What is the Difference Between Religion and Spirituality?
Dear Dr. Steve:
My boss has had it with me. Hes not saying that I have a problem but he sure
believes whether or not I drink too much, that my job performance has suffered because of
my drinking. So hes giving me exactly 60 days to straighten out or hes going
to fire me. This would be the third time in the last 10 years that Ive lost a job. I
pretty much get the same thing at home from my wife. Shes been on me for years to
quit drinking. At least with her, she no longer threatens me. Ive tried quitting for
real at least twenty-five times over the last few years, but I must admit nothing that
Ive tried seems to work for very long. My wife goes to Al-Anon and so she thinks
that everybodys problems can be solved by a 12-Step Program. I keep telling her that
Al-Anon may work for her and A.A. may work for some but Im not going anywhere that
they shove that religion crap down your throat. Im simply not a religious person,
never have been, never will be. I dont want to go to some place where they hold
secret meetings, talk in this bizarre language of slogans and corny expressions, and talk
about God. What can I do to save my job?
As far as your job goes, it sounds
like you believe the best thing for you to do is to quit drinking. As far as how best to
quit drinking, well, you sound like a man more in search of a method of abstinence that
youre comfortable with rather than a method that has been demonstrated to work.
objection to A.A. is a commonly voiced objection. Theres a perception that A.A. is a
cult, that members are brain washed with a bunch of silly little slogans, and that the
focus of the meetings is on God and religion. However, I think that if you objectively
look at your objections to at least investigating what A.A. is, youll discover that
your objections are reflective more of your fears than the reality of what A.A. is and the
role that spirituality, not religion, plays in Recovery.
religion? What is spirituality? What is the difference between spirituality and organized
religion? What role does spirituality play in any 12-Step Program? Whenever I attempt to
answer these questions I find myself at a lost for the words that can most effectively
capture the essence of what spirituality is but Im going to try. Spirituality is
like oxygen. Oxygen exists. I know that oxygen exists even though I cant prove it to
you. Even though I cant touch it, taste it, or feel it, without the presence of
oxygen, I know that I would be unable to continue living. Spirituality is much like
oxygen, its a building block of lifeits life creating, its life
supporting, life affirming, and life sustaining.
adheres to creeds, doctrines, and dogmas. Religion purports that the way to God can be
found through particular ceremony(ies) or practice(s). Spirituality is unencumbered by
such intellectual, emotional, and dogmatic baggage. Spirituality is an attitude towards
life that involves your mind, body, and soul. The attitude is that you are the creation of
a sacred or divine energy and, as such, are not only more than you ever imagined yourself
to be but more than you can ever imagine yourself to be. Spirituality is the direct
connection to and experience of the sacred and supreme values of life. A spiritual
practice empowers one to experience that which is most central and essential to their
life. The ultimate aim of spirituality is awakeningthat is to know your true and
So am I
splitting hairs? Am I asking you to indulge me in a silly word game? Is there a difference
between organized religion and spirituality as it is practiced in any 12-Step
Program? I dont think so. Please let me explain further.
as practiced in any 12-Step Program is a very individual and private matter that is not
dependent on your belief in a God that you dont acknowledge but is a process that
enables you to [re]connect with your own source of creation as you understand that source
as practiced in any 12-Step Program is not dependent on your belief in somebody
elses values and beliefs but a process in clarifying what your values and beliefs
as practiced in any 12-Step Program is not an exercise in enslaving yourself to somebody
elses vision of who you are and how you should be but a process that empowers you to
evolve in to your best and most authentic Self.
as practiced in any 12-Step Program is not an exercise in internalizing messages that are
toxic to your spirit and soul but a process that enables you to uncover your voice and
honor that which is important to you.
12-Step program is a spiritual practice in [re]connecting with the divine energy that
created you as you define and know that divine energy.
12-Step program is a spiritual practice in uncovering who you are beneath the layers of
addiction, alcoholism, codependency, sexing, binging and purging, ego, willfulness,
grandiosity, shame, entitlement, self-loathing, denial, intolerance, blame, lies, secrets,
12-Step program is a spiritual practice in healing the wounds that exist between you and
the people in your life.
12-Step program is a spiritual practice in empowering you to make choices that are
congruent with your authentic Self.
12-Step program is a spiritual practice in detoxifying the resentments that exist within
you and between you and the people in your life and your Higher Power.
for you is that you will open yourself up enough to investigate further what A.A. is and
how it may be able to help you with the circumstances that you are confronted with. At the
same time, my fear is youll keep fishing for a solution that suits you best.
Whatever your choice, I wish you well and trust that you will do well.
from chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your children to
choose to be alcohol and other drugs free. Learn how to in Dr. Frischs, Psy.D.
Recovery book seriesFrom Insanity to Serenity.
1.) Alcoholism is a disease of the mind, body, and soul.
2.) The 12-Steps are a spiritual practice, not a cult or religion.
3.) A spiritual practice is used to heal your mind, body, and soul.
4.) Books are available that explain in great detail the 12-Steps and spirituality.
5.) Commit to attend at least six meetings before making up your mind about whether A.A.
is for you.