Chapter 30 - Love thy neighbor as thyself

If you have ever been fortunate enough to live in a well-connected neighborhood, then you know how beneficial the human notion of community can be. A good neighborhood works because it brings hundreds of people into an environment pre-disposed to helpfulness and sharing. The combination of "good people" and "helping and sharing" can be extremely powerful. When good people get together in groups and decide to help one another to achieve common goals, it is the most powerful force on the planet. We need to understand the power of the community and take advantage of it as much as possible.

If you've had a baby, then you know how difficult those first few weeks can be. Let's say that couple gives birth to a new baby in a well-connected neighborhood. Within that community, neighbors recognize the need and they help out. Perhaps they help by preparing dinners for the family for several weeks. This is incredibly helpful to the family, and it makes everyone in the neighborhood feel good to help.

In the same way, if someone in the neighborhood is in the hospital, people from the neighborhood visit and help the person out. They cook meals. They help take care of the kids. They pick up the mail. They keep the lawn mowed. The neighborhood is a strong network of people willing to help each other, and willing to receive help from the group. People share rides, they take care of each others' kids, they work on projects together, they have pot-luck parties, they help each other find jobs... It is an extremely powerful concept built on ideals like trust, love, understanding and giving.

Why does this happen? It has nothing to do with "God" or "religion." It happens because of human intelligence and a basic desire to be kind and helpful. We all realize that we need help on occasion, and we all like to receive kindness. We then extrapolate that notion to others. If I sometimes need help from others, then it is true that sometimes others will need help from me. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure this out. Therefore, we help others. We are kind to each other. We share. What goes around comes around -- we all know that.

There is no reason to gum up this simple notion with the belief in a non-existent being or religious ritual. You shouldn't help your neighbors because of "God" or "going to heaven" in the "afterlife." You help your neighbors because you care about your neighbors, and because you will appreciate it when someone helps you in the same way. It is that simple, and that human.

It is extremely valuable to live in a community of people where the community members genuinely care about one another. A loving community has immense value to everyone involved. What it is all about is creating a close, caring group of people who help one another, share with one another and enjoy each other's company while we are here together on earth.

What about Churches

This brings up an interesting point. Having recognized that God is imaginary, what happens to churches? I don't think anything "happens" to them. They continue to exist because they perform a useful function.

What is a church? It is a community of people who agree to get together regularly, help one another and share in each other's company. A church also helps people to focus on the general concept of goodness once a week -- that is generally what the sermon tries to accomplish. In addition, many churches have an outreach component. When there is a disaster, either in the community or somewhere else in the world, the church members often will band together to help in some way. The church might collect and send money or relief supplies. Large, advanced churches may even mount their own disaster teams. We saw quite a bit of this type of activity in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, both by churches and by secular groups.

Once you remove the imaginary being -- who, remember, was never there to begin with -- along with the book written by primitive men that advocates murder and hatred -- do churches suddenly vanish? I don't think that is necessarily the case. In fact, it probably makes things better. Removing delusion is a good thing, not a bad thing.

A thriving church community can be an amazing thing. But it is the people who make that happen, not any imaginary being. Once the imaginary being is gone, churches continue to exist as communities of people who enjoy each others' company, who help one another in times of need, and who focus on goodness and good deeds for the benefit of society as a whole. What's not to like about that? By removing the imaginary being, church attendance may actually go up, because a strong church has a lot to offer.

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by Marshall Brain

New York Times Coverage
discussed in a
New York Times piece
by N. D. Kristof.
For a counter-point to Mr. Kristof, please see
Chapter 26.

Recommendation by Sam Harris
Sam Harris recommends WWGHA in his book Letter to a Christian Nation.

Endorsement by Richard Dawkins
In a New York Times Letter, Richard Dawkins calls WWGHA a "splendid Web site."

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