We Agnostics (comparison)

Comparing “We Agnostics” to the original manuscript for our Basic Text


Comparison Format — Colors appear here only and are — — not used in the actual comparisons. — Words above brackets are from the pre-publication version. < Bracketed copy is from our Basic Text as it reads today. > ~ Format Examples ~
Rarely have we < RARELY HAVE WE > seen a person fail who has thoroughly directions followed our < path >...
~ ~ ~
Now we think you can take it! < — — — — — > Here are the steps we took...
~ ~ ~
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our — — — — — — < conscious > contact with God < as we understood Him >...
~ ~ ~


Chapter 4 < Chapter 4 > WE AGNOSTICS
In the preceding , < IN THE PRECEDING > chapters < > you have learned something of alcoholism. We hope we have made clear the non-alcoholic distinction between the alcoholic and the < nonalcoholic >. If, when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit , entirely, or if < > when drinking, you have little control over the amount you take, you are probably alcoholic. If that be the case, you may be suffering from an illness which only a spiritual experience will conquer. To one who feels he is an atheist or agnostic such an experience seems impossible, but to continue as he is means disaster < , > especially if he is an alcoholic of the hell hopeless variety. To be doomed to an alcoholic < death > be "saved" – or < to live on a spiritual basis are > not < always > easy alternatives to face. But it isn't so difficult. About half of our < original > fellowship were of exactly that type. At first some of us tried to avoid the issue, hoping against hope we were not true alcoholics. But after a while we had to face the fact that we must find a spiritual basis of life – or else. Perhaps it is going to be that fifty way with you. But cheer up, something like < half > of us thought we were atheists or agnostics. Our experience shows that you need not be disconcerted. , If a mere code of morals < > or a better philosophy of life were sufficient to overcome alcoholism, many of us

 


                                                           45 

would have recovered long ago.  But we found that such        
codes and philosophies did not save us, no matter how         
much we tried.  We could wish to be moral, we could wish      
to be philosophically comforted, in fact, we could will       
these things with all our might, but the needed power         
wasn't there.  Our human resources, as marshalled by the      
will, were not sufficient; they failed utterly.               

     Lack of power, that was our dilemma.  We had to find     
                                                   A Power    
a power by which we could live, and it had to be < a Power >  
  Greater than Ourselves                                      
< greater than ourselves >.  Obviously.  But where            
and how were we to find this Power?                           

     Well, that's exactly what this book is about.  Its main  
object is to enable you to find a Power greater than your-    
      ,                                                       
self < > which will solve your problem.  That means we have   
written a book which we believe to be spiritual as well as    
moral.  And it means, of course, that we are going to talk    
about God.  Here difficulty arises with agnostics.  Many      
times we talk to a new man and watch his hope rise as we      
discuss his alcoholic problems and explain our fellowship.    
But his face falls when we speak of spiritual matters,        
especially when we mention God, for we have re-opened a       
subject which our man thought he had neatly evaded or         
entirely ignored.                                             

     We know how he feels.  We have shared his honest doubt   
and prejudice.  Some of us have been violently anti-religious.
To others, the word "God" brought up a particular idea of Him 
                                           us                 
with which someone had tried to impress < them > during child-
hood.  Perhaps we rejected this particular conception because 
it seemed inadequate.  With that rejection we imagined we had 
abandoned the God idea entirely.  We were bothered            


 


 46                                                           

with the thought that faith and dependence upon a Power       
beyond ourselves was somewhat weak, even cowardly.  We        
looked upon this world of warring individuals, warring        

theological systems, < and > inexplicable calamity, with      
deep skepticism.  We looked askance at many individuals       
who claimed to be godly.  How could a Supreme Being have      
anything to do with it all?  And who could comprehend a       
Supreme Being anyhow?  Yet, in other moments, we found        
                                       the                    
ourselves thinking, when enchanted by < a > starlit night,    
"Who, then, made all this?"  There was a feeling of awe       
and wonder, but it was fleeting and soon lost.                

