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My Faithlessness: The atheist way through AA
Six of AA's 12 steps explicitly refer to God, a Higher Power, or He.
August 28th, 2011
01:00 AM ET

My Faithlessness: The atheist way through AA

Editor's note: Marya Hornbacher's latest book, "Waiting: A Nonbeliever’s Higher Power," explores what spirituality can mean to the recovering person who does not believe in God.

By Marya Hornbacher, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Kicked back with his boots on the table at the head of the smoke-dense room, the meeting's leader banged his fist and bellowed, “By the grace of this program and the blood of Jesus Christ, I’m sober today!”

I blinked.

This was not an auspicious beginning for the project of getting my vaguely atheistic, very alcoholic self off the sauce.

I wondered if perhaps I’d wandered into the wrong room. I thought maybe I’d wound up in Alcoholics Anonymous for crown-of-thorn Christians, and in the next room might find AA for lapsed Catholics, and downstairs a group for AA Hare Krishnas and one for AA Ukrainian Jews.

But a decade later, I’ve become aware that 12-step programs are home to people from every religion, denomination, sect, cult, political tilt, gender identity, sexual preference, economic strata, racial and ethnic background, believers in gun rights and abortion rights and the right to home schooling, drinkers of coffee and tea, whiskey and mouthwash, people who sleep on their sides or their stomachs or sidewalks.

Anyone who cares to sober up, in other words, can give it a shot the 12-step way.  The official preamble Alcoholics Anonymous states: "The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.”

And millions of people want that and find a way to do it in this program. I’m one of them. I was, not to put too fine a point on it, a raging drunk. Now I’m not.

It wasn’t magic; it was brutally hard work to get from point A to B. I do believe I’d be dead without the help of the people and the structure of the steps in AA.

But I don’t believe in God.

And this can be something of a sticking point when you’re sitting in a meeting room, desperate for almost any route out of hell, and someone cites “the blood of Jesus” as the only way to go. Or when you realize that six of AA's 12 steps explicitly refer to God, a Higher Power or He.

But this shouldn't be a dealbreaker. I’m going to make a lot of old-style AA’s cranky with this, but it’s perfectly possible to sober up sans belief in God.

At first that wasn’t clear to me. It’s unclear to most people because AA has a reputation as a cult, a religion unto itself, a bunch of blathering self-helpers, a herd of lemmings or morons, and it isn’t those things, either. It’s a pretty straightforward series of steps, based on spiritual principles, that helps people clean up their lives in a whole lot of ways.

But if you are of an atheistic or strongly agnostic mindset, chances are you’ll walk into a meeting, see the steps hanging on the wall and want to scream, laugh or walk back out.

I tried another tack: I made a valiant attempt to believe. I figured a) these people were funny, kind, and not plastered; b) they believed that some kind of higher power had helped them get sober; c) they knew something I did not.

So I did research. I read every word of AA literature I could find. I read up on the history of half a dozen important religions and a wide variety of frou-frou nonsense. I earnestly discussed my lack of belief with priests, rabbis, fanatics and my father.

People told me their stories — of God, the divine, the power of love, an intelligent creator. Something that made all this. Some origin, some end.

I told them I believed in math. Chaos, I said. Infinity. That sort of thing.

They looked at me in despair.

And not infrequently, they said, “So you think you’re the biggest, most important thing in the universe?”

On the contrary. I think I am among the smallest. Cosmically speaking, I barely exist.

Like anything else, I came into being by the chance, consist mostly of water, am composed of cells that can be reduced and reduced, down to the quarks and leptons and so forth, that make up matter and force. If you broke down all matter, the atom or my body, you’d arrive at the same thing: what scientists call one strange quark, with its half-integer spin.

And I find that not only fascinating but wondrous, awe-inspiring and humbling.

I believe that the most important spiritual principle of AA is humility. The recognition that we are flawed, that we can and must change and that our purpose not only in sobriety but in life is to be of service to others.

I believe that I exist at random, but I do not exist alone; and that as long as my quarks cohere, my entire function on this hurtling planet is to give what I can to the other extant things.

