For several reasons I make it a point not to review books or accept ads, “infographics,“ and guest posts on this blog, except in extremely rare situations. When I tried it the first one led to more, and to requests that didn’t meet my standards (never easy to refuse for a codependent like me), plus other complications, like conflicts of interest, etc. I don’t like hassles, and promoting business in whatever fashion is not the purpose of this site. However, it’s my blog, and I occasionally make exceptions for myself when I think it’s important enough. This is one of those times.
My long-time readers will probably have noticed the blurb in the sidebar for Joe C’s book, Beyond Belief, Agnostic Musings For 12-Step Life. No doubt the word “agnostic” turned some of them off. I’d like to comment on that, and explain why the ad, recommendation, or whatever you want to call it is there.
The literal meaning of “agnostic” is “a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.” That is the sense in which Joe uses the word.
Personally, I take an exception to it. I think the word “secular” would have been far more acceptable to potential readers, in and out of the 12-Step family. “Secular musings” is far less likely to disturb believers than “agnostic musings” in my opinion. The reason that bothers me is that it might prevent someone from taking a look at the book.
I think Beyond Belief is the best book for daily reflection and meditation that I’ve come across in nearly 28 years of reading all kinds of 12-Step literature. I believe that everyone, in and out of “The Program,” would benefit from having and using a copy.
There! I’ve said it and I’m glad!
Nearly all of the daily reflection-type books I’ve read seem to be flawed for general use: they are mystical and “new agey,” or too firmly aimed at believers of the Abrahamic faiths. I see nothing wrong with that, when applied to specific books. Many people in and out of recovery are believers in those paths, but many aren’t. Some have come to that position after long consideration of the alternatives. However, some have other reasons, such as an innate fear that the “God of their understanding” is going to get them for the things they’ve done. Those folks don’t dare — on a psychic level — to believe until they’ve done a lot of work on their self-image and gotten past the addict’s urge to avoid anything that might be uncomfortable.
It takes a long time for some folks to come to believe, and some never do. A daily guide for recovery and general living that doesn’t require belief in order to understand and absorb its ideas is essential for those folks, because daily contemplation and meditation on recovery principles are critical to working the Steps and to recovery overall.
Regardless of how we feel about religion, spirituality is the cornerstone of recovery, and they are not the same thing.* In order to develop our spiritual life, we need to come to the understanding of certain truths that are real, and that understanding needs to be achieved on our own, without being colored by other people’s beliefs. If our own beliefs come to agree with theirs, that’s well and good, but we have an absolute right as human beings to form our own conclusions about life, recovery, spirituality and ourselves.
Joe C’s book provides a guide, not answers, but does it well. It’s old wisdom, adapted for recovery without the overlay of religious thought that puts a lot of folks off but with nothing that should offend anyone, regardless of beliefs.
Beyond Belief deserves a careful look from everyone interested in learning to live a more skillful life, by whatever standards. I guarantee that you will find it useful, no matter how which you approach it. It’s available on Amazon for twenty bucks, or you can get the Kindle edition (which can be read on your phone with the Kindle app) for $1.99. Personally, I like real books of this kind so that I can underline and make notes more easily, but for the savings the eBook can’t be beat.
*My opinions on the subject of religion v. spirituality can be found here.
NOTE: I have no connection with the author of Beyond Belief, Agnostic Musings For 12-Step Life, nor with its publisher.