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Annoyed by religious advice?

Old 10-30-2008, 07:46 AM
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Annoyed by religious advice?

Does anyone else find themselves a little annoyed by the religious aspect of AA? I guess what really bothers me is all of the religious advice I keep getting about how to stay sober. I know it comes from a good place in the people who give it, but I absolutely cannot relate to it. Okay, something just dawned on me. All of the religious advice reminds me of the advice I was given from all of my ‘religious’ aunts and uncles while growing up. They all lived relatively f*ed up, unhappy lives, and it seemed like their ‘faith’ allowed them to ignore their own responsibility or culpability in creating a dysfunctional environment. Like they were just washing their hands of their own, inherent power over their lives and, in a sense, ‘blaming’ god for all of life’s ups and downs. From an early age, I’ve had very negative beliefs towards religion. So I guess when someone gives me religious advice, I automatically react negatively. I see belief in a religious higher power as more of a mental weakness rather than a strength. I know that this is incredibly judgmental and not coming from the best place in me, but that’s my gut feeling on it.

Subscribing to a higher power just doesn’t make sense to me. It’s akin to believing in magic or the tooth fairy. I’ve only been to a few AA meetings so far, but I found myself having to bite my tongue in response to much of the advice I was given. I was even met with incredulity when I said that I was an atheist and completely comfortable with that. Then I got into this explanation of string theory and said that if I were to believe in a connection between life forces on the planet, that would be it. I hope that this doesn’t prevent me from going to meetings, because I really do need the social aspect of it. I just wish I could find a more secular meeting in my area.
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Old 10-30-2008, 08:15 AM
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My Humble Opinion

I'm not trying to persuade you to change your mind about being an atheist. That is your choice.

I just wanted to point out that AA is a spiritual program, not a religious one.

I found the following link and have included an excerpt. I think it describes the differences relatively well.

Spiritual, But Not Religious - Beliefnet.com
The word spiritual gradually came to be associated with a private realm of thought and experience while the word religious came to be connected with the public realm of membership in religious institutions, participation in formal rituals, and adherence to official denominational doctrines.
<snip>
Spirituality exists wherever we struggle with the issue of how our lives fit into the greater cosmic scheme of things. This is true even when our questions never give way to specific answers or give rise to specific practices such as prayer or meditation. We encounter spiritual issues every time we wonder where the universe comes from, why we are here, or what happens when we die. We also become spiritual when we become moved by values such as beauty, love, or creativity that seem to reveal a meaning or power beyond our visible world. An idea or practice is "spiritual" when it reveals our personal desire to establish a felt-relationship with the deepest meanings or powers governing life.


I know of at least one atheist that I see in meetings from time to time. I don't know how she deals with the "spiritual" part of the program but she seems to have found a way.

Best of luck.
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Old 10-30-2008, 08:20 AM
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I know that AA is not supposed to be a religiously affiliated program, but the meetings that I've been to all closed with the lord's prayer.

Basically, I was just venting and trying to find some other like minded folks. Going to AA so far has felt almost like going to a christian therapy meeting, and I can't help but feel a little removed.
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Old 10-30-2008, 08:38 AM
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Hi ClimbingUp - I am in a different 12-step program, but I can totally relate!!! I understand what Thanks2HP is talking about (spirituality v. religious), and technically it is not supposed to be a religious program, but at the end of the day, LOTS of people in program either have a religious higher power or one that from an atheist's or agnostic's perspective, may as well be.

Personally, I consider myself to be agnostic - I can't say that there isn't a god, but I sure as hell can't come to terms with any kind of deity-type god to use as my higher power because I really just do not believe it, and I cannot afford for my recovery to depend on a game of pretend. I have come to terms with simply using the program (not the fellowship or the people, but the actual 12 steps and 12 traditions) as my "higher power" - step 3 is making a commitment to live my life in accordance with the 12 steps and 12 traditions - step 11 is seeking through study and mediation (which for me is just journaling) to improve my conscious awareness and knowledge of the principles of the program, etc.

