—that they may be seen of men
Norman Cousins, author of the popular book, Anatomy of An Illness, suggested in that work that, "a hospital is no place for a person who is seriously ill." In the same vein, I would argue that a church (or a mosque or a synagogue) is the last place to go if you are sincerely interested in finding God.
Go to church to socialize, network, or, as the churchgoers themselves so glibly put it, to fellowship, but not to find God.
Even Jesus suggested this:
And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou
hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father
which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
... they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men.
In other words, they engage in public worship, which is exactly what churches (and mosques and synagogues) purport to do, offer a venue for public worship, and they (the Christians) sing the praises of Jesus (an individual they often refer to as "the Lord") while doing so.
It is these kind of people that Jesus was referring to when he said,
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from
me, ye that work iniquity.
My paraphrase of this would go something like the following:
"I never knew you. I don't care that you said to me, Lord, Lord. You did not do what I said to do. You went your own way, and ended up creating a religion about me. I never asked you to do that. I did not come to this world to create a religion about myself. I told you how to pray; in private, not in public. I told you how to give; the same way, in secret. But you create these large public gathering places and preach sermons, and sing songs, about me! I never knew you. I only know those who follow me, not worship me. You are not following me if you are not doing what I said to do. You are following your own ideas when you do that, not mine. Away with you. Get lost. You work iniquity in following your own path. I never knew you."
In modern parlance, fuck off.
It is my personal belief that everyone is looking for God, even if they are a proclaimed atheist.
Do you see that man over there, the one who woke up this morning face-down on the pavement? He came closer to finding God in the bottle of booze he imbibed than you did when you went to church and raised your hands and prayed, and sang hymns, and shook hands and said, "Bless you," to your fellow worshippers. Fuck off.
We do not seek God in the company of men. We seek the safety of numbers. But ...
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
To my way of thinking, this does not sound like a very safe thing at all.
At the risk of contradicting myself, I will admit that there is a way to find God at a house of public worship. Shun the liturgy and go for the sex. If you're a guy, go there to fuck the women, as many as you can. If you're a woman, go there to find a husband, and then cheat on him with as many men as you can. Live dangerously. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, not a walk in the park, or a Sunday picnic.
Jimmy Hendrix and Janis Joplin found God in drugs. The hiker found God on the mountain when he was ripped to shreds by a Grizzly bear.
Show me someone who is sweet and loving, gracious and kind and wouldn't hurt a fly, and I'll show you a person who is running from God, not seeking Him. Fuck off.
Basically, a person who is outrageously selfish, who doesn't give a fuck about anybody, who does everything in his/her power to satisfy their primal urges, with no regard whatsoever for anyone else's approval or disapproval, is a person who is most intensely looking for God. Those who are meek and mild and virtually helpless are hiding from God.
I totally agree that, at first blush, this does not make sense. How is it that a totally selfish bastard is looking for God? It is difficult to understand, no doubt, until you realize how totally selfish pursuits always have a way of backfiring. One of the surest ways to ensure the destruction of the self is to give it everything it wants, to completely satisfy its desires. The destruction of the self is the equivalent of finding God. They are one and the same thing.
Most people go the opposite direction. They are duped by the notion that denying the self will bring them closer to God. But denying the self also backfires, because the energy used for self-denial is actually energy being used to reinforce the self. The self is reinforced when it tries to deny itself.
Self denial, or detachment, does not work, never has. Only self immersion does the trick. The real lesson of the prodigal son is that he was indeed well on the way to finding God, until he came home again! If he had persisted with his prodigal ways, he would have eventually destroyed himself and thereby found God.
The biggest mistake that people make in their search for God is to seek the guidance of a holy book. Once again, fuck off.
You will not find God in the pages of a holy book. God is not in the Bible, or the Koran. The only thing you will find in those books is a humanly-contrived God. In other words, an idol of God, an idol made of words. The actual God is not in either of those books. The actual God is not in any book!
Do you actually think that God is some kind of book publisher, or editor? Do you think He's a writer, or poet? Fuck off.
God doesn't have anything to do with books written by men, especially books purporting to be "from" God, as if the words contained in them were given by some oracle.
Even more compelling, do you believe that God is a maker of worlds? Fuck off. Why in the hell would God make a universe? There is no conceivable reason for a Pristine Entity to do much of anything. It is perfect, complete. It has neither the desire nor the inclination to take any action of any sort. Fuck off!