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!”
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.
Why on earth would it be necessary, or even preferable, to believe in an enormous LIE and fairytale in order to quit drinking. Religion is nothing but a scam, and is certainl;y not necessary...I have lived my whole life without believing in this nonsense, and don't feel that I have missed anything except a huge waste of time. .
Agreed. Good for you! Some of us aren't so lucky. We are indoctrinated as kids with the illusions and lies.
It ain't about religion...it's about the realization that you are powerless. When and if you get to that point, you are able to full that void with something other than pickling juice. It isn't even about God...what this writer who 'sobered up' without God doesn't get is that in AA (which incidentally she, by virtue of writing her article is in direct conflict with one of the Twelve Traditions of AA) it clearly says 'as we understood Him' – your Higher Power can be your dog, as long as you realize you aren't running the show...lest we forget that our best 'thinking' got us there...
@Capn – Energy is right, some of us were born into the "faith" and it took us YEARS, even decades to escape, even after we KNEW that we were atheists. Even when we finally got the courage to stand up and be counted, it was hard because many of our friends and family members turned against us; calling us immoral and unethical. My own son turned away from me, as have my father and siblings... but I am not daunted, I will no longer be bullied into believing or pretending to believe in something that does not exist. Thankfully my current wife was like you and NEVER believed... thankfully.
But Onthelevel, WE are Calling the Shots in our lives and using god, the dog, or even drink as a crutch is the problem. I have counseled so many fallen Christians whose lives have been messed up by their church and the guilt that has been piled on them since childhood. We are in control of our lives and empowering ourselves is the only way to truly be happy.
I don't really believe in any higher power in particular or any at all, but I also don't claim to know the unknowable. I certainly don't tell others that I know more about the unknowable than they do. Saying that there is no god is no less of a LIE than saying that there is one.
Thank you for this. My wife is an alcoholilc, sometimes a raging one but currently trying to get her life back together. We have been separated for years but are still very good friends. She, like me, is a scientist and an agnostic. I have sent this to her in hopes that it might help her in her daily struggle. She too had a problem with the Higher Power concept, so perhaps your perspective will strike a chord with her. Again, thank you for taking the time to reach out to others like this, and good luck with your own struggle.
I tried to respond with some helpful information but apparently CNN is blocking or omitting some of my comments. Carolyn Myss has some profound teachings that are EXTREMELY helpful for those on a spiritual path to self-empowerment and healing. Best of luck!
How can someone say they don't believe in God but believe in the principle's of God? People make a way too huge a deal out of God and they're non belief when they just need to relax. It'll be okay...
No, it won't be OK. People who believe in imaginary men in the sky who answer prayers if people ask in threes are delusional, and most of them have political agendas and want the rest of the country to live by their cult's tenets. They are trying to force their beliefs into our schools, libraries, hospitals, courtrooms, homes, bedrooms and government, and that is unacceptable. It's SO not OK. If they'd just back out of politics and keep their cult's activities private, that's one thing, but they don't.
@sans – THAT is the crux of what most atheist groups attempt to say/do... Take the Freedom from Religion Foundation, they mainly seek to keep religion out of the PUBLIC sector...
Mr Curve, please state out the principle's of God please.
sansdieux, you see, this is what your belief is and that's where you've gone astray. I don't believe in "imaginary men" in the sky as you say because I'm not a child anymore, but as I became an adult I've grown out of that belief into how I believe in the principles of God and what they stand for, and essentially that's what God is all about. It's liken to children believing in Santa Claus and as we get older we understand what Santa Claus is and the principles behind Santa Claus but we don't still believe in Santa, his sleigh, and eight tiny flying reindeer, and of course can't forget Rudolph and his shiny red nose....
@ MrCurve – I think I understand what you are saying now. Unfortunately, most do not seek to gain a higher understanding and the church certainly doesn't want the masses to gain that understanding.
@Martin T, exactly. Most do not care about a greater understanding or may I say, a higher awareness; yes it does exist. This is also liken to just simply being content with understanding addition and subtraction versus learning how to multiply and divide, maybe even further than that to learn algebra and calculus...
@ Answer, Love your neighbor as yourself and love God (the idea, the principles of, etc.) with all your heart.
So you think these virtues are wholly God's domain?
"Love your neighbor as yourself and love God (the idea, the principles of, etc.) with all your heart."
You've failed to realize that humans themselves taught themselves to relate that hurting others, will result in their own hurts.
As in many other areas of what is right. What you did -basically- was gave credit to God instead. I can see your issue with that.
You're firm with that notion indoctrinated into you. I however have thought otherwise. Like how we humans have developed languages onto ourselves.. firstly through grunts and arms and legs flaying and pointing around. And how agreements were made to set matters of law and order. This world we man have created for ourselves is in fact based on just TWO or more people AGREEING to follow a convention. Like money – it was easier to use small coins than trade a cow.
You may want to continue onwards in thinking.
Consider if you will MrCurve.. if no more than one person reads and accepts the bible you would not have a religion to begin with.
It took two idiots to spread this disease.
@ Answer, so you don't believe that when you hurt someone else you're hurting yourself as well?
