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AA and God(spiritualism) for an Atheist

Old 08-01-2018, 05:08 AM
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Fret not - there are quite a number of secular/ humanist rewriting of the 12 steps

https://aafreethinkers.wordpress.com/12-steps/
https://www.soberrecovery.com/forums...ethinkers.html (The Universal 12 Steps for Freethinkers)

Not in AA myself but when I read some of these, I gained a greater understanding & appreciation of what the aims of the 12 steps are and what they're for.

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Old 08-05-2018, 12:49 AM
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My higher power is my subconscious, it knows who I am and how I should live. My conscious mind will not resolve my drinking problem by its self.
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Old 04-01-2019, 10:39 PM
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"God" is a useful way to stop the things we don't understand or can't control getting in the way of our lives. It's a handy thing, and when in AA they talk about an "easier, softer way" then actually God is the easier, softer way. If you have no working God concept (like me) then you have to find ways around this. Yes, you're "allowed" to make up anything you like as your God, but the reality of this is that your God isn't going to meet the standards that most expect... my God for example doesn't require prayer... so that puts me at odds with 50% of the people I meet in AA. For what its worth "God" to me is a wicker basket containing all the stuff that I don't understand.
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Old 04-07-2019, 07:15 PM
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hello Dave NZ, and welcome.
just a heads up that you are replying to some old threads, so you donít wonder if you get few replies.
some of the original posters may not be here anymore.
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Old 04-07-2019, 08:20 PM
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I was deciding my path of recovery about a week sober with my outpatient treatment counselor and AA came up and my concern was the fact that I was a life long atheist and AA is a faith based group. Her advice was to take what I could and leave the rest. Now what I do believe in is people and the power of people as a group, I have gotten so much from the people of AA in the last 14 months it's been amazing. I don't get much from the big book bangers or the bible bangers in fact the surmonds are driving me out at this point, but the people that talk from the heart have helped me immensely.
Twice I've had people say they didn't believe I was atheist after I discussed it in a meeting. I'm sixty years old I think I know, I've been looking at my beliefs sence I was sixteen years old and if I said what I believed in AA I would offend more than a few. What a person believes is erelevant in AA and should not be expressed according to the big book but it often is.
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Old 04-08-2019, 02:29 PM
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In the early days I was a bit lost in the God department. I refused to attend a meeting that used the Lord's Prayer, in fact I remember feeling quite irate about it. I had no experience of, and therefore no belief in God. That does not mean I was an atheist. That is a form of faith itself, a belief that there is no God, which cannot be proven either.

I listened to the "group of drunks" idea and made the group my higher power for a short time. After all they were sober. I soon learned however, that people have feet of clay. I needed something a bit more substantial.

I was at least willing to believe that the power that helped them might possibly help me, which apparently was all I needed to make a start. I pursued this idea a bit like a scientific experiment. Basically if I did exactly what they did, I ought to get what they got. I began getting results quite early, though only realised it when I was about a third of the way through the steps. I felt something that I had not felt before. That was good enough for me.

Defining what I now call God, mainly because I can't think of a better word, has been impossible for me. It feels like that "untapped inner resource" that the book talks about. I don't know if that extends to some deity in the sky. It is more like a good friend who has stood by me in the difficult times, and sent me inspiration and guidance for how I live my daily life. Communication is facilitated through prayer (talking) and meditation (listening), and the Power obtained seems to be totally portable, so I have been able to go anywhere in the world without risk of a drink. My sobriety has become independent of things human, even AA.

I dont know whether it is internal or external, but connecting and staying connected to my concept of a Higher Power has resulted not only in freedom from alcohol, but freedom from dependence on anything human.
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Old 05-06-2019, 08:11 AM
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If you study the biography of Bill W., he was obviously a selfish, spiritually bankrupt person who inhabited a miserable, shrunken little world that revolved solely around his narrow, personal urges and needs.

For him, embracing a traditional notion of God - something bigger than himself that freed him from his unsatisfying narcissistic ways - was the answer.

