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Spirituality vs. Religion

posted 2/21/2008 1:03:48 AM |
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  sundance64

Being considerate of other bloggers, I decided to write this in order to give people a place to voice their own opinion on this topic. It came up on another blog that really had little to do with either spirituality or religion...lol!

So...it started out because of the program of AA and it's religious connotations...ie, the Lord's prayer, seeking a Higher Power, Turning one's will over to God..ect.

Yes...it's all there in black and white for the whole world to see. Even the courts have decided that a judge cannot 'sentence' a person to AA meetings, due to the fact of it's spiritual nature.

I agree.

I attended AA meetings every day for over a year, and at least once a week for almost 8 years after that. Not once was I told I had to believe in God. Yes...I was told I should pray...ask for strength and guidance...and give thanks. To what? A power greater than myself. Do I believe there is such a thing? Well...yeah!

I was raised as a Catholic, went to church learned catechism...the whole nine yards. But for me...believing in God was like believing in Santa Claus. Big guy with a long white beard that flew around in the sky watching me to make sure I was good..right?

Fast forward a few years...I realize I have a drinking problem. I'm not going to go into the whole getting sober deal...it's not that interesting. Suffice to say, I found myself with my feet under a table at an AA meeting one night. I was at a point where I was willing to do whatever these people told me to do to stay sober. Why? Well...lets just say that after hearing some of these people talk...I wanted what they had. For me...it worked, or at least it has worked up to this point. There's always tomorrow...lol!

The whole point of the dissent was that AA is a religious organization. Well...yes and no. It's a spiritual program. The difference...in the program...is that spirituality is a means towards humility...and humility is a means towards sobriety. Any person who has not been thru what a recovering alcoholic goes thru will probably not get that...but I'll try to explain:

For me...and alot of alcoholics I know...I was the center of my own universe. In order for me to get sober and stay sober, I had to give up my own self-imposed divinity and admit I was not all powerful. I was not in control. To a point...it sort of a mild brain-washing...but in a good way. A person wanting to recover is asked first to admit they have a problem...and that their life is unmanageable. They have to have help. Here's where it gets into the religious aspect...when they are asked to believe in a power greater than themself. For most this would be God...in some form. Hence, the religious aspect. But...if you look at the Big Book, this was meant to take the alcoholic (or drug addict...) outside of themself, and give that control up to someone else. It goes on to use God, throughout the 12 steps. But with the clarifier "as we understand Him". This is because God is a name most can identify with...even the agnostic and the athiest. But at no time is an alcoholic told they have to believe in "God", as in the God of the Bible. They are simply told to gain an understanding of a power greater than themself.

So...is it religious or is it spiritual? And is there even a difference? First, yes. Depending on who you are and what you are taking from the 12 steps...it can be either religious or spiritual...or both. Is there a difference? For me, yes. I do not adhere to organized religion of any kind. However, I am a very spiritual person. I do believe in a Higher Power, I do believe in miracles and I do believe there is a Supreme Being responsible for my being here today.

As for the question of whether a person should be forced by a judge to attend AA meetings...I don't think so. I don't think anyone can be 'forced' into sobriety. If every person who needed it went to an AA meeting, there wouldn't be enough room in a football stadium to hold them all. It just doesn't work that way. What does sometimes work is for a person who is already in recovery to go to court and seek out someone who they happen to see in front of a judge for the fifth time for drinking...and give that person their phone number. I did that...5 years ago. That person is still sober today.

The main focus of AA is not religious or spiritual. It's service. One person helping another person stay sober. For me...that's what kept me sober. I always said, I'm a selfish alcoholic. I help others for one reason...to keep me sober.

Ok...maybe this doesn't exactly explain the difference between religion and spirituality. Go here
for a better explanation. And I didn't write this to get pats on the back for being sober...while it's appreciated, it's unnecessary in this context.

