For the most part, I like going to meetings. There is something good about being in a room full of people who are willing to admit that they don’t have all the answers. Not all 12 step groups are like that, granted. I’ve been to my fair share of meetings where the Big Book thumpers are preaching their version of The Answer. That’s about as appealing to me as watching a televangelist.
At the meetings I attend regularly, I get to see a set of friends who know me without my public mask. They care enough about me to call me on my bullshit, even if I act like a jerk when they do. Back when I was a newly converted Catholic trying to find my way to a god that I now know doesn’t exist, they put up with me cussing and pounding the table telling them how full of shit they all were. I’d show up angry and sex-drunk, so ashamed of myself I couldn’t lift my head from the table. They loved me until I could love myself and sent me cards and letters when I was in treatment.
Now that I’m doing well, they’re genuinely happy for me, even though I’m an atheist. I don’t participate in the Lord’s Prayer at the end of the meeting, and I leave off all the “Dear Gods” and “Amens.” I’m not searching for God – the “god of my understanding” is an loose mental picture of my place in the natural universe. Thinking like that gives me a feeling of gratitude and awe, similar to what Ann Druyan describes: Why do we separate the scientific, which is just a way of searching for truth, from what we hold sacred, which are those truths that inspire love and awe? Science is nothing more than a never-ending search for truth. What could be more profoundly sacred than that? I’m sure most of what we all hold dearest and cherish most, believing at this very moment, will be revealed at some future time to be merely a product of our age and our history and our understanding of reality. So here’s this process, this way, this mechanism for finding bits of reality. No single bit is sacred. But the search is.