Sunday, December 25, 2016


     There is a saying from India that goes like this: "God gave humans the truth, then the Devil came and said, 'I'll organize it for you and call it religion'."
     Considering the history of India, the persecutions and bloody clashes between religions and sects, it is apt that India was the source of the above saying. The same could be said, however, had the saying come from Iraq, Egypt, Sudan, Israel, Syria, Italy, France, Britain, Ireland, the United States, Germany, Mexico, Canada, or many other nations on this planet.
     In the United States, more and more, religion has gotten into politics, which makes it no different than most of the other major religions in the world. Most of these efforts on some level may have had good intentions, but look at the historical body count: Crusades, wars of Islamic expansion, inquisitions, pogroms, sect-based civil wars, persecutions, "ethnic cleansings," death camps, ghettos, mass executions, and so on.
     Those who grow up within a religion and have known nothing else but that belief have a ready excuse for violence when politics is put into the mix and persons with different religious beliefs are on the opposing political side.
     Some religions hold that there is but one belief, one set of rituals, and anyone who believes differently is a non-believer and is either going to Hell when they die, or deserve to be killed for the crime of not believing.
     In Twelve Step programs, such as Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous, each individual is urged to pick his or her own conception of a Higher Power. When I first needed to approach this matter in recovery, my sponsor sat me down before a piece of paper, handed me a pencil, and said, "Now you are going to design a Higher Power for yourself. My only requirement is that your HP have the power to give you the strength to stay clean for twenty-four hours. Anything else you want, add it."
      There are places on Earth where professing such beliefs would get you beheaded or tortured to death. But I followed the instructions and added one other provision: That it would be okay for me to test my Higher Power.
      I have tested my HP, my particular HP is there and has passed all of the tests including keeping me free from alcohol and other drugs for thirty-five years. It works for me. One of the things I've had to learn is toleration of the Higher Power beliefs of others, including those who wish to explore their spirituality through an established religion.
      It is okay if you do not believe as I do. Whatever you believe, the test is: Is it working for you? I can only judge if my Higher Power is working for me. I am not offended by anyone's spiritual beliefs except in one area: If you believe that everyone else must believe as you do by the use of force or horror, that is wrong. Certainly wrong for me since my HP is unique to me. I believe this narrow-minded view is wrong for you, as well. By intolerance of other beliefs, the parts of those beliefs that would be useful to you and your recovery you will never hear.
     Honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness, the indispensable spiritual principles of recovery, for this day and age, need a fourth: Tolerance of the beliefs of others.
     For the love of God, for Christ's sake, for the love of Allah, for the love of Mike, Lord Buddha, Vishnu, George, Chair, Nick, Teddy Bear, Buster, Slick, Coincidence (the revered Supreme Being of the Atheists), and that great native New England American spirit, Highah Powah, pass it on.

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