     Yes, we of agnostic temperament have had these thoughts  
and experiences.  Let us make haste to reassure you.  We      
found that as soon as we were able to lay aside prejudice and 
express even a willingness to believe in a Power greater than 
ourselves, we commenced to get results, even though it was    
impossible for any of us to fully define or comprehend that   
Power, which is God.                                          

     Much to our relief, we discovered we did not need to     
consider another's conception of God.  Our own conception,    
however inadequate, was sufficient to make the approach and   
to effect a contact with Him.  As soon as we admitted the     
                                                 A            
possible existence of a Creative Intelligence, < a > Spirit   
of the Universe underlying the totality of things, we began   
to be possessed of a new sense of power and direction,        
provided we took other simple steps.  We found that God does  

not make < too > hard terms with those who seek Him.  To us,  

the Realm of Spirit is broad, roomy, all inclusive; never     

exclusive or forbidding < to those who earnestly seek >.      
It is open, we believe, to all men.                           


 


                                                           47 

     When, therefore, we speak to you of God, we mean your    
own conception of God.  This applies, too, to other spiritual 
expressions which you find in this book.  Do not let any      
prejudice you may have against spiritual terms deter you from 
honestly asking yourself what they mean to you.               
                    is all you will need                      
At the start, this < was all we needed  > to commence         
                              your                            
spiritual growth, to effect < our > first conscious           
                   ,       you understand                     
relation with God < > as < we understood > Him.  Afterward,   
 you will find yourself                                       
<  we found ourselves  > accepting many things which          
    now seem                                    is            
< then seemed > entirely out of reach.  That < was >          
                you are going           , you have            
growth, but if <  we wished  > to grow <   we had > to        
                            use your                          
to begin somewhere.  So < we used our > own conception,       
                    may be                                    
however limited it < was  >.                                  

           You need ask yourself                              
     < We needed to ask ourselves > but one short question.   
"Do I now believe, or am I even willing to believe, that      
there is a Power greater than myself?"  As soon as a man      
can say that he does believe, or is willing to believe, we    
emphatically assure him that he is on his way.  It has been   
repeatedly proven among us that upon this simple cornerstone  
a wonderfully effective spiritual structure can be built.     

     That was great news to us, for we had assumed we could   
not make use of spiritual principles unless we accepted many  
things on faith which seemed difficult to believe.  When      
people presented us with spiritual approaches, how frequently 
did we all say, "I wish I had what that man has.  I'm sure it 
would work if I could only believe as he be- lieves.  But I   
cannot accept as surely true the many articles of faith which 
are so plain to him."  So it was comforting to learn that we  
could commence at a simpler level.                            

     Besides a seeming inability to accept much on faith,     


 


 48                                                           

we often found ourselves handicapped by obstinacy, sensitive- 
ness, and unreasoning prejudice.  Many of us have been so     
touchy that even casual reference to spiritual things made us 
bristle with antagonism.  This sort of thinking had to be     
abandoned.  Though some of us resisted, we found no great     
difficulty in casting aside such feelings.  Faced with alco-  
holic destruction, we soon became as open minded on spiritual 
matters as we had tried to be on other questions.  In this    
respect alcohol was a great persuader.  It finally beat us    
into a state of reasonableness.  Sometimes this was a tedious 

process; we hope no one will be prejudiced < for > as long as 
some of us were.                                              

     The reader may still ask why he should believe in        
a Power greater than himself.  We think there are good        
reasons.  Let us have a look at some of them.                 

     The practical individual of today is a stickler for facts
and results.  Nevertheless, the twentieth century readily     
accepts theories of all kinds, provided they are firmly       
grounded in fact.  We have numerous theories, for example,    
about electricity.  Everybody believes them with out a murmur 
of doubt.  Why this ready acceptance?  Simply because it is   
impossible to explain what we see, feel, direct, and use,     
without a reasonable assumption as a starting point.          

     Everybody nowadays, believes in scores of assumptions    
for which there is good evidence, but no perfect visual proof.
And does not science demonstrate that visual proof is the     
weakest proof?  It is being constantly revealed, as mankind   
studies the material world, that outward appearances are not  
inward reality at all.  To illustrate:                        

     The prosaic steel girder is a mass of electrons          


 


                                                           49 

whirling around each other at incredible speed.  These tiny   
bodies are governed by precise laws, and these laws hold true 
throughout the material world.  Science tells us so.  We have 
no reason to doubt it.  When, however, the perfectly logical  
assumption is suggested that underneath the material world    
 ,                                                            
< > and life as we see it, there is an All Powerful, Guiding, 
Creative Intelligence, right there our perverse streak comes  
to the surface and we laboriously set out to convince our-    
selves it isn't so.  We read wordy books and indulge in windy 
arguments, thinking we believe this universe needs no God to  
explain it.  Were our contentions true, it would follow that  
life originated out of nothing, means nothing, and proceeds   
nowhere.                                                      

     Instead of regarding ourselves as intelligent agents,    
spearheads of God's ever advancing Creation, we agnostics     
and atheists chose to believe that our human intelligence     
was the last word, the alpha and the omega, the beginning     
and end of all.  Rather vain of us, wasn't it?                