That keeps me sober. Amen.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Marya Hornbacher.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Belief

soundoff (3,939 Responses)
  1. Eureka

    Congratulations Ms. Hornbacher,

    Your story demonstrates that it is unnecessary to believe in in supernatural beings and ancient mythology to lead a successful life and overcome obstacles. Turns out a life based on observation, scientific analysis and logic is satisfying and deeply fulfilling. And you don't have to force yourself to believe in fairy-tales to do it. Well done. May you live a long, long time and enjoy every minute of it.

    August 28, 2011 at 8:52 am |
    • Jon P

      Goes to show you how inclusive the program really is.

      August 28, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
  2. Carl

    No human being ever looked death square in the face and did not believe in a higher power.....not one.

    August 28, 2011 at 8:51 am |
    • JJ

      Wrong. I already died, and I know there is no god, no heaven, no hell, no purgatory. Every religion has it wrong, and I revel in the fact that Falwell suffered the worst disappointment of his entire existence when he realized that all along he was nothing but a mindless twit. :)

      August 28, 2011 at 8:52 am |
    • luke

      and you know this because.....?

      August 28, 2011 at 8:59 am |
    • What?

      You have statistics for this or are you just pulling this out of your ass? It might be hard for a baby like you to believe but there are some of us who aren't afraid to die knowing that there isn't some BS childs story like an ivory castle waiting for us in the clouds. Just because you're a sissy doesn't mean the rest of us are. Go suck your thumb you big baby.

      August 28, 2011 at 9:01 am |
    • ~

      A more traditional way to say this is that "there are no atheists in foxholes." But if you believe in a god only because you think you're about to die, you're really just hedging your bets, and there isn't much value in that sort of "faith".

      August 28, 2011 at 9:12 am |
    • Long John Silver

      I have.

      August 28, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • HEIDI

      And how would you know that?

      August 28, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • spj

      You're wrong. I do not believe in a "higher power," so please do not pretend to speak for me and the millions (perhaps billions) of others who do not share your views. Our non-beliefs are just as valid your your beliefs, and you are no better the we are.

      August 28, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • pookie

      Oh Carl, how adorable you are!

      From Wikipedia:
      Voltaire, on his own deathbed, was asked by a priest to renounce Satan and turn to God, he is alleged to have replied, "Now is no time to be making new enemies".

      August 28, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • ThatSoundsLogicalToYou?

      This explains why people are religious despite the fact that religions don't make any sense at all. It's not a proof that god exists.

      August 28, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • ThatSoundsLogicalToYou?

      Everyone that has ever drown has gasped for air and inhaled water. Does that make it a good idea?

      August 28, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • Montello

      This one did. Believe me, concern with the existence of a "higher power" was the last thing on my mind. Believe what you will, but don't think that we all have to descend to your level.

      August 28, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • BigEd

      http://www.militaryatheists.org/expaif.html

      August 28, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • Robert Evans

      So Carl, you have met all the people who faced death and know that they finally accepted a god? Unless you did, there is no basis for your assertion that facing death makes a believer. All you did was express your wish, not a truth of any sort. But for your own peace of mind, you have to believe, don't you? For mine, all I have to do is recognize that death provides the avenue for all my atoms and molecules to be recycled back into the permanence of Earth. We have been, are and will be part of the planet for as long as it exists.

      August 28, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
    • LOLcat

      This is by far the most uneducated post I've read regarding this article. Congratulations, you're an idiot.

      August 28, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
    • Jane

      Hmmm. You are either Allah or a liar.

      August 28, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
    • X39

      Nice, Carl. It's the every-man's take on "There ain't no atheists in a fox hole." Such supreme rubbish, spoken confidently as fact.

      August 28, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • Jim Lahey

      You are very, very wrong. Google Pat Tillman. He was an atheist and he died protecting your freedom to make asinine comments.

      August 29, 2011 at 1:22 am |
    • Asimov

      And you know this, how?

      August 29, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • bookwench

      From my mass media class: Sweeping generalizations are the fist sign of a bad argument.

      August 29, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • TheChin!

      No human being ever looked death square in the face and did not doubt their faith.....not one.

      August 29, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • Jeff

      That has to be one of the most over-reaching and desperate rhetorical generalizations I've ever heard.

      August 29, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • Stefanie gazeley

      Says who?

      March 21, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
  3. Paul

    11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we
    need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and
    films.