MrCurve, here is what I have typed out.
"You've failed to realize that humans themselves taught themselves to relate that hurting others, will result in their own hurts."
Find the conclusion that I have placed in my writing. If you need a clarification on what you could not deduce: here it is:
"I am a human being who knows that if I hurt someone else, I, myself will feel pain due upon myself."
Does that do it? I learnt this not from your book – which you are so graciously trying to attribute everything towards your version of a higher being.
So MrCurve, if I may ask you in return...
You had to learn this way, that hurting others, had to come by reading and accepting religion first? When was it (at what age?) did it finally sink into you, i meant the religion that this truth was taught to you?
I'll tell you mine, my mom slapped me. I'm sure I forgot the reason, but at a young age I was probably hurting someone. Memory isn't too clear or precise is all that I have to say. This was a parental lesson. it's too bad yours had to come from a book.
@Answer, I also don't understand why most people pigeonhole God, or the idea thereof, as "The Man on the Silver Mountain". God or the idea of God spans back quite a bit further than what you're referring to, but individuals tend to point to the religion of Christianity more than any other religion. All religions have similar principles and teach higher awareness and consciousness. Most people can't get past the "Big Cop in the Sky" mindset and of course they can't envision it or buy it no more than can buy the idea of Santa Claus and his eight tiny reindeer, but move on from just understanding the applications of addition and subtraction and learn how to apply division and multiplication.
Your idea is that this is a math criteria in which you have clearly understood multiplication and division – whereas the people you despise for not accepting you is that they are only beginners – still on the subject of addition and subtraction. Cool.
It makes your point – very muted. So in what avenues of mathematics have you advanced onto... let's take for example adv algebra? Have you captured that aspect yet? Which of inferiority or superiority reside within you?
If you're afraid to show your superiority – demeaning your humility in these blogs – don't be.
i show my superiority along with my confidence to use my reason and logic to have deeper conversations. You may dismiss your fear and show your true self. In likewise.
@Answer, where did I ever state I despised anyone for not agreeing with me? Regarding the math analogy I described earlier, I'm simply trying to bring across how some never evolve, whether it's through lack of desire, indifference, or otherwise, past a certain belief system. There are those who believe that God is some "Big Cop in the Sky" and that very belief may work for them. Then there are those who might listen to those who believe that and think to themselves, "Hogwash, that's a bunch of crap!", and in their mind they think in their minds since they don't believe that, then there is no such thing as God, that's where they stop, they search no further, and then they become the non believers or atheists. Most of the time they are the ones who say there is no God because they find it ridiculous to believe there's an old man up in the sky with a robe on looking down on all of us but they at the same time they don't understand how that belief is very limited because my friend, it's a lot more than that.
"There's a lot more to that"
You are of course referring to other sets of beliefs. Like Buddhism, etc.. etc. Yes quite right.
They all lead to a path, that man before man (our ancestors if you will) have all tried to explain in their life.
I have had encounters of all different faiths – for this I know. I know your stance quite well. You are for God (not even the Christian God is held in your heart) that I see. You are talking or trying to place the God. Known as to you God.
I understand completely. The relevance in any sort of argument, especially when you and I are North American centric, is devoted to fighting over the Christian God – the all time plague – disease. It is solely my view.
I understand you want to convince others on your point that the universal God is the truth. So others have pigeonholed the set of rules that God is heavy-handed in HIS 'love'. I don't buy the fact of a GOD existing.
For the sole reason that as yet – to each their own – the benefits of factual evidence surpasses in my frame of mind NOT to accept your justification for needing one. If i may assume of this of yourself... do you need the presence of a God? In your mind to help you out?
I surely have no need for one in my mind. That is the core of self-reliance. Say when I disabuse the rhetoric – it always comes down to the show of "you have to belief in God to be saved".
The subject of myself being saved. Where are you going after your death? You tell that your God has heaven – a place.
Awaiting you – well since you believe that you might as well use your full capacity to answer the following.
How big is heaven? Do you think you will have status in your heaven? Can you own property in this heaven?
Can you move around in heaven? By what means? You see the points of being an atheist?
We question everything. If you say you can travel around in heaven, by what means? So in employing a means to travel, you have legs or a form of travel. Then onwards the path of logic. Is there pollution? If everything you can think of happens to have "magic" in it's reply. Then you are not sure of these answers yourself. Then to say to others that you will be in heaven is rather silly. To pretend you know you have a place. And not know that place. Not to even pose one question.
@Answer, also why do you assume I learned life out of a book? I too learned from what my parents taught me, whether it was through reprimand or praise, and I might add the very manner in which I was reprimanded or praised was based on principles and leading a principled life based on the following but not limited to, love, forgiveness, and honesty. Probably the same things you learned too as a child from your parents. It’s these things that are universal, not just signatory to God and/or Christianity. So, why not learn more about things that are universal and that will help you as you go along through life. I don’t think too many can effectively argue against that.
Anyways Answer, good night and take care.