I've spent a lot of time learning how to translate the language that I tend to hear in meetings in a way that works for me - sometimes I substitute the word "god" for "program" or "principles", and sometimes I just have to remove the word "god" (like when someone says "It's in god's time" or "I'm turning it over to god", I think simply "it's not in my time" or "It's not mine to control/fix/do/etc."). On good days, it works really well and I'll even find myself sharing in meetings about what my concept of a higher power is or how I apply it to my life. I'm often surprised about who will come up to me afterward and say that he/she struggles with the same thing or how much it helped them, etc. (people who have talked about god and their relationship with god, but end up struggling because they just can't come to terms with turning their life over to what their mind has defined as god).

On bad days, I'll leave the meeting super irritated and ready to just walk away from program for good. But fortunately the bad days are fewer are farther between now - one thing that I really have to remember, which the program teaches me to do, is to always look at what my part is in something - if I'm irritated, what is it in me that is making something bother me so much? (And it doesn't mean that the other side has no responsibility, but it doesn't help me to look at what that side is.) Just like when you were talking about your family and religion growing up - it's a trigger for you when people give you religious advice - good information to have! So when someone is giving you that advice, you can either simply ignore advice or you can actually say that you appreciate their concern but religion is a sensitive topic for me or you can simply avoid those people, etc. When I have a bad day, I have to remember that religion is a trigger for me and that it sends me over the edge - then I can just feel my annoyance but it doesn't have to ruin my whole day or make me want to abandon program all together.

Just my thoughts.
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Old 10-30-2008, 08:41 AM
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Thanks Legallybarb!!
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Old 10-30-2008, 08:44 AM
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Ditto, Barb. I do a lot of inner translation. The Lord's Prayer doesn't bother me anymore, I just have my own little silent meditation time when I think about community or fellowship or something along those lines.

Welcome, Climbing
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Old 10-30-2008, 11:17 AM
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yep...i'm buddhist and don't believe in "god"....I always say I was born a translator...I translate eastern concepts into western so that i can understand since i am from america...then I translate the translated budhist into the AA and AA into the buddhist....what a tangled web

Well....mostly It all comes pretty natural and I use AA, buddhism, SR and a variety of tools to stay sober each day.

Tonight I have to speak at an AA speaker meeting .... eeeeekkkks...so i'll let you know how it goes I'm always honest about my non-belief in god and my spiritual path, but i do try not to be defensive, pushy, or make a bit deal out of it either.

So glad you all posted today
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Old 10-30-2008, 05:06 PM
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I do believe in a god of sorts, but he/she/it isn't anything I have found at church or an AA meeting. Every time we have a group conscience meeting in my home group I vote to not close with the Lords Prayer, and every time I get overruled. I'd love to go to a less christian AA meeting but I don't know where to find one.
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Old 10-30-2008, 08:49 PM
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Originally Posted by ClimbingUP View Post
Does anyone else find themselves a little annoyed by the religious aspect of AA?

I got into this explanation of string theory and said that if I were to believe in a connection between life forces on the planet, that would be it. I hope that this doesn’t prevent me from going to meetings, because I really do need the social aspect of it. I just wish I could find a more secular meeting in my area.
I found the "God talk" in AA very disturbing for years but I also needed to be with people like me . . . Everyone I knew drank so I had to give up nearly everyone I knew when I stopped drinking. I needed sober friends and meetings were the one sure way I could find them.

I've said this on these forums before and I'll say it again . . . When I first considered going to AA, I wondered whether the program could help an athiest like me . . . a very wise man with 37 years of sobriety told me not to let God get in the way of being sober. AA is a spiritual program and it's up to each of us to define a God of our own understanding, whatever that might turn out to be. I wanted to be sober more than I wanted to drink so I kept going to meetings, listening and learning and teaching myself not to resent the talk about God and instead, learning to live a healthy sober life.

