Tag Archives: Atheism Agnosticism in AA and NA

I Don’t Believe In God. How Can I Work The Steps?

From time to time I run across people in the rooms and elsewhere who ask about my religious beliefs. When I tell them that I am agnostic, the responses vary from “Oh” to “I’ll pray for you.” (Not too many of those, thank goodness.) Occasionally someone will ask how it’s possible for me not to believe in a God, since I profess to have turned my will and my life over to a Higher Power. If they seem sincerely interested, I may try to explain.

To me, whether there is or is not a God (theism or atheism) is irrelevant to my program. I’m quite willing to admit that I couldn’t, the other folks in the rooms could, and I needed to learn from them and do what they did in order to survive my addiction(s). That, to me, exhibits all the humility and acceptance of my own non-God-ness needed to progress in my recovery.

Contrary to popular belief agnostics do not believe that there is no God, but rather that whether there is a God is ultimately unknowable. That is either a tenable position or not, depending on one’s feelings about an afterlife or lack thereof, but it’s really pretty balanced when you think about it. Not knowing is a pretty good mental state to maintain if we can, because that’s when we’re open to learning and experiencing new things. “Beginner’s mind,” as the Buddhists say, or as another of my favorites goes, “You can’t teach a man what he thinks he already knows.”

Most of us are more interested in what we already know, or think we know, than in learning something new. If I believe there is a God, and in reality there isn’t, no matter how obvious that is I’ll never see it because I am blinded by my belief that there is. Likewise, if I believe that God doesn’t exist, God could be right in front of me and I wouldn’t be able to see that because of my belief that there isn’t a God.

While it’s pretty scary to think that the safety net one has depended on to catch them at the next stage of existence might not be there, to me it’s even scarier to remember the way theistic beliefs blinded me to myriad wonderful things about the world and the universe that were contradictory to them. That’s especially true when I’ve yet to encounter proof one way or the other about the existence of a deity or deities. Should credible information come to my attention I might be swayed one way or the other, but it wouldn’t change one iota of how I live my life. I do my best and if a theoretical God asks for more than that I’m sunk anyway.

In either case our beliefs–whatever they may be–can blind us from seeing reality. To that extent an open mind, coming from either direction, is a desirable thing to have.

Came to believe…

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

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. Continue reading