Let’s discuss the concept of worldview and how it relates to the 12 steps. A person’s worldview can be described by what he or she believes about the 4 big questions of life: Origin; Meaning; Morality; and Destiny. Every religion and philosophical line of thought seeks to answer these questions. In this series we will take one worldview at a time and see if if fits the recovery paradigm. Today we will consider Atheism.
Atheism is the belief that there is no God. While that sounds easy enough, there are many implications that come with it. Let’s look at how Atheism answers the four big questions.
On the question of origin, Naturalistic Atheism tells us that somehow something began from nothing. From this miracle everything burst into existence for no reason, with no cause. From this, with time plus matter plus chance, the first living organism came into being in early Earth’s primordial stew. From this creature came every living creature, including Mankind.
Because we came from nothing, life is ultimately meaningless. There is no rhyme or reason for why we are here, we are simply the sum of our DNAs computation. Our mind’s are merely figments of the imaginations they create.
Because our minds are relative, and because we are nothing more than a blob of cells, objective morality has no bearing on the Atheist. This is not to say that Atheists aren’t good people, on the contrary, many are. This only means that has nothing to base morality on, therefore it is akin only to the feelings of the individual person.
Because there is no God to hold the Atheist back, there is no God to hold them at all. Upon death we simply cease to exist. There is no ultimate destiny.
For the sake of time, let’s split the steps into 3 groups before seeing how this worldview holds up when looked at through the lens of the 12 Step Program. The first two steps will be known as the reflective steps. Steps three through nine will be called action steps. Steps ten through twelve, the maintenance steps.
First the reflective steps. These steps are about admission of powerlessness and being open to the idea of a higher power. Admitting Powerlessness is a hard thing to do. Good thing it’s pointless if you’re an atheist. “power” as it is intended in this case is an abstract, metaphysical feeling, therefore it is nothing more than an illusion. Addiction is another one of these relative terms. To many, addiction is an evil thing. To the atheist however, It is meaningless without a moral law on which to differentiate good and evil. Who cares that you are using? You’re just doing what your DNA was programmed to do. Killing yourself slowly? Killing another man? Robbing people to get money for drugs? Beating your children when you get too drunk? It’s okay. Objective Morality is non-existent, it’s just relative to whatever your mind tells you is right and wrong. Since Atheism’s entire philosophy is based on God’s inexistence, the prospect of coming to belief in a Power greater than themselves is bleak.
Next let’s look at the action steps. These include turning over control, doing inventory, removing shortcomings, and making amends. The Atheist lacks anything to turn control over to, and has no control to turn over because they are, once again, merely doing what they are programmed to do. They have no way of removing character defects on their own, and no one to do this for them. They are stuck the way they are because they have way to change their ways. As for making amends, why would you do that? You haven’t done anything wrong, because there is no such thing as the concept of right and wrong.
Last let’s look at the maintenance steps. These consist of continuance of inventory and admission (both of which have already been debunked), prayer and meditation, and helping others because of a spiritual experience. It’s safe to say that we can rule out prayer and meditation. As for the twelfth and final step, perhaps it should be rewritten for the Atheist to read:
12. Having had no experience as a result of these steps, we had no reason to carry this meaningless message to anybody, or to practice these “principles” in any of our affairs.