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AA and Religion in AA. Experience?

Old 03-10-2017, 11:15 PM
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AA and Religion in AA. Experience?

AA gets a lot of flack around these parts because it is thought that it is religious or requires srtict religious beliefs. I thought I might raise this as it has very definitely NOT been my experience.

Religion is not discussed at any of the meetings I have been to, and among the many AAs I know, I know almost nothing about their personal religious beliefs. Apart from one or two who jokingly refer to themselves as recovering Catholics, I really have no idea where anyone stands, and no one has ever tried to push me in any particular direction.

I read a piece by Bill W the other day lamenting the bible bashers of the past and how they may have cost many their only chance at sobriety by being too dogmatic about religion. The AA I came into seems to have learnt that lesson very well, I have always been free to sort out my own beliefs.

And my beliefs? As far as I can tell my spiritual beliefs are based in gnosticism, knowledge through experience. On a scale from religious fanatic to athiest foot stamper, I think I would be much nearer the athiest. I don't go to church, except for wedding and funerals, I don't read the bible either, except to look for some specific quote, which is a very rare thing for me.

My biggest character defect was/is sloth- faint hearted in matters that are morally or spiritually difficult, which probably has a lot to do with my lack of zeal around religion. Yet I dont mind using a christian prayer, I use the term God because I cant think of a better word for what I mean, and I have been able to develop a working relationship with the God of my very simple understanding.

I have been able to chose my own path in this respect, and ended up with a faith that works for me. All it took was a little bit of willigness to believe, and very little else - no baptism, no dogma, just some steps to get the power flowing.

It would be interesting to hear how others come to terms with religion and AA. Do they have strong beliefs and try to convert newcomers, do they keep their beliefs private, or have they come up with a non religious sprituality?
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Old 03-10-2017, 11:33 PM
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I always thought the aversion was not necessarily towards the people in the meetings but to the 12 steps themselves. Steps 3,5,6,7,11,12 all invoke the supernatural to some degree.
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Old 03-11-2017, 02:50 AM
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Originally Posted by 6502ASM View Post
I always thought the aversion was not necessarily towards the people in the meetings but to the 12 steps themselves. Steps 3,5,6,7,11,12 all invoke the supernatural to some degree.
Not to mention steps 2, 9 and 10.
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Old 03-11-2017, 02:53 AM
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The only requirement for membership in AA is a desire to quit drinking. In the BB, it says that "we came to believe" that a "power greater than ourselves" can restore us to sanity.

There are a million reasons the alcoholic mind will justify drinking- and that includes not giving a chance to a program that works for a whole lot of people.

To me, getting hung up on the "God thing" or whether or not there is anything beyond ourselves that can lead and guide us in sobriety is one of these excuses. Some people consider the program itself their HP . . . some people never "get past" step one- powerlessness over alcohol and acceptance of this- and stay sober.

Bottom line - I could have continued objecting to about anything (for me, Believing in God was already my known, but other things took time to accept- like step one) .... and I see a whole lot of people living the kind of lives I want and I'm doing a good job at that myself, I believe with the help of my higher power.
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Old 03-11-2017, 03:40 AM
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I've been to many AA meetings and never really experienced religious talk to be a problem. People do talk occasionally of spirituality. I think what you said about AA 'learning it's lesson' appears to be accurate.

I did have a sponsor a while back that started to get too religious for me. I had to drop him. It's like they say, seek out those that have what you want.
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Old 03-11-2017, 04:19 AM
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You can't say "Don't think about a pink elephant" because people automatically, naturally can't stop thinking about a pink elephant.

So people always think of God when they think of AA.

P
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Old 03-11-2017, 04:24 AM
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My experience was the groups (in the UK) worked on the premise that eventually we'd all believe in 'God' and that Mother Nature, Group of Drunks or whatever, was a holding place until then.

My first sponsor told me often to 'get down on your knees and prostrate yourself and be more humble to God'. Obviously that didn't work well as a relapsed Catholic (I like the 'recovering Catholic' Mike), even my version of the Catholic God wasn't tyrannical.

I then worked with a second sponsor (lovely lady) who had both faith and spiritualism, but didn't press either and encouraged me and other sponsees to have an open mind only and to listen to that small insightful, wise, voice within.
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Old 03-11-2017, 04:43 AM
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God is never talked about in the 'religious' sense at my meetings. There's talk about a higher power in the context of what it means to that individual, and that obviously varies greatly and is personal.

I can see why AA is often misunderstood, it's hard to get a handle on the program and what it's about unless you delve into the Steps. I used the God excuse for YEARS to avoid doing any real work in the program. But at the root of it, it was pretty much as August explained it - my addicted brain was looking for any reason to be ambivalent towards the program and recovery work in general.