I didn't even have "string theory" to use as a higher power when I got started so you're a step ahead of where I was. Today I use that "spark" at the beginning of time and the Universe in all of her glory as my Higher Power. If the "string theory" works, use it. Use whatever it takes to stay sober.
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Old 10-31-2008, 05:26 AM
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The "religious advice" can get to me sometimes as well. That is why my Buddhist practice is integral in clearing the mind and keeping anchored in reality.

Also reading anything by Christopher Hitchens can be like Drano after a religious-advice-filled evening. LOL!!!


(BTW, beautiful avatar Harley )
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Old 10-31-2008, 05:40 AM
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Climbingup...while I do believe in God I don't believe that God operates the way some aaers claim he does. Soooooo...I continued to attend aa strictly for the support group aspect of the program. My sobriety is not based on my faith but rather it sits squarely on my shoulders.
I knew how important my getting sober was and made a plan to attend aa regardless how faulty the theology was.
After some solid length of sobriety had been obtained I left...no worries that my sobriety was contingent on my spiritual fitness.
Do what is best for you...take what you want and leave the rest.
Best of luck!
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Old 10-31-2008, 08:07 PM
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ClimbingUP Hi ClimbingUP.

Originally Posted by ClimbingUP
Does anyone else find themselves a little annoyed by the religious aspect of AA?
I used too when I was going to A.A. except I would say A.A. is quasi-religious to me.

I understand the need for peer support as it can be important in addiction treatment. I find having my beliefs (non-theist) respected in the groups I attend make going to the health clinic groups a rewarding experience. When I used to attend A.A. I expressed my beliefs in a hope that someone could relate to me. I have experience the disappointment and frustration of being given advice completely counter to my fundamental belief system. But if A.A. is the only kind of support around I guess you could work a personalized recovery program and use the meetings for some kind of support. I tried that, however I would get a lot of resistance from other A.A. members when I spoke openly in meetings about my program of psychotherapy. A few members were kinda hostel wile others poked fun of my program. Needless to say I learned to keep my program to myself until I stopped going to A.A.. So if I were to offer any advice: don't share about psychotherapeutic techniques in meetings...LOL.

Some of the things I currently do for addiction treatment is check-in here where there is good amount (but not completely ) of secular support. The treatment resources I use are: SMART Tools, reading addiction research info and articles featuring psychological based coping strategies.

Anyhoo welcome to the secular side of addiction treatment and support, where I value your beliefs as is without the need or inclination to challenge them.

Last edited by Zencat; 10-31-2008 at 08:37 PM. Reason: rewrite
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Old 10-31-2008, 08:32 PM
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Originally Posted by ClimbingUP View Post
Does anyone else find themselves a little annoyed by the religious aspect of AA? I guess what really bothers me is all of the religious advice I keep getting about how to stay sober. I know it comes from a good place in the people who give it, but I absolutely cannot relate to it. Okay, something just dawned on me. All of the religious advice reminds me of the advice I was given from all of my ‘religious’ aunts and uncles while growing up. They all lived relatively f*ed up, unhappy lives, and it seemed like their ‘faith’ allowed them to ignore their own responsibility or culpability in creating a dysfunctional environment. Like they were just washing their hands of their own, inherent power over their lives and, in a sense, ‘blaming’ god for all of life’s ups and downs. From an early age, I’ve had very negative beliefs towards religion. So I guess when someone gives me religious advice, I automatically react negatively. I see belief in a religious higher power as more of a mental weakness rather than a strength. I know that this is incredibly judgmental and not coming from the best place in me, but that’s my gut feeling on it.

Subscribing to a higher power just doesn’t make sense to me. It’s akin to believing in magic or the tooth fairy. I’ve only been to a few AA meetings so far, but I found myself having to bite my tongue in response to much of the advice I was given. I was even met with incredulity when I said that I was an atheist and completely comfortable with that. Then I got into this explanation of string theory and said that if I were to believe in a connection between life forces on the planet, that would be it. I hope that this doesn’t prevent me from going to meetings, because I really do need the social aspect of it. I just wish I could find a more secular meeting in my area.
I can relate to all of that. You most likely don't have f2f meetings in your area, but I'd recommend checking out LifeRing Secular Recovery. They have a variety of resources, including online meetings, email lists, forums, and a lot of good information.
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Old 10-31-2008, 09:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Thanks2HP
I'm not trying to persuade you to change your mind about being an atheist. That is your choice.
I don't believe it's really a choice, I just don't believe.

