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Austin Cline

Discussion: Alcoholics Anonymous and Atheists

By November 14, 2006

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A forum member writes: I have come across several people who insist that they can be an atheist, that is a strong atheist who does not acknowledge the existence of any supernatural entity and a member of AA. That is a good program-doing, step working, Big Book believing member of AA. The jump up and down screaming that the two are completely compatible. My stand is that the two are incompatible. It is logically impossible to be both. One or the other.

Do you have any experience with Alcoholics Anonymous and, if so, what is your impression about their religious beliefs? Do you find that atheists can benefit from their program, or is there too much pressure to adopt some sort of theism - any sort, just so long as a person believes in a god? Read More...

August 19, 2006 at 12:59 am
(1) George kalergis says:

copy of my position from another forum for your info….Hello…..I would like to comment on your stance and comments concerning AA as a religion. I have been an AA member for 20+ years. Despite that, I am also of the strong opinion that theism can be a dangerous and certainly delusionary belief. In particular, I believe Christianity (among many religions)is a good example of delusionary belief in an omniscient entity that answers prayers etc. Even though I have been in AA a long time, until recently, I have not really related it to christianity or religion. I don’t know why exactly………. I was just satisfied that it worked for me and that somehow the group conscience/whatever seemed to have been instrumental in relieving my obsession to drink……I came to converse with other AA members about this, seeming higher power, by calling it God…..for me , anyway it was just a way to communicate effectively. It did not seem anything remotely like my (and others of my group) experience with church and organized religion.

I recently read Sam Harris book, “End of Faith”… and was impressed and agreed with much that he presented. That and participating in forums like WWGHA has caused me to re-examine my AA experience and question why it worked for me. For me, there is no question that it works. My personal subjective long experience with thousands like myself from all around the country leave little personal doubt about that. I have read ,but question the validity of “The Orange Papers”….. I suspect it’s sampling, assumptions and definitions were not adequate to really give it validity…..at least not enough validity to invalidate my personal experience to the contrary. It did however, play a part in my current process of re-evaluating my AA experience to understand why it works for me…..why it does not for others and ask myself if the “taint’ of theism is an unfair price to pay for the positive results it has had on my life. And……… does my belief that the group conscience (or whatever you want to call my higher power) make me more vulnerable to slide down the “slippery slope” of theism and put me in a position which somehow invalidates my position to criticize theism or even criticize the fundamentalist the likes of which, caused the crusades, witch burnings and even the religions that advocate flying airplanes into buildings.

I sense in your comments a bias that you don’t want AA to work because if it did, it might threaten in some ways the “pure” atheistic viewpoint that requires scientific proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Let’s take for example your point that AA supports government directed AA attendance because somehow that increase our membership and provides us a valuable recruiting aid. (to increase our profits, building program etc…not sure what) Even though our stated and practiced policy is that “it is a program of attraction, not promotion”…..also, I beleive that it is a pretty well accepted fact that AA is not a “for profit” organization(at least I don’t see any senior executives of any kind driving Jaguars to their mansions(if you have evidence to the contrary, please let me know)…..the fact that we are willing to sign a piece of paper attesting that someone has attended a meeting, is a far cry from supporting “forced AA attendance”…..another of our traditions that is practiced almost without exception is that “AA is not allied with any other organization and encourages not expressing our views at the level of press and media”. All the AA members that I know do not like or encourage mandatory AA attendance ordered by the courts…..if for nothing else, because those that find themselves in the rooms by mandate really are not ready to be there. Willingness to change is a key to overcoming the denial of the practicing alcoholic.Anyway any inference that AA is business for profit, accumulation of money, property and power are not well founded….if you have evidence to the contrary please share that with me.

I think there may be some self interest on your part to discredit AA effectiveness based on your stated mission and goal. I see a somewhat misinformed and biased approach in your presentation of a case to discredit AA.
In any event, as a result of my interaction with atheist groups, I am going to do my own study on the effectiveness of AA……and for my own edification examine why it has worked so well for me and others of my acquaitance….was there a “price” we have paid from the point or our being rational and logical people…..is AA a stepping stone to more fundamental theism? I welcome your suggestions on how to conduct this study, definitions assumptions etc to use in studying attendance and effectiveness etc….Since I am a long time member and “know the secret handshake”, maybe I am in a unique position to objectively do this, I’ll keep you informed.


