From time to time I heard statement that a person is an atheist, or does not believe in God. Often there is a question attached to that statement - it is possible for these individuals to “work the Steps”, since word God is used in several of them. Also, often there is a statement that “the 12-Step Program is a religious program”, without specifics which religion it belongs to.
I'm including definitions from the on-line (Internet) dictionary:
a·the·ist - a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods.
Atheism is about belief or, specifically, what you don't believe.
Agnosticism is about knowledge or, specifically, about what you don't know. An atheist doesn't believe in any gods. An agnostic doesn't know if any gods exist or not. Agnosticism is of the essence of science, whether ancient or modern. It simply means that a man shall not say he knows or believes that which he has no scientific grounds for professing to know or believe.
ag·nos·tic - a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.
Agnosticism is the view that the existence of God, of the divine or the supernatural is unknown or unknowable. Another definition provided is the view that "human reason is incapable of providing sufficient rational grounds to justify either the belief that God exists or the belief that God does not exist."
Regardless of the above definitions and their ideas, I personally had to work out my own comprehension and definition of a Higher Power within the 12 Step Program.
I vividly remember some eager group-participant explaining that “The Higher Power does not have to be a God (meaning – christian God), it can be anything, object, Nature, ……”. This did not work for me.
When working the 2nd Step again!! -it finally became apparent that not ALL of it: -world, people, problems, issues, friendships, relations, belongs to me – although I’ve tried desperately to make ALL of IT MINE!!!, and please do not ask why…. That how it was. Finally, I understood that some of “life” belongs not-to-me.!!! Therefore, I’ve separated myself from “not mine” and realized that what is “not mine” is governed by “some other” power. Power Greater than myself. And this became my definition of a Higher Power, whom eventually I’ve chosen to call God, a christian God.
My understanding of the Power Greater than myself became an integral part of my Spirituality; I realized that (my) body without Spirituality is “just a corpse”. Any body - mine, yours.
I’ve comprehended that in the 12-Step Program, the belief in the Higher Power/God is based on the understanding and acceptance that each one of us, humans, has some limits and limitations. These limitations are connected to the elements total “outside” of the realm of an individual person, regardless of if the element is human, spiritual, material, emotional, religious, or atmospheric.
If any element does not belong to me, like spirituality, body, material things – these elements are NOT MINE to rule over them or to modify them.
That was when I did comprehend why I cannot stop the wind from blowing, change cloud formation, or change feelings/behavior of others. These are the things controlled by Higher Power/God, as I understand Him.
The Higher Power exists, no matter what or how I believe or not believe, or do I Trust It or not.
To me, God is not a specific religion. Religion as such concentrates on idea of God, but is not God. Religion is a regulated set of beliefs and standards with a specific definition of God, and not just a Christian idea of God.
To be able to “work” the Program” I feel that I do not need to understand the intricacies of a specific religion, as long as I remember that “what is not-mine” I can just hand over to the Power Greater than myself.
My spiritual beliefs, not necessarily religion, are a result of a personal and intimate choices connected to religious values, learned, comprehended and/or collected during my childhood.
I grew up in Polish People’s Republic, where the idea of God, catholic or protestant, was not presented or discussion encouraged. I’ve seen couple times my father praying standing-up, but what was the occasion or for what ?? I have no idea. We went to the local parish church, but there was no discussion about God, God’s will, or God’s Grace. Also, we did not have a tradition of the family or individual prayer.
Eventually I’ve recognized, that “going to church” was more an act of civil defiance, to show that we (Polish people) did not submit completely to the “new” regime. It was probably a way to show that we still have some choices we could make in our actions, decisions and life-style.
As a young teenager, I was not able to sort-out and/or comprehend the requirement of a “good girl”. I knew that God existed – but because I was not an ideal “sweet little thing”, my connection to God was heavily dependent on the fear of the Last Judgement. What has created an immature attitude – since I am not able all the time to be the “good girl” , I will end-up in Hell anyway, so I could have at least a good time while getting there.
My big gift (by the grace of God) was that I was not a difficult untamed rebel. I was young with no life experiences to draw on, had many dreams, and made some mistakes – mostly from ignorance or inexperience. My religious upbringing did not help much at that time.
Actually, the 12-Step Program gave me the real understanding, courage, and tools to separate religion and its requirements/demands from Spirituality
The several attempts at 2ndstep eventually gave me the understanding that MY HIGHER POWER is an integral part of my Spirituality.
And without the Spirituality, the human body is just a corpse. Every “body”, mine… yours…
My spirituality includes my thoughts, dreams, vocal expressions, expectations, emotions, tears, hopes, prayers. Everything about me that I can not touch with my finger.