I fell in love with my wife in 1962. I remember it well.
I knew something odd was going on. According to recent research, within a fifth of a second, 12 areas of my brain, including the dorsolateral middle frontal gyrus, the anterior cingulate, the caudate nucleus, the putamen and the posterior hippocampus began working together producing an increase in dopamine, oxytocin, adrenaline, vasopressin, and a decrease of serotonin. No wonder it was romantic!
I assume that, logically, the atheist who claims that religious experience is purely subjective, should say that this description fully explains the experience I had when I met my wife and so we do not require the metaphysical concept of “love.”
Other research has shown that love is a painkiller, because it affects the same areas of the brain that are used by drugs to overcome pain.
Scientists also say that love is “an emotional state of intense longing for union with another, involving chemical, cognitive, and goal-directed behavioural components.” It includes “complex emotions, goal-directed motivations, body image, appraisal and cognition.”
Love is far more than emotion and sexual feelings. According to the New Testament, love is primarily an act of the will. It is following the Man for Others – Jesus. It is about deciding to put the welfare of other people before one’s own welfare and concerns. It involves sacrifice. Love is cross-shaped.
However, because human beings are created to love by a God who is love, human fulfilment comes through being truly loving. It is interesting that a recent survey showed that 75% of Britons believe helping people is the key to happiness. So, although love is primarily for the benefit of others, it is also good for you. It brings happiness and kills pain. Christianity is loving God and loving your neighbour. It brings eternal happiness.
© Tony Higton: see conditions for reproduction