Your comment indicated you believe yourself greater than Christ, greater than Abraham and Moses. In this case you are correct and you do not need anyone other than yourself to be complete. You do not need saving because you cannot stretch out your hand without loosing the false pride that sustains you. Such an exstance is closed off to the wonders and joys that are also part of this existance whether you believe in God or not. If you ever want real emperical evidence that God exists please call upon Christ from a broken and contrite heart and you will be surprised at what actually exists all around you.
@Answer, I caught your reply right after I made the last reply. One last thought regarding heaven and hell, and I'll leave you with this.
"Perception can make whatever picture the mind desires to see. Remember this. In this lies either Heaven or hell".
Once again, good night Answer and thanks for the communication.
You see MrCurve, I've had deeper thoughts than you could ever find in your belief.
What questions of heaven has you asked yourself? You know you will die. That is a given!
So all the faith you can ever muster can't help you when you really do die. All the prayers you will ever spend sprawling and crawling and begging of this God isn't worth it. Wouldn't you ask yourself why you thought heaven is said by the bible - telling you - there are tonnes of gold! The jihadist kill themselves for the bountiful virgins that await them.
Which virgins would be willing to sleep with them? To sleep or have consensual s-x , it means you'll have a body.
So these questions cycle themselves into your own wants and needs of what you dream of heaven to be. That is purely the point. When all is said and done you will realize that God is your ultimate slave in heaven.
The endless magic – the endless virgins – the food (if not for nutrients) – you won't die anyways – will be God given.
You ask – then God flicks a wrist. If not God gives you magic to do things. Then what about responsibilities and work?
Do you all sit around doing nothing? No duty? Mighty fine heaven – but awfully boring – for eternity.
Once again I have the pleasure to witness another bout of "you'll be lonely" "you'll die all alone – without friends without family"
Fred – nice try. You fear for your own loneliness, don't dispense your rhetoric at me.
@MrCurve, yes the very thought of each to their own imaginations is what creates their own God. For this I know and for this sole reason God does not exist in my view.
So fred, do you have issues with others if they have their own confidence?
And not at all afraid to tell you to shove it?
You totally missed the point as I have no idea what company if any you will be with on your passing. The fact that you believe to know more than Jesus speaks volumes. My only purpose was to perhaps awaken you. Can you not see how with you it would be impossible to reach out to anyone let alone God. What ever gave you the impression that there is gold in "heaven" or virgins. If you cannot understand the simple words of Jesus how could you even begin to think of "heaven" or that place where "God" is. Take some time to ask yourself what did Jesus really say. Read His words again before you make assumptions of Gold or virgins in a place that is the holy place of God
@ Answer, with respect you keep mentioning Heaven as some lofty place above us which leads me once again to suspect you've greatly misperceived what Heaven is. This is another situation where the Holy Bible is greatly taken out of context which goes back to the "Big Cop in the Sky" scenario.
"I am not in the world, the world is in me". Gandhi
Good night once again..
Good night to you MrCurve.
Really, Jesus is your thing. Remember that. Not mine.
Neither is God. You presume to attach too many labels on to myself. i understand you greatly want me to even budge a little to your flowering pastel ideas. That is what you want to label as closeminded. I realize the necessity for you to plead with people to insist that they need to turn to Jesus. Please don't beg me to accept you. I have reasoned out fairly adequately that I do not ever need to ever think about coming to your faith. If you need me to spit in your face for real, then continue with the false assertions that you are spreading knowledge. You are deluding yourself that you can affect my point of view which is clearly resolute in logic and fully complete in thought.
You may beg others.. that is your continued existence to convert. I wish you well. But when I say "shove it" to you it means shove it.
Bottom line is we are no different than the people who existed at the time of Christ. If you want a good perspective of man simply look at how Jesus saw man and how man saw Jesus. The only major change is that man after Christ rose from the dead could avail himself of the Holy Spirit. Few actually become one with Christ as led by the Holy Spirit so as a whole man is not much better off today as 5,000 years ago from a spiritual sense.
You might be an excellent scientist and atheist or just a cell mate in block 5. Since you and I will return to the dust it does not matter if you tell me to shove it. It does not matter if you die alone or with thousands weeping at your passing. If there is no cause before or after our existence that existence is irrelevant. You are confident in your irrelevance I am not. This may be a genetic disposition or socioeconomic yet it does not matter because it simply is.
Once again, more rhetoric. Jesus rose from the dead. He did this ... he did that.
Yada yada. You preach – you sure do. And when I ask you "did Jesus really rise from the grave?" It becomes all too truth a response. It is your faith that says 'yes'. But unfortunately all you have is faith. I am one better off provided with evidence.
Have you ever stopped plastering your faith around like a two-bit w–re?
Do not presume people are what you want to be. Man, your religion has really intoxicated you to keep on citing the same rehash. Always presuming that atheists don't find life precious! That is why we are atheists! we believe that in living life there is meaning. So thus we enjoy living. Everyone of your religious nuts have kept on posting "that every atheists thinks they are irrelevant". Just where did you come up with the "every atheist survey"?
I know for fact that you never approached me on what I think is irrelevant. Religion is the ONLY thing irrelevant to me.
