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Non-religous AA group

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/02/24/alcoholics-anonymous-now-available-without-god/

This was interesting for me. Basically one of the steps of the AA is to be honest. Yet how can you proceed if you honestly don't believe in a higher power? Sure you can say the dharmakaya is your power, but at the same time dharmakaya is the real you. So how is it in any way a higher power? In buddhism we have to do the work. A deity or dharmakaya does not do the work. We can rely on dharmakaya as an 'other' but then 'poof'... your dharmakaya is gone. There is no ground underneath you. The dharmakaya surely does radiate. But it is not a big babysitter.

I wonder what @Tosh thinks of this article?? I know it has been awesome in his and others. I am happy there is AA non-denominational to help a wider body of people.

Comments

  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran
    I, for one, didn't realise AA was a religious organisation in the first place??
  • It's not religious, but the program has a step where you turn over your sobriety to a higher power.
    Bunks
  • BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran
    Bunks said:

    I, for one, didn't realise AA was a religious organisation in the first place??

    you have to realize you are powerless and give yourself to a higher power.. it started out as a religious program with god, now they say "whatever higher power works for you".. I know some buddhists use the dhamma as their higher power.

    I actually went to over eaters anonymous once.. they claimed that anyone could join but then they all hold hands and pray, didn't quite work out lol.
    Bunks
  • Yeah that's what this article is saying. Praying is a big thing.

    To participate in a typical A.A. meeting felt to them like hiding, if not violating, deeply held secular beliefs.
    “A.A. starts at its core with honesty,” said Dorothy, 39, who heads the steering committee for the We Agnostics and Freethinkers International A.A. Convention. “And how can you be honest in recovery if you’re not honest in your own beliefs? If you don’t believe in the God they’re praying to, that’s not honest practice.”
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator
    I went to AA a few times with my ex and they always held hands and prayed, not TO God, but to whatever higher power but it was clear at least in that group that they all meant God...except us, lol. I'm sure other groups are different of course. I think one could think of their being, or subconscious or whatever as a higher power, too. I think Tosh has talked about what things they considered, I'm sure he'll chime in
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited February 2014
    You can talk your way into having anyone can say they have a higher power. But what about atheist nihilists who believe that there is no one on the other end of the prayers? Or even Stephen Batchelor as a Buddhist. Does he (SB) believe in a higher power?
  • howhow Veteran Veteran
    Perhaps a higher power could also just be a call for selflesness over selfishness.
    BhikkhuJayasaraTosh
  • But do you pray to selflessness?
  • howhow Veteran Veteran
    edited February 2014
    Why not?
    Who is actually praying anyways?
    If it moves one beyond the myopic view of self to something more inclusive and less limiting, if it sidesteps sufferings role in making one feel alone in the universe, then I'd say go for it if it fits the bill for a higher power..
    Tosh
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited February 2014
    It doesn't make sense to me to pray to selflessness heha

    It could be true. What is the meaning of nobody praying to nobody?
  • howhow Veteran Veteran
    Perhaps your definition of prayer is more Christian than mine.
    Nobody praying to nobody sounds like a meditation practices.
    Yoga itself is considered a prayer. Could not the meaning of prayer be the same as a full bow?
  • My teacher pointed out that the Tibetan word for prayer doesn't have a predicate.

    Mother Teresa said that when she prays to God she listens. Someone asked 'what does God say'? She replied "he listens too".

    However I don't think Christianity views prayer in this way. So if your AA meeting is 90% Christians it becomes a problem to define prayer as nobody praying to nobody. It seems dishonest to me to conveniently change the definition to something that none of the Christians recognize. In other words it is sophistry to redefine the word 'prayer' so to not make waves in the AA sangha.
  • howhow Veteran Veteran
    edited February 2014
    I only asked" who is praying anyway?"
    The expression of "nobody praying to nobody" was your invention.

    I was saying that paying homage to selflessness is a recognition of and an invite to accept selflessness as something worthy of aspiring to.
    Something that I thought would make sense to your practice and would also allow for a higher power to simply be the Dharma..
    Jeffrey
  • NevermindNevermind Bitter & Hateful Veteran
    Three word summation: Religion empowers willpower.
  • ToshTosh Veteran
    edited February 2014
    Jeffrey said:

    Basically one of the steps of the AA is to be honest. Yet how can you proceed if you honestly don't believe in a higher power?