George Kalergis

August 19, 2006 at 7:17 am
(2) atheism says:

I sense in your comments a bias that you don’t want AA to work because if it did, it might threaten in some ways the “pure” atheistic viewpoint that requires scientific proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

That’s a a pretty serious accusation. Can you provide any comments of mine which support your claim?

I think there may be some self interest on your part to discredit AA effectiveness based on your stated mission and goal. I see a somewhat misinformed and biased approach in your presentation of a case to discredit AA.

That’s an even more serious accusation. Can you back it up at all?

November 14, 2006 at 11:31 pm
(3) Tom says:

I get the idea here that there seems to be some kind of belief that AA works (if it works – not the issue up for debate) somehow BECAUSE it is theistic and due to some supernatural power or entity. It doesn’t seem to have occured to a number of people that while some may view it as a ‘theistic’ way of solving a problem, it may also simply be a way of navigating the psychie to produce a result and theism has nothing at all to do with it, it just becomes another ‘explanation crutch’ as it always does.

September 20, 2007 at 6:26 pm
(4) Matt says:

Hi, interesting discussion.

Look, if you analyze atheism and AA in a logical way, you’re right — they’re incompatible.

I am an atheist and also sober in AA for 13 years. You *can* work an AA program and NOT believe in God. It is possible to find others who are atheists as well (I talk often to an older female atheist when I have “God” issues in the groups).

To make a judgment based on “this is completely incompatible” is a wrong way to proceed, though, IMHO.

Example: How many Catholics do you know who use birth control, are homosexual, or have had an abortion or divorce? They keep going to church, despite the teachings, because it works for them.

Finally, to quote a saying I like that is used in AA often: “Take what you want and leave the rest.”

I ignore the God-speak and have stayed sober for 13 years.

January 27, 2008 at 11:45 am
(5) Antoine says:

As an AA member of 20+ yars I’ll have my say on this…. When I joined AA I called myself agnostic, but within AA I tried to develop my ideas and I ended up a hard-line atheist (hard-line meaning that I know there is no theist god, not even a deist one. Hard-line doesn’t mean that I am trying to convert fellow alholics to atheism – it might endanger their sobriety.) I am prepared to defend that position in front of whoever challenges it.

It’s not for nothing that William James, with his emphasis on subjective “religious experience”, played such an important posthume role in AA’s inclusiveness. All creeds are welcome, also no creed at all. All that is recommended is an awareness of the existence of a “higher power”. To Einstein (who was not an alcoholic – I don’t want to spread false rumours) god was the combined laws of nature and everything they resulted in. In other words: reality as it is but never properly or completely understood. It is reality that I tried to escape when drinking, and now I’m actively trying to be in it, although I don’t understand most of it. Whenever AA talks about God, I read god without a capital and think what I like.

If AA serves as a stepping stone to theist beliefs, that may be so for some. But really, do we need to see more stepping stones to theist beliefs than there already are? I can see them everywhere I look, and I avoid them, rationally. After all, AA’s primary purpose has to do with living sober, not with going to heaven – the ultimate delusionary escape from reality.

February 17, 2008 at 7:58 am
(6) dave groom says:

AA big book 132 times God is mentioned its a christian 12 step christ centered recovery program.one day at a time a continual need for seeking help confession,repentance.AAcreates insecurity in people.see page 175bb.

May 2, 2008 at 4:52 am
(7) mick says:

amazing a week dry and after 2 meetings this is what i needed to read thank you so much…

mick ….humanist/atheist

July 10, 2008 at 5:43 pm
(8) Matt says:

I agree that the program of AA is quite drenched in christian/theistic/oxford-group ideas. However, I disagree that it is not possible to be a successful member of AA and simultaneously reject those ideas. Quite a few recovering addicts/alcoholics, myself included, do not believe in any theistic framework for recovery. My program is a very simple system of behavior modification, and aa meetings are perhaps only a social component to the practice of modifying my behaviors. It helps me to be around other recovering alcoholics, even if my recovery has a very different basis than theirs.