What you are spewing is a broad generalization. You are guilty of it – I am too, by stating the every part also.
But I realize the content of my words. Do you?
You have no evidence as none exists. You will never make God out to be a fool so you can never prove or disprove God. What is strikingly interesting is that you are not bothered by your inability to produce any evidence whatsoever. That in itself would cause one to pause yet you continue to move forward in your faith. I believe you have greater faith than I do as I could never be confident in something that does not exist in the absence of evidence. The evidence you seek is right in front of you yet your faith prevents you from looking. The unbelievers in Jesus day demanded evidence with the same tone you demand it. The reply was the only sign you will receive is the sign of Jonah. Do you know what meaning that had for you?
"You have no evidence as none exists." That's coming for you. It's hilarious.
So how rounds should this go on fred?
The burden of proof once again. You brought up Jesus's point of resurrection.
Need I say anymore? I don't give one iota about your faith. Let's see your dead Jesus.
Unfortunately, they are doing the final bed check in cell block 5 so I need to turn my phone off now. Oh, I did not make the assumption that all atheist are alike and that you find life without meaning. I was making the analogy that if there is nothing before and after our existence that existence would be meaningless.
Well fred, that assumption and analogy is wrong.
You see the point of one person being irrelevant is true. Only onto that one person. Meaning for the people that he/she has played in parts of others life has meaning. Like memory of that person.
Taken into context of what you want that quote to be "look at" and how I want to look at it and realize the difference makes sense that to one opinion it is irrelevant. Til everybody is dead then everything was meaningless. As long as one person lives there is meaning. That should be the revised analogy. it was always flawed when it was thought out.
And as the final goes.. if no life ever existed/developed, who would be able to tell what was irrelevant in the first place.
Time flows – eternal.
Well, gotta go or I certainly will not be the last one standing.
A line of thought that is along the lines of Stephen Hawking. It makes absolute sense to anyone who keeps on thinking about nothingness.
"I was making the analogy that if there is nothing before and after our existence that existence would be meaningless."
Can be stated like an equation... "Nothing before -/+ nothing after = meaningless or nothing."
At any point in the cycle of nothingness of eternity, something will happen to change it into something to initiate time.
The very burden of God creating the universe becomes mute. Because at the fundamental level the universe would actually create itself.
This is the line of thinking. I agree. But as proof to making statements goes, the onus of proof falls upon myself.
Who you give credit to explains your position.
That sounds like you and I have the same starting position. I cannot wrap my head around how God came about. This would be that point prior to as you said “At any point in the cycle of nothingness of eternity, something will happen to change it into something to initiate time”. The Biblical explanation goes along the line God always was and we do not have the mental capacity to figure that out. Which is why I like the name God called himself when He said to Moses tell them that “I AM” sent you. That does not help explain something from nothingness so I plug the hole with the thought I just don’t know. Is this not what you are doing?
Now we move on to discussing the creation we see all around us. I attribute the creation to God and you attribute it to a bunch of random physical and perhaps metaphysical events. The argument here goes to random chaos culminating in a perfectly balanced universe where our existence hangs on a thread so thin the slightest variation of any component ends existence as we know it. There is a very remote possibility that this happened and you can draw the curve yet you know it approaches its horizontal asymptote. By the same token biblical accounts of the creation observed over time cannot be assessed a zero probability of occurrence either. Thus an agnostic belief would seem more logical.
Interesting piece. However, I disagree with the author's statement that she thinks she's the smallest thing in the universe. In fact, I think that to say I don't need or believe in God and can live independent of God is the ultimate self-exhaltation. That point of view essentially says one of two things, either "I am the master of my own fate " or "everything that happens is random". Both of those positions reject the acknowledgement of a higher power that has relationship and influence. If I can so easily say that the explanation for everything rests only on my human view, and I don't need any other, then I'm saying that truth is a function of how I see things, period. That's the equivalent of believing you are God. Think about, what does the statement "there are no higher powers mean"? It shoud really be "there are no powers higher than me". My experience with God has shown me that there's much more truth available that what my limited experience and intellect can conjure up.
There is FAR more evidence that I am god than any church has ever provided for the proof of a Christian god... I created two sons, they are my proof.... what is HIS proof, Jesus.. HAH... Jesus is a fantasy, too.
Vernon, you are on the way to becoming an atheist. Just keep considering those questions. You'll get there.
Just because I don't believe in God does not mean I think I am God! You did a good job of making your statement seem all scientific and based on fact, but the bottom line is your trying to make atheists out to be something to fear- only because you fear our open minds and intellect.
