Campion College yesterday hosted its monthly Campion Cafe Conversations, which asked the question "Is Romantic Love the New Religion?" The conversation featured Christopher Hartney from the Department of Studies in Religion in the University of Sydney, and the Divine Wedgie's blogger at large, Matthew Tan.
Hartney spoke of an insidious cult of the romantic, which was driving romantic love itself into greater degrees of blandness. Meanwhile, Tan cautioned the audience against being too hasty with awarding romantic love with the title of the new religion, though he said we should not be surprised that overlaps existed between the religious and the romantic. Romantic love has long provided many drivers for human existence present in many religions. On the other hand, revealed religion has often been articulated using the language of romantic love. Moreover, Tan argued that Christian theology affirmed romantic love precisely because it was a faint echo of the love of the Trinity. The danger thereby lay in jettisoning the Trinitarian archetype and making what should be an analogy, namely romantic love, as a self-sufficient ultimate reality. Not only does it amount to turning romantic love into an idol that turns those in love into victims. It also leads to a thinning out of love from a virtuous action to an ephemeral feeling of an hermetically sealed self.
The conversation intersected rather neatly with an article in Psychology Today by the University of Haifa's Aaron Ben Ze'ev, who encapsulated the conversation with his usage of the term "Ideology of Love". If the romantic were to be turned into an ideology to which everything is subordinate, it ended up ruining love itself, which is manifest most frequently in the emphasis on "faithfulness to one's heart" rather than faithfulness to the object of one's affections. As Tan said in the conclusion of his presentation, whilst romantic love still has competitors for the title of supreme religion, it nonetheless was showing the features of a thing of ultimate concern, and the extent to which it does is the extent to which it becomes a god demanding human sacrifice.