    Concepts eh? So what constitutes a higher power? Try sticking your fingers inside an empty light socket; you'll certainly feel a higher power there. And of course booze is a higher power for alkies. Most agnostic/athiests just use G.O.D (Group Of Drunks) as their higher power; the A.A. Group, or the ethos of A.A.. Buddha, Dharma, the 12 Steps themselves, Odin, Wodin, or Light Bulbs; it doesn't matter a jot.

    Remember the 12 Steps is a program of ACTION, not beliefs. A.A. doesn't care what we believe; if we had an A.A. dictionary, it would be left blank under the word 'God'; it's for us to fill that bit in. A very famous A.A. Speaker (Chuck Chamberlain and author of A New Pair of Glasses") used other people as God. He said God is people and people is God. Another speaker I know says that the Universe and God, both added up does not make two.

    I could really bore on, but I've sat in meetings which I know have contained a Muslim, two Sikhs, at least one Buddhist, Christians, Agnostics and Atheists and we've all got on together swimmingly. A.A.'s 12 Steps is called a 'broad highway', not some tight dogmatic spiritual path; it's wide 'n' roomy.

    And many come to A.A. and don't do the 12 Steps, which is fine. The only requirement to be a member of A.A. is to have a desire to stop drinking; which means you don't even have to be sober. Conformity is not a requirement; A.A. works on the basis that if we don't live according to some spiritual principles, we'll drink and to drink means to die. Hence we have no rules and there are no 'musts' in A.A. (thought that's caveated with there are plenty of 'we ought to-s'.

    Here's an A.A. share by a guy I like listening to ('cos he's entertaining):



    It may give a flavour of what A.A. is about.
    BunksHamsaka
  • ToshTosh Veteran
    edited February 2014
    Nevermind said:

    Three word summation: Religion empowers willpower.

    We make a point of pointing out that the 12 Steps is not a willpower program, but admittedly it takes some willpower in the early days because you can't do the 12 Steps while drinking; so weirdly we have to stop drinking to do the 12 Steps to stay stopped of drinking.

    However, drinking really isn't the problem. Seriously; I did not have a drinking problem; I could comfortably drink two 1 litre bottles of whisky and some cans a day; no problems at all. So what I really did have was a sobriety problem and I used drinking as a solution to it.

    Once I dealt with my sobriety problem, the compulsion to drink just left me; no will power required.

    On my Buddhist foundation course I was taught that feelings create intentions, and not only do they create intentions they condition them also. That fits perfectly with how my alcoholism progressed and what happened when I did A.A.'s program of action. Once I'd found a measure of inner peace, no longer did I have that engine of negative feelings forcing me to drink. It was just gone.

    jaeBunks
  • NevermindNevermind Bitter & Hateful Veteran
    It works so well you didn't even realize
    Tosh
  • Jeffrey said:

    It's not religious, but the program has a step where you turn over your sobriety to a higher power.

    That's not strictly true; Step 3 is making a DECISION to do so. The method as to how we actually do that is Steps 4 through to 12.

    These steps mean taking a look at ourselves - a hard look - speaking about what we find with another human being (being totally honest; again, not an easy thing to do. Just recently a sponsee told me that although he hadn't bummed any kids, he was approaching this point; grooming them over the internet). Then we make amends to those we've harmed (we're trying to put right, as best we can, our often horrendously messy pasts). And the remaining three steps could be easily translated into a Buddhist practise.

    What we're doing when we 'turn our will and our lives over', is saying, "Yeh, okay, my way gets me suicidal, I'll try a new way!"

    Even Christians will say that God doesn't want our will or our lives; they'll say "God gave us freewill, he doesn't want it back!"

    The 12 Steps are a tough spiritual practise; particularly the 'dealing with our past' elements. Being ruthlessly honest at Step 5, or making an amend to a man we've once hated aren't easy things to do.

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited February 2014
    . The only requirement to be a member of A.A. is to have a desire to stop drinking; which means you don't even have to be sober.
    That makes sense. But what if my higher power is as nitzche said 'the will to power'? What if I say that I will give up drinking and have no higher power? Just me and the dhamapada.

    On my Buddhist foundation course I was taught that feelings create intentions, and not only do they create intentions they condition them also. That fits perfectly with how my alcoholism progressed and what happened when I did A.A.'s program of action. Once I'd found a measure of inner peace, no longer did I have that engine of negative feelings forcing me to drink. It was just gone.
    That (underlined) is what my Lama teaches
  • Do they pray at AA meetings?
  • Jeffrey said:

    Do they pray at AA meetings?