    August 28, 2011 at 8:51 am |
    • Chesh

      12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to
      carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our
      affairs. ~ "I believe that the most important spiritual principle of AA is humility. The recognition that we are flawed, that we can and must change and that our purpose not only in sobriety but in life is to be of service to others.

      I believe that I exist at random, but I do not exist alone; and that as long as my quarks cohere, my entire function on this hurtling planet is to give what I can to the other extant things.

      That keeps me sober. Amen."...Sounds like a spiritual awaking to me... and I just read his tale... albeit not out of big blue...Thank you for sharing ;)

      August 28, 2011 at 9:02 am |
    • Robert Evans

      And the PR policy is a convenient way of never having to state what the success rate of the organization really is. For decades AA refused to admit how much of a failure it is: fewer than five percent of the people who come through the door achieve sobriety. That's a lower rate than what is achieved by individuals without any help. Seek out and read Stanton Peele; Jeffrey Schaler for different models of alcohol-abuse, and find the MATCH study for the results of a controlled trial of various methods of therapy for the abuser. Particularly amusing is the furious backstepping of the "twelve-steppers" who sought to explain why their favorite therapy was not very successful !

      August 28, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
    • kcollins2125

      thank you...

      August 29, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • What?

      That's not the Step 11 I know: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

      September 2, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
    • Non-Religious

      @ Paul – Your'e mistaking TRADITION 11 for STEP 11 - please PAY ATTENTION!

      to find NON-CULT rational help check out these sites:

      http://lifering.org/how-we-can-help-you-2/ and http://www.smartrecovery.org/

      September 10, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • Bill

      @Paul. Yeah, seemed like a cheap shot to drag the AA name into it. Not sure if the intent was good or bad - trying to share some hope with the no-God crowd, or just better sales potential as opposed to "recovery meeting" or "twelve step meeting."

      "Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of our program, ever reminding s to place principles before personalities."

      October 2, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • William

      So calling Atheism a form of intellectual pride and many other insults is considered a form of attraction in AA?

      December 4, 2011 at 7:54 am |
  4. Cork

    Thanks for an insightful and honest article. This is from another sober non believer. To answer the hate and vile coming from the so-called believers I'd refer to the bumper sticker, "Lord protect me from your followers" Not very Christian of them is it?

    August 28, 2011 at 8:50 am |
  5. S-Hug

    The best way to stop drinking is to stop buying alcohol.

    August 28, 2011 at 8:49 am |
    • Daniel O

      To stop being an A*Hole, stop posting stupid comments

      August 28, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • Robert Evans

      Amen, brother ! Purchase and consumption are, after all, choices that people make. And for Daniel O: S-Hug was not foolish, stupid or abusive. He/she condensed the alcohol problem down to its essence: that no drink ever passed one's lips without the drinker choosing to lift the glass and drain it.

      August 28, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • Joe

      That is the amazing thing the choice. Billions on people on the planet with trillions of choices each day. To drink or not, to believe or not, to take care of ones self or not

      August 28, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
  6. Dallas

    There is an alternative to AA for atheists. Try SOS. Secular Organization for Sobriety, or Save our Selves. You don't have to trade in one disease for another. Good luck.

    August 28, 2011 at 8:46 am |
    • Lilith

      Good post & good poiint, thanks for sharing an alternative for those who want to take control of their own lives.

      August 28, 2011 at 8:50 am |
    • Reality

      Well said !!!

      August 28, 2011 at 8:56 am |
    • Tnjax

      She never once mentioned the one most logical choice that most atheists use in AA as their higher power. Most just consider the rest of the room (other members) to be their higher conciousness or higher power, since as a single person you can not go it alone, but with the aid of the group it becomes possible.

      August 28, 2011 at 9:23 am |
  7. sal castellana

    Marya, congratulations on your new life of soberness. I too share your beliefs, and find the most vitriolic statements coming from those so called saved people.