Your post screams of, "Oh no, she doesn't believe in a supernatural deity! The overwhelming odds that she is right, and I am wrong makes me feel insecure. I am terrified that the axiomatic principles that my life is founded on are actually a collection of man-made tennets of morality amalgamated over thousands of years of trials and tribulations within formative civilized society." The attributing of this morality and ethics to a personified unknown either consciously or unconsciously does not change the fact that men interacting with and observing each other developed empathy and the ability to cooperate which ultimately led to men codifying the behaviors that worked into morality and ethics. The sweet irony of all this is that the invented gods that man has made over all these years encompass nearly all of his narsacistic, self-aggrandizing traits (hello? Man made in god's image...how much more can you possibly toot you own horn?) These man-made religions are the ultimate form of humanity's willingness to worship itself. It would be funny if it weren't so pathetic. Why can't the "whole of what is" / the Universe / Nature / Reality suffice? Why do we need magic to fill in the gaps for what we currently don't understand or may never fully understand? Why can't we just be okay with not knowing?...I know why. Because humans are selfish animals who need to influence others in order to survive and thrive. In other words, we need to be right in order to garner respect and have others support our selfish agendas. Evolution shaped us this way because cooperation ups the chances of survival and proliferation.
If that works for you,great.
Survive and do not be dropped back into old habits that were killing you.
That's all up to you.
If you can do it alone,then fine.
Just don't think that everyone can do it your way.
Some people find true comfort in the thought that God is watching and helping them especially when it seems like everytime they try to stop-some evil force steps right back at them to draw them back under the water they are drowning in.
Last time I checked, actual Atheists don't treat their atheism like a belief - the very nature of the term itself refers to "a lack thereof."
Thank you Johnny.... I try and try to get folks to understand that atheism is NOT a faith or belief system.. it is merely the absence of the belief in a god or gods.... PERIOD>.
I find it odd that many choose to build a wall between science and the existence of God. The increasing number of scientific discoveries involving hyper-complex systems, even among the smallest of life forms, point away from the idea of these systems forming by simple "chance" and more toward an intelligent creator. Why must science and religion be mutualy exclusive? Scientists such as Copernicus, Sir Francis Bacon, the creator of the Scientific Method, Galileo, Descartes, Isaac Newton, and many others understood the importance of balancing religion with science. Einstein once said "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."
Notice that all of the scientists you mention are ALL from an earlier century. 97% of all of the top scientists in both the US and England claim NO belief in a personal god.. none. Science and religion are mutually exclusive and always will be, mainly because religion requires one to believe in a being for which there is NO empirical evidence. The whole reason mankind created god is slipping away more and more everytime science is able to close the gaps of the gods. Holding on to religion makes no real sense in today's world.
Cite me two examples, from noted authorities, proving your point.
Interesting to quote a "devout" atheist out of context for the purpose of justifying religion. I believe in God, but quoting Einstein is not exactly going to further your argument.
Martin, Einstein lived until the mid 1950s and was active in his field until very late in life. I could list dozens of modern scientists who are also believers in God but most would not recognize the names unless you are in the various fields that they represent. I would imagine that few would recognize the names of most modern scientists, atheist or not. I simply mentioned some of the more well-known scientists from a long and diverse history to prove my point
David, who is your comment directed towards?
Be careful about stating things as fact without research. Einstein never became a Christian and that is why I left him out of the list of Christian scientists. I quoted him at the end to make a point that science and religion do not need to be separate. Encycolpedia Britannica says "Firmly denying atheism, Einstein expressed a belief in "Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the harmony of what exists."
OK Steve, I see why you used the names that you did, but using Einstein was a mistake. Also, whether we know the names or not, and don't assume your audience is stupid, you should use scientist from a time when the church was not the ruling government, such as the case with many you noted. Also, I do know many scientists and I also know that 97% of the greatest minds in science today, those in the Academy of Science, do NOT believe in a personal god.
Martin, I put my reply in a new thread to keep it on the front page, disco if you have a reply please go there too
Martin T... I think I learned in history class that the majority of humans used to believe that the world was flat... be careful of what the majority believes, sometimes they are wrong.
Seems to me that only 3% of some of the "smartest" people in the world are correct... scarey!
Good for her sobriety. Way to go. I feel sorry that she cannot connect.
Xenia you need to go back and learn history beyond what your jailhouse lawyer preacher has told you ... you couldn't be more wrong. Christianity and religious conflict had as much if not more to do with what occured during WW I and WW II as humanism did. From the get go in order to be a christian one has to make believe ... they have to forsake logic, reason and any sort of common sense. That is the foundation of christian thought ... its on par with how your average five year old understands the world. Everything revolves around them and other people don't matter. Look at how Christians behave ... do they vote and act as Jesus supposedly did? No they do not ... the are far more worried about making sure their worldly goods are in order.
I took several religion courses in undergrad and one in graduate school, and what you have written was very much discussed in all of the courses. Learned, truly learned biblical scholars, will say that MOST Christians have no more than a first graders understanding of the bible and the religion. This came from men who had PhD's in religion and psychology.
I am a Catholic with a firm belief in God. I am far from rich. I do however treat all human beings with respect and dignity, the same way i would like to be treated. We are all given free will. It is anyone's right to act and do what they want. Problem most have forgotten there is retribution for your actions. No one will know the truth till the end of their days. I for one am a firm believer no one needs to hold a gun to my head to make me believe. It is my right. Its is what this country used to believe.
@Earwin, no one would deny or question your right to a personal god or the belief thereof; what most atheists do not agree with is the intrusion into government and social programs/schools/etc; by the church, any church. IF you want to believe and you aare doing so because you truly believe, good for you, my friend.
