Question of the Week: An Atheist In AA

By User:Vangore  derivative work: Technical 13

By User:Vangore  derivative work: Technical 13

On 11/17/2017, the Mentionables received this question from an anonymous source:

"I know an alcoholic who went to AA, but was put off by all the religious implications. He couldn't complete the program because the last step was to "give it up to a higher power," and he doesn't believe in a "higher power." He wants to quit, but he can't put up with the program because he doesn't like the religious stuff. What do you tell someone like that?" 

This answer by Mentionable Joel Furches


Speaking to the person himself, I would say this: 

I understand your position. However, whether you realize it or not, I would contend that you do, in fact, believe in a Higher Power. I realize that you don’t believe in God, and probably aren’t spiritual in any way. However, what we can both agree on is that you want to make a change in your life. You have become, in some sense, physically dependent, but you are working against that dependency in order to better yourself. 

Consider this: if you were simply a biological mechanism, then you are your body. There is no separation of distinction between your mind and your body. However, your body craves one thing, and your mind wants to be free from that craving. There is a conflict of desires, and you are working against your body to break this dependency. Consider drug testing done on animals. It is easy to get an animal to become chemically dependant on a substance. Never once in the history of drug testing has an animal struggled to break its addiction. But you do. There is a part of you that transcends your body, and fights to re-train your body to meet the desires of your mind. 

If there is some possibility that your mind is transcendent, then this opens the door to the possibility of transcendence. This begs another question: why do you crave to break this addiction? The desires of your mind do not match the desires of your body, and this indicates that you recognize some kind of transcendent standard which places an ultimate good over physical desire. You want more out of your life. You want to be a better person. You are straining toward some kind of standard that exists outside of your skin. And if there is a standard that transcends the grey matter between your ears, there is a Higher Power from which this standard proceeds. If you desire something greater than your body can give you, your desires are straining toward that which is higher than yourself. Recognize that you want something outside of yourself, and then ask that the transcendent come to you rather than you working to come to it.