     We, who have traveled this dubious path, beg you to      
lay aside prejudice, even against organized religion.  We     
have learned that whatever the human frailties of various     
faiths may be, those faiths have given purpose and direction  
to millions.  People of faith have a logical idea of what     
life is all about.  Actually, we used to have no reasonable   
                                                  as we       
conception whatever.  We used to amuse ourselves < by  >      
             dissected                                        
cynically < dissecting > spiritual beliefs and practices      
    ;                                                         
< when > we might have observed that many spiritually-minded  
persons of all races, colors, and creeds were demonstrating   
a degree of stability, happiness and usefulness which we      
should have sought ourselves.                                 


 


 50                                                           

     Instead, we looked at the human defects of these people, 
and sometimes used their shortcomings as a basis of wholesale 
condemnation.  We talked of intolerance, while we were        
intolerant ourselves.  We missed the reality and the beauty   
of the forest because we were diverted by the ugliness of     
some of its trees.  We never gave the spiritual side of life  
a fair hearing.                                               

              the                 which follow                
     In < our personal > stories <            > you will      

find < a > wide variation in the way each teller approaches   

and conceives of the Power which is greater than himself.     
          you                                                 
Whether < we > agree with a particular approach or conception 

seems to make little difference.  Experience has taught < us >

that these are matters about which, for our purpose, we need  
not be worried.  They are questions for each individual to    
settle for himself.                                           

     On one proposition, however, these men and women are     
strikingly agreed.  Every one of them has gained access to,   
and believes in, a Power greater than himself.  This Power    
has in each case accomplished the miraculous, the humanly     
                                                  puts        
impossible.  As a celebrated American statesman < put > it,   
"Let's look at the record."                                   

                 one hundred                                  
     Here are < thousands of > men and women, worldly         
 and sophisticated                                to you      
<                 > indeed.  They flatly declare <      >     
that since they have come to believe in a Power greater than  
themselves, to take a certain attitude toward that Power, and 
to do certain simple things, there has been a revolutionary   
                                              They tell you   
change in their way of living and thinking.  <             >  
 that in                                                      
<   In  > the face of collapse and despair, in the face of    

the total failure of their human resources, < they found >    
             Power                                            
that a new < power >, peace, happiness, and sense of direction
 has                                                          
<   > flowed into them.  This happened soon after they whole- 
heartedly met a few simple requirements.  Once                


 


                                                           51 

confused and baffled by the seeming futility of existence,    
      will        you                                         
they <    > show <   > the underlying reasons why they were   

making heavy going of life.  Leaving aside the drink question,
                                                   will       
they tell why living was so unsatisfactory.  They <    > show 
 you                                          one hundred     
<   > how the change came over them.  When < many hundreds >  
               , much like you,                               
< of > people <                > are able to say that < the > 
                   The                                        
consciousness of < the > Presence of God is today the most    

important fact of their lives, they present a powerful reason 
     you too                                                  
why <  one  > should have faith.                              

     This world of ours has made more material progress in the
last century than in all the millenniums which went before.   
Almost everyone knows the reason.  Students of ancient history
tell us that the intellect of men in those days was equal to  
the best of today.  Yet in ancient times material progress    
was painfully slow.  The spirit of modern scientific inquiry, 
research and invention was almost unknown.  In the realm of   
the material, men's minds were fettered by superstition,      
                                                 The          
tradition, and all sorts of fixed ideas.  < Some of the >     

contemporaries of Columbus thought a round earth preposterous.
        like them                                             
Others <         > came near putting Galileo to death for his 
astronomical heresies.                                        

        But ask yourself            are                       
     < We asked ourselves > this: < Are > not some of us just 
as biased and unreasonable about the realm of the spirit as   
were the ancients about the realm of the material?  Even in   
the present century, American newspapers were afraid to print 
                           Brothers'                          
an account of the Wright < brothers' > first successful flight
      Kittyhawk                                               
at < Kitty Hawk >.  Had not all efforts at flight failed be-  
                                    absurd                    
fore?  Did not Professor Langley's <      > flying machine go 
                               river                          
to the bottom of the Potomac < River >?  Was it not true that 
the best mathematical minds had proved man could never fly?   
Had not people said God had reserved this privilege to the    


 


 52                                                           

birds?  Only thirty years later the conquest of the air was   
almost an old story and airplane travel was in full swing.    