The god crap kept me out of AA for a long time, and has done the same for quite a few friends of mine. I will concede that there is no shortage of starry-eyed cultists that use AA as their personal podium to blather their loony ideas…. if you think about it, how different than the bar or the streetcorner is it? There is, however, quite a few interesting , kind hearted people for whom their only AA wish is to not dig themselves back into the hole.

AA is not the only way to recover. I will be the first to shout that from the rooftops. It has helped me when other methods have failed, and after my last heroin overdose sent me to the ICU for a week, I have run out of other options to explore.

Dealing and working with people whom I disagree with is another important part of living in a society…. I live in a country drowning in neo-con’s and a president that can hardly speak English. I do not renounce my citizenship based on these facts… I learn to deal with it. There are no shortage of idiots in this world… and AA if anything, is a microcosm of the world at large. I have to deal with theists all day long, why would I expect to be given a reprieve to that in recovery?

August 11, 2008 at 11:58 pm
(9) KEN says:

I have been in AA for 3.5 years. I started out as an agnostic, tried to get a higher power but never did. I am quite satisfied with the program of life that AA has given me. Since going to my first meeting in a treatment center, I have not had a drink.

The great thing about the program is that it is a guideline, not a detailed rule book. I fit my life into the program the way it suits me, and that is why I have stayed in the program. I don’t make a big deal out of being an agnostic, and no one else makes a big deal out of it either. And I accept that other people believe in a higher power; many of them are now good friends.

AA has worked for me. It can work for many people. But as one writer–Matt–noted, it is not the only game in town. I think its main advantage over other programs is its low cost and easy availability.

August 25, 2008 at 1:19 pm
(10) John the Drunkard says:

I am now 20 years sober in AA. I could not stay sober for a day as long as I sought any religious, Big Imaginary Friend style of ‘higher power.’

I do not conceal my outlook at a meeting level, nor have I felt much pressure to do so. AA is anarchic and has no mechanism to impose rules on anyone.

The good news is that atheists need not feel unwelcome in AA. The bad news is that religious enthusiasts of every stripe are welcome too.

We have always been present in AA. Read the Big Book story ‘The Vicious Cycle’ by Jim B., and his Grape Vine follow up: ‘Thirty Years Sober.’ Although Jim is painfully polite, he makes it clear that no Conversion experience ever happened. (Bill W. fictionalized Jim’s experience in the 12X12 as a conversion story).

Sober atheists need to speak up, start their own AA meetings, and reach out to newcomers who might be driven away by well-meaning proselytizing. Women, homesexuals, racial minorities etc. have all forged their place in AA. We owe it to our fello-sufferers to do the same.

September 29, 2008 at 5:16 am
(11) Curtis Edward Clark says:

The comments above, about religion being delusional, etc, I can agree with. I also agree with the atheist author Ayn Rand, who said in her Playboy interview that religions can often have good moral percepts to inculcate, albeit on the incorrect basis of “faith.”

But as an atheist member of AA who is totally accepted by my large and growing Home Group, I get to speak my mind, they have to listen, and sometimes I get a pat on the back for what I’ve said–even from the religious people. I can learn from them. They are not stupid. They learn from me, also, and they know they do.

You do not have to believe in a supernatural “higher power.” As the Big Book says, many people will simply rely on the group itself as their higher power. AA wants you to be believe in God, thinking wrongly that God is the best way. But it is accepting of everyone because “the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.” [Tradtion Three]

I like talking the talk of an atheist at AA meetings. Other atheists have opened up and joined the group I go to, which was started by religious people who are still there. Many more religious people join the group all the time. Sometimes some of them have something to say worthwhile to my benefit.

I don’t care if they wish I would believe in God. They know I do not have to, because they see me stay sober day after day.

My very presence within their group proves them wrong.