    In the UK we finish with the Serenity prayer, in the US you generally finish with the Lord's prayer. You don't have to say the words or anything if you don't want too, but I would just to feel a 'part of'. I'd do the hokey cokey too, if that's what was required. I don't give a monkey's.

    It's not a religious service though, far from it.

    jae
  • Jeffrey said:



    That makes sense. But what if my higher power is as nitzche said 'the will to power'? What if I say that I will give up drinking and have no higher power? Just me and the dhamapada.

    I don't know because I don't understand. Mrs Tosh can just give up drinking without anything; she's not an alcoholic.

    Our Higher Powers are our own personal thing. Other people seem to be mine. If I've got to do something that only benefits myself, I don't tend to be bothered to do it. But if by doing something, it benefits others, I'm more motivated to do it. For example if there's an A.A. meeting I really should go to, but can't be bothered, I'll probably not go. But if there's a new guy who (I think) needs to go to a meeting; I'm there.

    There seems to be real power in being motivated by compassion.

    Our Primary Purpose is to 'stay sober and help the still suffering alcoholic'; and I can use that intention for anything; even going to the pictures (I need to relax at times if I'm to be fit for purpose).

    Is this a kind of Boddhichitta thing?

    But what's the score with you, Jeffrey? Are you thinking about joining A.A.? Don't let the God thing or prayer put you off; there's shed fulls of agnostics and atheists in A.A..

    My A.A. hero was known as the Militant Agnostic;

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Burwell

    He helped a lot of people recover from their alcoholism.
  • jaejae Veteran
    @Tosh.... you are ace
    Tosh
  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    Food contains no calories if it's eaten off someone else's plate...
  • @federica, what does that mean? :)
  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited February 2014
    I'm on my phone . Threads are a hair's width apart.
    Which is how that comment ended up in the wrong one.
    Will edit another time to correct error.
    Sorry......
  • @Jeffery, I've just remembered another Higher Power which I've used; DHUKKA, or rather 'Pain and Suffering'. Pain and Suffering made me do the stuff I didn't want to do, things like:

    1. Go to A.A..
    2. Find an A.A. sponsor (a mentor)
    3. Go through the steps; paying particular attention to the tough bits.

    It's a great Higher Power is Mr Pain and Suffering.
    federicajae
  • federica said:

    I'm on my phone . Threads are a hair's width apart.
    Which is how that comment ended up in the wrong one.
    Will edit another time to correct error.
    Sorry......

    No problem, Federica. I just was perplexed.
  • But what's the score with you, Jeffrey? Are you thinking about joining A.A.? Don't let the God thing or prayer put you off; there's shed fulls of agnostics and atheists in A.A..

    My A.A. hero was known as the Militant Agnostic;

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Burwell

    He helped a lot of people recover from their alcoholism.
    Hi Tosh. I am pretty sure I am not an alcoholic, but I had an addiction about 3 years ago. I was physically addicted and I needed a 'treat' in my life. That's why I drank. I wanted a treat to look forward to.

    I was a binge drinker of like over 10 beers on my party days, but I would do that not every day of course. Then I used some techniques of my Lama and Gangaji to help with quitting. I switched to no binging and drinking 6 a night rather than binging (10+) 2-3 times a week. That was a lot easier on my emotions.

    I knew from Buddhism that my vision of clarity was impermanent so I didn't get discouraged if I couldn't do it. And I just kept at it and tried again and again.

    Then I switched to NA beer, tea, decaf and V8 as liquids to satisfy the oral craving.

    I quit for 2 years entirely. Literally no lapses. Then I started drinking again 2012 around Christmas.

    I think it's because I am on high doses of 3 anti-psychotics and a mood stabilizer, but alcohol doesn't really affect me anymore. I don't get uninhibted, care free, or heedless. I only drink 1 to 3 drinks on a night where I am drinking. I don't have that fever to have 'just one more'.
    Tosh
  • That's a shame, @Jeffrey. I'd love to have you as a member of the same club as myself. Some folk have no staying power, never mind higher power.
  • I'm doing great @Tosh with moderate drinking. I'm sure AA has a lot of good folks some of whom might be having be suffering some of the worst times in their lives. It would be cool to be a sponsor like you and help others. :)
  • yagryagr Veteran
    I entered AA in 1978. Much has changed in the ensuing decades. The book hasn't, of course, but the interpretation of the book and the program has. A dozen federal and state supreme courts have ruled AA a religion based on their interpretation of it, though most members would say that it is not. For my part, I have succeeded in finding a Higher Power.