What is the difference between your intrusion into government and that of Christians? In the last 20 years it has been the atheist that has intruded and the result of that intustion is a divided country
So your retort is "leave the current amount of religious people who are in charge of the government because I like it."
It doesn't reflect the opinion of others that see the current government (the one you like) as probably being incapable of managing governmental affairs. Maybe when a government is not doing it's job for the vast majority that there should be changes. Don't you think that is the reason there is argument about replacing them?
As a proud member of Alcoholics Anonymous.....this particular stance is very common in AA. This woman just made herself money by violating the AA 12 traditions. She is making $$$ off of an idea that is not her own. Please do not buy her book. If she's an Atheist....good for her......there are a lot in the rooms.
How is she violating a tenet of AA? Isn't anonymity a choice? And isn't it kind of relative anyway? How would a celebrity attend AA meetings without violating that tenet?
Accept the things you cannot change, MB.
AA Tradition #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."
I have a question for the author. Why AA? There are programs for non-believers. Check out Secular Organizations for Sobriety – http://www.cfiwest.org/sos/index.htm, or Rational Recovery. Neither of those programs require a belief in God or any higher power.
AA does not require a belief in God. The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.
What if God did what ever we asked when we asked it. God however knows better.
He has however said that if we search Him out with our whole heart, He will allow Himself to be found. That's a commitment we should all take advantage of.
He will allow himself to be found.
Someone hand the God's GPS. Perhaps he can do something about the Dolphins this year.
why dont atheists ever counter with data driven arguments? Its always either name calling, or the trying-to-be-clever-but-failing-to-provide-any-real-argument response?
I imagine that practicing religion through its mantras and routines can be a form of self-hypnosis. Truly any distraction ought to work provided that it is structured. It's disturbing to say the least that AA organizers believe that god plays an important key role in these state funded programs. Not only does it automatically disenfranchise many seeking help but it's chronically absurd. Let us focus on what actually worked here and not muddy it with a whitewash of religious nonsense that had nothing to do with Hornbacher's recovery.
Always good to see people pontificate on things they know little about. AA is not "religious" but it is a spiritual program. AA is not a treatment program and AA does not seek nor does it accept "state" funds.
"AA is not "religious" but it is a spiritual program."
Of course it's religious, it's pretty clear cut. The twelve steps mention God five times which is obviously not spiritual as spirituality alone does not require god in any formal sense. Granted the degree to which Christianity is pushed varies from group to group. But complaints like the ones you've read on this board concerning a "Christian cult-like" atmosphere and overt proselytizing appear to be commonplace and you need to just bloody accept it because it's a fact.
"AA is not a treatment program and AA does not seek nor does it accept "state" funds."
Although there are no state programs under the AA banner, the organization does receive state funds directly through prison programs and indirectly through (tax payer paid) court orders. In some countries, like the UK, state-sponsored donation programs pad their coffers. You're wrong, sir.
SB you need to look at the definition of religion. The mere mention of God in the steps does not make it into a religion. I'm not sure where you got your information but AA does not accept outside contributions. As far as what might occur in the UK, I would not know because that is not a part of AA in the United States and Canada.
You might overcome problems without God's help, but you will never live forever without Him! So if you want to go on and live this life as an atheist, you'll be missing out on all He is offering you–forgiveness of all your sins, and eternal life in a place of complete joy, peace and where there is no death or sorrow, only pleasures forever more. (The mansions are made of gold and jewels and even the streets are made of gold). I would throw away the useless god of atheism in a heartbeat for this priceless treasure!! The alternative of separation from God's help in eternal fire as a result of unrepentance and faithlessness is too horrible to contemplate as well. Atheism is a lose/lose situation all around.
Apparently then I am ****'ed. Once again sucks to be me.
Ha! Supercilious nitwit.
what a load of twaddle
Perhaps you are correct... though I live my life without any thought at all to your beliefs. I'm living this life for what it is, MY ONLY chance at happiness.. I suspect that somewhere in the next forty years, I'll cease to exist and I'm fine with that.. what worries me more is what I can do with the life I have left here and now...
Really Juwi, there is no description of heaven in the bible and you choose gold and mansion. Streets made of jewels...really your dead in heaven why do you needs roads?? So I guess you'll have sewer systems as well. Gold mansions....for the love of god that goes against all that jesus practice. Idiot
Don't you think that if God is all-knowing, then he knows if you're just choosing to believe in Him to avoid going to Hell... and that for trying to trick God into giving you passage into Heaven, he'd send you to Hell?
First, who would want to live forever with a god who creates evil (Isaiah 45:7) and has the power to destroy evil (including that satan thingie), wonky weather, cancer, pain, suffering, famine, etc., yet chooses not to? Not I. That particular imaginary man is a monster. And this whole being saved thing... Basically, you're asking to be saved from what? Your god's own wrath. So you're asking god to save you from god. Hmm. Do you see the problem there? He supposedly created you and knows what you're going to do, including adam and eve who he knew would eat the apple of sin, then condemns you with that sin, then forces you to beg him to save you from his wrath against you from that sin. Riiiiiiight. Your god, according to you, has the power right now to give you paradise yet chooses not to give it to you. And he uses Nazi tactics of fear and the threat of eternal damnation if you don't fall to your knees and worship him and beg him to forgive you for the bloody sin he gave you in the first place. None of it makes sense, and if it does to you, again I must use the word, you are delusional.
