After Atheism

The Religion of Community
October 28, 2008, 4:02 pm
Filed under: Atheism, Religion, Uncategorized | Tags: ,

Here, in brief, is the core idea I’d like to explore in this blog: Much of what I used to get out of believing in religion and God, I now get out of belief in community.

By community I mean any group of people united by some common purpose that requires their active participation. It could be two people in a relationship. A family. A neighborhood. A club. An organization. A business. A government. It can last a day or go on indefinitely. All of us belong to many communities.

A community is something we choose to belong to because we believe in the value of its common purpose. It is a leap of faith that something in this world is worth preserving, or that some future is possible.

By joining a community, we shift from being an isolated individual to being a citizen. Few groups long tolerate members whose sole interest is their own needs. Being a citizen requires a certain degree of selflessness, of working to further the group’s goals, of adhering to the rules, of supporting your fellow citizens and defending the group from all the forces that tear groups apart.

Which doesn’t mean you lose your individuality or unique perspective. It’s the duty of a citizen to keep the community on track in an ever shifting world, to disagree when disagreement is called for, to actively engage in the debate. But also to recognize that the purpose of the debate isn’t who wins and who loses. It’s finding those ideas that best addresses whatever problem the group is facing. It’s as if a community is an organic thing unto itself. By belonging, we become part of this larger body.

Seen in this way, community can be a source of belonging, of moral authority, of common cause, of meaningful action, even of a certain immortality.  It’s through becoming part of a community, stepping up to citizenship, that we can become part of something transcendent, something I would even call spiritual.

But that’s another conversation. Today’s music: Mercedes Sosa. It’s a sunny day in L.A. and the Phillies are half a game away from winning the series. What a world.


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