Atheist or Believer, Bringing Religion Into The Rooms Just Ain’t Right

Believers (theists, deists, etc.) seek faith in the existence of a power that they cannot prove. That’s what faith is: belief without proof. Atheists espouse the opposite: that something that can’t be proven to exist therefore doesn’t exist, which is not only intellectually sloppy, but illogical.  Agnosis, in its purest sense and shorn of knee-jerk reactions, refers to people who admit that they don’t know. 

Personally, I am agnostic. I would like to believe in a God, but no anecdotal or other testament has yet convinced me that there is such a being. Nonetheless, I accept the fact that those things could change, however unlikely.  In the meantime, I’ll stand behind my efforts to live a good life. If God fails to notice and take that into account, it won’t matter anyway.  That said, I’ve no problem with you and whatever you believe, as long as you don’t use it as an excuse to mess with other folks.

But I DO have a problem with the way misunderstandings about religious issues affect my 12-Step fellowships.  That’s why I have a problem with those who feel the need to testify their personal beliefs at meetings, as well as those who huff and puff about all the “God” stuff in AA or other 12-Step “cults.”

Remember this well:

Recovery is about suggestion and example, not doctrine. Nowhere in approved AA literature does it say that anyone has to believe in God in order to get sober.

Those who believe their faith in a metaphysical higher power is what keeps them sober are perfectly at liberty to do so. As far as AA is concerned, they’re sober, and that’s what matters. Likewise, those who accept, as I do, that we can’t do it alone and get their guidance from the group, Steps, sponsors and outside support can and will get sober — as long as we remain open-minded.

images (1)Rigid attitudes and their expression always create barriers. Testimony tempered by humility is one thing, but proselytizing and fanaticism are something else.  Fanatics miss out on a lot of life’s lessons by focusing on the blacks and whites (most of which are really shades of gray) and ignoring the rest of the spectrum. Not only that, they risk alienating those who might have become their friends.  Those people may be so put off by perceived intolerance that they miss out on myriad other thoughts and counsel that the believers could provide.

In short, rigid ideas of any kind are divisive, and life is — or should be — about tolerance, understanding, lovingkindness and the other aspects of the human spirit. Spouting our beliefs at other people and making them uncomfortable is just plain rude, whether door-to-door or at a meeting. It drives away some people who need our fellowships.

Our job is “to stay sober and help others to achieve sobriety”, not create artificial walls that keep alcoholics and other addicts from learning what we have to offer.

5 thoughts on “Atheist or Believer, Bringing Religion Into The Rooms Just Ain’t Right

  1. Lydia H

    Not every path works for everybody. AA, or any other recovery program, is not the best for everyone.
    Give it time, really work it. If it works, keep it. But, look at other therapies as well. We’ve come a long way in mental health and substance abusers since Bill.


  2. Bill Post author

    I quite agree, although some of them involve spending unnecessary effort cutting new paths when existing ones are readily available.


  3. Lydia H

    This is part of why I quit going to AA. I found dealing with the issues that lead me to drink as well as friends good enough. Sober 20 years. And not a “dry drunk” but happy. Alcohol was a bad attempt to feel better.
    Everyone has to find their own way to work on the issues around substance abuse. If AA works, do it! There are many paths to the same destination.


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