November 16, 2008 at 8:41 pm
(12) Pat says:

I have been sober for 26+ years 25 years active in AA. I have been searching for a leap of faith the majority of my life. I believed in a god because I was told I had to or else. I was never comfortable with any religious teachings I have been introduced to.
Recently I became aware that I have never believed in a god or Deity or what/who ever. I am so relieved that I am responsible for my own behavior.
AA has taught me that I am responsible for me and how I treat others. I am also learning I have a spiritual life, an energy so to speak. My enthusiasm to stay sober AND change my life is what has worked, my energy to help others and do the WORK required by AA.
I set a definite goal 26+ years ago, to go to any length to stay sober and change my outlook. I have researched many fields of theism and have discovered the truth for me.
I am finally free of guilt and shame but full of responsibility and gratitude. I am not only an Atheist but am studding what it means to be an Atheist.
Being responsible,hard working, and primarily honest with myself is what keeps me living a sober life not just not drinking. I can finally look someone in the eye and tell them what I really think, not what someone else has told me to think.
AA is a good program but limited in its direction. The program is just that direction for us to find a honest heart and way of life treating others with the respect we feel we deserve. Putting the program into action does change lives but it takes action to change and many people refuse to do the actual work. I never expected to find that there is no god and at one time that was my greatest fear, that there is no God. I have released that fear and many, many more in the past 26+ years.
This is an interesting forum, Thanks for letting me add two cents.

November 22, 2008 at 7:51 pm
(13) Bob S says:

Thanks Pat. I am a sober member of AA since 2Nov 1985 and an athiest for the past 10 years or so. I also was a god believer when I became willing to do whatever to stay sober ODAT. I became free by keeping an open mind and trying to do the next right thing. I adopt the 12 steps whole heartedly and substitute Good Orderly Direction for god. When I hear the god word at meetings, I say to myself that person really means Good Orderly Direction In other words whether I believe in god or not, I utilize Good Orderly Direction in my life and that is what keeps me sober. It’s an action deal not a beliefs deal.

December 26, 2008 at 5:22 pm
(14) ed says:

If you can be a practicing christian but also be against slavery or stoning people to death for working on the sabbath or being homosexual, then I see no reason why you can’t be an atheist and a member of AA.

February 18, 2009 at 11:27 am
(15) Michael/Ribeyedsmile says:

On this matter,

I believe that it’s the comraderie and support from those with a common problem. When confronted by someone who knows the problem as intimately as yourself, then the effect is to lift the weight in some manner. Combine this benefit with self knowledge and substitute your drinking activities with sober activities such as AA meetings and the formula is built.

I de-emphasize any consern for a higherpower ie: GOD and focus on substituting DRINK with SOBER ACTIVITY. Why did AA work for me. Because I walked around getting involved. Debating God. Debating steps. Doing steps. Reinventing steps without god. Insisting that I can stay sober without some supernatural force. The rooms and the sober activities wer real and solid examples of my inner desire to stay sober. Practice and creating new habits works.

YES there was that mental twist, that glass of milk with a shot of whisky that beguiled me. I have gone out but I want to be a better person and I got back on the wagon. That doesn’t mean that my program failed me. It means that drugs and alcohol are cunning and baffling. With the help of others and an inner purpose I can change.


Vision For You: Is there a substitute? Yes

February 20, 2009 at 4:03 am
(16) robemac macrobe says:

dear fellow AA

i’m one of those who are recovering alcoholic and other substance such as drugs that can cause insanities. i am now 4yrs & more than 6mos of my sobriety,when i started my program using the step until today it helps me a lot to transform my own self from insane to sane,in my own poor & simple understanding about the AA, it’s a step, one alcoholic w/o the other can’t recover,one alcoholic talking the other alcoholic do recover…its a supernatural power & a power higher greater than one, a force against the disease,in the step 2,it was said that came to believe that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity…i really believe that my fellow alcoholics and the group is a power greater than myself…in step 3,it is clearly seen underlined God as we understood Him…i am now one of the believers and my higher power is Jesus Christ, but i came to AA w/o my Relegion, but in my early days in recovery until today, the steps helps me rebuild my faith to God…and if there are some buddies who doesn’t believe or like the word God, they can change that word like HP or sounds like their name or yours, but in RECOVERY you alone can do it, but you can’t do it alone…


March 22, 2009 at 5:47 pm
(17) Ray says:

My A.A.experience has been that the program is not necessarily a program of GOD or religious leanings. It is a program designed to untwist the mental twist that exists within every alcoholic. The GOD concept is a by-product rather than an end result. To a member, the common theme amongst our stories is control. Control of others and of ourselves. We are the alpha and omega. The final word and law. The PROCESS of the 12 steps is a process which leads the mind out of self-centered thinking and into a realm of consciousness where we are no longer the center of the universe and begin to see that we are truly just a part of it. Atheism and A.A. are no more a enemies of each other as intellect is to faith. Intelligence and faith can be interconnected, even interdependent. The belief in GOD is not as important to recovery as untwisting the abnormal manner of thinking which exists in every alcoholic. Drinking is just a symptom of alcoholism. Not the the alpha or omega of the disease.

April 7, 2009 at 4:00 pm
(18) KL says:

I have been sober 4 + years and stopped attending traditional AA meetings two years ago because I was sick of having God and my “higher power” forced down my throat. I kept hearing that I would “come to believe”, blah blah blah. I was also sick of being told which meetings I had to go to and how many times per week and that no excuse was good enough to miss a meeting. My choice is to stay sober, on my own terms, through my own decisions, and without an imaginary friend to guide me through the steps.

April 14, 2009 at 7:51 pm
(19) Todd says:

Keep it up, KL!

April 14, 2009 at 7:56 pm
(20) Buddy says:

There is room in AA for people of all stripes & persuasions, including atheists.
No one in AA has the right to tell anyone else what to believe or what meetings they should go to.

April 14, 2009 at 10:27 pm
(21) wade a. says:

KL, I am sad that you seem so angry at AA Program and the people that go there… On the other hand I completely understand where that comes from. It was difficult for me to accept the “religious” teachings from other alcoholics and their understanding of the god referenced in the literature. I accept them as another beliefs but that doesn’t mean that agree with any of them. I am an Atheist and through talking with others in my position I have come to understand that the power I can accept, as greater than me, is the Spiritual Principles talked about in the 12 steps. I believe that those Spiritual Principles were not religiously inspired, are not negotable or debatable and they simply are what they mean to me (or you). Through this understanding I will celebrate 25 year come this August and yes I still go to meetings.

My position about religious concepts/ideas/hypocracies are that it really is none of my business what others say or believe and I certainly don’t have an opinion about some “eye in the sky” or “devil down below”. To have an opinion would be for me to be open for debate and I don’t debate what I don’t believe exists. To do so is a waste of precious time and energy.

April 15, 2009 at 8:22 am
(22) Morgan says:

your story is so very inspiring!
Truth is we have INSIDE the power and strength to solve and overcome any problems. Some people need to believe it outside to ignite it, but it doesn’t change the fact that it is still from inside ourselves that it finally springs and helps.
Keep it up and big kudos to you!!!

April 15, 2009 at 4:11 pm
(23) R.L.Baron says:

I have seen many of these discussions about A.A. and athesits and I always find them to be very inspiring and endless. It seems that while you have the few who don’t consider those meetings to be religious, the truth is is that it is and can be very religious.

It starts with the serenity prayer, the steps, and ends with the material that has god and/or higer power in it. Either way you name it it’s always some higher power or some illusional concept. These are one of the many reasons why I didn’t fully involve myself in N.A.
I have been clean for 3 yrs. now without the meetings, sponsors, or the steps but I know that I did benefit from the meetings. Now I mainly stay busy at work, school, and atheist websites. It does take some hard work to make sure I don’t become complacent in my recovery but it’s something I am willing to do.

April 16, 2009 at 4:36 am
(24) Jack says:

I haven’t read through all the comments yet, but I’m actually pretty surprised that I haven’t seen SMART Recovery mentioned yet–they’re a secular alternative to AA.


September 7, 2009 at 3:19 am
(25) Tapelgan says:

I’m 29 years sober in AA and an agnostic. In Olympia, WA, we have 6 registered meetings which are openly agnostic, and of course anyone is welcome, religious included. The GROUPS are agnostic, not every member. We live by the Traditions of the Only Requirement and Group Autonomy. Somewhere on the net there’s a list of many similar groups around the country, and I just learned there’s a “Quad A” movement in Chicago with similar orientation.

