Transfer of adoration: er, no

Here’s a thought: some religious people are so disgusted by the irreligious because they think they still have that same adoration the religious have for God, except aimed at a different target.

Consider it: God is a boss that’s never wrong. You just have to trust Him, try to understand Him, let yourself be totally guided by Him, even if that’s not your first moral intuition. He’s the reason for everything, and the origin of everything, world, life, love, art and songbirds; He’s all-powerful, everywhere, worth more than your friends and family, and to be obeyed over all calls of duty, love, decency or sanity.

That’s quite some adoration; and I think that’s a part of how a believer might view his or her God. If you then get the mistaken impression that an infidel has replaced God with Science, or Money, or Themselves, or the State — well, that’s monstrous, that’s true! Money more important than your friends? This cold, abstract thing called Science more important than everything else added together, and the wellspring of all art and love? This vague humanist philosophy of life more important than all your personal loves and loyalties? You, yourself, the most good and most loveworthy being in all existence?

Such statements are either ludicrous or monstrous, or maybe both, probably because God’s the only target towards which such abject adoring surrender is normal anymore. A long time ago the same would have been normal when serving a king with particularly honest diligence, but today God’s the only target that remains. Even blind political devotion is a much depleted thing nowadays, in most places. Personal romance might cause similar statements, but though the emotion’s true the statements tend to be understood as somewhat exaggerated and poetic by both parties. (“You’re my moon!” — “What, inconstant, pockmarked and fat?”)

I think that horrendous power of devotion isn’t re-targeted when a person becomes non-religious, it’s not realigned to self or some other target, or mirrored into hatred of God; it just goes away. A person then finds other things to care about, but not with quite the same worrisome intensity. Might be a good thing that is so; such grovely love is not particularly pretty, or conductive to a balanced life. God’s the best of worst targets, though, maybe, because He’s an inert thing, not much given to issuing surprise proclamations. (For a real live “devotion god” in action, consult North Korea. Absolute devotion starting to look bad yet?) Any ideal with so devoted followers would quickly triumph over all reason, truth and moderation, them being things vastly inferior to the truth of the One All-Loved Thing. (Pick a political ideology you don’t like; you see what I mean.)

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