Juwl you're not the first to want to be a winner in the timespan that we call life.
You haven't accepted that you may be a loser. You certainly want to win so bad though.
But your opinion that you are a winner already is far from reality. The only thing that is ever relevant to this matter
Preaching "you will be judged at the end" or "we'll see, you'll be begging" is all you are capable of stringing together.
No matter how many times it comes around to, yes, when the time comes we will all be equal. In death.
I'm sorry and I don't mean to be disrespectful because alcoholism is a terrible disease and I wish you all success in your battles with sobriety, but I can see why so many xians turn to drink. Xianity and most religions are confusing, nonsensical and oxymoronic and it must be frustrating as hell to have prayer after prayer go unanswered unless you are a baseball or football player.
Just curious how a story related to atheism always results in Christian-bashing. It's always funny too because the anti-Christian posts consistently miss the point and are usually negative comments about people who aren't true disciples of Jesus in the first place. You really you can't say anything bad about the Christians you read about in the bible. But I guess if you're an atheist you can say what you want because you have no standard or benchmark to measure anything against.
Most of the Christian-bashing in the comment section is in response to atheist-bashing by condescending Christians, I think.
To bad both sides simply can't agree to disagree and leave it at that.
"You really you can't say anything bad about the Christians you read about in the bible."
Are you sure about this?
CJP you prove with your smug Atheist bashing that Christians tend to be self important people who though they are by their religion not supposed to "judge others" they are the FIRST people to ALWAYS judge everyone. They feel the sense of superiority to everyone who isn't like them and really ... most of the people in their "church" if they even regularly attend. If you want to make a point about how bad atheists are how about you practice your own religion. Turn the other cheek, forigive, and let the only one (by the standards of YOUR religion) who can judge ... be the judge. Christians however mostly practice their religion out of fear and to feel superior or special. I have no issue with christians who have read the entire bible and UNDERSTAND each book, Christians who have learned about other religions, about human history and understand what atheists actually believe. You prove that you have done none of that by your language. Your just another hypocrite, smug in their imagined superiority. Well brother ... when you die ... that's it and you'll have lived your life judging and being a hypocrite while the average Atheist lives their life as if it is their last.
"You really you can't say anything bad about the Christians you read about in the bible."
THIS I wouldn't put any money on, if I were you, when talking with a group of atheists. You will get your feelings hurt for sure. Further, imagine if CNN wrote nothing but nice, sappy stories that only Christians would want to read, do you think they would get thousands of comments in the section? Seriously, THINK PEOPLE...
@Lord – MAN that was well said... GREAT response, thank you...
Pointless arguments: Politics, religion, and atheism. Why debate something where nobody will ever agree?
Such excellent banter this evening. Many and varying views of all types. Everyone has a valid point of view they believe in. We gain these beliefs when we are born. We learn them from our parents. As we grow we seek out the positions that support the learned beliefs. Those that do not fit our model are rejected. We learn to defend those learned beliefs often times to our detriment. We become closed to other points of views. We become fearful of being influenced by what we learned to believe is the right way.
My point is we are truly influenced by our learnings. We think we are free thinkers but in fact we cannot be by our very nature. Without our beliefs we feel lost, fearful, and scared of life. This is often seen in the passion of the posts here on CNN. We are programed to believe our way is always the right way. Some of us find solace in the bottle. In uncertainly alcohol gives us relief, albeit temporary. We drink more and more. Our belief system becomes skewed. We then experience shame which translates into self-centeredness, self-pity and anger. This is where I operate. I tell you this because once you are here you are powerless over the drink. What once was consumed now consumes you. In the end you have two roads you can follow. It is my hope that you follow the path you have put in front of yourselves. I welcome you.
I think you meant – Yes, there are two paths you can go by, But in the long run, There's still time to change the road you're on.
I think the "higher power" can be our acknowledgement or role and situation, our fit into optimal living and placement, the recognition that there is a 'better choice versus a worse choice' for each decision. This can cover everyone of any religion or lack thereof. Best wishes to everyone who pursues this path and may you find strength to continue.
I had a friend with a serious alcohol problem. Her doctor told me that her brain had shrunk and if she didn't quit she would die and soon, but quitting cold turkey could also kill her. So, she asked me to accompany her to AA. I was disgusted and appalled at the religious BS she and I were both subjected to at the meetings and it didn't help her with her drinking problem. They seemed more interested in recruiting us for their religious club than doing anything truly helpful. For those who don't share their beliefs you have to lie to get through the program and that is never a good thing. I would never recommend AA to anyone, it only gets people to abstain day by day at best. They are never cured and they even admit that.
There are times that going day to day would be an improvement. Some folks barely make it minute by minute.
