Sunday, January 04, 2015

There are no atheists in a foxhole

Nearly 20 percent of Americans (and one-third of Americans under 30) are unaffiliated with any religion. About 30 percent of this group identified themselves as atheists or agnostics, according to a 2012 Pew Research Center study. 

The Pew Center refers to non-believers as “nones.” The Center points out that while nones may be non-religious, this does not mean they do not embrace spirituality. 

Yet in our 12-Step rooms, we frequently refer to God as if there is no doubt in God’s existence. Few of us stop and consider the non-believers in the rooms. At least I didn’t until I heard an atheist share in a meeting how this dialogue about God impacted him. I also thought about how I would have reacted when I arrived in the rooms if members had pushed their idea of God down my throat. 

My experience with a God was simple when I got here – I knew that since I was still alive, there was a God. That’s how dangerous the world was where my addiction took me. I had no problem with the concept of a loving God or a Higher Power, although the “restoration to sanity” outlined in Step Two eluded me for a number of years.

The question to me is this: When I am so intensely pro-God, how can I share my experience, strength and hope in a way that does not offend or even drive away non-believers? I turned to several of my agnostic friends for answers. 

Here are the tips I got from agnostics and atheists for sharing my experience with a God of my understanding without alienating the nones. 
  • Don’t push a particular God. Simply describe your personal experience and how you came into the rooms.
  • Describe your personal experience with Step Two. Never say things like, “You must believe this way” or “This is the only way.”
  • Don’t criticize those who do not believe.
  • Don’t label others as “atheist” or “agnostic” unless they choose that label.
  • Don’t warn people they won’t stay clean if they fail to find God. A Higher Power is a highly personal experience for each person seeking recovery; it is not “one size fits all.”
My understanding of God has changed since I came to the rooms. In my addiction, I was angry with God, often asking, “Why me, God, why am I an addict?” I often prayed for help in getting out of various messes my behavior caused while under the influence or in attempting to get drugs. Only when I was at my bottom and humbly asked God to help me, however, did He arrest my addiction. 

This I do know from my own personal tribulations: There are no atheists in a foxhole. 

Feel free to post your input in the comments. 

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