AA Without God

I don’t drink, but I always thought that it was unfortunate that the biggest group for helping alcoholics did so with a very religious outlook. Step 3 of the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Step Program asks members to, “make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understand him.” Your religious beliefs, or lack there of, shouldn’t hinder your attempts to get sober, nor should anyone rely on a mythical being for support… But that is another topic for another day.

Actually, there are some alcoholics being helped by AA WITHOUT the emphasis on God. A group in West Vancouver, BC is apparently joined by groups all over North America who have taken all religious emphasis out of Alcoholics Anonymous’s standard, religious 12 Steps.

Some of these non-theistic members still attend traditional AA meetings, and are tolerant of others’ religious views when discussing the steps, etc. Member George S. said, “I just had to keep my mouth shut about being an atheist at those meetings. I felt dumped on when I mentioned it. Like I wasn’t really a member of their club.” Not only did atheists feel excluded for their views, but the Vancouver administrative body for AA is not being quite as “christian” with their own views. Vancouver AA has removed the atheist-agnostic meetings from their list of regularly held meetings, claiming that a secular version of the 12 Steps does not match their original, religious guidelines. Sorry, I thought the goal was to get sober, however a person can. AA bodies in numerous other cities have supported their atheist sub-groups, keeping the main goal in mind.

AA Agnostica, for instance, is organizing its first international convention. The conference, titled, Many Paths to Recovery, will be Nov. 6 to 8 in Santa Monica, Calif.

Read more about it and the other atheist and agnostic support groups for alcoholics in a great article here, on the Vancouver Sun, by Douglas Todd.

Comments 2

  1. I’m in another 12-step program and we make it very clear that our program is a spiritual – not religious – one. I call my higher power God, but many others in my group talk about their higher power being nature, the power of our group conscience, the universe… whatever it is they want to believe in that is something greater than themselves.

    That being the case, I think there are people and groups who practice the 12 Steps, who make the program a religious one and that makes me uncomfortable, even as someone who believes in God. While I can’t speak for what happens in AA, I can share an experience I had at a convention for my own program where we were asked to share in the Lord’s Prayer at one of the large speaker meetings. I felt it was hypocritical to talk about the spiritual nature of our program and the fact it is not allied with any sect, denomination or religion and yet, we were asked to share in a Christian prayer at the meeting. I didn’t write them about it then, but am going to when I send this.

    I speak from experience when I say 12-step programs like AA, NA, Al-Anon, etc. save lives. “Take what you like and leave the rest” is a phrase we use to encourage people to take from our program what works for them. When it comes to individuals and groups who make the program a religious one, that’s exactly what I do.

    1. Post

      Thanks for sharing. I am all for 12-step programs, and know that sometimes it takes another’s help to overcome certain things in one’s life. I’m glad you were able to find a group that is not religious and that works for you, and I agree that asking you to share in the Lord’s Prayer is pushing it, if they are truly going to be a non-religious group.

      More importantly, I think you have the right attitude about your own faith: you believe in God but are uncomfortable when someone tries to force their beliefs on you or others. That is what we are really about here – believe what you want until it starts to negatively affect anyone else.

      On a separate note that you bring up, I am still on the fence about what spirituality actually means. Today’s blog post will be about that, so please check it out.

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