Beliefnet

I love a good pissing match. Gore or Bush? Life or Choice? Smoking or Nonsmoking? Cash or Charge?

To channel-surf through a season of debates between world-leader wannabees, shouting pundits, finger-wagging consultants, big-time wrestlers, and football games suits my pathologies all too well. We love--let me say, I

love--the smell of contention in the morning, diverting us as it does from our own, internal fights.

A.A.: The Biggest Religion You Never Hear About

  • The Stealth Religion
    By Gregg Easterbrook
  • Court-ordered Religion
    By Charles Bufe
  • Well down the food chain of such imbroglios, but no less compelling to the likes of me, is the nicely packaged question that turns up every now and then on late-night TV or talk-radio or the op-ed pages, to wit: Alcoholics Anonymous--Cult or Cure?

    I love the crisp, monosyllabic alliteration of the question, its either-or-ness, its dark portent. There's a biblical or at least a Pauline quality to it, like Sex--Better to Marry Than to Burn?

    Or Salvation--Faith or Works?

    Or maybe Male Members--To Circumcise or Not?

    Now, just like St. Paul, I like the sound of my own voice in my own mouth and better still in the ears of others. And, like Paul, I'm not always clear on whether I'm a Jew or a Roman or a Christian or Whatever, but who really cares, because, bottoms up, as long as I keep up my side of the argument, you know, as long as I sound like I'm searching for the truth, in vino veritas,

    I can keep from noticing, and I can keep anyone else from noticing, that I'm beginning to slur my words a little, and I'm making eyes at the waitress, and I'm spending much more than I can afford, and I'm getting louder and more certain than I was before, because, you know, we have to grab what little gusto we can, and we only go around once in this life and this one's on me and what's a guy gotta do to get a drink around here? And who the hell are you to tell me when I've had enough? Because what I am really after is another drink and you can shove all the hypotheticals where the moon don't shine because I need a drink and after that I'll need another because that is the only real issue for me because. because.

    Because what I am is alcoholic. Whenever I drink, I drink like a drunk. And when I'm drinking like one, there's no room in my life for any other considerations--not love or grief or family or work and certainly not these sappy damn rhetorical questions, except insofar as they provide a little cover for the one overwhelming fact of my life, which is that I'm alcoholic and I need a drink because I'm alcoholic and I need a drink because I'm alcoholic and did I mention that I need a drink? Do you see how it works? A logic that circles back on itself, like a snake eating its own tail, like a maelstrom turning towards your disappearance, like a quicksand against which the more you fight, the faster you sink. Like a black hole, a sadness, a sickness, an end.

    But today I'm not drinking like one. Nor was I yesterday, nor the day before, nor any other day for going on 12 years now. I'd have to say I owe this sobriety to Alcoholics Anonymous. Because as long as I've been going to A.A., I haven't had to take a drink. So today I can consider the question at hand.

    A.A.: The Biggest Religion You Never Hear About

  • The Stealth Religion
    By Gregg Easterbrook
  • Court-ordered Religion
    By Charles Bufe
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