FAITH column June 5, 2016.
The words ‘Oh my God’ can be popular parlance to express exasperation, exclamation and exhilaration; a social vernacular for all manner of loquacious linguistics. In these contexts, the words’ religious ramifications and/or blasphemous innuendo are rendered irrelevant for most of us; be we believers, agnostics or atheists. Australia’s Constitution Act of 1901 included the separation of church and state but a concept of ‘loving’ God seems more than just a convenient coincidence as its preamble refers to a ‘humble reliance on the blessing of Almighty God’. Moreover, Australian Parliaments still open with a Christian prayer.
Over the past two hundred and twenty-one years, religious heritage has been an almost intangible, yet potent force in shaping our secular, socio-economic political reality, yet does a love of God, and God’s ‘supposed’ love of us, translate into a moral, ethical and spiritual faith focusing on loving ourselves; albeit with all our human imperfections? Is there an inextricable link? Faith in love of God may inspire self-love, with Christianity, Judaism and Islam et al propounding that ‘God is love…’ as written in 1 John 4:8 & 16 with Deuteronomy 6:4-5 commanding ‘…You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.’ The Qur’an states ‘the minimum expectation from believers is that God should have the first place in their heart….God should be the highest and foremost object of love…’
Historically, religious tenets about God have imbued many social constructs about love; with the derision of self-love as ‘selfish’ and ‘narcissistic’ by both religious and psychological masterminds such as Calvin and Freud who postulated that love for others and love for oneself were mutually exclusive. Psychologist Erich Fromm in ‘The Art of Loving’ strongly suggests otherwise; maintaining the ‘idea expressed in the Biblical ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself!’ implies that… the love for my own self is inseparably connected with the love for any other being.’ The traditional significance of religious rhetoric about love and God suggests loving God is quintessential for love in its myriad of manifestations, yet Freud denounced religious doctrines as ‘(bearing) the imprint of the times of the childhood of humanity…; religions…(to be) classed among the mass delusions…’
Can love, particularly self-love, be attained without worship of God? Confucius, born in 550 BC, was not a religious believer either, adhering to an ethical code encompassing ‘man…(as) sufficient to attain the ideal character through education, self-effort and self-reflection.’ Implicit in his philosophy is a faith in love of self; a love that also embraces love of others to benefit all mankind; without a God dictating human destiny. A new preamble for our Constitution Act?