God is Love. This truth, given to us by the Apostle John, is the single greatest salvo in the war between those who believe in God and those who either may not, or do not.
“Today, I call heaven and earth to witness against you: I am offering you life or death, blessing or curse. Choose life, then, so that you and your descendants may live, in the love of Yahweh your God, obeying his voice, holding fast to him; for in this your life consists, and on this depends the length of time that you stay in the country which Yahweh swore to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that he would give them.” (Deuteronomy 30:15-20. The translation is from the New Jerusalem Bible (Doubleday, 1990)).
Those who believe in God, believe that we are made in his image. Those who do not believe in God assert otherwise, as I myself did in the days of my agnosticism: we construct God in our image.
If we make God in our image, then we may seem to be freer; and since there probably seems little quantifiable evidence suitable to our likes and dislikes, this freedom is quite serviceable for day-to-day living. We may believe in any God we choose, although this is idolatry. Or we may freely choose to believe in none at all. This is what the Old Testament (Leviticus) calls in another context “a hateful thing” – that is, it is at the very least disordered. However, since we are the ones who create, none of the God-centered epithets matter, because when we make God in our image, those who cajole or chastise us with such epithets are simply mistaken and (in a good society) they are to be treated as kindly as possible.
On the other hand, if God makes us in his image, an entirely different scenario results. No longer are we in the driver’s seat. And, whereas if we do not believe in God the universe may consist of a thousand variations of gray (each equal to the other according to logic), now the universe consists of black and white and actual colors in between, each according to the intent of their Creator, who is not us. In this uncomfortable and damnable situation, we have a part that is not of our choosing. Furthermore, we depend on God to tell us what to do – because we seem to be unable to agree.
Wait – is that actually different than under the scenario where we make God in our image? No, it is not. We disagree about everything anyway.
Love gathers all things up, and spills over – we must love our neighbors as ourselves. Surprisingly, we are instructed in love that we must not judge, for that is the province of God.
Evil separates, breaks down and destroys. It violates laws that unite us, and allows countless parentheses, commas, and digressions. It removes the authority to which we may appeal and replaces it with self-will, judgment and chaos. Because everything is special, nothing is sacred. Its expression is hate, but it also reaches to the spiritually gray world of those who choose to live in limbo, whose existence is carefully contained in the word “Maybe.”
Life, or death. “Choose life, then, so that you and your descendants may live, in the love of Yahweh your God, obeying his voice, holding fast to him; for in this your life consists.”