April 10, 2010 at 3:57 am
(26) Bill says:

Basically, the very existence of AA proves that there is no god, because if there were, nobody would be a drunk. Garden of Eden! HA! The only way that there is a god is if we are the outlet store for humanity, where all the defects and seconds are sent so he can laugh at his cruel joke. Burlington Coat Factory, where God saves!

June 10, 2010 at 12:16 pm
(27) Steven C. says:

I am an atheist and an AA member. I have found that people have become addicted to AA and the fact that the only way they have power over their illness is if God gives them that power, but if they fail it is their fault, not his (or hers). How is that healthy? How is that taking personal responsibility for your actions? I have amended the 12 steps to fit my beliefs. Recovery is not black and white, it is a gray area and we all need to find our shade of gray.

July 5, 2010 at 4:26 pm
(28) Anonymous in San Diego says:

I’m 18 years sober and a capital-”A” Atheist. I am involved in several Humanist and Atheist groups, and am outspoken in meetings about MY OWN experience, strength and hope. My involvement in AA and other 12-step groups began 25 years ago and has contributed to the quality of my life as well as my sobriety. I have always struggled with “believers” and the ridiculous things they believe and say. However, I must admit that through working the 12 Steps WITHOUT GOD, I have had a “spiritual experience”, meaning, that I experienced a profound and positive change in my emotional wellbeing and in my relationships with “people, places, and things”. I’m happy that I ran into many people at the beginning of this journey who encouraged me to find MY OWN “higher power”, which for me in AA, is “the fellowship”. I am a better person for the love, support, guidance, wisdom and experience that I gain being involved with other alcoholics and addicts who are committed to sharing honestly about their lives. But make no mistake about it…I demand that I recognize the very real factors in my life that encourage and motivate change, emotional and physical health, and sobriety. I sponsor several women, some of whom are religious. However, I tell them right away that I am a non-believer, and will not be getting on my knees to pray with them! We work through all of the AA literature so that they know the history, understand the culture, and can feel part of, even though they may disagree with many aspects of AA. There are days I feel inspired in meetings by our common humanity and the wonder of being alive, and there are days I’m rolling my eyes and feeling disgusted by the religious gobbledygook that people throw around. I don’t expect AA to be “everything”, nor is it the only place I look for intellectual stimulation, wisdom, guidance and companionship. Recently, I’ve been especially frustrated by religious talk…must be getting less tolerant(!!). Rather than getting resentful it’s better to “get into action”, “change the things I can”, etc., which means attending “We Agnostic” meetings in town or starting my own!

August 14, 2010 at 6:05 am
(29) CL says:

I celebrated 4 sober today and one year “off the bet”. I arrived at this board after having a long discussion tonight with my girlfriend (not in AA) about the “God Concept” and how we both relate to it.

In order to paint a picture here I will tell you that I am a visual artist and she is a writer. She, like me, considers herself an Atheist. Neither one of us really like the label however because it imposes too many constraints. I also find it to be a very misunderstood term in our current Western culture, even in “Atheist” circles. For instance many sects of Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism and Confucianism (sometimes looked upon and practiced as a religion) are inherently “Atheistic” because they do not even bring up the “god question”. They are more concerned with the state of being and less with the reason of being.

So let’s look at the humanist characteristics of these religions (philosophies) and also some of their practices such as meditation that also appear in the A.A. program. That is what I do and that is what keeps me there. Though I do struggle at times to relate to some of the people in the rooms. I lean more towards Spinoza’s answer to the “god question”. This allows me to relate to some of the people and writings in A.A. when it comes to cause and effect, and also in terms of being connected to the world.

With that said, I must point out that your “logic” argument is actually flawed. Let’s break it down. You stated, “That is a good program-doing, step working, Big Book believing member of AA.” First off you are using the word “good” to describe your member. By throwing that in your argument you have just removed any possibility of logic being applied to it. What do you mean by “good”? This is extremely subjective and can not be logically argued. If you mean someone that attends meetings regularly, is endeared and looked up to by their peers, has multiple years sober, has experienced a personality change, has worked the steps and sponsors people…then yes, it happens all of the time and I am one of those people.