To one degree or another, I think all addicts have the same problem even if we're not clinical narcissists (as Bill W appeared to be); we've all fruitlessly sought spiritual fulfillment through the high provided by our drug of choice. Like Bill W, we all end up imprisoned in shrunken worlds where the only thing that matters is vainly seeking the ever vanishing emotional and spiritual reward provided by the emotional effect of our drugs of choice.

So even for somebody like me, who can never embrace the God of Bill W and AA, I had to find a spiritual awakening to get sober. I had to escape from the shrunken prison world in which I'd confined myself and find joy and contentment in the world as it exists in sober reality.

But the world of sober reality really can be wondrous, various, beautiful, and new. Something created it. Even if that entity is indifferent to my daily needs and concerns (as it appears to be) my sobriety is dependent on embracing and relishing the joys of the world it created.

So I think you can be damn near atheist yet embrace the spiritual program at the heart of AA. And the 12 steps heavily emphasize a de-emphasis on selfish needs and urges.

If we all - addicts of not - truly took an honest moral inventory of ourselves and earnestly sought to cast aside harmful, selfish behavior imagine what a better world we'd have?

But for the addict, fulfillment through things that are not narrowly personal is utterly essential. What is a craving, after all? An intensely internal, personal (selfish) need to satisfy a harmful emotional and physical urge. If you can find a way to live a life less powerfully dictated by selfish needs, then urges will be much easier to shrug off.

So AA and it's program has been helpful for me even if I haven't embraced it with the vigor that others do, and haven't practiced the steps in the conventional manner that most AA acolytes would recommend.
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Old 05-06-2019, 11:53 AM
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I'm Atheist and have been my entire life I'm also sixty years old. AA is or at least has been part of my recovery, the first 3 or 4 months in AA I looked into God as we understand him and it led me back to my belief. I had one old timer ask me if I thought I was God, my response was that I can't possibly because I don't believe in God. I've been told that the person talking didn't believe that I was an atheist after I said I was, that's happened twice.
I do believe that everyone is entitled to believe what they do and I have stood up to people for mocking religion in AA.
I personally find strength in the people and there personal stories and the bonds you make very rewarding.
But I have found over time the oldtimers are quick to bring religion into AA and I'm finding it harder to ignore.
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Old 06-06-2019, 12:55 PM
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Originally Posted by LFCNZ View Post
Hi

40 days sober here after around 120 days sober and then a month or so of drinking off and on.

This time around I have started going to AA meetings, however I am finding the whole spiritual emphasis that is in the meetings a bit hard to come to grips with.

Just wondering how other Atheists who do AA have dealt with this?

I don't believe in any sort of spirituality, I believe we are born, we live, we die and thats it.

I do believe in a sort of karma, not in a spiritual sense, but more in that the way you treat people is probably how they will treat you, treat them badly then they are likely to treat you badly.

Anyways any advice would be appreciated.

Cheers
Craig


Hi Craig,

I think the interesting thing about a belief in a "higher power" is that so many people corrupt the concept by labeling it. It seems irrelevant to me to put a word on something that is entirely ineffable. Spirituality can be a belief in anything I believe.
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Old 06-06-2019, 12:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Gerard52 View Post
My higher power is my subconscious, it knows who I am and how I should live. My conscious mind will not resolve my drinking problem by its self.

This is an interesting perspective. Have you ever read anything about The Self and its various layers or anything by Carl Jung about the psychology involved behind the 12 steps? It is endlessly interesting! I will share some information with you here soon.
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Old 06-06-2019, 12:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Action View Post
I'm Atheist and have been my entire life I'm also sixty years old. AA is or at least has been part of my recovery, the first 3 or 4 months in AA I looked into God as we understand him and it led me back to my belief. I had one old timer ask me if I thought I was God, my response was that I can't possibly because I don't believe in God. I've been told that the person talking didn't believe that I was an atheist after I said I was, that's happened twice.
I do believe that everyone is entitled to believe what they do and I have stood up to people for mocking religion in AA.
I personally find strength in the people and there personal stories and the bonds you make very rewarding.
But I have found over time the oldtimers are quick to bring religion into AA and I'm finding it harder to ignore.