    August 28, 2011 at 8:44 am |
  8. dlg

    Most people find their own spiritual path. And it may or may not include a "God" or supreme being. AA and other 12-step groups could be considered a cult. They use mind control, coercion, manipulation, guilt and other cult tactics. Normally, the lead or person with the most intriguing stories of their addiction becomes some sort of guru. Some 12-step groups have actually done more damage than good to those seeking help. It's too bad they can't be sued. Or, perhaps they could. Anyway, there are other programs out there that do not use the 12 step cult tactics and are just as effective. Bill W. and Dr. Bob were both addicts and mentally ill.

    August 28, 2011 at 8:44 am |
    • Jim W.

      dlg wrote:
      "AA and other 12-step groups could be considered a cult. They use mind control, coercion, manipulation, guilt and other cult tactics. Normally, the lead or person with the most intriguing stories of their addiction becomes some sort of guru. Some 12-step groups have actually done more damage than good to those seeking help."

      I would hope you would have some concrete evidence to back all these claims up dlg, and if you do, please share it with us..

      August 28, 2011 at 8:54 am |
    • HeavenSent

      “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”

      Revelation 4:11

      Amen.

      August 28, 2011 at 9:23 am |
    • dlg

      Do your own research on the elements that define a cult. AA and other 12 step groups do fit the criteria of a cult. Mind control, manipulation, coercion, guilt and include intimidation. These groups may hide behind the "support group" moniker but, by clear definition they are in a status with most other cults.

      August 28, 2011 at 9:38 am |
    • BigEd

      Not a very good cult, though, since they only ask for a dollar or two at each meeting, and if you don't have a dollar or two, that's OK too. A far cry from the cash collection machine of the other cults, such as Christianity, Scientology, etc.

      August 28, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • Karen

      I attend AA and I can assure you no one has control over my mind! LOL And I don't have to kill a chicken to attend a meeting. Although I might get a grilled chicken sandwich before I attend.

      August 29, 2011 at 10:18 am |
      • joe stilmisk

        Thank you Karen. It seems that so many, many alcoholics attend their first couple of meetings, and resolutely decide that some stranger is now going to rule over them in some way. As usual, even with people who aren't addicted, fear of the unknown is a pretty normal reaction. Understandable.
        Personally, I've always been too strong-headed to allow someone I don't know to tell me how to run my life. I will allow and enter into interaction with others based on observations and past experiences. I really don't think that is so odd.
        I wish for their eventual benefit that these atheistic alcoholics would calm down, not panic, and take a seat. Everyone at the meetings I attend knows that I'm an atheist, and that I will not apologize for my beliefs. I've even read Marya Hornbacher's testimony ("My Faithlessness...") at meetings, and I haven't been burned at the stake yet.
        These "doctrine" atheists, Christians, agnostics, etc. remind me so much of the partisans in the US Congress, and how such a supposedly deliberative body accomplishes so little.
        Take care. Joe

        December 10, 2013 at 5:10 am |
    • eyeswideopen

      The issue is no-brainer....literally! They do not allow anything other than "conference approved literature" and isolate themselves from any meaningful consideration of the downside and the horrible-psychological abuse of their indoctrination. Then they are "caught up" and do not want to give up their so-called position in the group based on time since their last drink. Great way to let your life slip by and also lose connection with the people you actually need to be with in order to have satisfying life when you get up there in age. What a horror to wake up after 20 plus years and realize that your life has gone by while you are "honoring" a false god of ego. They are very much unable to open their minds and face reality that they have been worshipping a failed philosophy and have experienced untold psychological abuse as well as "passed on" the same, in order to support the "12 step MOVEMENT" nothing more.

      May 28, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
  9. HaroldG

    This is a fine rationalization this author is making, but what she is basically saying is that it is possible to belong to AA without adhering to the AA program. I suppose this is true, just as it's possible to belong to any church congregation with believing or practicing the tenets of the religion. It does not change the fact that AA as an organization, and as a program, a religion which requires one to turn his or her will over to God. A specific god who performs specific acts.

    It's a shame that there are few alternatives for those who don't believe the dogma, and they must resort to the mind-contorting rationalizations like what this writer describes, just to make it through the program. It's time to replace the crazy religion of AA with real science and research. Most people wanting to arrest their addictions are looking for something other than cult religion, which is all AA provides.

    August 28, 2011 at 8:44 am |
    • ThatSoundsLogicalToYou?

