I met with my sponsor in AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), yesterday, and we went over Step 2 in the AA program. It’s the one that reintroduces someone to a Higher Power (or God; please note that I will be using “God” or “Higher Power” interchangeable) as you conceive Him or understand Him to be. It’s a complex issue for me, as I imagine it is for many people, let alone alcoholics.
I suppose, on the most basic level, I have always accepted and believed in God; but my thoughts, feelings, opinions have been changed and altered over time. Being raised as a catholic, I have an understanding of God that is of a theologically catholic point of view, but being a student of history, science, and smidgens of understanding of various religious and philosophical points of view have altered my understanding of God over time. My sense of right and wrong, my beliefs on morality – especially sexuality, my comprehension of punishment and the afterlife have changed. There are time when my catholic point of view has been tarnished by other modes of thinking, but there are also times when I readily defend Catholicism. I tend to reject atheism as quickly as atheists reject God.
Am I right? Hardly.
Are others wrong? Most likely.
There is a subtlety in AA that allows one to come to an understanding of a Higher Power without the dogmatic expectations of most religions. The main principle of the idea is to simply be willing to be open about a Higher Power. But I tend to focus on things so much. In a previous blog when I was attempting to get sober, I wrote an entire post about my conception of God (or a Goddess, as I wanted to call her at the time) and today I had considered doing the same thing. But often times, I wonder if the very act of seeking pre-disposes our conception of a Higher Power is filled with our own bias. I can’t help but wonder if letting go of the idea of pre-conceived notions would be the best answer to this question.
I’ve long ago accepted that there will be no burning-bush experience for me. I long ago accepted that seeing a white light that reveals all to me isn’t going to happen. No, I have accepted that the God of my understanding will speak to me in a language I understand. For example, the last night I drank, I had a voice inside of me say, “What the fuck are you doing?” Was it God? I don’t know, but it didn’t feel like me. It didn’t feel like it was something I would have said to myself. There was something else that voice said, that truly made me decide to run back to AA and I have chosen to keep that thing private for now.
But the point I’m stressing, is that the God I grew up with would have been obvious, because I am clueless. I can’t tell what is or is not God, I can’t tell what is something that is deceptive and is not deceptive. I can’t trust people to tell me what God is or is not, because people are so vastly different in so many things. How would I know what is right or what is wrong? I have struggled with so many different things throughout life, that I have become bitter about my understanding of a Higher Power. I question what is and what should be.
But somehow, I think the anxiety and stress of needing to know the answers to these big questions have always impacted me. I was speaking to someone yesterday about nervous habits I had as a kid – biting my nails, chewing my tongue, tapping my hands and feet on things, etc. I think I have always dealt with big questions – it’s part of what has always fed my desire for knowledge and understanding, but the not knowing has always filled me with a lack of security.
And even now, as I write this post, I know I wanted to write out what I believe God to be, but it lacks the one thing I can’t have – knowledge of God. And it makes me recall what I overheard a guy say before a meeting to someone; he said, “I know God exists.”. And my gut instinct was to tell him he doesn’t know shit, because he doesn’t even understand the difference between the words ‘belief’ and ‘knowledge’. I didn’t say anything, but it made me realize that none of us “know” God, we can only believe. Believing is the foundation of faith, but it cannot be proven. Knowledge is proven, beliefs can not be proven.
I guess what I’m getting at is that I believe in a God, or Higher Power, but I do not know His (or Her) nature. But can my belief be enough? Being raised Catholic, I have always been told that faith is enough, but it must involve works. Understanding other Christian denominations, faith is all that’s required. I’m sure, given the chance to study other religious belief systems, there will be a discussion of faith of some sort. So, can my lack of understanding, constitute belief? Am I capable of believing without understanding?
Yes, I believe it does.
I am now sober 31 days.