Religion vs. Spirituality

The oft-repeated cliche in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings is, “Religion is for those afraid of hell, and spirituality is for those who have been there.” Debating these cliches may seem futile, but their prevalence suggests an underlying truth that resonates deeply with people.

The Intersection of Spirituality and Religion

It’s undeniable that clear distinctions exist between religion and spirituality. It’s entirely possible for one to be spiritual without being religious or vice versa.

AA is an inclusive platform that fosters a multitude of belief systems. The only common thread is belief in a “power greater than themselves.” This acceptance within AA potentially acts as a binding force, uniting members of different faiths without judgment or ridicule for their beliefs. As a result, it allows room for skepticism, faith, or even no specific belief at all.

A Sermon Lived is More Powerful Than One Spoken

What truly matters in AA is not what someone believes, but what they do. Old-timer Ron M. would often quote the line from Edgar Guest’s poem, “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one.” This sentiment encapsulates the essence of action speaking louder than words.

Here is Guest’s profound poem in its entirety:

I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day; I’d rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way. The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear, Fine counsel is confusing, but example’s always clear; And the best of all preachers are the men who live their creeds, For to see good put in action is what everybody needs. I soon can learn to do it if you’ll let me see it done; I can watch your hands in action, but your tongue too fast may run. And the lecture you deliver may be very wise and true, But I’d rather get my lessons by observing what you do; For I might misunderstand you and the high advice you give, But there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.

Living Out Your Beliefs

AA’s inclusivity and emphasis on actions rather than words serve as a unique model for recovery. This focus on action—on living the sermon rather than preaching it—may just be the key to understanding and overcoming addiction.

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