I Had No Other
Recourse Than God
Mike

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"I took a vow to myself that I would try to find out what's really happening, and if I discovered something -- no matter how I felt about what I learned, I would accept what I discovered as fact. We can do a lot less when it comes to discovering truth, but I think nobody can do more: follow truth wherever it may lead. That's all I do. That's all I can do."

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Mike"
Date: April 10, 2002 9:21 PM

Now that you bring it up, what I want to know from you is this:

1. Have you been able to eliminate as demonstrably false all other possible explanations for your experience? In other words, can you know that you are not mistaken when you say that it's God who did this?
 

2. I'd also be curious to hear speculation as to why you needed to be in such dire straits, in such an emotionally vulnerable condition, when even a Boy Scout could have induced a conversion experience in you? Why didn't God wait until you had everything going right for you, when you wouldn't have been nearly as likely to hand over your autonomy as you were when you were vulnerable, and most likely to follow anything that even hinted at a solution?

Should I be impressed by the "power" of a God Whose followers all came to Him when their backs were against the wall, when they had no choice but to surrender to Him? Is there something to be respected about a God Who, when His servants come forward to give their testimonies, each servant, one after the other, almost as if on cue, stands before the microphone and tells us sordid tales of emotional collapse, of people being rendered powerless either by their own misdeeds or by the rugged elements of this cruel world? of being given no choice but to "come to God"?

What could I possibly expect from a God Whose followers came to believe as the result of their having been exposed to sophisticated indoctrination techniques? I want to change, to be sure, but I want that change to come from within. Why should I want to trust God to change me from within when all of His servants emerge each uttering the same thing: nuance for nuance, syllable for syllable, note for note identical not only one to the other but all to the Instructor's Manual?
 

Right now I wish I could believe there was a God. I wish I had a God to comfort me, to reassure me that there is reason, deliberation, intent behind everything that happens to me. I wish I had a God to give me hope that I will be vindicated for the injustices inflicted against me. I wish I had a God to vindicate me against those who, for selfish reasons, either deliberately or negligently, have taken from me my very love for humanity by the evil they have rendered unto me. I wish I had a God to vindicate me against those who, because of what they've done to me and because they are human, have caused me to fear and distrust all humans, because I now know that any human is capable of utterly destroying my love for even life itself. I wish I had a God who could do all those things for me, because I don't see how these things could ever come through natural means. Without a God to effect these changes, I don't see how I could do anything but remain as I am, cowering in fear of the next pair of eyes that fixes its gaze upon me.

I used to write a column that celebrated humanity, that celebrated life. How can I do that and still tell the truth? At this moment I am going through probably the lowest point of my life. It's all I can do simply to make these fingers move up and down to the jagged rhythm of my thoughts and ideas. As such, I am extremely vulnerable to being taken advantage of, not only by others, but by my own passions, by my own appetite for fulfillment, by my own fertile imagination which seeks a pattern in what has no logical sequence, which seeks meaning in what cannot be explained because it has no design, no pattern, no direction, no focus, no reason.

The first Mormon or Jehovah's Witness or Christian or Buddhist or Muslim or Scientologist who knocks on my door would indeed have ripe pickings in me, because I am in exactly that state where just the right word, the right look in the eye, two seemingly unrelated things coinciding in an "irrefutable" way could push me off the precipice and watch me tumble through the tunnel into the void, toward that point of light, only to emerge a different person. This is what's known as a religious conversion experience.

But I don't want that. I want me!
 

3. Finally, when you were young, were you trained to call on God when you were in trouble? or did your parents, etc., teach you to try to work things out?

My parents taught me to work things out myself. I had to first try to solve the problem by myself, according to my own personal values and in line with how I see things. Most importantly, my solution, my decision, anyway, had to be in line with what I was willing to live with as the consequences of my actions. If that didn't cut it, I was to call upon the aid of someone who cares about me (not just some disinterested third party). If the two of us couldn't handle it, I could enlist the advice of experienced people (professionals). Then and only then was I allowed to accept this as my lot.

None of us ever heard of God until we were well into High School.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six-and-a-half years of service
    to people with no reason to believe

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Mike"
Date: April 12, 2002 9:05 AM
 

The former is acceptable because I am satisfied that the former at least exists. Whether or not they will respond or will succeed upon responding is anybody's guess, but they at least exist.

To "call upon the aid of God" is, to me, indistinguishable from calling upon the aid of nothing -- unless and until I have sufficient reason to think that "God" even exists.

To obtain a firsthand understanding of what the concept of "prayer" means to me, walk up to a telephone pole and fervently ask the pole for something tangible. Be fully convinced that the pole can hear you and that the pole will respond to your request.
 

I spent eleven years teaching people how to quit drinking. My first recommendation is to stop using the word alcoholism, as it is a meaningless folkloric term that cannot be defined. (In lieu of the words alcoholism and alcoholic use the terms heavy drinking and heavy drinker.)

This is not a disease for which you can provide me a list of symptoms that I can find useful to determine who is and is not an "alcoholic." Instead, think of addiction as a habit or chemical dependency that is unwanted by the individual. Do not think that I or anybody else can determine for you if you are addicted: only you can make this determination. Do you want to stop but find yourself going back to it? If so, then you're addicted.

Using the word alcoholism will only serve to frustrate you and hinder your attempts to solve what your real problem is: a desire to have fun that does not care that the cost of this form of entertainment is way outside your current budget.

