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Abstinence is a big part of why I'm not Mormon. It's hard to relate to teetotalers. My people are Irish/Australian; I can't get my head around the idea of cultures that don't drink. When do they let their their id off the leash?

I once stopped drinking for 2 years during a bout of hepatitis, so I can understand non-drinking for reasons of poor health. I also understand drinking for reasons of good health: for some of us, alcohol is part of a mental health regime that helps us thrive in the conditions of modern civilization, like iodized salt.

Mostly, I don't understand why anyone would refuse alcohol on religious grounds. The deeper issue is not alcohol, it's about trust. If someone can refuse to drink alcohol for no other reason than because the Almighty forbids it, how can I be sure they won't make other choices that seem random and arbitrary to me?

That's the thing with religious people: they follow a different set of rules. They can eat this, they can't eat that. This day that can't work, that day they have to stay up all night. If you want to get to know a religious person to the level where they don't seem just, well, random and weird, then spending time and sharing activities with them is not enough. To get to know a religious person, you also have to get to know the(ir) Almighty, an entity who usually is not bound by Logic or Reason. Almighty has not introduced his/herself to me and has not answered my calls.

Why would anyone give up their freedom to, say, drink alcohol, in favor of an apparently arbitrary set of rules delivered from on high?

Consider the swimming pool. I love to swim. But I won't stay long in an open pool during public swim on a sunny Saturday afternoon. I might try a few underwater somersaults, or see if I can swim the width underwater on a single breath, but very soon I'll get bored and out. For me, it starts to get interesting with lane ropes. Lane ropes give swimming some sense.

I used to train with a swim squad. We had a coach who set the workouts for us. A typical set might look something like this:
3 x (4 x 75):
#1: free;
#2: 25 choice stroke, 50 free;
#3: 50 choice stroke (same stroke), 25 free;
#4: 75 stroke (same stroke).

The sets often seemed arbitrary. Sometimes Coach Al would tell us to swim lengths without kicking, or only using one arm, or using a limited number of strokes or breaths. The sets were sometimes hard to remember and we would occasionally lose our place. No problem, Coach Al would bark out the next drill from the end of the pool.

I never really understood the method behind these intricate swimming sets, but Coach Al seemed to know what he was doing. All I had to do was follow Coach Al's commands. Giving him control over my workout allowed me to focus on swimming right in the moment. All other concerns washed away. I retain a strong memory of the feeling of liberation I experienced during those punishing swim squad workouts.

Giving myself over to the commands of Al made swimming meaningful and rewarding; Maybe I do understand why someone would hand over their freedom to a higher power. Ideally, every once in a while, you and your higher power should get together after practice and share a drink or three.

If you prefer less introspective fare, my other blog is for the more practical and professionally-minded reader


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