    Frankly, AA in practice, varies greatly from area to area. The area I am in now, and have been for three years, is very rural and very Christian. After attending four meetings a week for three years in this area – or just over 600 meetings, I can say without hesitation that I've not been to one in those 600 in which the Bible wasn't quoted or read out of. That is not common, but there are pockets of AA in which it is practiced like so.

    I recently attended a meeting in which a member was asked to close the meeting. This is almost always done by standing in some dysfunctional attempt at a circle and holding hands. That member, who I think was reeling from all the biblical references and the announcement that the Bible study/twelve step meeting would be on Thursday, began, “In the name of Allah, the merciful, the compassionate,...” All hands were dropped and the outcry was sufficient to drown out whether or not he said anything else.

    Personally, I am stymied. As an 'oldtimer', I feel a duty to protect the newcomer from the idea that AA is Christian or religious in any form. Had I walked into such a meeting back in 1978, I would have left and no doubt died without finding help. On the other hand, as a Buddhist, I have no desire to get into a confrontation. In a 1961 Grapevine article (AA's meeting in print) Bill W., the co-founder of AA, said in part,

    “Though three hundred thousand did recover in the last twenty-five years, maybe half a million more have walked into our midst, and then out again. No doubt some were too sick to make even a start. Others couldn't or wouldn't admit their alcoholism. Still others couldn't face up to their underlying personality defects. Numbers departed for still other reasons.

    Yet we can't well content ourselves with the view that all these recovery failures were entirely the fault of the newcomers themselves. Perhaps a great many didn't receive the kind and amount of sponsorship they so sorely needed. We didn't communicate when we might have done so. So we AA's failed them. Perhaps more often than we think, we still make no contact at depth with those suffering the dilemma of no faith.

    Certainly none are more sensitive to spiritual cocksureness, pride and aggression than they are. I'm sure this is something we too often forget. In AA's first years I all but ruined the whole undertaking with this sort of unconscious arrogance. God as I understood Him had to be for everybody. Sometimes my aggression was subtle and sometimes it was crude. But either way it was damaging - perhaps fatally so - to numbers of non-believers. Of course this sort of thing isn't confined to Twelfth Step work. It is very apt to leak out into our relationships with everybody. Even now, I catch myself chanting that same old barrier-building refrain, "Do as I do, believe as I do - or else!"

    The emboldened part is Bill's emphasis; the italicized portions are mine. Alternatives in this area are non-existent and at present, my attempts to make those of no faith, or even different faiths welcome, has been drowned out by the masses.
    Toshjae
  • ToshTosh Veteran
    Wow @yagr; 36 years sober!! I guess an A.A. meeting in deepest darkest Bible Belt USA is a lot different from an A.A. meeting in the secular UK. It would be very uncommon to hear Bible stuff or anything of that ilk at one of our meetings. We do have a Texan priest who is a member of my homegroup, but he's far from being a fundamentalist religious nut.

    Anyway, nice to have you here!

    In fellowship,

    Tosh
    yagr
  • jaejae Veteran
    @yagr ... hi nice to virtually meet you.

    With the kind help and advice from the likes of Tosh and others on this forum I'm at the beginning of my journey into sobriety, its encouraging to read your words, thank you.
    yagrrobot
  • BonsaiDougBonsaiDoug Simply, on the path. Veteran
    Tosh said:

    @Jeffery, I've just remembered another Higher Power which I've used; DHUKKA, or rather 'Pain and bYSuffering'. Pain and Suffering made me do the stuff I didn't want to do, things like:

    1. Go to A.A..
    2. Find an A.A. sponsor (a mentor)
    3. Go through the steps; paying particular attention to the tough bits.

    It's a great Higher Power is Mr Pain and Suffering.

    Lots of good stuff in this thread; this little gem included.

    We in NA followed the same steps/program as our brothers and sisters in AA. Get a good sponsor (mine passed on a few years ago - still miss him greatly), go to meetings and work the steps. Everything else will work itself out.

    This is year #40 for me being clean.

    jaeToshyagr
  • yagryagr Veteran
    yagr said:

    I entered AA in 1978. Much has changed in the ensuing decades.

    @Tosh and @jae et al: My apologies, I've inadvertently misrepresented myself. I did enter AA in 1978, but relapsed in 1985. I returned in May of 1992 and have been sober since. I've 21 years, not 36. I wrote it in such a way as to make that terribly unclear. My apologies.