      Amen. It's amazing that the medical community, with all of their 'disease' language, hasn't bothered to apply any science to curing this disease. Would C. Everett Coop recommend you go to a 12 step support group to deal with cancer? For some reason we're still in the dark ages when it comes to addiction.

      August 28, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • Karen

      How sad that the word cult is being used here. And how funny it is that those who use it have NEVER attended an AA meeting. They all have different cultures and they ALL only want one thing, to help someone stop drinking! How is that a bad thing? Have you ever felt the despiration to not die? Have you ever read the Big Book? This article is not the whole picture and is actually not very imformative. It's so one sided and it's really just a women who is trying to tell people that it's okay to attend AA even if you don't believe in God. I am an Agnostic and I attend AA several times a week. I'm no shunned or fed guilt trips. All the remarks that call AA a cult are coming from those who have never had a life threatening go with Alcohol. You don't know the progression of the disease nor do you even begin to understand what it takes to stay sober. AA is a tool amoung many for those of us who would otherwise be in the gutter and living up to your stereotypes of the "drunk." Don't comment on something you don't know the first thing about.

      August 29, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • ellis jard

      "rationalizations"–in this society it's called "funding," and one of the lowest on the pecking order of receiving is NIDA.

      elesjay

      August 30, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
  10. Jim W.

    I am a practicing Roman Catholic and a member of AA with over 14 1/2 years of continuous sobriety. That said, I have no issue with Marya's non-belief in God. As a matter of fact, the important thing that us members of AA need to remind ourselves is that we are not that "Higher Power" and that there has to be something else that we can look to to keep us sober. In a town where I used to live, there was one member, with at least 20+ years of sobriety, who refused to ether say the "Our Father" or the "Serenity Prayer" at the end of the meeting. I have more respect for that person than someone yelling "Praise Jesus, He got me sober" and person goes out and gets drunk after a meeting...and I have seen that happen.

    August 28, 2011 at 8:43 am |
    • Dave

      Well said.

      August 28, 2011 at 9:11 am |
    • Karen

      You are so right! The people dissing AA are not Alcoholics and know nothing about what the disease of addition is like. I hope they never have to. And we alcoholics are successful people who walk amoung you NORMIES. Be careful how you talk about AA as you may have someone you care about that is an alcohlic and may not get help because of ignorent remarks.

      August 29, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • eyeswideopen

      Unfortunately there is no authority to keep the nuts at bay and back up what is said by those still able to think clearly. It is a pattern of HABITS that form an addiction, not a DISEASE, for heaven's sake! What most don't want to give up is the membership in the "society" that has crowded out meaningful relationships with those people "out there". I have not been to one single "speaker meeting" where church is not openly criticized. Amazing how much the speeches all sound the same after many years of seeking approval from others at the meetings. Just like the bar scene without the alcohol, nothing more.

      May 28, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    Another fake-AA trying to get rich off of AA.... 12 Tradition please.......

    August 28, 2011 at 8:42 am |
  12. bill

    her's is a sad and lonely form of existance, just organic. Awareness still flows through her essensce like other living things, and must be respected for that sense of being. But her free will has overpowered, is overpowering her – but, by her indirect statements, reveal her sprit is fighting to help her through this sad little story she believe is the only life.

    We should pray for her – but respect her choice, as it is not as uncommon as we think, and the struggle we were born to overcome..

    August 28, 2011 at 8:38 am |
    • Guelph

      Bill's is a sad and lonely form of existence, just passive. Awareness still flows through his essence like other living things, and must be respected for that sense of being because it is a very noble thing to respect another human being's beliefs, but that's just how awesome and humble a guy Bill thinks he is. But his belief has overpowered, is overpowering him – but, by his indirect statements, reveals his intelligence is fighting to help him through this sad little story he believes is the only way of thinking.

      We should pray for her – but respect her choice, as it is not as uncommon as we think, and the struggle we were born to overcome..

      August 28, 2011 at 8:47 am |
    • S-Hug

      Pray all you want. Nobody's listening.

      August 28, 2011 at 8:52 am |
    • JJ

      Free will, Bill? But your god is omniscient., is he not? Does he not know everything? Which means he knows everything you will do., everything you will think, every last action of every cell in your body. Which means you don't have any so-called free will. You're just a puppet. And a bad one at that. Your belief in free will is the core of the concept of "fideism" - to have faith in an imaginary deity, you have to believe in something you know with every ounce of your existence is bullsh1t.