Connection to other human beings is such an important part of this!
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Old 06-06-2019, 12:58 PM
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Originally Posted by DaveNZ View Post
"God" is a useful way to stop the things we don't understand or can't control getting in the way of our lives. It's a handy thing, and when in AA they talk about an "easier, softer way" then actually God is the easier, softer way. If you have no working God concept (like me) then you have to find ways around this. Yes, you're "allowed" to make up anything you like as your God, but the reality of this is that your God isn't going to meet the standards that most expect... my God for example doesn't require prayer... so that puts me at odds with 50% of the people I meet in AA. For what its worth "God" to me is a wicker basket containing all the stuff that I don't understand.

Lol fair enough!
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Old 06-06-2019, 12:59 PM
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Originally Posted by zoobadger View Post
If you study the biography of Bill W., he was obviously a selfish, spiritually bankrupt person who inhabited a miserable, shrunken little world that revolved solely around his narrow, personal urges and needs.

For him, embracing a traditional notion of God - something bigger than himself that freed him from his unsatisfying narcissistic ways - was the answer.

To one degree or another, I think all addicts have the same problem even if we're not clinical narcissists (as Bill W appeared to be); we've all fruitlessly sought spiritual fulfillment through the high provided by our drug of choice. Like Bill W, we all end up imprisoned in shrunken worlds where the only thing that matters is vainly seeking the ever vanishing emotional and spiritual reward provided by the emotional effect of our drugs of choice.

So even for somebody like me, who can never embrace the God of Bill W and AA, I had to find a spiritual awakening to get sober. I had to escape from the shrunken prison world in which I'd confined myself and find joy and contentment in the world as it exists in sober reality.

But the world of sober reality really can be wondrous, various, beautiful, and new. Something created it. Even if that entity is indifferent to my daily needs and concerns (as it appears to be) my sobriety is dependent on embracing and relishing the joys of the world it created.

So I think you can be damn near atheist yet embrace the spiritual program at the heart of AA. And the 12 steps heavily emphasize a de-emphasis on selfish needs and urges.

If we all - addicts of not - truly took an honest moral inventory of ourselves and earnestly sought to cast aside harmful, selfish behavior imagine what a better world we'd have?

But for the addict, fulfillment through things that are not narrowly personal is utterly essential. What is a craving, after all? An intensely internal, personal (selfish) need to satisfy a harmful emotional and physical urge. If you can find a way to live a life less powerfully dictated by selfish needs, then urges will be much easier to shrug off.

So AA and it's program has been helpful for me even if I haven't embraced it with the vigor that others do, and haven't practiced the steps in the conventional manner that most AA acolytes would recommend.


Thoughts on Carl Jung?
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Old 06-06-2019, 04:52 PM
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Old 06-19-2019, 07:51 AM
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My introduction to AA was in a rural town in Montana that I might refer to as the Bible Belt of the West. My AA group was the only fellowship dealing with alcohol in a hundred mile radius. There were meetings every night, and a couple of nights each week at a town down the road. But the same people showed up at all the meetings. So my original belief that AA had a religious aspect was reinforced by the fundamentalist flavor of the groups, and I got a snoot full of religion pushed on me, complete with warnings about the consequence of non-belief, especially that I could never be truly sober without a spiritual awakening.

Now there was some variety in the degree of righteousness of members, and some did keep their religion to themselves, but of course, the message of my damnation was presented with no one contesting. I was told I could not get sober without God's help. Some group members had seen the Devil, and assured me he was real.

I decided I would pursue a religious quest one more time. I had been confirmed in the Lutheran Church when I was 12 or so, and tried to seriously believe, but I could only get halfway there. I decided at an early age that gods and all religions were more likely metaphors for the way people would like things to be. In all my quests to find God, including the quest that came out of my AA experience, I prayed for help, but in the end, no one was at the other end of my prayers, and none of the reasoning about higher powers made sense to me.

