What If I Don’t Believe In God?
"I think we naturally assume people who call themselves atheists or agnostics are not spiritual people. Therein lies the basis for confusion.”
“The spiritual experiences and beliefs expressed by members of Overeaters Anonymous are as varied as those found in society at large. Some members have spiritual orientations; still others have come to OA with a history of religious conflict or do not accept the concept of God.
Working the OA program of recovery is a highly individual process. We don’t all think alike. As stated in The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous, page ix, “Our common bonds are two: the disease of compulsive eating from which we all have suffered, and the solution that we all are finding as we live by the principles embodied in these Steps.” This is what unites us in OA. Differences regarding a spiritual concept, or lack thereof, need not keep us from working the program. As the Third Tradition states, if we have the desire to stop eating compulsively, there is a place for us in OA. Therefore, we need not explain or defend our individual beliefs even if they differ from the majority opinion.
Open-mindedness is our watchword, as we read in The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous. “OA doesn’t tell us we have to believe in God—only that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” We are invited to define that Power however we wish and relate to it in whatever way works for us. OA only suggests that we remain open to spiritual growth… “We learned we could ‘act as if.’ This didn’t mean we were to be dishonestly pious or pretend we believed in God when we didn’t. It meant we were free to set aside theological arguments and examine the idea of spiritual power in light of our own desperate need for help with our lives.”
All in all, the experiences of those who work this program with their own concept of a Higher Power show that this program does work regardless of one’s personal interpretation of that power. Clarity, peace of mind and growth are some of the many byproducts of OA’s recovery program. When we stay in the program and apply these principles in keeping with a personal understanding of a Higher Power, these rich rewards are ours! These are certainly good reasons to “keep coming back.”
A Non Believer
“I no longer believe in a personal god. I did not always believe this way; when I came to OA almost ten years ago, I strongly believed in a Higher Power to whom I could turn over my life. Many incidents occurred in this past year, however, that have banished this belief entirely. But the strange thing is that I still have a deep, if not more profound, spiritual life than I had before. I just don’t depend on a god to do my work for me. I read the OA pamphlet What If I Don’t Believe in God? and it has been helpful. I also found the Big Book’s chapter “To the Agnostic” useful as well. I’ve done some writing on the Steps, trying to adjust them to my new belief system, and it has proved very difficult, especially Steps Two and Three. The sanity I hope to have restored is about getting to know myself better; it is about clearing out those nasty defects of character so I can be open to the movement of spirit within me, to develop my personality to its greatest level. To maintain abstinence is paramount to me, otherwise my mind will not be clear enough to understand life’s teachings. Step Seven has also proved difficult—to whom do I turn over my defects? I figured I could release them to the universe and develop myself to a deeper level through meditation. These are just a few of the ways I’ve handled problems regarding this new belief of mine. My abstinence has been good throughout this period. I’ve also looked to the spirit of the Fellowship as part of my new spirituality. Many times I will turn things over to this spirit.
I am interested in hearing how others who do not believe in a personal god devote themselves to the OA way of life. I would like to know how other nonbelievers handle the Twelve Steps and “turning it over.” I hope that others will write to Lifeline, using it as one forum for those of us with an alternative way of living the Steps.”
– reprinted from Lifeline
Other OA Literature