Copy & paste to friend: (Click inside box; Ctrl + C to copy; Ctrl + V to paste)

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Comments:

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Ewe_Wish

Feb 21 @ 1:10AM  
You did a wonderful job explaining it............but as you said if you havent expirenced it your not going to understand it.............but like you Sunny I agree........you can't keep it if you don't give it away. Thanks for writing this blog.....
DeDe54

Feb 21 @ 1:26AM  
Sunny, I have never been a drinker! My first husband was, and he drank alot. I seen what he went through for 27 years, trying to stop, then going back on a binge, then stopping for 3 months, then bingeing for 3 months, then non stop for 15 years *well it seemed*.

I Loved and lived with this man for 27 years, not once did he look at me or his children and think he had a problem. He died in 1998, of Congestive Heart Failure caused by Cocaine Toxicity. His liver was trash, if he hadn't died when he did, it would have been months and he would have been gone anyway.

The reason I am saying this is, I'm proud of anyone that can finally admit they have a problem either with drinking or drugs! IF he would have done that, maybe he would be alive today. Who knows!!

Kudos to you...

Oh the religion thing, everyone has there own beliefs, I believe what I believe in. Personally I don't think its anyones business, but thats me!!

Let the spirits guide you in your endeavors Sundance, and good luck!!

sundance64

Feb 21 @ 1:27AM  
The other thing I wanted to point out...Something that was brought up in one of the links Beefy sent me:

The quasi-religious 12-step groups have America brainwashed into believing that a higher power will take care of everything. Whatever happened to personal responsibility?

Wrong. Wrongwrongwrong. Obviously Penn&Teller have never stepped foot inside an AA meeting, or gone thru the process of recovery. Another key step in the recovery process is taking personal responsibility for ones own actions.
xdcfx

Feb 21 @ 1:51AM  
OK here are my two pennies. Spirituality for me, is feeling an inner peace within myself, and trusting that I have the confidence in myself. Religion, well I am catholic, but I have my oun issues with it as well. But, thats my bag. Although I do believe in a higher power, such as god, probably because the little voice in my head tells me to believe in something, and that I had better or I'm screwed come my day of judgement. Then there is also the scientific thoughts that run through my head at the same time. like the "big bang theory" VS "Adam and Eve" although the science part of my brain tells me if we all came from Adam and Eve, we all would at this point all look like something from a creature feature movie, and is really all insest. No? LOL man I got issues.
lifeizabitch

Feb 21 @ 2:47AM  
While it is true that several federal and state courts have made that type of ruling it is not a settled issue. However it does beg the question of how effective it would be if one is forced to participate in it. Great blog.
canuhelpme258

Feb 21 @ 2:50AM  
Here is my problem with organized sobriety... If I can not find the strength within myself to stop an addiction... I will not find it outside myself.

It should be painfully obvious that there is no all powerful being pulling our strings, watching the great reality show our lives are? Yeah, I can see that... but giving yourself over to an outside power is a step to accepting fascism too...
beefygoblin

Feb 21 @ 4:52AM  
If your program insist you must surrender to a "higher power" then its religion. Spirituality is religion. Atheist are not spiritual in the sense that they do not believe in a higher power... thats kinda the definition.

This is like arguing Apocalypse vs Armageddon.

Spirituality is vague religion. Pure and simple. Religion is religion.


sheesh
SxzeNewMe

Feb 21 @ 7:43AM  
Here's what I think...well, and a bit of what I know. I think it's been established that AA (and all 12-step programs modeled after it) is a religion-based program. Of course it is; it was formed by a group of church-going men who realized they had a problem with drinking. So, of course it's religion-based...it's also based on the "male model" - with the needs of men only in mind. Women weren't even allowed to participate, but it's not like they needed it, you know...they were just hooked on opium.

I'm not into 12-step programs of any kind for 2 reasons: 1) it excludes people who don't have a spiritual base or who don't want to use that as leverage to stay sober, and 2) it requires you to admit powerlessness (to something inanimate). I have always questioned anyone who "puts their lives into the hands of God" - because the only thing that can be attributed to the person is failure. If you succeed, it's because God lead you in the right direction; if you don't, it's because you've transgresse and are weak. I've never understood how that mindset helps anyone. I can tell you this, it never helped a battered woman to think like that. So, I've always looked for recovery options that have a different basis for gaining control.

