I like to say I came into church through the basement.
It was by the church basements of AA that I was able to go back. I had been brought up as a very half hearted Lutheran. My mother took me to Sunday school sometimes, not often, and to church, almost never. I did go sometimes on Easter and Christmas, and that was it.
In a truly disturbing scenario, I was confirmed against my will. I told my mother that I did not want to be confirmed. I told her I didn’t believe in the stuff. She said too bad, I had to, and after that I did not have to go to church ever again, if I didn’t want to.
I told the pastor that I didn’t want to be confirmed. We had, as an assignment for confirmation class, to write an essay about why we wanted this. I wrote that I didn’t want this. He gave it back to me, told me to write a real essay, and that was that. I went through the ceremony resentfully, and decided not to go back.
I was as dismayed as the next atheist/agnostic teenager to find people praying and speaking of God within the AA rooms. I didn’t pray when they did, and of course they didn’t make me. They did tell me through the years, though, that prayer is a powerful tool of recovery. Sometimes, when I was in very desperate shape, I did repeat the prayers of my childhood, just because they told me to and I couldn’t think of any other way to go on.
The concept of the people of AA as a power greater than me made sense to me, thank goodness. I saw the reality that they had solved a problem I so absolutely couldn’t, it was going to kill me. I understand now that newcomers have to admit the reality of God, or admit the reality of something greater than themselves, or they won’t be able to stop drinking.
Lots of the concepts around this began working on me. I understood I should not say, “No, never!” I understood that when I criticized so called religious people, I was denying the reality that they had usually done some good a remarkable things, whereas I had done nothing. To throw out all religious people because there are some bad ones is silly. It made me pause to think that people far brighter than I am accepted God in many manifestations and through many ages.
It was not hard to figure out which would be worse. What if I lived as if there was no God, and there was one? What if I lived as if there was a God, and there wasn’t one?
As my time sober increased my open mindedness increased, and I did things simply because AA told me to and I believed in AA. I began praying in meetings when appropriate. I considered the “coincidences” as possible signs. I had my children baptized, and when I went to have my son baptized, when my daughter was three, the pastor told me that I had promised, at her baptism, to take her to church, and it was time.
I researched the Lutheran church a little bit. This was in the days before computers and the internet, so I made due with books and such, and it was tedious to learn things that way. I was mostly concerned with social issues. It was very important to me that the church treat the sexes equally. In the late 1980s, the church was beginning to form an opinion on people with AIDS, and it was open. Things like abortion, certainly never a good thing, did not send a person to hell or make them unable to belong to the church. That was good enough for me, and so with about four years sober, I began to attend church again.
There are many, many aspects of every organized religion that I don’t agree with. There are many within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, to which I “belong.” I put that in quotes because I attend church with Carole, and have done so since I moved here, but I never formally joined, and I became a part of it by osmosis.
I characterize myself firmly in the “I don’t know” camp of a supreme being. I don’t know. A higher power? There are many. One of them could be a supreme being. It’s vital that I don’t forget that there are many powers greater than myself.
Prayer, for me, might be communication with this power. If not, it may just be me taking time to articulate to myself where it is that my head and my heart should be. It may be practice learning the principles.
AA’s openness and willingness to let me believe or not believe let me be open and willing. I can join in some of the rituals of organized religion in a similar fashion to the way I join in AA rituals. It interests me that when AA tells me to do something, I do it. Something like say the Lord’s Prayer. When religion tells me to do it, I balk. I don’t say the Lord’s Prayer at church, only at AA meetings. Same prayer. Different organization.
Some are sicker than others.