Nancy M. Martin and Joseph Runzo

in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Emotion

Published in print December 2007 | ISBN: 9780195170214
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780199892150 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology


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Love lies at the heart of the religious life, as a principle mode of relationship between the human and the transcendent, as a guiding motivation for the moral life, and, for many, as a defining attribute of the transcendent. Among all the emotions, love is the most transformative. Yet the transformative power of love can be highly disruptive, contravening the careful conceptual apparatus of religion, undermining institutional religious authority, and upsetting social expectations and hierarchies. And if the power of the emotion of love is not harnessed for self-transformation, then rather than enhancing the other-regarding perspective prescribed by religion, this emotion can increase attachment, partiality, and self-centeredness. In theistic traditions such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Baha'i, bhakti Hinduism, and Sikhism, love is considered an essential defining attribute of God and a definitive mode—if not the single definitive mode—of relationship between humans and the divine. This article discusses the nature of love and emotion, love as an attribute of the transcendent, and love as the response to the transcendent.

Keywords: God; love; moral life; transcendent; religious authority; social expectations

Article.  11425 words. 

Subjects: Sociology of Religion

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