BUT...all that aside, my personal reasons for why I would not participate in a 12-step program...I cannot deny that - quite simply - it works. Not for everyone and not all the time, but it works well enough that (ultimately) I don't care what it stands for, how it came to be, or what someone has to be successful IT WORKS. When you watch as many loved ones die from their alcohol and drug addictions as I have, you stop caring how sobriety happens...as long as it keeps people safe and alive. I just wish AA would have worked for my sister, boys' dad, best friend...(shall I go on?)
SxzeNewMe

Feb 21 @ 7:52AM  
One quick thought I forgot to add...

There is an actual reason that God is a part of AA...Because - back when AA was formed, who did men have to look to for strength and guidance? God, because there was no higher authority than man himself. Women didn't need AA because they had someone to look to for strength and guidance...men. And why? Because the bible tells us so...

Like it or not, A LOT of things have a religious theme or foundation. We can't escape it. All we can do is change it when we realize that it's not working. And some have taken the initiative to do that within AA because I know there are groups that do NOT use God as a focus for strength. And because this also works, I believe that the true reason for the success of AA is not from a belief in God...it is from the support and help from others.
Wordsofwit

online now!
Feb 21 @ 8:52AM  
In my state, you get a DWI, more often than not, the judge WILL sentence you to attend AA meetings two or three times a week through the length of the probation.

It happened to me, admittedly. God, I hated those meetings. Every time I went, there would be one or two new people there. And every time, the same four or five people would tell their story to the newcomers and it was always a fifteen minute C & W song in slow motion from each of them. The same long, boring, excruciating stories over and over.

After a couple of months, I finally realized that as everything in there was confidential and couldn't be compelled to verification, that I would have a friend or my daughter forge the log I had to show the PO upon demand.

It is a good program for some people that previously were tanked 24/7. Many of those people would be dead if not for one another and the program in many cases. But for somebody who got pulled over after a night on the town that did not drink on a daily basis, it was a visit to another planet.
NachoBaby

Feb 21 @ 9:31AM  
The difference between religious and spiritual is simply the act of congregation. Spiritual people haven't the need to congregate in groups to prove their spirituality.. where a spiritual person may just stay at home and commune with their Higher Power alone.
xdcfx

Feb 21 @ 10:25AM  
Well, heres one for the books... I have a cousin who meditates, and is also a athiest. explain that one. in order to meditate, dont you have to find your inner self, and let go spiritually?
BlueEyes708

Feb 21 @ 10:27AM  
Sundance

I'm giving you a green thing, just because you deserve it for doing what YOU believe in. Like you said, those who never needed the 12 step program, will never understand it. And there are lots of success cases all over the world, so you must have did something right.

I admire you for you struggles and your successes.

BlueEyes
sumdaysoon

Feb 21 @ 11:17AM  
everybody gotta............believe...........in something...........
Lisa46

Feb 21 @ 11:45AM  
. A person wanting to recover is asked first to admit they have a problem...and that their life is unmanageable. They have to have help. Here's where it gets into the religious aspect...when they are asked to believe in a power greater than themself


You said it all right here!!! YOU have to want it before it can work! Same with smoking and drugs if you don't want to stop you aren't going to!! At least with AA you have the options of help..I also dealt with an alcholic stepdad who I loved more than anything but it wasn't mom's battle it was his. He had to do it she couldn't do it for him or make him (and that is a mistake alot of people make)

great blog sunny green thingie to you
belle1010

Feb 21 @ 12:01PM  
I thought a lot about this last night when I read the other blog on the subject of religion. I have been trying to find a way to state it, which I don't have to do now. You hit it right on the head! I don't think of AA or NA as a religious organization. I think of it as a way to keep me sober. Having a good support system other than AA or NA helps too. I'm not religious, I don't go to church, and am not really sure if there is a "God" per se. I do believe that I don't have control over certain aspects of my life, and need the help of other people to gain perspective of those things. I also agree that if you've never had need of the 12 steps, you're not likely to understand them or the context in which they are intended. People can argue all day long over the religious aspect or not. The point is it does work for the majority of people who use them. I think that should be the ONLY arguement, not what "God" means to each person.
borty293

