Spirituality vs. Religion – and the 12 Steps too
From the Spirituality section I have since updated here I have chosen to post here.
The concept of my spirituality is based in several philosophies. I believe spirituality is purely an inside job and all the rituals, church-attending, preaching, reading, meditation, tithing, and even fasting for some are simple to complex ways for many of us to get to that spiritual center. Whether one considers herself a religious person or not, I have found that religion has very little to do with spirituality but does have its place in the certain type of “God” you’re choosing to search for, hopefully with the goal to get to that spiritual center that I believe resides inside.
My spiritual center happened first and then I learned the philosophies, terms, and names much later. (One could say that my spirituality happened first and then I found the different “religions” or “philosophies” that seemed perfectly aligned with me.) I think this could be an important distinction for the person beginning his quest. While religion is an external to internal guidance, spirituality could be the inside to outside guidance. As opposed to moral absolutism that we have to learn (think about memorizing the Ten Commandments) from the outside and hope it takes up residence within, spiritual fulfillment is already taking up residence and we then go questing to the outside to find where we seem to fit in it all.
So in my “religion”, to keep it simple, God is found within. I believe that as we connect with Prana, Holy Spirit, God, Higher Self, Life Force, Chi or whatever we choose to call it independent of religion, background, or culture, we are residing in a God-centered space. If I claimed a religion or abided certain philosophical tenants or precepts I still could not be forced into a religion. And believe me when I say that’s a hard pill to swallow for a person who has craved social acceptance a great part of her life! Fortunately, in my beliefs, when we find spirituality we don’t put so much importance on other people to accept us – we are fulfilled in knowing that God accepts us and that we accept ourselves. Radical isn’t it? :-)
As you may have already guessed, I’m not religious – not in the traditional “Catholic or Protestant?” sense. I have disdain for many tenants of certain religious denominations and even movements. There is no room for religion in my quest for Spirituality. I make this distinction that Spirituality is how I relate to myself with myself and God; and that Religion is following certain tenants of moral absolutism while worshiping a specific idea of a specific type of God that I may or may not agree with. With that mouthful of words it comes down to what’s important to me: Is it more important I strive to stay in touch with that peace within or that I lie, pretend, or force a belief in something that doesn’t fit me?
My serenity cannot afford this dispute. I will wax philosophical and religious beliefs for sport but my spirituality must remain fertile and intact. I believe it is a personal practice and discipline, as it is a personal relationship I have with ‘my god’ ~ whatever it is I define or understand that to be.
God, Spirituality, and 12 Step Programs
The Twelve Steps of any “Anonymous” organization are meant to introduce those who follow them to a power greater then themselves, which will solve their problem ~ whatever that may be (alcohol, people, food, gambling, sex, etc.). It is meant to be helpful to us. It is meant to provide simple instructions that we can practice in order to keep us abstinent from whatever destructive behavior that puts us in need of this help. This is not to argue whether alcoholism is a disease, or whether codependency is a disease or organic versus behavioral errors. It makes no difference to me: I believe in the 12 Steps. I believe in them for re-introducing me to the god of my understanding. I absolutely do not believe in them as a means to begin “worshipping” any cult-like mentality so I beg you to forgive any errors or omissions I may make in explaining God as it relates to my interpretation of the Twelve Steps.
Step 3 – Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood
Him God. This is my version of step 3 where I neutralize the gender of God. I do the same in Step 7 and step 11; and because I believe in carrying the message of spiritual fulfillment to other people irrespective of their “demons” – if you forgive the colloquialism – in Step 12 I removed any one defining characteristic and replaced it with “others.”
Some 12 Step thumpers may threaten you will failed sobriety if you do this. Some people are intolerant and still others believe seriously in superstition and that “free will” is a plague and blight upon humanity. These same people may say, “What are you doing thinking? You might get drunk doing that?” or “Which step is it that says think?” In my opinion, people who practice this type of “recovery” are trying their best to color within the lines maybe scared that if they venture outside the lines they may fail.
To that, I would say that God gave me brains to use as well as my free will and independent thought. I would also have to go back to the limited understanding I have of God and say that the God of my understanding allows mistakes. God allows coloring outside the lines! In fact, the only time I was ever punished for not being perfect was when I got the idea I needed to be perfect in order to be socially acceptable. Thank God I have come to my senses! In sobriety I have come to accept myself, warts and all!
Yes, I can replace Him with God by virtue of this steps very words: “As we understood Him.” I understand God to not be a gender. I understand God to not be of a specific religion. I understand other personal aspects of this God that – as I try every day in my life to seek – unfortunately I can only understand on a small human scale.
Don’t let anyone try to sell you the idea that God has to be a Christian male God. Were this the case, Jews, Scientologists, Unitarians, New Age, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Agnostics, and Atheistic alcoholics would not be sober or sane. Gently remember that the person who is trying to throw on you, while in A.A., that it has to be this Christian male God [or Him], wonder silently to yourself why it is then they weren’t able to get sober in church – if, indeed, it is only that intolerant version of God who performs miracles.
Don’t let anyone tell you that the Twelve Steps are the means and end of it, if you choose to not believe that. Had I chosen to believe that the Twelve Steps were simply a way to deal with only my severe problems, or glaring human deficiencies, I wouldn’t be who I am today or where I am today.
[End Spirituality page Reprint. Accurate on Jan 02, 2007.]
Happy New Year 2007. Namaste. It resides inside.