs?

Keep in mind that religion is not just a system of belief. It is also the basis for community. Along with what some call superstition, religions contain moral principles and ethical teachings.

If you abandon all moral teaching, by pretending to rely on science, you should keep in mind that science does not tell us anything about how we should behave.

Of course, some people think that this would be a good thing. Hopefully, they will outgrow the idea when they reach adulthood.

If religion and spirituality are necessary to human beings, then the people who pretend to abandon religion, because they are too smart to believe in God, will replace it with another religion, or better, with a simulated religion-- a cult.

The people who form the anti-God squad have generally fallen prey to a modern form of pagan idolatry. They have joined together to worship at the alter of the god Eros. They don’t attend religious services, but they are fully accredited members of a cult to Eros, the god of romantic love.

Those who bow down to Eros have even come to believe that marriage is nothing more than an expression of true love, and thus, that two people who are of the same sex but who love each other should be allowed to marry.

I will not belabor the point yet again, but the only way you can think that marriage is an expression of true love is to ignore nearly all human history.

By the way, I do recall that in Plato’s Symposium, Socrates says that Eros is not a god but a daimon, which means a demi-god, half god and half human. For the sake of those who worship the god Eros, I will keep the alternative view: Eros is a god and he has his cult.

Reviewing three recent books on love, Charlotte Allen expressed it beautifully: “When God died—that is, when Western intellectuals and artists of the 18th and 19th centuries began finding themselves unable to believe in the Christianity of their forebears or its deity—the idea took hold that in selfless love for another person one could find the same absolute intensity of feeling, capacity for moral regeneration and conviction of one's own immortality that had been previously associated with the love of God.”

If Allen is right, and I believe that she is, those who worship at the altar of Eros are expecting far too much from their relationships.

To imagine that another person can produce an intense emotion that will produce moral regeneration-- what the therapists like to call a cure-- is pie-in-the-sky adolescent fantasy.

Expecting that love is going to make us immortal places a very heavy burden on another human being.

Whatever makes you think that you have the right to expect that another human being can or should form a relationship with you that will solve all of your problems? And thus, that losing that human being will be equivalent to losing life itself?

The net result of worshipping Eros is a landscape littered with failed love relationships, among which are far too many divorces and broken homes.

It’s really not a good idea to be a cult follower.

Among the authors reviewed, we find philosopher Simon May whose new book, Love: A History, asserts that once we decided to worship love as a god  we came to see it as: "our ultimate source of meaning and happiness, and of power over suffering and disappointment."

This means that the cult to Eros has been presented as therapeutic.

Happily enough, Allen places this love cult in the right context. She knows that it originated in the early Middle Ages, and that it manifested itself most recently in the aesthetic movement called eighteenth and nineteenth century Romanticism.

Allen writes: “It is the story of the rise of Romanticism, which exalted feeling and conceived of a heroic self ever in search of an ideal human Other, one in whom the self could find perfect consummation, even if that consummation violated conventional social and moral norms concerning marriage and chastity.”

It is worth mentioning, if only in passing, that Romanticism took hold in Europe and America as a reaction against the Industrial Revolution. When I say it was a reaction, I mean that Romanticism was a reactionary movement. No one should consider it, or the cult to Eros, as progressive cultural phenomena.

And then, as Allen would put it, romantic love became “democratized.” True enough. I would add that it infiltrated our minds through the agency of psychotherapy. Because, if anything is a cult to Eros it is modern psychotherapy.

Unfortunately, those who belong to the cult to Eros will pay for it by having worse relationships. If you give your all to a false god, the chances are very good that he will not reciprocate.

It’s a fool’s errand. As Allen explains: “Nowadays everyone seems to be seeking someone upon whom to bestow a love that is ‘enduring, unconditional, and selfless’ (Mr. May's words) and expecting reciprocation from the chosen object of affection. When that chosen object proves to be either nonexistent or all too humanly disappointing, there might be a divorce, a breakup or bitter resentment—but the search usually goes on.”

When you worship Eros, any failure of love is going to be more monumental, more painful, and more of a disappointment. If true love is the meaning of your life, if it is the reason why you are alive, then losing it becomes a life-shattering calamity.

There is nothing wrong with falling or being in love. Everything is wrong with making romantic love the meaning of your life.

If love is all that matters, then you will find yourself ignoring your duties and responsibilities. If you worship Eros you will imagine that true love will join you so firmly that you do not even have to try to get along with each other. You will then imagine that you don’t need anything else in your life, not friends, not career success, not even casual encounters with your neighbors.

When love is all there is, you seriously risk ending up with nothing.


The Ghost said...

It has been my experience that most atheists (I have been one since my teens - 35+ years ago) are still spirtual people. They may reject the god centered belief systems but many embrace one of the alternative spiritual belief systems. Enviromentalism, feminism, magnetic healing, herbal remedies, raw food, autism vaccines links and the return to nature movements usually have some rational science at their core but often veer off into a dogmatic belief system that in many ways mirrors the organized god based religions.

Atheists may not belive in God but they often believe in something just as mystical and irrational.

Robert Pearson said...

Atheists may not belive in God but they often believe in something just as mystical and irrational.

And well they might. At the age of 15 or so I began to seriously consider the world and it seemed to me that the logical conclusion of atheism is materialism, and the logical end of materialism, for the individual human, is hedonism. In a true materialist universe I really ought to grab all the sex, drugs and toys I can before my inevitable, total extinction. And why the hell have children? They're just collections of molecules who will also inevitably suffer and die.

Most atheists I, like you, have known must substitute something for God, otherwise they'll be staring Nihilism straight in the face. And despite their supposed rationalism, they're not prepared to take those consequences.

tablet pc 10 pulgadas said...

It can't succeed in fact, that's what I believe.

Anonymous said...

The mistake is limiting the concept of "Eros" or "Love" to social situations.

Why not worship "Eros" as in "Love" as in "Love" of the entire Universe, love of the moment, love of the past, present, and future.

Why think of anything specifically, why not just spend all your time focused on love itself and just let the feeling carry you?

Anonymous said...

I think you give the " god " Eros a bad rap. I have become quite fascinated with him of late thus I found your blog post in Googling info on him. He has been wrongly painted with a broad brush of sex, lust and wanton romance. His charms may have included such but they also included deep loyal LOVE. His falling in love with Psyche was heart felt not just physical (eros -love).

Anonymous said...

For all his other undisclosed faults and affiliations,
(atheist?)Erich Fromm noted that

"Love is something you DO, not something you GET."

the Romantics, being what some call
"vital" men (and women),are probably pursing a different end.