Why Does God Have Emotions?

07 Nov
Have you ever thought about this? Why does god have emotions? Why would a god have emotions? Almost every single instance of beings with emotions that we know about are sexually reproducing animals. Among these sexually reproducing animals, generally emotions are the means for successfully reproducing. Base emotions, like those in reptiles, are a means to not end up immediately dead: Fight or flight responses (anger, fear), hunger, sexual aggression, pain, pleasure. Anger, for example, isn't apart of a reptile's emotional repetoir because it's cool or base; it's there because without it, reptiles would not have had the motivation to evade death and thus would not have passed on their genes. Succinctly: a reptile that didn't get angry is a reptile that didn't live to pass on it's non-anger genes. A reptile that didn't find some other stimulation pleasing (like food or sex) would be a reptile that did not pass on its non-preferences for pleasing things (food, sex).
More complex, wider ranges of emotions are found in social species. That is, social animals need more complex emotions to navigate complex social situations… in order to reproduce successfully and/or to ensure that their progeny live to reproductive age (i.e. the love a grandmother has for her grandchildren ensures that she'll want to take care of her grandkids. Her genes, those in her grandkid, will live on to reproductive age with her support). Asexually reproducing animals generally do not have emotions (bacteria, etc).
Why does the Christian god have emotions? A god that loves, is pleased by things, or gets angry makes as much sense as a god with a penis.
I'm trying to think like a Christian apologist at this point, but I'm coming up with a serious blank for good rejoinders. God has emotions so that he can have relationships with us smacks of circular reasoning; it assumes what it is trying to prove. Yet it still doesn't answer the question. In the trillions of years before god thought to create humans, why would he have emotions during that infinite amount of time before time? Who is he interacting with? What goals does he need motivation to accomplish? What selection pressure was there on god to have these emotions (anger, love); would god not pass on his genes if he were emotionless? Again, god's emotions would be as supererogatory as god's penis. Maybe another answer would be that god just has emotions because that's what gods have. Again, this objection could still be used for god's penis: Gods have penises just because that's what gods have.
Moreover, emotions allow us to be manipulated by others for their (more than likely, reproductive) benefit. A god with emotions is a god that can be manipulated. Think about this: When you make god angry, you are controlling god! When you make god love you, you are controlling god! Surely, a god that can be controlled is not a god that anyone believes in. If a god with emotions exist, we most certainly would want to manipulate it for what's ultimately our reproductive benefit. What benefit does god get by emotionally manipulating us? Again, god's emotions at this juncture are unnecessary; what possible benefit could god get from us?
Every single emotion we feel has a physiological effect. The entire purpose of “anger” is to increase our heartrate, adrenaline, etc. This physiological response prepares us to fend off a threat. As a matter of fact, there can be no “anger” if these physiological indicators are not present. The entire purpose of love is to release “good feeling” chemicals that promote bonding like dopamine and oxytocin; we then subconciously associate this pleasant physiological response to the object of our love and a sociological bond forms. There's no hard and fast line demarcating the physical and the emotional. The two are one and the same. God has no physical body that could produce these emotions (i.e. where is god's oxytocin receptor so that he can feel the same amount of love that a woman has with her child, or when couples cuddle?), so how in the world would god even “feel” these emotions in the first place?
Now, I can't claim that I came up with this question myself. I got it from reading The End of Christianity; specifically chapter 6 “God's Emotions: Why The Biblical God Is Hopelessly Human“. I've read a lot of arguments both for and against the existence of god, yet this seems to be the most obvious argument against the existence of a personal god. Take a look at this paragraph from page 163:
Cognition without emotion doesn't get us very far. Damage to emotion centers in the brain can mean that even intelligent people can't learn from their mistakes [me: why does god need to learn?], and they make harmful social and fiscal decisions. In his book Descartes' Error, neurologist Antonio Damasio describes one patient who can gather and analyze information almost endlessly without it leading to a preference. For a decision to be made, all of that reason and information needs to create valence, a positive feeling that privileges one option over others that then directs action.
I'm actually sort of ashamed I hadn't thought of it myself, since intuitively a personal god made no sense to me. So for a long time I considered myself a pantheist.
The conclusion is simple. A god with emotions is the most egregious anthropomorphism of god that humans have come up with. A much more obvious anthropomorphism than a god with a penis; it could be argued that all other anthropomorphisms logically follow from this first one. But what happens when you get rid of god's emotions? You're left with a sort of alien, unrelatable god; a god that is of no use to the average Christian. So if a god were to be invented, it would have to have emotions; no one would invent a god that had no emotions.

Posted by on November 7, 2011 in cognitive science


3 responses to “Why Does God Have Emotions?

  1. Chris

    November 7, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    If I were still mormon I would have said that it's because god was once a human.

  2. J. Quinton

    November 7, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    There seems to be an inconsistency in that critique of this chapter. The first part rightly depends on the theologian's definition of god to refute Tarico's chapter. But the second part of that critique depends on the dictionary's definition of emotion to refute Tarico. Why not use the dictionary for both? Or use the experts' definition for both? The dictionary is just a compendium of common usages for words – mainly, a lay person's definition of words. It would only be consistent to also use the common person's conception of god in the first part. If not, to be consistent, I would have to depend on the more accurate definition of emotion as used by psychologists (i.e. Tarico herself, a psychologist) and neurologists, not the dictionary.

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