This is a delayed post. I originally wrote this on a plane in May of this year. I’m just now getting around to editing and posting it.

What kind of a world would we be living in if we had no emotions? Would we be alive at all? What drives our emotions? Are they useful to us? Does religion play a part in our emotions? Does it define who we are, even if one doesn’t believe in a God? Let’s explore that by way of an encounter I had recently when traveling.

It all started at the airport as I was leaving for a trip to Orlando. As I normally do, I picked up a bottle of water to keep myself hydrated on the flight. There was nothing unusual about that, it was the same brand of water, purchased from the same airport store and the same man behind the counter took my money. In idle chit-chat as I decided to pick up a pack of gum at the same time, he quipped that we weren’t supposed to be here anyway.

To put that statement into context you would have to have known about the “End of the World” prediction for 21 May 2011 at 6 PM. This apparently didn’t come true as here I was on the 22nd, buying a bottle of water for my trip. Those of us who are diligent in understanding The Bible know that no man will know the date or time of the second coming of Christ, or the end of the world as some people would say. I said as much to the man behind the counter, who then postulated that we’d all be better off if we had no emotions. So this is where it gets strange.

I’m not sure how or why this gentleman made a leap from faith to emotions. He said emotions are why we still have wars, why we still have killing, hate and in that statement he lumped all “bad” things of this world. My feeling was that he was presuming if we had no hate in the world it would be a better place. By that he would have been correct, but his statement was seeking a world without emotion. So let’s study that for a moment.

What are emotions? Love, hate, desire, sadness, gladness, madness, happiness? There are probably more which can be covered by those basic ones off the top of my head. What about want, is that the same as desire? How about care, is that the same as love? Is need an emotion? I don’t see it as such as need is something driven more by self-preservation. But isn’t that driven by emotions of hunger and pain, survival? I need food to stay alive, or shelter to stay out of the weather. Let’s remove emotions from some situations and examine their outcome.

Let’s say I have no want, I have no care but I do have need for food. If I have no food, and you do, how do I get it? Do I ask, or do I simply take it, or maybe even just kill you for it? That’s no less than an animal would do to stay alive. I would have no remorse over your death if I had no emotions. I wouldn’t try to hide it as I would have no shame. No one else would have emotions, so no one else would care. Your carcass would simply rot where it lay. There would be no repercussions, without emotions no one has made any laws to govern us as a people.

Let’s say I’m walking along the street and I see people in need, they are probably more hungry than I am. If I have no emotion, I have no care. My focus is on preserving my own life, not others. But what is to prevent them from killing me if I have food? Perhaps only my own strength or other means to defend myself. But isn’t self-defense driven by emotion? But in this example, I have no fear, I have no emotions. I am not fearful of them killing me. For that matter do I have an emotion that drives self-preservation? Is there emotion tied to that?

If I am hungry do I experience pain? In a world without emotions is pain allowed? Is pain an emotion? In a world with emotions we sometimes equate pain with sadness, grief or loss. In that respect it -is- an emotion we experience. In a world without emotion, would we then not experience pain, would we not feel a need to eat, to preserve ourselves? I’ve drawn a parallel to the animal kingdom, but that’s not a fair comparison as animals do have feelings as well.

There is simply no way I can draw a clear example of the human race not having emotions. Under just this simple example given here, I think it can be quickly seen that humans would probably not exist without emotions. We’d probably kill each other off rather quickly and more so than we do now. So our emotions are key to our existence, and I would propose it’s why we -haven’t- killed ourselves totally. Where then does that leave religion as it relates to emotions?

There’s a little thing many of us call “morality.” Those without religion also have a morality though it may not have religious ties. It’s been something they were raised with in one way or another. It’s a defining line between right and wrong; what we feel good about and what we feel bad about. There’s that “feelings” thing again. Religion, when it’s taught and accepted as its founders expected, can be a strong driver for the good of man. When it isn’t studied properly or those of a weaker mind are bamboozled by charlatans and false-prophets, it drives a deep divide between those who understand religion and those who accept the fact others believe even if they themselves do not.

There are many people in this world who do not believe in God and they manage to get along fine with the rest of society. They even give to the poor, support charities, raise their kids right and contribute positively to the human condition. Are they living without emotions? No. In a sense, in America, it is the religious background that has set the stage for such high morality in our society today, preventing all out chaos. Religion has helped define the right and wrong, the good and the bad, and I’d almost bet those without religion can recognize that.

Would we have, could we have, emotions without religion? Certainly we could, in fact I’d say we would. And in having emotions, we would feel the good and the bad, and by that it would assist us in the right and the wrong. When things make us feel bad, we think of them as wrong. If I am hungry, I feel pain, I feel bad and I feel it is wrong that I am hungry. Once I eat, I feel better, I feel good. And in that personal experience I can understand how other people feel when they are hungry and in need.

If a person close to me dies, I feel pain, I feel bad, I feel it is wrong that the person has died. I therefore feel preserving life is good. Just that little bit of emotion can shape morality, even without the benefit of the 10 Commandments. Now I suppose without religion our feelings could have been defined differently, such that we don’t feel bad when somebody dies, but doesn’t that lead to the same chaos as our supposition of no emotions? If killing people feels “good” we’d do it until there is no one left.

So in a sense, religion has helped us as a society define right versus wrong, good from bad and has in many ways helped prevent war; kept war and killing to a minimum. Now if we could spread that feeling around more, maybe we could prevent it even more. I think religion has a powerful part to play in it all, as long as the morality being taught is to respect life and not take it in the name of “religion.”

Spread the word.
Asa Jay

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Copyright 2014, Asa Jay Laughton