STEP SIX CONTINUED: Take inventory of ourselves to discover any way in which we have hurt, disappointed, or abused anyone by our religious beliefs.
Instruction: Go beyond religious abuse.
Some might not believe that Step Six applies to them, because they did not grow up in a religious atmosphere. They believe this Step can be overlooked. Many of our biases have roots that were formed in a religious belief system. The Ten Commandments of Judaism and Christianity have formed a major portion of many people’s moral code. Although the first four (having no other gods, no idols, not taking God’s name in vain, and keeping the Sabbath holy) speak more directly to religion, the last six (honoring parents, do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, and do not covet) seem to be more societal in nature and can apply to most cultures. Even though we might consider some of these commandments a moral or societal standard, the fact is that they are also a religious standard by which some religions base what is good and what is evil.
Based on this consideration, when Step Six says to take inventory of ways we have hurt people in the name of religion, we can see that using a moral code to judge and condemn people could be considered a form of religious abuse, especially if our approach is rigid and unbending. When we obey the letter of the law versus the spirit of the law, we open ourselves to the possibility of religious abuse. For instance, a police officer who gave an individual a ticket for going one mile per hour over the posted speed limit would be in keeping with the letter of the law but not necessarily with the spirit of the law, which is basically for drivers to operate their vehicles at a safe speed. Speed limits are not posted by doing exact measuring of traffic and road conditions, but are posted in increments of five (35 mph, 55 mph, and so on). By the same measure, an officer might be within their rights to ticket someone who was driving five miles per hour below the posted speed limit if weather, such as a hail storm or tornado, and traffic dictated that they were operating their vehicle in an unsafe manner. This would be following the spirit of the law. When considering Step Six, it is smart to consider ways in which we have been rigid in our dealings with other people and have overlooked the spirit of the law.
Consider what it means in your world to follow the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law. It is not reasonable to assume a law can be written to cover every detail of a given situation. Although with all the laws in place, it seems as if we have tried to cover every conceivable outcome. The next time you encounter a situation and you wonder about, What is the right thing to do, consider the situation from the viewpoint of the spirit of the law.
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Our purpose is to help individuals to heal who have been injured by religion or the religious. We welcome your comments and questions.