      August 28, 2011 at 8:56 am |
    • Ian

      her's is a sad and lonely form of existance, just organic. Awareness still flows through her essensce like other living things, and must be respected for that sense of being. But her free will has overpowered, is overpowering her – but, by her indirect statements, reveal her sprit is fighting to help her through this sad little story she believe is the only life.

      We should pray for her – but respect her choice, as it is not as uncommon as we think, and the struggle we were born to overcome..

      Awareness... essence... sense of being... free will... spirit... I just need "soul" and I'll have a "non-existant nouns that spiritual people sprinkle in their arguments" bingo!

      August 29, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  13. BL

    Just the very fact that this person has written a book and article about twelve step work and has used her full name breaks one of the traditions of twelve step work: anonymity. She has a lot to learn about twelve step work.

    August 28, 2011 at 8:36 am |
    • Royce Edwards

      While I agree with you from a traditions point of view I would avoid rushing to judgement. I largely didn't find a relationship with God until the 11th step. Perhaps that makes me a poser or hypocrite, I can live with that. The fact that she is sober without believing in God gives hope to a lot of people. In fact, Bill and Dr. Bob both had very strong reactions to God when they embarked on sobriety and neither was thrilled about the idea of depending on God.

      If you want to see solid examples of people violating the Traditions go to almost any AA group business meeting. I often say that AA is a program of moderation in all things except drinking. We need to be careful to not throw out the message she has given because we don't feel she's honored all of the Traditions.

      August 28, 2011 at 8:54 am |
    • Chesh

      Think shes working the hell out of step 12 just now – there;s a whole segment of folks like that – scared of the halls because their god is science – hence Higher power – yadita yadita – point is – the message was carried and I bet if helps a ton of folks – cause were all about get'n sober and helping one another – PeaceBwitU!

      August 28, 2011 at 9:10 am |
  14. Pro-kindness

    @ Xenia: I find your vitriol to be most disturbing. Religion (whichever you ascribe to) is supposed to grant you peace. You seem not to be at peace at all.
    I found religion to be encouraging of this vitriol. During my time as a devout Christian, I was plagued with self-doubt and depression. Several members of my family are mentally ill and dealing with suicide attempts was a common occurrence. I was always told that God has a plan, that God doesn't put more on us than we can handle. That never made sense to me. Why are some people plagued by mental illness and others not. It was when I realized that it was genetic, not a "plan" of God's that I could finally find some peace with it. I became a kinder, happier person when I stopped letting religion rule my life. By the way, people of all religions (not just atheists/agnostics) seek abortions. I don't even understand your statement regarding North Korea.
    You have a right to believe anything you choose to, just make sure it is what you believe and that it is factually true.
    I wish you peace :-)

    August 28, 2011 at 8:36 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Pro-kindness, I suspect from your post that you and your family members only attended church but never picked up the Bible to read Jesus’ wisdom.

      It’s up to everyone to read the Bible and believe (faith) that what He’s written is the truth about life and the hereafter. As you read His wisdom, you are then able to comprehend His wisdom. Next, apply His wisdom to your life (which is what is called abiding in His truth) so that you can live the best (righteous) life that He wants us to live while housed in human form on earth.

      I suspect you just attended church and listen to men preach a few scriptures of Jesus’ truth and then spend the rest of the time teaching man made agendas of the day. And you wonder why depression runs in your family? Jesus told us not to pay attention to the ways of the world (man’s logic). To focus only on Him (which means to READ the Bible, not hold it under your armpit while you attend church) so our spirits live while on earth as it is in Heaven.

      Amen.

      August 28, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • ThatSoundsLogicalToYou?

      Yes. That's it. Must have forgotten to actually read the bible. That would have made all the difference.

      August 28, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • Leana

      @Pro-Kindness Since when was God required to justify Himself (make sense) to humans?

