Searching for God: Community

One often neglected component that is essential, when conducting a thorough investigation for God’s existence, is participating in community.

Think about it: how did you learn math or chemistry or English?  It was almost certainly in community – with a teacher, fellow students, and books written, edited, published, marketed and sold by others you never met.  Almost all of our learning, in every discipline, depends upon participation in a community.  If you want to learn math, you get to know the math professors; for chemistry, with others in the lab; for English, through reading and the English department.  The same is true if you are looking to find God: you simply need to be around people who claim to know God!

There are a variety of objections to this: religious people are hypocrites and fakes, religion is a primary source of oppression and immorality, and this recommendation is no more than psychological manipulation.  Let’s think about these in order.

“Religious people are hypocrites.”  This is probably true, in the sense that it is true of everyone.  The question is: do the religious people you know seem aware of this problem, express regret for its effect on others, and exercise diligence in their efforts to become authentic?  If not, move on; if so, you’ve found a unique community.

“Religion is a primary source of oppression and immorality.”  Again, probably true, in the sense that it is true of every institution.  Any established group will have blind spots and habits that are harmful and hurtful to others.  Seriously – do you have rigorous empirical support that your favorite newspaper, educational establishment, fraternity, or business only does good?  Or will you advocate for anarchy?  Even Google, which has as its informal motto, “Do no evil,” has come under withering attack for its violation of privacy standards.  Our best intentions often, typically fall short of our actual behavior.  My recommendation: look for religious communities that are obviously good, warm, truthful, loving places to belong.  Find a place that will be intentionally helpful in your search for God.

“The invitation to investigate in community is psychological manipulation, just a way of forcing yourself to believe.” Let’s say this is true – it could still be the case that you will figure out the truth about God and ultimate reality quicker from participating in community than from not doing so.  You’re already embedded in some groups and have some friends.  Are they helpful in your search for God – or not?  It has been the experience of many that some friends and communities are helpful in looking for God.  Why not look for some?  Along the way, think carefully and responsibly evaluate those groups you look into.

In the same way you have learned important truths from different communities, so also you will best learn about God from participating in a community that knows and loves Him – and you.