I am also quite uncertain by what you mean as far as the “Big Book believing” part of your argument. I have to ask you what do you mean by “belief”. I must assume for the sake of the argument that you meant “agree”. If you did mean agree with absolutely everything in the Big Book then your argument holds some weight. However we are talking about the human condition which we all know is inherently flawed, hence our being in AA and it existing in the first place. Not many of us if any of us can agree at all times with everything in the BB nor practice the program with no margin of error. Only over time have I been able to relate to on some level everything in the BB, but agree with everything…never. Does this make me a “bad” AA member?

I would also like to note that the simple fact that there are many atheists that are sober participants in the program of AA debunks the argument that you failed to present in a “logical” manner.

September 22, 2010 at 4:13 am
(30) Bill M says:

The “Quad A” meetings in Chicago – Alcoholics Anonymous for Atheists and Agnostics – are, first and foremost, AA meetings.

I’ve been attending these meetings for about 15 years, since I first got sober. I am an atheist. I am sober, and I got that way using AA. I am not a “dry drunk” or anything like that, which some religious people think an atheist in AA must be. Nonsense.

The AAAA meetings in Chicago have been meeting continuously for 35 years. The Monday Night meeting I attend has regulars with more than 35 years’ sobriety. Many regular attendees have 20 plus years. We have found that AA DOES work for non-believers. We are living proof of that. So if you are someone with an alcohol / addiction issue avoiding AA because the “God thing” turns you off, well, now you have NO EXCUSE! Find an agnostic / atheist meeting and GO!

I want to stress that we use the 12 steps, the Big Book, the 12 & 12, all of that, and that we are absolutely behind AA’s approach because it WORKED FOR US. We left out the god stuff, and AA still worked- IF we worked it!

My own opinion is that AA works, but there are also other treatments and methods out there that can be effective- it all depends on the individual and their particular set of issues and conditions. I suggest that everyone who has drinking or drug issues at least try AA, after all IT’S FREE! (I am a cheapskate so this was a big attraction for me!) If AA does not work for you after you give it an honest try, then see a good doctor and see what other treatments are available. But, really, try a BUNCH of AA meetings- agnostic, “regular,” old-school, new age;try a variety, because there are LOTS of different kinds of folks in AA and so there are lots of meetings with different “flavors.” When you find one that is comfortable for you, stay with it a while and see if you can’t gain from it.

That’s what I did, I went to a few meetings and found Quad A and I learned how to stay sober, one day at a time and all that; without the FREE help I got at meetings, for sure I would be DEAD now. I say, you just can’t beat that!

More info about the Chicago area Quad A groups and also links to listings of other agnostic / atheists meetings around the USA can be seen at Quad A web site http://quadachicago.org

Don’t drink, and go to meetings.

November 10, 2010 at 9:06 pm
(31) Jeff S. says:

Great thread and topic. I lead a meeting tonight and due to an article I read on Atheist AA meetings chose that as a topic. 13 years ago, if I even thought about drinking, I was going to buy at least one bottle of tequila, black out and pass out. If you told me I had to attend a meeting of monks or devils to get sober, I would have done it. I was done. This thread gave me perspective on the value of atheist meetings. You don’t havre to buy in to AA to come in the door and you definitely don’t have to buy in to God, god or Goddess. My image of a higher power changes daily and the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinkking.

December 23, 2010 at 8:22 am
(32) Mona Lisa says:

I’d like to approach this topic from a slightly different angle. Lost in this discussion is the reality that AA is, all too often, “sold” to people as if it were the only, or the best, way of achieving abstinence from alcohol. In reality, numerous pathways to sobriety exist other than AA (secular recovery groups such as SMART Recovery, non 12 step based counseling, etc.)–and these pathways do not force atheists into maze of ideological difficulties represented by this discussion.

I have been sober 12 years and got my start in AA. I’m grateful for that in some ways, but the fundamental ideological problem I had in the program was the notion that sobriety is bestowed on a person by a Higher Power on a daily basis “contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition”. There is simply nothing about that philosophy that is compatible with atheism.

April 1, 2011 at 7:27 pm
(33) bob stewart says:

Any experience out there for an atheist sponsoring a god believer in AA?

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