     But in most fields our generation has witnessed complete 
liberation of our thinking.  Show any longshoreman a Sunday   
supplement describing a proposal to explore the moon by means 
of a rocket and he will say, "I bet they do it – maybe not    
so long either."  Is not our age characterized by the ease    
with which we discard old ideas for new, by the complete      
readiness with which we throw away the theory or gadget which 
does not work for something new which does?                   

     We had to ask ourselves why we shouldn't apply to our    
                                               the            
human problems this same readiness to change < our > point    
of view.  We were having trouble with personal relation-      
ships, we couldn't control our emotional natures, we were     
a prey to misery and depression, we couldn't make a living,   
we had a feeling of uselessness, we were full of fear, we     
were unhappy, we couldn't seem to be of real help to other    
                                        this bedevilment      
people – was not a basic solution of < these bedevilments >   
more important than whether we should see newsreels of lunar  
flight?  Of course it was.                                    

     When we saw others solve their problems by < a > simple  
                              this universe                   
reliance upon the Spirit of < the Universe >, we had to stop  
doubting the power of God.  Our ideas did not work.  But the  
God idea did.                                                 

                  Brothers'                                   
     The Wright < brothers' > almost childish faith that they 
could build a machine which would fly was the mainspring of   
their accomplishment.  Without that, nothing could have hap-  
pened.  We agnostics and atheists were sticking to the idea   
that self-sufficiency would solve our problems.  When others  
showed us that "God-sufficiency"                              


 


                                                           53 

worked with them, we began to feel like those who had         
insisted the Wrights would never fly.                         

     Logic is great stuff.  We liked it.  We still like it.   
It is not by chance we were given the power to reason, to     
examine the evidence of our senses, and to draw conclusions.  
That is one of man's magnificent attributes.  We agnostically 
inclined would not feel satisfied with a proposal which does  
not lend itself to reasonable approach and interpretation.    
Hence we are at pains to tell you why we think our present    
faith is reasonable, why we think it more sane and logical    
to believe than not to believe, why we say our former think-  
ing was soft and mushy when we threw up our hands in doubt    
and said, "We don't know."                                    

     When we became alcoholics, crushed by a self-imposed     
crisis we could not postpone or evade, we had to fearlessly   
face the proposition that either God is everything or else    
He is nothing.  God either is, or He isn't.  What was our     
choice to be?                                                 

     Arrived at this point, we were squarely confronted with  
the question of faith.  We couldn't duck the issue.  Some of  
us had already walked far over the Bridge of Reason toward the
desired shore of faith.  The outlines and the promise of the  
New Land had brought lustre to tired eyes and fresh courage   
to flagging spirits.  Friendly hands had stretched out in     
welcome.  We were grateful that Reason had brought us so far. 
But somehow, we couldn't quite step ashore.  Perhaps we had   
been leaning too heavily on Reason that last mile and we did  
not like to lose our support.                                 

     That was natural, but let us think a little more         
closely.  Without knowing it, had we not been brought         
to where we stood by a certain kind of faith?  For did        


 


 54                                                           

we not believe in our own reasoning? Did we not have confi-   
dence in our ability to think?  What was that but a sort of   
faith?  Yes, we had been faithful, abjectly faithful to the   
God of Reason.  So, in one way or another, we discovered      
that faith had been involved all the time!                    

     We found < , > too, that we had been worshippers.        
What a state of mental goose-flesh that used to bring on!     
Had we not variously worshipped people, sentiment, things,    
money, and ourselves?  And then, with a better motive,        
had we not worshipfully beheld the sunset, the sea, or a      
flower?  Who of us had not loved something or somebody?       
How much did these feelings, these loves, these worships,     
have to do with pure reason?  Little or nothing, we saw       
at last.  Were not these things the tissue out of which       
our lives were constructed?  Did not these feelings,          
after all, determine the course of our existence?  It         
was impossible to say we had no capacity for faith, or        
love, or worship.  In one form or another we had been         
living by faith and little else.                              

     Imagine life without faith!  Were nothing left but       
pure reason, it wouldn't be life.  But we believed in life –  
of course we did.  We could not prove life in the sense       
that you can prove a straight line is the shortest distance   
                     :                                        
between two points < , > yet, there it was.  Could we still   
say the whole thing was nothing but a mass of electrons,      
created out of nothing, meaning nothing, whirling on to a     
destiny of nothingness?  Of course we couldn't.  The          
electrons themselves seemed more intelligent than that.       
At least, so the chemist said.                                