Having been shown this, you have somehow convinced yourself that this is not simply a matter of fun, but that you actually "need" this stuff. Thus my second recommendation is that you take the word "need" out of your vocabulary. Do not use this word at all for at least the next year. You don't even need to stay alive for the next year. You fervently desire to do so, but this is not a need and the possibility exists that you might not stay alive for a full year.

Another concept that will thwart your prospects for success (and part of your brain wants you to fail in your quest to abstain) is the that of "trying to quit." Nobody is ever trying to quit anything: this is impossible. What you are talking about is not doing something. Thus, you are saying that you are trying to not do something! The absurdity of this is shown when you tell yourself to try not to lift up that table over there. Are you trying not to lift it up? Sound silly? That's because it is silly! very silly! The way to accomplish the act of not doing something is simply to refrain from doing it. The act of not doing something (such as putting alcohol into your body) is not just easy, it is absolutely effortless.

The first thing to do is to decide whether or not you have any business drinking. If you think it is in your overall, big-picture, best interest never to drink again, then there is your answer: from this answer, you can derive and establish your very own alcohol use policy: I do not drink alcohol.

Now, a part of your brain will balk at this notion. It thinks that you need this stuff, this "buzz," in order to survive. It has been known to actually use language like, "I'm going to die if I don't get some!" Have you heard that? coming from your own brain? if not the word die then some similarly dire consequence?

The part of the brain that establishes our appetites is a small bump on the brainstem. The part of the brain that establishes the conscious, aware Self, the part which knows better, consists of about 80 percent of the brain's mass. This is also the part of the brain that controls the voluntary muscles, such as the arms and lips. The bump on the brain stem does not control any voluntary muscles at all, but only those involuntary muscles required for automatic breathing should you attempt to hold your breath till you turn blue, like a child might do if she wasn't getting her way with Mom.

Thus, if the bump on the brainstem thinks that it needs alcohol, that it has an appetite for copping a buzz, it has no power to satisfy that urge. The appetite center is powerless to satisfy its own appetites! Instead, it must appeal to you in order to have its way with you! The appetite center must somehow convince you to engage your voluntary muscles and bring about the act of procuring and ingesting alcohol. Unless and until it can talk you into it, nothing at all will happen. The appetite center will simply jump up and down and yell and scream and throw a fit and hold its breath till it turns blue. It will not take a drink. It cannot take a drink unless it can somehow talk you into it.

It does, however, remember what has worked in the past. Thus, you can safely assume that any idea that advocates any future use of alcohol -- ever -- is a lie. You can be sure that this idea is coming directly from that bump on the brainstem, which lacks the cognitive capacity to foresee the consequences of future drink. The bump on the brain stem does not know any better. It knows only one thing: desire.

You, on the other hand, do know better. You demonstrated this when you answered the question, "Do you have any business drinking?" If not, then there is your policy.

Does showing you that the part of your brain that wants to drink is powerless help you see that you not only can, but should put this policy into practice?

How about if I told you that that bump on the brain stem is not really "You"? Well, it's "you" in the same sense that your hand is "you" because your hand is part of your body. But your hand is by no means the "You" that I'm talking about: your conscious, aware "Self." It is your conscious, aware "Self" which controls all other parts of the body -- except the automatic functions such as breathing when you try to turn blue.

There is one other function which the conscious, aware "Self" does not control and that is the appetite center. This is not a part of your brain that is part of "You" and thus is not a part of the brain that you can simply "turn off" like a speaker on a radio. The appetite center is there for a reason: if you're a creationist (and I assume you are), then God put your appetite center there for good reason: it's conceivable that you might get distracted and forget to eat! Sex is also tied into this function.

Somewhere along the line, you taught this center to have an appetite for alcohol, to think that it needs alcohol and that it will die if it does not get some. Perhaps this happened when you drank too much at too early an age, or perhaps the tendency to become this way after consuming certain amounts of alcohol is genetic. Perhaps you got this way from painting the car (as comic Lenny Bruce might say): we don't know and, frankly, we don't care. The point is that you got it and the reality is that you gotta deal with it.

This little "voice" in your head is going to yell and whine and connive and throw fits. Get used to it. It won't kill you -- not like continued use of alcohol will! I have tinnitus, and recently acquired the full bouquet of sounds, from the running faucet and the leaky air hose to the guns and bells and gongs and flat tires and even Mom calling out my name! In addition, the basic "ringing" or "buzzing" is now louder than anything else I normally encounter, except the airport and a rock and roll show. There's nothing I can do.

The choice is now yours. The choice is yours because I just gave you all the information you need to solve this problem forever: make a decision and invoke the use of your voluntary muscles to control your actions. Your involuntary appetites cannot move your arms but must first convince you to do this.

For more information, contact Rational Recovery, whose web site can be found in any search engine. They are not a program with meetings, but they have a web site and a book. I just gave you my current understanding of their method, which I used for seven years to help thousands of people learn how to control themselves through planned, permanent abstinence. There's more, but all that really entails is different ways to state what I have already told you (in case you didn't quite grasp what I said here). I also wrote one of the most highly acclaimed descriptions of RR's methods, a pamphlet titled "The Chocolate Easter Beast."

If you have any questions, fire away. You will always have problems, but this does not have to be one of them.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six-and-a-half years of service
    to people with no reason to believe

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