To me, the spiritual aspects of the program are less about God in the traditional sense, and more about breaking down the ego and letting go of control. The serenity prayer is almost the perfect distillation of this.
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Old 03-11-2017, 06:43 AM
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I am a religious person, and for me religion and A.A. intersect and overlap. I encourage it because A.A. is something I want to integrate into all aspects of my life, same goes for religion. But I am 100% sure that being religious doesn't distinguish me as someone unique in the program above anyone who is not religious or not spiritual.

For me, it's like how often the Big Book and the program discuss A.A. through the lens of marriages and families. I don't have a marriage. I'm not even so much as dating. I don't feel like I'm getting A.A. incompletely because I'm missing all the components that speak of holding a healthy marriage together.
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Old 03-11-2017, 06:59 AM
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religion is for people afraid of going to hell.
spirituality is for people who have been in hell.
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Old 03-11-2017, 07:23 AM
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In AA they speak of God but, that would be a god of each members understanding. In many cases these days that is a different god than the God of the Bible.

I attend AA regularly and have attended thousands of meetings over the years and no one is asked to believe in certain gods or Gods.

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Old 03-11-2017, 08:36 AM
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I think people who were raised in a religion often think that belief in a higher power or a "god of one's own understanding" is somehow not religious.

But a god of one's own understanding is still a god. Belief in a a spiritual higher power is a religious belief.

The program does not require one to subscribe to any specific organized religion, but it does expect that in doing the steps one will come to believe and have a spiritual awakening. So the program is religious in that its goal is to develop one's own personal set of spiritual principles.
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Old 03-11-2017, 09:13 AM
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The AA meeting I used to go to most often had photographs of Jesus and bible quotes on the walls, and much of their literature was religious. Each meeting also ended with the Lords Prayer, people holding hands in a circle. It would be hard to miss the religious connection, which is great for some but not-so-great for others.
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Old 03-11-2017, 09:22 AM
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In the meetings I attended, there was no doubt that the "higher power" being contemplated was the traditional, theistic, Western God of the Christianity and the Bible. This didn't surprise me much since I was aware of AA's roots in the Oxford Movement. Certainly a first-blush reading of the Big Book would seem to suggest belief in such a God -- with the occasional "of your understanding" thrown in as a sort of peace offering to non-believers. Often in meetings, I would encounter members who, when quoting passages in the Big Book which contained the "Higher Power" phrase, felt obliged to offer the emendation, "whom I choose to call GOD."

I was eventually able to arrive at a God concept of my own understanding which works very well for me as applied to the 12 Steps and is non-theistic, but I can't give much credit for it to the people I encountered in the rooms.

I found much more of a free-thinking, open-minded approach on forums such as (and including) SR.
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Old 03-11-2017, 09:39 AM
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There is a meeting in my area entitled "We Agnostics". It is the conscience of this meeting that they never say the Lords Prayer or the Serenity Prayer and instead recite the AA Pledge at the end..."I am Responsible".

Someone attended this meeting regularly and insisted on reciting the Serenity Prayer, claiming that these other members were not practising "Real AA". She was mistaken.

Individual members may have certain beliefs, but noone can be compelled to believe anything. Pictures of Jesus in meetings are not part of any recognised guidelines or approved literature. ..it may just be the conscience of that particular group.

P
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Old 03-11-2017, 11:07 AM
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Bill W was pretty heavily religious and this reflected in the early days of AA. Many people were turned off by this, so he toned it down with the religious stuff.
At it's core, I do believe it is a faith based program, but some take it more seriously than others on that aspect.
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Old 03-11-2017, 11:17 AM
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For Gods sake don't get this mixed up with religion .

Stevie recovered 12 03 2006 .
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Old 03-11-2017, 11:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Andante View Post

with the occasional "of your understanding" thrown in as a sort of peace offering to non-believers.
A good observation.
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Old 03-11-2017, 12:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Gottalife View Post
It would be interesting to hear how others come to terms with religion and AA.
I came to terms with it by recognizing that AA is a religion in its own right, and that spirituality is how it refers to its own theology. Simply not going to church does not make someone an atheist per se, and the 12 steps themselves ascribe certain very specific characteristics to the Higher Power of AA.

"Spiritual, not religious" is not unlike "Lutheran, not Catholic" in meaning.

Spirituality is a distinct theology. This is why we often see commentary on the theology of other religions, as in the slogan from tomsteve about hell. It is an attempt to differentiate, and AA has its own versions of heaven, hell, and purgatory.

AA heaven = The Promises (serenity)

AA hell = Going Back Out (leaving AA to drink)

AA purgatory = The Dry Drunk (just not drinking)
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Old 03-11-2017, 12:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Algorithm View Post
AA has its own versions of heaven, hell, and purgatory.

AA heaven = The Promises (serenity)

AA hell = Going Back Out (leaving AA to drink)

AA purgatory = The Dry Drunk (just not drinking)
Had not heard it put quite this way- exactly right! Thanks!
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