To try to get a wider perspective, I looked up some agnostic/atheist websites, because I had come to consider myself agnostic over the years. My study of Comparative Religion in college had done nothing to lead me to believe that any one religion was more worthy of belief than any other, and oddly it was during this last quest that I had a major epiphany. I came to believe... that I was an atheist. That's not quite right. I wrote it that way to emphasize that what really happened is that I came to REALIZE that I was an atheist, and had been for years. And it hit me like a ton of bricks. This was no small thing, and coming to terms with that realization was much harder than admitting to myself that I was an alcoholic.

I had learned by bits a pieces during my formative years that alcoholics were low lifes lacking moral fiber and bla, bla, bla. But being an atheist was something far worse, the epitome of evil working as an agent of Satan, and it was something I had been hiding from myself for years. Growth requires unlearning a lot of misconceptions about ourselves, our environment, and what is worthy of being labeled as truth. For whatever reason, I had reached a point where I was willing to accept the important truth about myself that I held no more belief about the existence of gods (higher powers) than I did about fairies, Satan, and monsters in the basement. It's simply who I am.

It was difficult dealing with the religion in my AA group, but only when it was being pushed on me. In traveling around the country and visiting other groups, the religion is still there, but not with the intensity it was introduced to me in my AA groups, but it is still there. It's in the big book in various attempts by Bill Wilson to justify it, but none of the spirituality (if that word is less offensive) was/is at all helpful to me. Put the steps in secular terms, which is what I do, and I have no objection to their intent, but to be told that I should believe that help is afforded from an unknown entity in mystical ways can often be offensive.

I attended AA for years, because the fellowship part was valuable. I even made some good friends. Only one guy, just one, hated me for coming out as an atheist. Now days there are secular alternatives, a big step forward offering hope to a wider cross section of sufferers. It just wasn't there in my area when I needed it. But I got sober anyway, because finding a way that works for us is really what matters. And for those who don't believe in higher powers or religions, I can assure them that recovery filled with joy and gratitude is as possible as it is for any of our more spiritual counterparts.
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Old 09-20-2019, 03:31 AM
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Exploring AA with preconditions about spirituality is a bit like setting off in an unexplored country with preconceptions about what is going to be found. It's the wrong attitude going in, and its only going to lead to disappointment.

It seems to me the very epitome of alcoholism that we keep trying to wrestle the world into conforming to our conceptions, instead of learning to shape ourselves to the world around us. By holding hands, saying prayers, having group consciences and all that stuff, we're practicing doing something which is deeply uncomfortable to us. Our ego tells us that we shouldn't compromise on our beliefs. Recovery tells me that of course I should compromise on my beliefs. I should compromise on them every minute of every day, because they're almost certainly wrong.
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Old 09-22-2019, 06:37 PM
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I'm not a believer, haven't been since I was twelve.

Alcoholics Anonymous and the people there saved my life. Flat out.

I decided right away, about three pages into the Step Book, that it was more important for me to stay away from a drink than carry on an imaginary battle with the "God thing."

Lots of atheists in AA, including my sponsor and half the friends I made.

(Disclaimer: I have to admit this was all long before there were all the alternatives people have been listing in this discussion, but, still, I believe I would have stuck with AA and the people there....not only that, but I know that if, God forbid!!, I were to start drinking again, I would go straight back to AA.)
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Old 09-25-2019, 09:01 PM
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My experience only: I was a fairly regular attendee of AA meetings for my first 12-18 months alcohol free. I'm not religious in any way, so I essentially "dodged" around the god/higher power stuff. I wasn't a 12-stepper, nor did I have a sponsor. For me AA was more about being around people who understood what I was going through, & picking up what I could from people sharing. And for that I will always be grateful
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Old 09-25-2019, 09:25 PM
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I came into AA as an atheist/agnostic. What I learned in AA was coexistence. How to coexist with the universe. I learned to fit nez into the universe rather than fitting the universe to nez.
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Old 09-26-2019, 06:43 PM
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Originally Posted by DriGuy View Post

... But I got sober anyway....
The nerve of you.
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