    ToshBunks
  • jaejae Veteran
    @yagr....still encouraging no need for apologies.
    yagr
  • ToshTosh Veteran
    yagr said:

    yagr said:

    I entered AA in 1978. Much has changed in the ensuing decades.

    @Tosh and @jae et al: My apologies, I've inadvertently misrepresented myself. I did enter AA in 1978, but relapsed in 1985. I returned in May of 1992 and have been sober since. I've 21 years, not 36. I wrote it in such a way as to make that terribly unclear. My apologies.

    People who relapse after a long period of sobriety (7 years in your case) just goes to show that a period of sobriety doesn't turn us back into normal drinkers. There was a lady who had 20 years sober and relapsed (over a man she couldn't have when she was 60 years old; she said falling in love at age 60 was just as bad as it is at age 16) in my area. Within two years she was in a rehab in a right mess. She's four years sober now and she's got a great share.

    I hope to learn from your example and don't try experimenting myself!

    yagr
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator
    It's interesting that even after long periods sober, when a person resumes drinking or using, they seem to pick up where they left off. I experienced that with my ex as well as friends and others. Why does that happens? In my ex's case, he was sober for almost 10 years, and when he fell off the wagon, it ran him over as well it seems because things were 100x worse than they had been at the point he decided to stop drinking the first time. After that, his sobriety times got shorter and shorter and his using times longer and worse than the time before. I'm sure some of it is dependent on the person and their psychology but it seems it is common for that to happen (where things progress farther, and to a worse extent). Why is that?

    How wonderful for all of you who are making changes, no matter what they are! Congratulations to you all and best wishes on your journeys.
    yagrjae
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited March 2014
    So far in my life I was able to quit drinking and then after two years to go to moderation. I think part of it is that I am on so much medication that alcohol doesn't make me feel elated. And I have other things for 'treats'. I don't usually buy my own alcohol and I just have some beer when my girlfriend is over or when my mom picks some up grocery shopping. I do have a craving, but I have learned that the best way to enjoy something is to deprive yourself of it.

    So hopefully @karasti I am going to be the exception to the rule? (as regards starting right where i left off)

    So many things I just sit with discomfort from not having it. Food in general, sweets, gluten, smoking, drinking I just live with, as my baseline feeling, some level of craving that goes unfulfilled.
  • yagryagr Veteran
    It is my understanding that an alcoholic or addict doesn't just pick up where they left off, but rather, they pick up where they would have been had they continued drinking or using the entire time. It is a hard thing to measure so I can't know for certain, but I do know that it has been claimed by many in the field.

    @Tosh et al: I ended my first period of sobriety after seven years when I returned home from the military. In my opinion, there are things that the human psyche is not prepared to accept, and I ran into them. I picked up not thinking I was 'cured' but willing to die to not feel. It was a very dark period.

    Interestingly, it was meditation that saved me. I suffered horrendous PTSD and was able to revisit those experiences and re-experience them in a safe environment, from my cushion, and download them to the left brain where memories are properly stored instead of the right brain where traumatic memories go to be relived over and over.
    jae
  • ToshTosh Veteran
    edited March 2014
    yagr said:


    Interestingly, it was meditation that saved me. I suffered horrendous PTSD and was able to revisit those experiences and re-experience them in a safe environment, from my cushion, and download them to the left brain where memories are properly stored instead of the right brain where traumatic memories go to be relived over and over.

    Interesting; I'm ex military myself (17 years in the British army). And I sponsor a psychiatrist (who is my marathon running partner also and we have some long and strange chats on our runs).

    He tells me there's something called 'Memory Deletion', the new in-thing for PTSD. It's a bit of a misnomer because memories aren't deleted. It works like this:

    The PTSD sufferer takes beta blockers which numb down the emotions and then they relive the trauma, and doing this while feeling less stress about it 're-saves' the memory in a less troublesome format. They think the thing that changes is the emotional content we attach to the memory of the traumatic incident and not the memory itself. It sounds like you did something similar from the safety of your meditation mat. Maybe?

    I think our 12 Step amends process can be a bit like that too. I know I no longer hate my ex wife after I attempted my formal amend to her. She's the same, but the emotional memory I attach to her is different.

    When I hear people say that we can't change our past, I disagree with them; we can change the emotions we attach to the past; taking the power out of harmful memories.
    BunksyagrjaeDharmaMcBum
  • The past is in the present of our current experience.
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