Step 4

While I’m openly not a member of A.A. and don’t explicitly follow their steps, I think part of the difficulty I’m having in feeling like my sobriety is as productive as it could be is that I never did step 4 or 5 (or anything beyond that really but I feel that step 4 is especially important for people to do regularly, even those not in recovery). While listening to a podcast episode between Russell Brand and Jordan Peterson over the last couple of days, I’ve come to find how this may have made me stuck. You can’t fix your house if you don’t know what needs to be fixed in it. Today, then, I’m going to be making my moral inventory.

This is actually hard work. I mentioned to someone yesterday that your mindset doesn’t simply change over time by itself, you need to do real work to change it. Step 4 is part of that work… a big part, probably. To showcase just how difficult this is, I was going to include a short list of my character defects that I feel comfortable sharing in this post but I can only think of one that I’m not horribly embarrassed of (telling white lies).

Of course, part of this exercise is to think about events that happened in your day that made you angry or sad and so on and examine what part you had in those events. I think the point of that is to understand that we are at least somewhat responsible for everything that we feel and we don’t have to act upon negative feelings. If you lie to or insult some people, they may get angry and attack you back but if you do that to me, I curl up into a ball mentally and think “oh my God, they’re right”. Moral inventories are a way past this.

I just wanted to put this up quickly to hold myself accountable today because I want to get a great deal of a page filled before work is out. If I find enough of these defects that I feel comfortable with sharing, that will be tomorrow’s post.

Christianity

I’ll open by saying that I have a lot of Christian friends both here and in the “real world” and so the purpose of this post is not to put anyone’s religion down or be a proposal for what the absolute truth is. This is an examination of my own religion and moral traditions. I don’t think I’ll be offending anyone here but just in case, I wanted to state that up front.

Picture my belief system as a triangle. Each point of the triangle is labelled Catholicism, agnosticism, and atheism. My belief system is almost smack in the center, although it has drifted further from atheism and closer to agnosticism in more recent years. I was a hard-core atheist in my teens and early twenties which isn’t at all surprising if you know that I was also an anti-social misanthrope and occasional extreme-left fascist. My politics are still a topic that will have to be addressed later because we’d have to get into the neo-Nazi movement I joined as a teen and my subsequent years as an anarchist and that just doesn’t fit in this post.

Most White (and probably black) Americans, whether they like it or not, live under a Christian moral code. Freedom of religion is a great ideal but in practice it isn’t a real thing, in my view. America was founded by people who were raised under a Christian ethical system and based on the principles of Christian empires that came before. As such, most of our laws and moral values come from Christianity. I rather enjoy having Christian values; I find them to be enlightening and a true challenge to live by, and we require challenge to thrive.

Morality is the extent of my Christian beliefs. I don’t believe in the Christian idea of God nor do I believe that anyone in the history of mankind could perform miracles. I don’t believe that people once lived to be several hundred years old or that snakes had legs before the Eden Incident. I’m agnostic in that way. I have found, through simply living, that there might be some sort of force out there that can be tapped into to guide us on life’s path. I don’t know if this force has intelligence or if it’s simply how the universe works.

My a-theist beliefs stem from my loose Christianity. I don’t believe that any one religion is superior to any other. We live in a Christian society so we see everything through a Christian lens but if we lived in India or Tibet it might be different. Not worse or better: different. At their core, most religions are designed to give people guiding moral principles by which to live an ethical life which benefits themselves, their families, and their community. In that way, I think that most religions say the same things in different words. I’m not an expert, of course. I’ve only studied Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism. It’s a working theory.

I have rather closed minded friends who ask “what about all the homophobic and racist things in the Bible” and I’m really the wrong person to ask that to. When you’re as loose with your religion as I am, you’re more free to admit that you’re cherry picking the good things from the Bible and throwing the rest in the bin. It’s also an adolescent and unwise argument, in my view. Sure, there are Christians who use the Bible to discriminate against people but they are a minority of illiterate morons who don’t need to be feared.