Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tradition Two, As Learned from Experience by an Atheist

For the group purpose, a loving God as He may express Himself in the group conscience is the ultimate authority, as I put it in my own words rather than quote it. I know I don't have it wrong. That's what it says.

God didn't want me attending the group conscience meetings of my home group. I used to attend them. I only missed two in more than two years. But at the last one that I missed, the group conscience decided to move the meeting to a night I could not attend.

Now, if I could not attend because of my own personal commitments, such as piano lessons, or because a judge ordered me to do community service, I would understand.

But I could not attend because I was the elected representative for that group to Intergroup. Intergroup's schedule was well known: first and third Monday of each month. My home group decided to move its conscience meeting to an evening hour, from a 1:00 pm hour, ostensibly so “more people could show up.” But it turns out that it was precisely so the “right people” could show up. Those “right people” were the elders, the one's who had started the group. They had commitments during the 1:00 pm hour. I understand that. Strange thing is, now fewer people show up.

What I don't understand is why their God chose to make it very night that He knew I had an elected meeting to attend for the very group that was choosing to exclude me.

When I found out about this change, I asked one of those elders about it. He said that was the “group conscience speaking”. I asked why it had to be Monday and not some other night. He answered that Monday was the night the group conscience chose. I asked if that could be changed so that I could continue to go to the group conscience meetings. He flatly said no, that it was the group conscience that it should be that particular Monday.

Now, I liked my group. Of course when I spoke of my experience, strength or hope it was often contrary to the members who believed in God, but that group has a “no cross-talk” rule that includes criticizing other people's testimony. But most of the time I was thanked afterward for speaking my mind. Sometimes the thanks came from one of the elders. Sometimes it came from other atheists. Sometimes it just came from someone who was able to take away from my words something he or she needed to hear.

One time it was from a visitor from out of town, who thanked me for telling other people who might have a problem with the “God part” of A.A. to “just keep coming back” because they could always find a reason at the table that would help them stay strong. That particular time I even said that the Big Book says we must go to any length necessary, and while I didn't find it necessary to seek God after nearly 4 years in A.A., maybe they would come to the conclusion that for them it was necessary. Good for them! I said. Whatever it takes! Just keep coming back!

So I was not a pariah in my group. I didn't always speak contrarily; sometimes I affirmed the topic even while denying that God had any part in it for me. It was because I was able to say how I could do it without God that I often got the most comments after the meeting. thanks from people who also found it hard to accept that God would have a hand in some particular thing in their lives. Often they were agnostics who leaned more toward a belief in God than a non-belief.

When I heard that the group's conscience meeting could not be changed because it was the group conscience, I immediately thought of this Tradition. After some personal thinking, I told one of the group's elders I had my own conscience problem: I could not be the conscience of that group at the Intergroup meetings when I could not attend the group conscience meetings.
Funny thing is, that elder thought I meant I was quitting Intergroup so I could attend the group conscience meetings. I said no, I wanted to stay with Intergroup, so I become the representative for another group, one that I had helped create: Atheists and Spirituality, group # 688207. I am also the GSR for that group.

After more thinking, I have subsequently quit the first group altogether. I do not need to attend a meeting where God, as the ultimate authority, has decided I am not to be. I don't blame God, however. Atheists don't believe God exists, so I must blame it all on the people who first voted to put me on Intergroup, and then decided that I no longer needed to attend the group's conscience meetings.

At least when my atheist group has conscience meetings, we are honest and blame any consequences on ourselves. We don't foist it off on God. I'll bet if I asked God, he would rather see the group meet another night so I could go back to being part of the the group conscience, and go back to the group itself in order to fulfill the Responsibility Statement, which I hold near and dear. The atheists' group closes with it.

Perhaps this article will help those whose thinking is entrenched in the idea that no one can make it in A.A. without God, as to why so many people who don't have God do not make it in A.A.: they are not met with “the hand of A.A.” which does not demand belief. Instead, they are met with the hand of people who tell them they will fail without God, that Dr. Bob said we who try to make it on our own are to be “pitied”, and that when God says something through the group, that's the way it's got to be—it can't be changed.

And that is what I mean by being honest and blaming such decisions on the people in the group, not on God. Those people could have decided on the second Monday if they wanted Monday; or on the first Tuesday if they wanted it in the first week of the month. Instead, God said it had to be the first Monday, and that's that.

I just turned 55, and I've been atheist since I was 4. You are not going to change me. But as long as I keep coming back I can always find a way to stay clean and sober, because I have a desire to stop drinking, our only requirement.

No, it wasn't God who wanted me out of the group. The elders who thought the first Monday of the month was the only appropriate day they would settle for wanted me out, because it was they who voted to make me the Intergroup representative. They didn't want me out of the group itself, but out of the conscience meetings. Why, I still don't know. They said God wanted it that way.

Alcoholics can get sober without god, since there is none.
Bill Wilson was wrong about self-will; but we must direct our will toward what keeps us sober. A higher power (HP) is no power at all if it doesn't help us. But as you will read in the page titled Higher Power, Part 2, that HP does not necessarily need to be outside yourself. ©

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  1. Thanks for sharing. :) Seriously.

  2. I'm glad I was able to provide you with something you could appreciate. Do you want to say specifically what part of it you liked, or why?

  3. I have not had a drink in more than 8 years ... with and without benefit of AA.

    I see the benefit of the support group, however I am ready to expand into a group which focuses on science/fact/rational thinking & relying on oneself to stay sober. I enjoy a good AA meeting, but tire of the HP theory and what I know to be a form of brainwashing.

    I am an atheist/agnostic, ready to discuss sobriety with like minded people.

    I'm looking for a secular recovery group, however there is none in my area of the south.

    It's refreshing to know that there are others who feel, at least in some part, as I do.

  4. Thanks for your comments. Feel free to click on the Google Groups button. I know I would be willing to share my thinking, and so would some of the other members of the group.