Peacebang actually asks this question- I urge you to check it out: How Do You Know God Loves You? I have a very personal answer for her, but it is far to long to post as a comment on her blog, so I’m posting it on my own- hope you like it, PB!
This is from my personal Book of Shadows, which I’m thinking of editing and publishing; please respect my copywrite.
The flowering of Spring is when we come to realize that the Divine is a hedonist, a sybarite, a sensualist; she pours out joys and pleasure in inexhaustible abundance. These sensual pleasures are true Religious Magic; they are unexplainable by biology or evolution.
A sense of taste need only identify nutrients and toxins to satisfy the demands of evolution- and a random sampling of dog food will tell you how little subtlety is required to accomplish that. How can the materialist explain the fact that many chemical compounds are both non-toxic and indigestible- a biological null value- and yet are some of our favorite foods? Many highly nutritious foods taste so bad that children must be coerced into eating them- and then there is the very long list of things that taste good, but are quite toxic; that’s why they make “Mr. Yuck” labels. Clearly evolution cannot have produced the exquisitely sensitive human palate: there is no rational explanation for the infinite complexity of our sense of taste other than The Divine’s desire to give us daily pleasure.
When we look at a sunset, we can see the approximate hour, and possibly predict the morning’s weather- “Red sky at morning, sailor take warning; red sky at night, sailor’s delight.”. Valuable information, to be sure- but what biological value is there in noting the beauty of it?
A sense of smell can separate friend from foe, or a dainty morsel from a rotten egg. But why should we enjoy the smell of a rose any more than that of any other edible plant? Why should the smell of flowers be erotic, when a flower is not a sex object for anyone but a bee?
How does evolution explain music? A sense of timing and rhythm would be useful in tracking prey; combining that with our communication instincts easily explains poetry, and perhaps songs… but what about instrumental music? Why should we be moved to tears by a piano or violin, when these sounds never occurred in nature? What possible evolutionary explanation is there for the frisson we feel at the opening chords of the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor?
Taste, touch, sight, sound, and scent- each is a source of endless joy rather than the mundane gathering of information they might have been. What better proof do you need that The Divine loves you, and wants you to be happy?
And what of the joy that combines all five senses- sex? Pleasure isn’t necessary for reproduction; instinct alone would have sufficed for that- it does for trillions of other animals. Nor is sexual pleasure necessary for emotional bonding; there are platonic unions as strong as any between lovers. In fact, the divorce rate argues that mere sex cannot cement a bond. There is no material explanation for sex being the transcendental experience that it is.
All these things She gives us for no reason other than to bring us joy. And here is the depth of Her love for us- these gifts are unconditional. The wicked and the saintly are given the same sunset and sunrise; the rich and the poor can smell the same flowers- every second of your life She is trying to fill you with joy in a hundred ways. Each of these joys is a sacrament. Do not demean them by taking them for granted or rushing through the experience.
Seek the sensual in all that you do. As I write these words, I savor the feel of the pen in my hand; the faint scratching of the nib delights my ears and tingles my fingertips. I watch in fascination as the wet ink glitters in the lights, then fades to black as it dries.
You should make time as often as possible to savor at least one sensual pleasure in detail as a ritual. Pick someone or something you truly love, or something new you wish to experience. If you choose food, it needn’t be Chateaubriand- a combo pizza will do as well, if that’s the way your tastes run. If you choose a scent, it doesn’t matter if it’s rose or well-oiled leather.
The preparation for this ritual need not be time consuming, but it does need to be genuine. Gather what you need. Prepare the meal, or place the comfy chair in front of the stereo, or whatever is necessary for the sacrament you chose.
Light a candle to remind you of who you are honoring. Say a prayer to clear your mind of any distractions that might come between you and the gift of The Divine.
Do not be rushed. If it’s a meal, inhale the aroma before you start. Chew slowly; feel the textures, taste each herb and spice before they harmonize together. If it was a recording, savor each instrument before the melody demands attention.
There will come a moment- it may be when that perfectly aged piece of cheese melts on your tongue; it may be when you find a deeper meaning in a poem you thought you knew; it may be when a flute soars freely above the strings- there will come a moment when your senses peak, a moment when nothing else exists in the universe but that one perfect note. At that moment you have touched The Divine.
When you are finished, give thanks. Thank not only The Divine, but all who collaborated in your joy. Thank the cook- and also the being, person, plant or animal, that gave you pleasure. Thank the artist, the performer, the author. It doesn’t matter that they cannot hear your thanks; it matters that you offer them. Those thanks are a reminder that all we do touches lives we will never see.
*To deny yourself joy is a sin; you are wasting the gifts of The Divine. Conduct your life in such a way as to maximize the gifts The Divine so freely pours into your life. The Divine wants you to live, not merely exist.
*To deny others joy is a blasphemy; you are attempting to thwart the will of The Divine. This is the most negative of sins. If you steal a man’s money, you are enriched (even though your soul is impoverished); but if you steal his happiness, nothing is gained, and the whole world loses.
*To give joy is a virtue; you are assisting The Divine. When you are feeling sad, summon the will to produce a smile and a kind word for those around you; the effort will be rewarded. Don’t imagine that you’re being hypocritical because you don’t feel the cheerfulness you’re projecting- as a gift to another, it has a purity in its own right.