This is the view out my bedroom window, and the church with the lighted cross is where we have our meeting. The telephone pole turns nicely into another cross in this view. I’ve written before about my experiences of becoming cynical, atheist and agnostic before AA, and how AA opened my mind and let me reenter the church. That’s the way it happened for me, and for lots of other people in AA, though certainly not for all. The people I know now in AA go to church, or don’t, they go to the religion of their childhood, or they don’t. Some practice other religions and sometimes the religions are what I would consider “out there,” but it really doesn’t matter. The higher power concept is what I needed to achieve sobriety.
Because, I think, there’s a certain kind of very very warped ego that engages in alcoholic drinking. I suspected I wasn’t invincible, but I kind of hoped I really was. On the other hand at times I wished I would just die without having to do it to myself. So in a way, I thought I was the highest power of my particular life. And I wasn’t. I do not have power over the human nature of my body. I cannot drive with under the influence. I can’t drink unlimited quantities without throwing up and passing out. I cannot act badly and have the people in the environment forgive me endlessly. There is a power greater than myself. It may not be some sort of entity, it may just be the laws of nature. But I had to bow to it in order to get sober.
Since it’s been a while, I went back and took the beliefnet quiz that tells me what religion best conforms with my beliefs. My results are always something like this:
|1.||Unitarian Universalism (100%)|
|2.||Liberal Quakers (95%)|
|4.||Secular Humanism (83%)|
|5.||Theravada Buddhism (78%)|
|6.||Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (76%)|
|7.||Reform Judaism (72%)|
|8.||Mahayana Buddhism (71%)|
|9.||Orthodox Quaker (69%)|
|10.||New Age (67%)|
That’s mostly because I rank most things as “don’t know” or “unsure.” And I rate social issues as very important, stressing gay rights, equality of the sexes and taking care of people who need help.
I’ve recently read the first part of A History of God, and I haven’t gotten much beyond the first part. So far it’s interesting to me that there seems to be some sense among many humans from all times that there is ‘something’ out there. Until this time in history, people used the something to explain lots of things we now know are “natural,” though what causes the nature, we don’t really know. So the organized religion that was passed down to me has a bit of mumbo jumbo within, and people used it to explain good and evil, sickness and health, disasters and good fortune. We know now, pretty certainly, that germs cause certain illnesses. People before us had other explanations.
Taking the religion quiz, it interested me to see that many religions have very exact beliefs about the after life. That sums up most of my problem with organized religion. I do not see how they can profess to know that, or to favor one scenario over another. I don’t get it.
AA has given me a bit of a framework to use to put my religion into perspective. Or maybe I should just say it lets me tolerate my religion enough to get by. I’d rather live as if there is a God, and be wrong, than live as if there isn’t a God, and be wrong. Where the physical fingers meet the plastic keyboard, guided by the unseen mind to communicate very complicated ideas to other unseen minds – I’m awed and stymied.
Right now, there are two very good reasons I can think of to attend the church I do. One is something the pastor pointed out to me, that when a disaster occurs, the huge church organization can respond using my money I’ve given, whereas I alone cannot really respond. The organized church supports and enables things I hopefully believe in. The other is that the pastor is a professional. She’s studied and graduated and practiced the study of the texts, history, and contemporary thought, and she should and usually does boil it down usefully for me, in a way I can’t do for myself.
My organized religion doesn’t fit me closely right now, but it doesn’t have to. I do have to get myself to church more often.