      I'm writing as one who you would write off as "mentally ill due to genetics". I have a hormone imbalance that the doctors cannot give me hormone replacement to fix, due to the high cancer risk in my family. That being said, I do not feel that God has in any way dissed me or that God has "failed" with His plan. Have I ever wondered why a "loving God" could allow me to go through this? Yes. But I've also read what the apostle Paul wrote in the Bible. Three times he prayed to God to have some "thorn in the flesh" removed from him. God told him "No, that His love was sufficient for his needs".

      What Paul calls a "thorn in the flesh", I'm going to call a "pain in the but". You think having family members who are whacked is stealing your peace? Try being the family member. Do I honestly want to be a "normal" person? Yes! Do I see God waving His magic wand and instantly curing me? No. God DID promise that He wouldn't allow anything in our lives that we couldn't handle..... WITH HIS HELP!

      With my hormone imbalance, is my life "peaceful"? Hardly, I have a temper. Does that mean I completely give up on God or completely quit trying? NO! Can I be "at peace" with knowing my life is going to be a little bumpier than most? Yes.
      Does God promise "peace" to those who follow Him"? Yes, but God never promises any of our lives will be painless. There's a reason why the "Serenity Prayer" starts out "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change". There are going to be things in our lives we wish weren't there. But WITH GOD'S HELP, we can be at peace with them!

      August 28, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • Pro-kindness

      @ Heaven Sent: I have read the bible cover to cover, your assumption is erroneous. I actually applied to seminary after high school. I come from a family which, at the moment, contains four missionaries. I mentioned the mental illness as a way to explain without vitriol my atheism. It is but one of many, many reasons. I have attended many different Christian denominations other than the one in which I was raised, I have studied Judaism, Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism. Although all have their good points, they all have a fatal flaw in my opinion. All have condoned casting out members of society, all have participated in wars based upon the imposition of their beliefs upon unwilling people, etc. I am totally at peace with my atheism.

      August 28, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
    • Pro-kindness

      @ Leana: It is interesting that you quoted the portion of the serenity prayer about accepting the things I cannot change. You must not have read or understood my original post as it was letting go of religion that allowed me to do just that. Praying to a creator encouraged false hope in me that the mental illness that various family members of mine suffer from would change. It never will. I accept that, I sleep better at night, and I am able to view my family and the rest of the world with acceptance for their humanity. Peace be with you :-)

      August 28, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
    • X39

      @Heaven Sent, shame on you for your needlessly judgmental (and as it turns out, erroneous) comment. You have borne false witness against Pro-kindness and you owe an apology.

      August 28, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
  15. IceT

    This is just self psychotherapy. Those with the inner strength & ability to realize they have the power to control their own lives can be successful, others put it in Gods hands.

    August 28, 2011 at 8:27 am |
    • JJ

      IceT, the latter (putting it in "god's hands") is what everyone else calls mental laziness.

      August 28, 2011 at 8:57 am |
    • IceT

      JJ .. agreed. That's why I stated they didn't have the inner strength and ability to do it themselves.

      August 28, 2011 at 9:04 am |
  16. gordon

    By her own admission,Marya Hornbacher admits the complexities of the human body is facinating,awe inspiring and humbling. Yet she fails to see that we could not exist in this facinating body were it not for a Supreme God who created us.
    I'm reminded of the bible verse- "the fool hath said in his heart,there is no God".

    August 28, 2011 at 8:25 am |
    • What?

      Did you happen to miss the part which explicitly outlined her atheism? Or are you just a moron?

      August 28, 2011 at 8:40 am |
    • BigEd

      http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=unfalsifiable

      August 28, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  17. jimtanker

    it's now 40. Posting just to make 41.

    August 28, 2011 at 8:22 am |
  18. sheetiron

    Without Christ, no real freedom, and certainly no salvation.

    August 28, 2011 at 8:18 am |
    • What?

      Wrong, with christ there is no real freedom nor is there any sense of morality other than what is essentially a "gun to the back of your head" forced morality.

      It might be hard for religious kooks like you to understand but it's possible for sane and rational people to quit addiction and to live moral lives without having to believe in some religion. That's true freedom and true morality. Not having to quit an addiction or live a moral life because someone or something says you have to, but because you say you have to. I know, I know, it's hard to believe but just use that ounce of brain power you've never used your entire life, that might work.

