Speaking from personal experience, I know that the concept of “Let go and let God” can be difficult at first. For some of us, however, it eventually becomes a comfort and way of life. Some of us even become convinced that a belief in God (with a capital “G”) is essential to sobriety, and so we decide to let everyone know about it.
This can be off-putting, to say the least, for other folks who have either different spiritual beliefs, or perhaps no belief at all. We tell these folks that all we need is to admit that we can’t do it alone, that our god can be a tree, or the group. Nonetheless, most of our literature (in particular, Ch. 4 of the AA Big Book) gives the impression that we think of non believers as poor deluded folks who will eventually come around to our version of the truth.
The Big Book(s) aren’t wrong, but they aren’t everything we need to know and understand. Nor are they holy writ; they were written by flawed human beings like you and me. They were state-of-the-art at the time, and they still work, but we know a lot more about addiction, neurophysiology and the psychological aspects of addiction than we did back in 1939, and even in 1983 when the Basic Text copy was finalized. Taking nothing away from those publications, time marches on and so does human knowledge.
Changing people’s basic beliefs requires evidence supported by argument, but most of all requires trust. Trust is not generated by force or proselytizing, but by consistent example. Too much “God talk” at meetings will turn off some newcomers, and rightly so. They didn’t come there to be converted, but to get help with an addiction. We ould take exception if someone stood up in a meeting and proclaimed that there is no god, or spent a lot of time explaining why his agnosticism or atheism is the right way to look at things. Nonetheless, many folks expound at length about how God keeps them sober. Isn’t that the same thing? Shouldn’t I have the same respect for the Atheist’s beliefs as I expect her to have for mine? Failure to observe such courtesies is a major reason that many people think our programs are cults and “god talk” has given many a shaky newcomer an excuse to blow off the fellowships.
Some folks “come to believe” and some don’t. Some come with a belief of some sort and later change it. Some still have no idea what they really believe, and some lose their religious belief altogether — after they get sober. I know people in all those categories. All of them are many years into recovery, and their sobriety hasn’t suffered to any extent that I can see.
Gentle example is better for both believers and non-believers. Whatever we believe, we don’t have to push it on others, or expound about it at meetings. We can let our actions speak for us. Our programs are based on “attraction, not promotion,” and everyday living that offends no one is far more effective at changing attitudes than preaching. If we really believe in a capital “G” God as our higher power, then we must admit that He or She most likely doesn’t require our help dealing with other people.
What we’re really talking about is humility. If we are humble enough to admit that we don’t know what we’re doing, that we’re powerless, that we need and are willing to accept help, then that’s all the spiritual growth we need to start with. What happens after our minds are clear enough to handle more advanced spiritual concepts is no one’s business but our own.
Congrats to our dear friend Anne B. — 35 years sober Tuesday, and going strong!