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Perspectives, Worship in the News

God: Required or Optional?

AA without religionOne of the most frequent questions that I receive when I talk about the first 52 weeks of My 52 Weeks of Worship Project is, believe it or not, “Did you spend time with atheists or agnostics?”

The answer is no. In my quest to be in as many places that I could find where people were gathering to worship God, however they perceived Him (or Her) to be, I did not find myself in the company of those who just didn’t believe at all.

But, since the first 52 weeks, I have had great conversations with those who choose not to believe in God at all. And, I always say – I respect anyone who has taken the time and energy to contemplate what they believe, and earnestly consider what the source of their strength is. Given my powerful experiences on my own journey and in my life, I would have to respectfully disagree with those who doubt the existence of God, of an omnipresent, all-powerful divine force. But as #25 of The 52  Things I Learned from 52 Weeks of Worship states: “It is quite ok to believe one thing, and stand shoulder to shoulder with people who believe something else.”

I try to practice what I preach. 🙂

So, it was with that in mind that I read the following New York Times Article about Alcoholics Anonymous gatherings…without the religion. As the article states::

“A.A. starts at its core with honesty,” said Dorothy, 39, who heads the steering committee for the We Agnostics and Freethinkers International A.A. Convention. “And how can you be honest in recovery if you’re not honest in your own beliefs? If you don’t believe in the God they’re praying to, that’s not honest practice.”

At the same time, I think of a friend I made when she reached out to me via Twitter. She was going through a program and a process at Overeaters Anonymous. As part of her program, she was encouraged to take her own journey to explore a potential relationship with God, a Higher Power, a community of faith. After reading my book, she ended up visiting one of the 62 places of worship that I visited in Chicago, joined, and is still contributing and learning.

So, what do you think? I am curious to hear from those who have a strong faith, and those who are atheist, agnostic or undecided. Does recovery require that you connect with a divine force? With a higher power? With God? Can one truly heal from life’s most difficult challenges without some spiritual component to their healing?

Please, share your thoughts.

Photo Credit: Chris Maynard for The New York Times

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