      August 28, 2011 at 8:44 am |
    • JJ

      ROFLMAO! Riiiight, so "god" decided that until he sent his kid down there everybody was damned? But wait, you fools think your god is omniscient and knows everything. That not only means he already what would happen to his kid (in which case he's just a child-abusing nimrudd), he also knows everything everyone will do, so there's no free will, and all he's doing is enjoying his wind up toys on tracks.

      Back under your rock. Shoo.

      August 28, 2011 at 8:49 am |
    • sheetiron

      Apparently you are under the impression that we are freed from their addictions because of fear and because "someone told them too".

      Obviously you have never heard of Christianity.

      August 28, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • bookwench

      Then you condemn all those in history and all those in the future who have never heard of Christ to a terrible fate. This is not fair, and if your religion and your god are not fair I want nothing to do with them.

      August 29, 2011 at 11:48 am |
  19. Xenia

    Atheists always hack the good things religions started. They don't exist on themselves. They become parasites and corrupt the whole. We know what atheists would do ultimately by watching North Korea. If atheists have any ounce of honesty, they'd admit they've been wrong and say sorry to the Creator God instead of saying any more weird things. They don't because they value humans over all things. Humanists conducted the worst atrocities throughout the world with WW1 and WW2 last century.

    August 28, 2011 at 8:10 am |
    • JJ

      Please return to K-Mart. Your brain has been recalled. (Your problem with atheists is that they are smart, because knowledge is the mortal enemy of blind faith and this woman definitely is smarter than you... and that bothers you, because the reason dumb people don't like smart people like us is that you think we're crazy.)

      August 28, 2011 at 8:50 am |
    • luke

      on the contrary, the world's worst atrocities have typically been carried through, in the name of religion.

      August 28, 2011 at 8:52 am |
    • Dave

      I beg to differ – was it not Christians that killed 6 million Jew in Europe; was it not Christians that killed ten thousand Bosnian Muslim? Is it not your God that says in Deuteronomy 13:6-9 If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, "Let us go and worship other gods" (gods that neither you nor your fathers have known, gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), do not yield to him or listen to him. Show him no pity. Do not spare him or shield him You must certainly put him to death. Your hand must be the first in putting him to death, and then the hands of all the people

      August 28, 2011 at 8:54 am |
    • What?

      Your argument is nonsense and falls flat on its face. While some despots throughout history were atheists, they didn't committ their atrocities in the name of atheism where as religious figures throughout history openly committed atrocities in the name of their religions. There is a huge difference and it essentially kills your argument.

      You're a deluded fool if you think that because Stalin or Pol Pot were atheist that somehow atheism is linked to this. That's like saying that if Stalin was vegetarian, all vegans are responsible for his atrocities. If however Stalin committed atrocities in the name of veganism that would fly but if he does not there's no way veganism can be blamed for them.

      Nothing "good" has been brought to this planet by religion. Consider all of the terrorist attacks and ethnic cleansings committed in the name of religion and it's painfully obvious that religion is a cancer on this planet.

      August 28, 2011 at 8:56 am |
  20. Xenia

    Human-worshippers massacred fellow humans last century and this century. Now humans are destroying the planet. Planet Earth hates humans to the core and wish them away like pests. Only God loves humans and the honest ones who admit themselves to be sinners and say sorry to the Creator God and accept His Divine Savior will find mercy and get saved. All others, human-worshippers, will get permanent justice. Atheists massacre unborn humans and they still think they are doing any service to others. Atheists' morality is completely screwed.

    August 28, 2011 at 8:07 am |
    • Lilith

      If that's what you need to tell yourself to feel confident about your decision good luck to you. But the fact that you feel the need to attack others who don't share your belief speaks the truth about your insecurity.

      August 28, 2011 at 8:44 am |
    • JJ

      Earth is fine. It doesn't even know you exist, and that is as it should be.

      August 28, 2011 at 8:51 am |
    • luis

      so we're parasites on this planet and so that makes the Judeo-christian god jesus/jehova a parasite god, nice. That makes me want to worship the beard in the sky even more. Eventually he gonna want he's chosen parasites to go to other planets and ruin them also with his hypocrisy need to dominate, we where created in his image you know. You know what I really have faith in? our will to survive this existance with or without a god. We are all we have in this world.

      August 28, 2011 at 9:40 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.