“What may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20).
Consider the curious case of Sigmund Freud. As the father of psychotherapy, Freud’s great passion was to understand what goes on “in” human beings. He was also known to be a staunch advocate of atheism, claiming that science ruled out belief in God.
But after many years of atheistic certainty, something unexpected happened “in” Freud’s own psyche. As he came to the end of his life, Freud began saying things that nobody ever expected to come out of his mouth. He spoke of “strange, secret longings… for a life of quite a different kind.” He began to feel things on an emotional level that he himself had suppressed all his life. Science began to fail his atheism. “The bad part of it, especially for me,” he explained, “lies in the fact that science of all things seems to demand the existence of God.” This is the man who is known to this day as one of the most ardent defenders of atheism ever to have lived. But Freud seems to have experienced, to some degree at least, what Sir Francis Bacon once articulated so well:
“A little knowledge of science makes a man an atheist, but in-depth study makes him a believer in God.”
Science began to fail his atheism.
Freud devoted himself to atheism, and in the end came up empty-handed, or empty-hearted, with strange, secret longings for God even as he tried to not believe in God.
Our longing for God often presents itself to us as a longing for love. We feel a nagging hunch that we may not be alone in the universe, because the existence of any love at all suggests the existence of a perfect love to which we aspire and to which we are ultimately accountable for all our unloving deeds. In other words, our longing for love and our sense of accountability to a standard of love in our treatment of others is evidence of God’s existence.
So, then, love—reasoned through to its logical conclusion—constitutes a construct of reality that includes:
• a perfect standard of relational integrity, or law
• accountability to that standard, or a sense that we are judgement bound
• and a final state of the universe in which everything contrary to love must be banished from existence and only free moral agents who love all others above themselves will remain, or a “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).
At the end of his scientific career, growing old and beginning to look back in retrospect, Freud found himself stirred with strange, secret longings for a life of a different kind. Sooner or later you’ll experience the same.