I am an alcoholic. I will always be an alcoholic. There is no cure for me and the only way I can "beat the odds" is not to pick up and use. I remind myself of this every day.
One day in a moment of clarity she told me she never got drunk until her husband left her. From that day she crawled into a bottle and couldn't get out. She didn't have a disease, she just lost the love of her life. I tried everything to help her, she would get drunk and turn violent, steal, lie and even break into my house to get liquor. We went to AA, counseling, Psychologists, indeed everything I could think of. Religion turned her even meaner. After about a year of this she just disappeared. I ran into her sister about a year later and she told me her family had disowned her and I was her only friend. She took to the streets and has never been heard from again. My guess if she could have resolved this she would have been able to fall in love again and lead a normal life with or without alcohol. But everyone wanted to tell her what to do instead of listening and I ,although a good friend, was simply not qualified to fix her...
David C., thanks for listening and best wishes to you and your sobriety. I do hope it works for you.
I can only speak from my experience...
When I finally crawled out of the bottle and got my head sort of back on straight, I posed to myself this question... What could someone have said to me to make me stop... And I realized nothing was the answer.
I've heard is said that you need to not take away someone's right to hit rock bottom. I've also heard it said you need to "climb over their dead bodies with love." What your friend has is a horrible addiction. Disease. Character flaw. Whatever you want to call it, apparently she has it.
In the end, I've also heard it said that you can only fix those who want to be fixed.
There is an excellent alternative to AA called Rational Recovery at a dot org address. They allow you to be who you are and it is a lot more common sense oriented and FAST. They do not expect to fix every problem in your life and be a good person – just quit drinking – for good and forever. It has plenty of critics but I can't figure out why. It may be too late for your friend, but good info to know.
Addictions are rarely 'cured'. It is a daily battle.
Thank you Clarez, I have met many alcoholics in my life and I still don't know how to deal with them. To finish the story, my friend went quickly downhill after AA, it just ruined her. Frankly all the people I met were simply delusional, they used alcohol to try and solve a problem then went to AA and tried god to solve alcoholism. My friend was very intelligent and could see right through their BS. She even told them why she drank but they wouldn't listen, just kept telling her she had an incurable disease and god was the only way out. It's just passing the buck, one has to face the enemy head on and fight to the end, like the buffalo in a snowstorm. I can only tell you one thing, I'm sure glad I am not an alcoholic, there is no way to get through it alone and the available help is sketchy at best. Best wishes to all of you who suffer from this.
CM, she wasn't an addict. She was literally trying to kill herself with alcohol because she couldn't deal with the loss of her special loved one...
@Willie- Have you considered going to Al-Anon? The only requirement is that someone else's drinking bothers you. I started going after I finally had to admit to myself that nothing I could do would stop my husband from drinking. I was agnostic and struggled for a long time with the fact that I truly felt superior to anyone who was dumb enough to believe in "god." Luckily, I got over myself- like the author said in her article, the significant piece is humility. Also, it is a shame to disregard everything AA or Al-Anon has to offer because one tenet bothers you- as I have often hear said, and as I often do: take what you like and leave the rest. Best of luck to you.
Mary, I am fine with my beliefs and have no issues with alcohol. I feel my friend was let down by AA and religion was at the core. If that offends you, I don't know what to tell you. I feel for my friend and others who suffer from this problem and I know there are others who see it the way I do.
God is imaginary, and people can overcome alcoholism by an act of will. Film at 11.
The fact that you are able to have thoughts and opinions is proof enough that there is a creator. But of course, if you are an atheist, you can believe what you want (because atheists usurp the role of God).
>> The fact that you are able to have thoughts and opinions is proof enough that there is a creato
Proof enough for who? Certainly not anyone who believes in principles of science.
@CJP: "The fact that you are able to have thoughts and opinions is proof enough that there is a creator."
Congratulations, you have just shown that god's existence is proof that he was created by something else. What now?
CJP, that is most certainly not enough proof, in fact it is exactly zero proof of a creator. There is no proof of a creator. None. Gods are imaginary and prayer is absolutely futile – just ask an amputee. Not one amputee has ever had a prayer answered to regrow a limb. Not one. Or perhap your creator just selected amputees, the only group on the planet, to hate? The sooner you people of "faith" grow up and realize gods are imaginary, yes, even yours, the sooner evils like war, bigotry and hypocrisy in this world will end.
"The fact that you are able to have thoughts and opinions is proof enough that there is a creator."
Yes, and the creator was nature, and we can prove it through geological, fossil, and genetic evidence.
"But of course, if you are an atheist, you can believe what you want"
Nonsense, as an atheist I'm bound by evidence. I can only believe what science can demonstrably show to be true and my beliefs must change as new evidence modifies or falsifies previously accepted theories. Theists on the other hand can believe anything they want, and they do. Just look at the beautiful variety, the expansive forms, of all the gods and goddesses that have been dreamed up since the dawn of man. There isn't one iota of agreement among theists about what god is or what it should represent, yet not a single theist can see beyond his/her own set of personal beliefs. Belief in god literally chokes the mind preventing it from seeing the whole picture.
i lurve the comments to this post
+1 2 all yall
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