But, nah. My position is firm: AA, despite its flaws, has been a lifesaver for so many, for so long. In Jamesian terms its language of willful submission has been pragmatically vindicated. Consider, for instance, the brilliant journalist David Carr's harrowing memoir of recovery. He says the "Higher Power" slogans worked for him, plain and simple. They paid their way. "The answer to life is learning to live."
This is the point where the knowing, irony-infused author laughs along with his readers about his time among the aphorisms, how he was once so gullible and needy that he drank deeply of such weak and fruity Kool-Aid. That's some other book. Slogans saved my life. All of them--the dumb ones, the preachy ones, the imperatives, the cliches, the injunctives, the gooey, Godly ones, the shameless, witless ones.
I lustily chanted some of those slogans and lived by others. There is nothing ironic about being a crackhead and a drunk, or recovery from same. Low-bottom addiction is its own burlesque, a theater of the absurd that needs no snarky annotation. Unless a person is willing to be terminally, frantically earnest, all hope is lost. The Night of the GunBut, let us be clear: the slogans worked for David not because they demonstrably hooked him up with supernatural powers. They worked because they helped him recover a sense of his own powers of will, when reliably supported and sponsored by a steadfast community of friends. They put him back in touch with his and their humanity.
David describes himself as a believing, practicing Catholic. I don't question the sincerity of his faith. I simply observe that it demarcates his path, not everyone's. Not mine. There are many routes to sobriety, health, and happiness.
I think the genius of Bill Wilson's program lies in allowing its practitioners just enough latitude to let those slogans and affirmations mean what they need to mean, to those individuals. It is a natural fact about most of us that, with a little help from our friends (or a lot) we sometimes can correct our worst errors, redirect our self-destructive impulses, repair our relationships, and overcome our addictions. For some, a secular approach affirming personal will and responsibility works better than turning it all over to unseen nonhuman powers.
So, Pluralism plus Pragmatism is still my soppy slogan.
But, by the way: Bill Wilson did not understand atheism.
I was not an atheist. Few people really are, for that means blind faith in the strange proposition that this universe originated in a cipher and aimlessly rushes nowhere. AA Big Book"Blind faith" going "nowhere"? No, not me, not us, not over here on the naturally sunny side of life. Our eyes are open wide, and we're going to the Series.