I still contemplate this question. The intellectual side of me wants to say no God exists, at least not in the traditional Christian sense. But there's a seed of concern in the back of my mind that tells me I need to have a "willingness to believe," to borrow an AA phrase. Why? Because I'm getting old, and the thought of dying with no afterlife in which to bask eternally does not appeal. No one, me included, wants to believe that once you're dead, you're dead, and there's nothing sentient waiting. But I refuse to let a childhood indoctrination into only one religion form my beliefs.
I believe death is just a transformation of energy from one form to another.
The concept of a Higher Power I've used since joining AA has been one of continuous energy: That people are all connected, indeed, everything is connected, as one continuous flow of energy. Some forms of energy are more static than others, like a table, or a tree. Other forms are animated, like animals, humans, etc. And still others are more in the traditional sense of energy; electricity, radiation, gravity. (If this is vaguely reminiscent of string theory, why can't it also be associated with the phrase used often in AA of "God is everything or God is nothing?" If all is energy, and God is everything, then can't energy be God?)
This is a concept in which I can believe. I can visualize myself focusing positive energy in my life, whether that is practicing good deeds, helping others, helping myself, or any other form of good and wholesome activity that culminates in a positive result. (Now that's a subjective concept - good and wholesome activity - if I've ever heard one.)
Where I have difficulty is in anthropomorphizing such a Higher Power into one with a personality and an intrinsic concern for the affairs of my daily life. And I especially have difficulty believing that if such a God exists that it would require humans to worship it! Surely something so powerful and omniscient would not require petty life forms (by comparison) to worship it. I liken it to humans expecting worship from single celled organisms!
I think worship is a construct of religion, which is itself manmade. There are so many religions in the world, all manmade, each with its own set of beliefs, rituals, and expectations. I find it overpoweringly arrogant for one religion to claim superiority over another, but most adherents to any one religion do just that. Religious followers routinely embrace the precepts of their chosen religion as being the one truth. Once again, man is fallible. Religion is manmade; hence religion is fallible.
God, on the other hand, is infallible. Especially if God is everything; all forms of matter, energy, power, etc. But that also means that God doesn't take sides, doesn't choose a particular religion as the one true religion, or, necessarily, is even self-aware!
As I have said many times in AA meetings, if I can believe in the supernatural, or in alien life on other planets, then I should have a willingness to believe in a higher power. After all, I have no proof that God doesn't exist either! And I am no mental titan with the ability to slay all contrary arguments before me. I was never captain of the debate club, and in fact prefer not to defend my beliefs any more than I like having others force theirs upon me.
I am simply striving to solidify some concept of a Higher Power that will serve its place in my life as defined by Alcoholics Anonymous. It has to be a "higher power," something greater than myself, that can help me accomplish what I cannot do alone - achieve and maintain sobriety.
Does my Higher Power:
Require worship? No
Actively and purposefully insinuate itself in my daily life? No
Rely upon manmade religious constructs to exist? No
Require belief in its existence without scientific proof (faith)? No
Expect me to proselytize in order to propagate a belief system? No
Expect me to strive for positive improvement in my life through focus, hard work, and maintaining an open-minded attitude toward the thoughts and beliefs of others? YES!
In order for my Higher Power to serve its purpose in my life, I have to actively engage it! I have to set my frame of mind each day to one of tranquility, calm, and openness. I have to bring positive thought and energy to bear upon the activities that achieve the results I need to stay healthy and sober.
Does my concept of a Higher Power conflict with the program of Alcoholics Anonymous? Not at all. I was put off AA in the beginning by the constant references to God, prayer, miracles, my creator, etc. It took quite a while in my early sobriety to divorce my distaste for organized religion (and religious terminology) from the spirituality of the program. I did finally manage it, however, with the help of friends in AA. My "roll your own" God, or "God as I understand him," is exactly what the spirituality of the AA program is all about.
How has my spirituality improved? By having a willingness to believe in a Higher Power greater than myself. By embracing the idea that not only could my higher power do what I couldn't do, but that each person's Higher Power could do the same for them whether their beliefs aligned with mine or not. As discussed in the chapter We Agnostics in the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous, I had to cast aside my aversion to religious terms and not let such things become obstacles to my own developing need for a Higher Power that suited me.
I eventually began to associate terms such as meditation and prayer with my own efforts to focus on the positive energy I needed in my mind, heart, and life. I am comfortable saying God, reciting prayers (whether I believe in their specific religious connotations or not), and embracing others' beliefs as forms of positive energy that fit perfectly in my concept of a higher power. I do not feel hypocritical in these beliefs, especially not in the context of Alcoholics Anonymous.
It's funny to see my own beliefs prior to AA mirrored in the Big Book. From pages 45-46: "We were bothered with the thought that faith and dependence upon a Power beyond ourselves was somewhat weak, even cowardly." That's exactly how I felt! I thought others who relied on faith in God and/or religion were simply weak and unable to summon the inner strength and willpower to deal with their personal problems without help. How wrong I turned out to be. Such reliance upon their concept of a Higher Power is a strength, not a weakness. After all, isn't it just a form of focusing positive energy, accepting its benefits and following its path as a means of creating and maintaining the right frame of mind to support the activities and spirituality needed for continuous sobriety?
Call it what you will; God, Higher Power, the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, good orderly direction, group of drunks, or a doorknob. If it serves as that which can help you do what you cannot do alone, and it results in quality, continuous sobriety and spiritual fitness, then you are on the path to success and at least a measure of control over your life. So it is with me today. I awaken in the morning and say my morning prayers.
Serenity Prayer (whenever needed!):
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
(Morning) God, please keep me sober today as in all the days since June 29, 2011.
(Evening) God, thank you for keeping me sober today.
(Third Step Prayer, modernized, to focus my thoughts for the day):
God, I offer myself to you to build with me and to do with me as you will. Relieve me of the bondage of self that I may better do your will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of your power, your love, and your way of life. May I do your will always.
And so I return to the original question: Do I believe in God?
Yes, in that God is everything, all the energy in the universe, and the positive flow of which can serve to improve life as we know it. Positive energy, positive actions, positive attitude, and positive thinking produce positive results. Today, with the positive power of God in my life, my sobriety is safe and secure... But just for today. I never take it for granted, because the instant I stop focusing on the positive aspects of my life that keep me sober, I am in danger of drinking again. I am only human, after all, and therefore fallible. How sure am I that I can succeed? POSITIVE!
Location:Oklahoma City, OK