Feb 21 @ 12:35PM  
I've always related to the two guys that started AA. They started talking and ended up in the kitchen drinking coffee. They were bad drunks looking for a way out.
Two days later they were still in the same kitchen talking and both realiized they hadn't had a drink cus they were busy talking about not drinking. They decided to go look for another drunk to talk about not drinking...then there were three and now there are millions world wide.
Do you sense a higher power at work here? Maybe it was the coffee or the kitchen...it sure the fuck wasn't them. You tell me what it was?
I have been the guy in the kitchen ...many times...talking to other guys and gals about not drinking. For some reason it works ....could that be a higher power?
In the words of Bob Dylan....somethings going on here and ya don't know what it is...do you Mr. Jones.
kozmik_wave

Feb 21 @ 12:48PM  
This is a good one, actually made me think!

My experience in AA was not productive...I was in a room full of other people that could hardly wait to get out of there to have a drink. Having a few of my drinking buddies in there didn't help either! So...after each meeting we would all walk to the closest bar and celebrate the meeting being over.

Spirituality...recognizing that you have a spirit and there is a spirit world within our own physical plane, not necessarily acknowledging a higher power. It's quite conceivable that we live among spirits and that all of them are equal...having to answer to no one, whether good or evil. A materialist would not agree.

Religion...in most respects a belief in a higher power, the supreme being that may or may not judge us all in the end. Usually gathering in groups, a congregation per se. to share in the common belief.

That's my take on it.
casuallylooking

Feb 21 @ 12:50PM  

I believe there is a big difference between religion and spirituality.

I've known qutie a few people who are complete athiest who have worked their 12 steps--without ever believing in God-- and are still working their program successfully many years later.

I believe in God, so when they said a higher power, to me there was no question. But I have seen many struggle with this ,,,and get through it. Successfully.

Great blog, Sunny. Shiny, green guy on the table for you...
slohand_47

Feb 22 @ 3:43AM  
My first thought was to vote on the side of Spirituality. After reading some of the comments..... I thought a few made a good point for Religion.
After reading all the comments..... I've come to the conclusion...... that it really doesn't matter what label one wants to hang on it. As long as it works for you, you can call it whatever you want.

Nice blog, btw.
StraddleMyNose

Feb 22 @ 3:51AM  
Me being a Christian, I too believe in that higher being. For me that's God. I like your blog for the most part, and I'm glad everything is going great for you these days.
sundance64

Feb 23 @ 10:39AM  
My experience in AA was not productive...I was in a room full of other people that could hardly wait to get out of there to have a drink. Having a few of my drinking buddies in there didn't help either! So...after each meeting we would all walk to the closest bar and celebrate the meeting being over.

Not trying to put you down Koz...but you proved a point here; You have to want it in order for it to work. The people who did want it...got it. The people who didn't need it...don't get it. The people who need it...well, IMO they will either get it or not but can't and won't be forced into it. The spiritual aspect of AA and the 12 steps is a scary thing. For a drunk, the thought of never drinking again is even scarier...hence the reason for One Day At A Time. Even that concept is hard to grasp for most drunks...including the ones who want to get sober. But for a person who is not an alcoholic or addict...the entire concept of recovery is very difficult to comprehend.

The thing I learned was that turning ones will over to a higher power doesn't mean sitting back and letting some non-material 'being' do everything for you. It means doing the right thing...and then doing the next right thing. Playing the tapes of the past in your head all the way thru and knowing that making the mistakes of the past will always produce the same results...maybe not every time, but eventually.

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Spirituality vs. Religion