     Hence, we saw that reason isn't everything.  Neither     
is reason, as most of us use it, entirely dependable,         


 


                                                           55 

though it emanate from our best minds.  What about people     
who proved that man could never fly?  Yet we had been seeing  
another kind of flight, a spiritual liberation from this      
world, people who rose above their problems.  They said God   
made these things possible, and we only smiled.  We had seen  
spiritual release, but liked to tell ourselves it wasn't true.

     Actually we were fooling ourselves, for deep down in     
every man, woman, and child, is the fundamental idea of God.  
It may be obscured by calamity, by pomp, by worship of other  
things, but in some form or other it is there.  For faith in  
a Power greater than ourselves, and miraculous demonstrations 
of that power in human lives, are facts as old as man himself.

     We finally saw that faith in some kind of God was a part 
of our make-up, just as much as the feeling we have for a     
friend.  Sometimes we had to search fearlessly, but He was    
                                            And we are sure   
there.  He was as much a fact as we were.  <               >  
 you will find                                       you      
<  We found   > the Great Reality deep down within < us >.    

In the last analysis it is only there that He may be found.   
                   ; why not with you?                        
It was so with us < .                 >                       

                                         for you              
     We can only clear the ground a bit <       >.  If        
our testimony helps sweep away prejudice, enables you to      
think honestly, encourages you to search diligently within    
                    you will have joined us                   
yourself, then < , if you wish, you can join > us on the      

Broad Highway.  With this attitude you cannot fail.  The      
               that you do believe                            
consciousness <   of your belief  > is sure to come to you.   

     In this book you will read the experience of a man       
who thought he was an atheist.  His story is so interesting   
that some of it should be told now.  His change of heart      
was dramatic, convincing, and moving.                         


 


 56                                                           

     Our friend was a minister's son.  He attended church     
school, where he became rebellious at what he thought an      
overdose of religious education.  For years thereafter he     
was dogged by trouble and frustration.  Business failure,     
insanity, fatal illness, suicide – these calamities in his    
immediate family embittered and depressed him.  Post-war      
disillusionment, ever more serious alcoholism, impending      
mental and physical collapse, brought him to the point of     
self-destruction.                                             

     One night < , > when confined in a hospital, he was app- 
roached by an alcoholic who had known a spiritual experience. 
Our friend's gorge rose as he bitterly cried out: "If there   
                                                     .        
is a God, He certainly hasn't done anything for me < ! >"     
But later, alone in his room, he asked himself this question: 
"Is it possible that all the religious people I have known    
                                         ,                    
are wrong?"  While pondering the answer < > he felt as though 

he lived in hell.  Then, like a thunderbolt, a great thought  
                                   WHO ARE YOU TO SAY THERE   
came.  It crowded out all else: "< Who are you to say there > 
  IS NO GOD?                                                  
< is no God? >"                                               

     This man recounts that he tumbled out of bed to his      
knees.  In a few seconds he was overwhelmed by a conviction   
of the Presence of God.  It poured over and through him       
with the certainty and majesty of a great tide at flood.      
The barriers he had built through the years were swept away.  
He stood in the Presence of Infinite Power and Love.  He      
had stepped from bridge to shore.  For the first time, he     
lived in conscious companionship with his Creator.            

     Thus was our friend's cornerstone fixed in place.        
No later vicissitude has shaken it.  His alcoholic problem    
                                  three                       
was taken away.  That very night <  ,  > years ago < , > it   


 


                                                           57 
                                                          ,   
disappeared.  Save for a few brief moments of temptation < >  
the thought of drink has never returned; and at such times    
a great revulsion has risen up in him.  Seemingly he could    
not drink even if he would.  God had restored his sanity.     

     What is this but a miracle of healing?  Yet its          
elements are simple.  Circumstances made him willing          
to believe.  He humbly offered himself to his Maker –         
then he knew.                                                 

     Even so has God restored us all to our right minds.      
                   Revelation                                 
To this man, the < revelation > was sudden.  Some of us       
grow into it more slowly.  But He has come to all who have    
honestly sought Him.                                          

            Draw                   and      will disclose     
     < When we drew > near to Him <   > He <  disclosed  >    
             you                                              
Himself to < us >!                                            


e-aa discussion of We Agnostics