It’s no secret many people enter 12 step recovery as an atheist or agnostic. According to the Big Book, half the original fellowship did (p. 44), and, for a variety of reasons, it wouldn’t be surprising if the number of atheists and agnostics who enter recovery today is greater.
FUN FACT: Half of the original men and women to recover using the spiritual program of action in the Big Book were atheists.
There are still many people in recovery who feel a spiritual experience is somehow beyond their grasp due to some of the things they’ve done, said, thought, or believed, despite assurances in the Big Book that such convictions are “no great obstacle to a spiritual experience” (p. 29)
POINT TO PONDER: Recovery isn’t actually about what you believe; it’s about what action you’re willing to take.
Many people are surprised to learn they can make use of the power of prayer even if they believe prayer doesn’t work and even if they believe God doesn’t exist. The most common question these people usually ask then is “How can I make a beginning with prayer?”
Below are three prayers which may prove useful in answering this question.
“God (or “Whatever’s out there”) please teach me how to pray”
Many of us enter recovery with preconceived notions about prayer. Some may not be able to identify anything as prayer if it doesn’t include closed eyes, folded hands, kneeling, “Dear Lord”, and “Amen”. Others may think such notions foolish.
While many books, including the Big Book, contain suggestions for effective prayer, it is important to remember this deeply personal act is simply a conversation between us and God.
POINT TO PONDER: The greatest authority on how to have a conversation with God is God.
“God (or “whatever’s out there”) how would you have me conceive you?”
Once an atheist has begun using intuition to begin to see personal evidence that God exists, they may begin to desire an even deeper understanding of who or what God is. We could go to a sponsor, other people in recovery, or even members of the religious community to find a description of God, or we can ask God directly.
Praying a simple prayer like: “Higher Power, how do You want me to conceive You? Whether You want me to imagine You as a man in the clouds with a flowing white beard, a Jewish carpenter on a cross, a husky bald Asian, a woman with six arms and blue skin, or an ethereal cloud of thought, please send me a clear message in a way I can’t deny is You.”
When this prayer is finally answered, it is the promise the Big Book makes on page 55 when it says: “The consciousness of your belief is sure to come to you.”
“God (or “whatever’s out there”) please show me something today that I cannot deny comes from you.”
This prayer empowers an atheist to stop trying to think their way into faith. As wonderful as logic is, it cannot be used to find faith because that isn’t the purpose it’s intended to serve.
Logic was given to mankind to help us figure out how to stay warm in caves and hunt Woolly Mammoths and, for that, it is a wonderful tool. However, it’s quite limited for other things. Logic is useless for creating art and loving others. For those tasks, we’ve been given emotion.
Just as we wouldn’t use logic to paint a picture or emotion to change our car’s oil, trying to use either to find God proves fruitless. For that, we have intuition.
POINT TO PONDER: Is it possible logic has taken you as far as it ever will?
The Big Book mentions this in We Agnostics on page 53 where it says:
“Some of us had already walked far over the Bridge of Reason toward the desired shore of faith…. We were grateful that Reason had brought us so far. But somehow, we couldn’t quite step ashore. Perhaps we had been leaning too heavily on Reason that last mile and we did not like to lose our support”
I’ve developed a printable checklist to help you stay mindful of your efforts.