Originally Posted by legallybarb
I understand what Thanks2HP is talking about (spirituality v. religious), and technically it is not supposed to be a religious program, but at the end of the day, LOTS of people in program either have a religious higher power or one that from an atheist's or agnostic's perspective, may as well be.
Exactly.
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Old 10-31-2008, 09:10 PM
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I like thinking of it as a choice. I didn't arrive at atheism because I got a lightning bolt of... anti faith? After years of hearing stories in church, I was slowly convinced that the story I was hearing in science classes made more sense. I do choose to be an atheist.

Oh... I am approaching working on step 2 and then 3, the scariest steps for me! I decided if I had an imaginary friend when I was 5, I'm not too good to have one now. What the he11. I make a total fool of myself with alcohol and other people know it, why should it bother me to talk to an imaginary friend inside my head where no one else can hear me??

(Following a suggestion I read in "12 steps on Buddha's Path" by Laura S. I adore this book.)
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Old 10-31-2008, 09:14 PM
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For me, theism has never been believable. It's not a choice I ever made, it's just who I am.
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Old 10-31-2008, 09:16 PM
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I was an athiest for a very long time and you could have never told me I would be a christian let alone a methodist. My church is nuts and everytime of person goes, tatoos and all.
For me it was a feeling. I had something very bad happen to me and I was shown there was a higher power. Sometimes I have doubts which is perfectly normal. we are supposed to.
If you just ask "show yourself to me, give me a sign" something might happen.
No matter..........to me life is energy, people give off energy......feed off of that. IF they mention a Higher power then thinkg "energy". Giving it to your higher power is like releasing it out to the stars, just something bigger then you.
I hope that helped a bit. I struggled with the higher power for a while.
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Old 10-31-2008, 09:49 PM
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Originally Posted by SelfSeeking View Post
I like thinking of it as a choice. I didn't arrive at atheism because I got a lightning bolt of... anti faith? After years of hearing stories in church, I was slowly convinced that the story I was hearing in science classes made more sense. I do choose to be an atheist.
I rejected the G*d myths (G*d stories) of my childhood. I did this because I have come to understand that those stores were metaphors and not facts. I also learned I could create my own metaphors as religious truths, just like people have done throughout history. But above all I am amazed by all the scientific discovery's about the world around me. And for me there is but one conclusion that stands out the most: the creation of the universe is a mystery and no explanation, religious of scientific seems to come close as to fully explain it. But the scientific explanation speaks to my heart and and just as importantly my mind, so I have chosen science.
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Old 10-31-2008, 10:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Stubborn1 View Post
I had something very bad happen to me and I was shown there was a higher power.
I too had something very bad happen to me. It was a physical emergency. As I lay near death on the emergency room bed a marvelous feeling and a wonderful experience washed over me. I cant really explain it to this day other than: this is it, all of it and when we are gone, its over. I now know that, well I'll let John Milton say it: The mind is its own place, and in itself, can make heaven of Hell, and a hell of Heaven. Today I choose to live in in heaven with being alive and a healthy plan for living.
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Old 11-01-2008, 08:59 AM
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I was an evolutionary biology major undergrad, so I'm with you Zencat on the virtues of science in explaining our world.

I also had a bad experience a few years ago that made me 'want' to believe in religion. My most beautiful Sammy dog died, and I completely fell apart. I wanted so badly to believe that there was a heaven or some kind of afterlife because I didn't like to think that the beautiful creature that I loved so much just ceased to exist. I still don't know where his energy went, but my lack of understanding doesn't warrant a religious conversion.

I think so many people have such a problem with not understanding their world. Religion fills those information gaps for them. I'm okay with not understanding. I feel that if I live a life where I'm true to myself and I treat people well, then that's proof that I'm my own higher power.
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